Pitt basketball has finished in last or tied for last each of the last two years. Three years ago they finished second to last in Kevin Stallings first year. The year prior to Capel’s arrival Pitt lost 19 straight ACC games by an average of 19 points per game.
The reason I bring this up is to illustrate how slightly surprising today’s ACC Media Preseason Poll is. Pitt was picked to finish 10th, ahead of Clemson, Georgia Tech, Boston College, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest. That means in two years Pitt went from getting destroyed in virtually every conference game to two years later being a pretty respectable team. The ACC has a chance to get anywhere from 7-9 teams in the NCAA tournament every year, which means if Pitt finished at #10, they were at the very least in the conversation to make the tournament all year. That would be an incredible accomplishment for Jeff Capel in year 2.
Personally, my best case wish list for Capel when he was hired went as follows:
Year 1: Win an ACC game (he won 3!)
Year 2: Make the NIT or be on the bubble for it.
Year 3: Be on the bubble for the NCAA Tourney
Year 4: Make the NCAA Tourney
Pitt finishing in 10th would means he skipped a year on my wish list. It would be Pitt’s best finish in the ACC since Jamie Dixon finished tied for 9th in his last year as Pitt’s coach.
Now, preseason polls don’t mean anything. Pitt has a ton of young players, with some fresh blood coming in. They may very well finish in 14th or 15th again, but the media has a bit of confidence in them and Capel it seems, and Pitt getting any measure of respectability back after the 0-19 season is a huge development on its own.