Whenever you find yourself being happy about the end of a season approaching, it’s generally not been a good year. Such is the case this year as the Panthers’ men’s basketball season winds down. Pitt has one game left, a road contest against Notre Dame, and should then bow out quickly in the ACC Tournament.
I tried to go back and give this year some thought and my first thought was actually that the players and head coach Kevin Stallings kind of have to feel the same way.
This year has been brutal. Historically so, actually. This is easily the fewest games the team will win since moving to the Pete and at 8-22, the Panthers are likely to finish in single digits in the win total barring something crazy. Stallings has been quick to point out that his players have not given up and eagerly continued to practice hard. But I also have to believe that not getting your brains beat in, in front of small crowds, no less, will be welcomed.
As bad as the overall record is, the Panthers actually look like they’ll achieve something even worse as they’ve not won a single conference game all year. Sure, the team has come close a few times. The team lost back-to-back games to NC State and Syracuse by a total of nine points and also lost to Wake Forest by only six. But in general, it’s been a season of ugly blowouts where the Panthers were either dominated from start to finish or hung in for a while then ran out of gas.
These games just aren’t fun as a fan. Most of us went into this season expecting little but still interested in seeing how certain players would perform. With an almost entirely new team, there was probably even a little more curiosity than normal. When the team struggled early, that wasn’t out of the ordinary. But as they began ACC play, you kind of wondered just how bad things could get. Once the losses piled up, you picked out the handful of games that they could win. The backbreaker was that stretch against the Wolfpack and Orange. After that, Wake Forest very much looked like the only chance they would have and the season just wasn’t fun.
Despite who the coach is next season, the team should be better next year. But as I stated earlier, any improvement is not likely to be terribly significant. The team loses hardly anything, returns Ryan Luther who missed most of this season with an injury, and also adds a few players to the mix in transfer Malik Ellison and incoming recruit Bryce Golden. But it’s still difficult to see much more than modest improvement since you’re still dealing with a very young group.
Anything will be better than this, though. This was one season to forget.