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Cardiac Hill: September Mailbag

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Central Florida Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

You had questions and below you’ll find our answers. I want to thank everyone who left a question in the comments section of our initial post, as well as Tweeted at us. It would be great to keep that momentum going next month!

Here are a couple of questions answered, one from football and another from basketball.

Tackle Made by Hugh - Would DiNucci be starting right now if he stayed at Pitt? Why does he transfer out? Giving up on playing at a place in Pitt that he sacrificed to come here (PENN Ivy league education) and could have had a chance to win the starting job back? His choice or coaches choice?

JD: To answer your first question, no, I don’t think he would be starting. Pickett is indeed having some struggles, but in my opinion he still has a much higher ceiling than Dinucci does at this level. The long passes he’s made to Taysir Mack show me that. I think he’s just going through some struggles right now. Narduzzi said it best himself when he mentioned Pickett puts everything on his own shoulders. He tries to do a bit too much, and I think once he realizes he can relax a little bit and take what each gives him, he’ll get better.

Dinucci I think transferred because he didn’t think he could beat Pickett out for the starting job this year. He’s from the area, and I don’t think had any issues with Pitt itself. He wanted a starter’s playing time, and I can’t really blame him for that. You could argue that it was the coaches choice because they decided to start Pickett, but I know the coaches were very surprised Dinucci did transfer. If you remember, RS Freshman Thomas Macvittie had announced he was transferring a few days prior, and even with Dinucci the QB depth was going to be a concern. Losing Dinucci as well really made the staff scramble, which is why Ricky Town was added to the roster as a transfer.

Dinucci seems to be doing pretty well with James Madison this season, so it looks like he made a good choice.

2010 will be the year - What should reasonable expectations for the hoops team be this year? Should we still only expect a few ACC wins and a .500 team to be a success or does Capel have them on the fast track to success with a grad transfer PG, solid first recruiting class, and a year under the belt for the cast of returnees?

Jordan: The short answer? Yes, I would consider 15 or 16 wins an incredibly successful season. If he manages to win any more than that, he might win National Coach of the Year going away. The ACC remains the best conference in college basketball, and as much as we’ve all tried to erase the winter of 2018 from our mind, we must remember that this was an absolutely horrendous basketball team last year. Capel’s first class is an improvement on previous years, but it’s not an amazing one. Since Pitt joined the ACC, the teams that have improved the most wins-wise had either better luck from the previous year or had a new coach in his second or third year.

Notre Dame 2013 6-12, 2014 14-4: This one is easy. Jerian Grant missed almost the entire previous season.

Florida State 2015 8-10, 2016 12-6: Leonard Hamilton is permitted two good teams every ten years.

Virginia 2016 11-7, 2017 17-1: Not much to see here. They were great, then they were merely good without Brogdon, and then they were great again.

Wake Forest 2015 2-16, 2016 9-9: Fluke season. They were back to being terrible last year and will be again this year.

Clemson 2016 6-12, 2017 11-7: Clemson will win between 6-11 ACC games every year for the rest of eternity. Last year’s jump was a result of some strong play from their upperclassmen.

Like I said, most of these improvements are part of the normal ebb and flow of a conference. These last three should catch Pitt’s attention, though.

NC State 2016 4-14, 2017 11-7: Kevin Keatts took a team that was all Dennis Smith the year before and made them more balanced. Like Capel, he’s going after some big fish in recruiting, and he’ll get some eventually.

Virginia Tech 2014 2-16, 2015 10-8: Buzz Williams took a year to get his program back on the track as the Hokies finished with an identical 2-16 record to 2013. But good coaches don’t lose for very long and Buzz is one of the better ones in the country.

Boston College 2015 0-18, 2016 2-16, 2017 7-11: When you are that bad, it will take a while to get back to respectability. It takes a special kind of awful to go 0-18 in conference, and that was BC a few years ago. Pitt should have the patience with Capel that BC has shown with Jim Christian, and it seems like that’s the plan.

If I had to make a prediction for Pitt next year, it would probably take some from each of the last three scenarios. The cupboard wasn’t as bare for Keatts as it is for Capel so I don’t see a huge NC State type jump for them in year one, but they might follow similar trajectories in a year or two due to the recruiting prowess of both head guys. I think we’re headed for a season between two and four ACC wins with the jump coming in year two. If Capel can get a game-changer in next year’s class, 10 wins are possible in 2019. If not, maybe 7 like BC.

The last thing to remember is that in both of Capel’s prior head jobs, his teams actually won fewer games in his first year than they did with the previous coach. I wouldn’t read too much into that as it’s been almost a decade since he’s run his own program, but so far he doesn’t have the reputation of a miracle worker.

Now for my official expectations:

  • Win at least one ACC game at home and one away. (Should be attainable by luck alone)
  • Do not lose any games by more than 20 points. (Most of the big players are at home, and I think Capel will keep them more focused and less likely to give up when a game gets away)
  • Nobody transfers out of the program. (The quickest way to derail a rebuild is to have to do it again. I think the players are buying in, and they’re here to stay).

Hail to Pitt

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