Pitt gave it the old college try tonight but unfortunately, like every other ACC game this season, it wasn’t enough. The Panthers lost to Wake Forest, 63-57 - mostly in a game of which team could out-suck the other.
I made this point during the gamethread and also on Twitter but head coach Kevin Stallings looked particularly agitated tonight. He removed his jacket, which is unusual. He was livid at no less than two fouls - the second of which was particularly brutal and even the announcers thought he was on the edge of a technical. You could just see that he knew this was really probably ‘it’ in terms of winning a conference game this year.
Shame, really. I mean, I don’t particularly feel that bad for Stallings. As he would tell you, he feels for the kids and that’s the same for me. Stallings is paid well for this. Whether he wins or loses, he still heads to a comfortable home in what I’m sure is a very nice vehicle. Not that he doesn’t care. It would be silly to suggest that. But he’s at least well compensated. Better than heading up to Sutherland and eating a Hot Pocket.
No player deserves this. I suppose it’s the players themselves who control their destiny but it’s somewhat difficult to comprehend that a team full of mostly underclassmen really deserves this kind of season, regardless of their ability to play basketball. This is demoralizing and on top of it, you have dopes like me telling you how demoralizing it is.
The lack of anything coherent on offense continues to baffle me. It’s a repetitive theme and I feel stupid for even talking about it again. I’m tired of doing it and I imagine you’re tired of reading about it. But here we are.
Pitt again shot an obscene number of three-pointers (30, to be exact) and, again, was not real successful, making only ten. That basically keeps them on pace for an incredibly awful trend that I mentioned during the game. Pitt is in the top 20% in three-point attempts taken and in the bottom 20% or thereabouts in the percentage of three-pointers made. You shouldn’t need me to tell you that’s too many.
There were two instances in the game that really drilled that thought home. Right out of halftime, Pitt had a one-point lead and the first two possessions resulted in two missed three-pointers by Jared Wilson-Frame. Wilson-Frame remains the team’s most aggressive player on offense but making only 37% of his shots, one of their worst shooters. On another possession later in the half, Kene Chukwuka had a wide open three-pointer. I’m more convinced at this point that Chukwuka finds himself open more as a result of teams wanting him to shoot than actually doing something to get open. That’s not intended to be a knock on him, mind you. It’s just that teams are obviously leaving him open because he will shoot and because he is a patently horrible three-point shooter. To Chukwuka’s shot, he had zero confidence in it. And as you would expect, it was short.
The frustrating is that you don’t get the sense these guys are quitting. You felt that last year but not this year. Ever, really. I mean, maybe they’ve mailed it in during a blowout or two but these guys are trying really hard. You can see it. They’re just, um, not quite good enough. Not yet, anyway. If they were quitters, it’d be easier to feel less awful about this season for them. That’s not the case.
To Stallings, I fully appreciate that coaches are only as good as their players. And I also don’t believe Stallings is as bad of a coach as the team has looked this season. But this narrative of him being an offensive genius seems really off. Stallings appears to, as most coaches have, been the beneficiary of having skilled players at times during his career. Pitt is not talented this year and it’s showing. The team has zero offensive capability, really, save for merely getting hot every once in a while and shooting themselves into games (which any team can do, by the way). That this team, limitations or not, has not been more creative offensively is probably the biggest disappointment I have this year.
I cannot fathom that, at worst, more progress has not been made in terms of being creative on offense and finding a way to not take 30 three-pointers in a game. Against a team like Duke, sure. Fire away. What do I care. To win a game like that you need to get hot and have a little luck on your side just to keep up. But, my goodness. You shouldn’t be doing that in a game against the next-to-worst team in the conference. You shouldn’t need to.
As I suggested before this game, this was really a last gasp of sorts. Pitt will face No. 1 Virginia at home in a game that should be lopsided, despite the fact that Virginia is not an offensive juggernaut. Perhaps it’s closer than expected. More likely, it will not be.
The team will then head to Notre Dame in the finale in a virtual must-win game for the Irish if the want to have NCAA Tournament aspirations. Playing on the road, it is difficult to see the Panthers winning that one, either.
The season has been a nightmare. Like almost everyone else, I expected it to be bad. This level of bad where you don’t win an ACC game and barely contend in conference? I don’t think I saw that coming. That Pitt to date has not even won a game purely by getting hot and having a stroke of luck is noteworthy to me. As I said in the comments section of another post, even in most games where they’ve shot really well, they still couldn’t manage to win. They shot 50% from the field against Florida State and still lost by 13 points.
There’s not really much difference between winning one game in conference and winning none. Ultimately, even a win tonight, save for a fleeting respite from all of the negative talk, wouldn’t really have meant too much. But I do think the narrative of being winless in the ACC, should it happen, will be a tough one for Stallings to shake. He may already be gone but if there was any doubt, that may simply be the icing on the cake.