Pitt hung around with Miami for a while but in the end, the result was the same has it has been since, well, seemingly forever. The Panthers ultimately lost 76-63 and that’s, /checks fingers, 13 in a row.
I’m skipping a generic recap here in lieu of just offering a few thoughts of what we’re seeing. If you really want to see the uninspiring box, knock yourself out. I won’t tell anyone you’re a masochist.
I don’t mean to go into what I’m about to go into without recognizing that tonight’s game was largely competitive. Pitt was within one at some point in the second half and fought back from a few significant leads. The Panthers lost but weren’t blown out.
All of that said ...
Here’s the thing. The losses you can deal with. They’re not only tolerable with such a young team but expected. The more questionable thing, though, is something I mentioned in the gamethread, and that’s that these guys have not shown really any improvement over the course of a full season. They’re shooting worse, getting off to worse starts, and just not playing very well. The competition surely is better but the problem is that, even against the weaker teams in the ACC, they haven’t been very good. Pitt was somewhat competitive tonight and still lost by double digits to one of the worst teams in the conference.
But, heck, I’m not even talking from purely a win-loss standpoint. Obviously, you wouldn’t expect them to win as many games as they were winning in the non-conference portion of the schedule. And even though the losses have piled up, again, that doesn’t bother me as much.
What does bother me is that, on an individual basis, I’m not seeing these guys showing any improvement, really. Xavier Johnson has been a bright spot in a difficult season but, is he getting better? He’s already a very good player so improvement for him will look different than other players. But what about the other guys?
His freshman guard counterpart Trey McGowens has regressed. By most accounts, significantly. Au’Diese Toney, at best, has flat-lined. Terrell Brown has had some bigger performances in the second half of the year but those are basically evened out by his utter disappearance (four scoreless games in the last ten games before tonight). I don’t know. I’m not trying to nitpick here but man, that these guys are not really playing any better has to be, if not a red flag, a really, really big question mark.
What am I looking for in terms of improvement? Look at Parker Stewart last year at Pitt. Through the team’s first 12 games, he was a modest player. By the end of the year, he had surpassed Marcus Carr and Shamiel Stevenson, and was one of the best players on the team. Where’s that kind of improvement been?
Jared Wilson-Frame has been a solid player lately but has still had plenty of duds and was shooting 35% in his last five games coming into tonight. He’s arguably the best the team has right now, but that’s hardly saying much and he remains wildly inconsistent, tonight’s strong 18-point performance aside. He’s no doubt been a calming force this year so I don’t say that to diminish his importance. But again, I’m talking about marked, blatant improvement — not flashes of greatness occasionally sandwiched between bad or mediocre games.
That, if anything, may be the biggest indictment on Jeff Capel and company right now.
I’m astounded that these guys can’t score more points on occasion due to pure dumb luck. Every team gets hot once in a while but that seems to evade these guys.
Pitt’s had some close games so it’s not as if they’re getting blown out night after night. But they shoot so poorly in the first half that they put themselves out of the discussion most of the time. You’d think that, even by just chance they’d come out shooting the lights out and get a 10-point lead or something like that. Forget 80 points. Pitt hasn’t even scored 70 in nearly a month.
This isn’t about calling for Capel’s head or any of that nonsense. These are young guys and there are going to be growing pains. But the apparent lack of development from the beginning of this season to now has to at least raise some eyebrows.