The Pitt men’s basketball team faced off against Dayton in a secret scrimmage last Saturday at Denison University, according to Stadium basketball insider Jeff Goodman. Although most stats and the score have not been made public, other details have emerged about the contest that could provide some insight into Pitt head coach Jeff Capel’s strategy for the upcoming season.
The matchup consisted of two standard 20-minute halves and a 10-minute period in which only zone defenses were utilized. Pitt started Trey McGowens and Xavier Johnson in the backcourt, Malik Ellison and Jared Wilson-Frame as forwards, and Terrell Brown at center. McGowens and Johnson came up with 26 and 19 points, respectively, leading Pitt to a nine-point win.
Craig Meyer of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who provided details regarding the scrimmage in a series of posts on Twitter, also noted that Capel intends to deploy McGowens and Johnson as a duo in the backcourt, although Capel had nothing else “set in stone” in terms of possible lineups.
While the scrimmage went well for Pitt, it should also be noted that Dayton head coach Anthony Grant revealed to David Jablonski of the Dayton Daily News that only eight Flyers players were available for the scrimmage. Given that detail and the nature of scrimmages, there’s little reason to place any significant amount of stock in the result.
Still, what can be gleaned from this is that Capel seems interested in exploring the possibility of a small-ball lineup, as the average height of his starters in the scrimmage was just over 6’5”. The young talent he personally recruited this offseason was also emphasized, and two freshmen from his inaugural class thrived.
While there’s no guarantee and, in fact, little likelihood that such results will hold up as the Panthers forge ahead into year one of the Capel era, there is at least reason for hope and optimism. And for many, that’s enough, as even small steps forward seem to suggest that there’s an end in sight to the suffocating bleakness that plagued Pitt during the Kevin Stallings era.