Still reeling from back-to-back ACC losses to Clemson and Virginia Tech, Pitt traveled to Tallahassee on Tuesday night to take on Florida State, the No. 8 team in the nation. Despite a promising start for the visitors, the Seminoles dispatched the Panthers with relative ease and sent them home with an 82-67 loss that dropped the team to 15-12 overall and 6-10 in conference.
The outcome has become the norm for a Pitt team that has struggled with depth and inexperience all season, and Pitt head coach Jeff Capel, perhaps sensing a feeling of unrest among the fanbase, took a step back and discussed the big picture for the rebuilding program in his postgame press conference.
Jeff Capel was not stoked about this question regarding Pitt’s depth (or lack thereof) #dkps #unleash pic.twitter.com/wFwnd9MNj2— Hunter Alek Homistek (@HunterAHomistek) February 19, 2020
”We need time,” Capel said after the game. “I’ve been here for a little over a year. We need time to recruit, and we have to win some recruiting battles. It’s gonna happen, but it’s not gonna happen right away.”
”Maybe because of the start we got off to people thought this was going to happen quick,” Capel continued. “It’s not quick. It was a dumpster fire that I took over, and we’ve done a really good job. Those guys have fought, and we’ve put ourselves in a position where we’ve won more games than we did last year. We’ve won more conference games. There’s an energy about our basketball program right now. But it’s not gonna happen overnight.”
Prior to the three-game losing streak, an NCAA tournament berth was not out of the question for Pitt. Nothing was guaranteed, but there was palpable excitement for the prospect of postseason play. Now, the postseason seems out of reach, and even finishing with a winning record would be a surprise. Understandably, that has led to some disappointment.
Of course, even modest improvement by a young team is a positive sign, and Pitt has undoubtedly proven itself as a more capable team than the one that took the court last season. It is also important to keep in mind that only one player in Pitt’s regular rotation has multiple years of experience facing Power Five opponents on a regular basis. So in addition to fatigue from a continual lack of depth, the players on the court have also been struggling due to a lack of experience.
As Capel noted, matters are set to improve for Pitt substantially in the coming years. In 2020 alone, Pitt will add John Hugley to its ramshackle frontcourt, and Delaware transfer Ithiel Horton will become eligible to join a talented backcourt. Both should see action immediately and could make an instant impact on the team. In addition, Pitt will gain some frontcourt depth with the additions of Max Amadasun and Noah Collier.
But while the team’s future seems bright and the recent past undoubtedly signified Pitt’s nadir, there’s no denying that the Panthers of the present have been tough to watch. And with a characteristically stifling Virginia on the slate followed by Syracuse’s troublesome zone and an NC State team Pitt has yet to top during Capel’s tenure, it seems unlikely that Pitt’s fortunes will improve much during the home stretch of the regular season.