Michaelangelo’s Note: I asked Dan to write an overview of the upcoming Pitt basketball season because I think he’s got an extremely educated perspective on the game. (And I know that I do not.)
Also, not that some of you care, but I know some of you do, so I’d like to point out that Dan titled this piece in reference to a 1970’s comedy movie about a bunch of Italian Mobsters. No modern day “gang” or “thug” overtones should be inferred. While Pitt’s on the court performance may leave something to be desired, Jeff Capel’s off-the-field player selection, mentorship, guidance and standards are second-to-none. Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving to all POVers and long-suffering Pitt Fans out there!
The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight
By Dan Davis, aka “Dan 72”
November 26, 2020
I wrote this article for the POV previous to the St Francis blow out embarrassment. See if you think I was on to something.
It’s hard to talk about this coming year’s version of Pitt Basketball without reflecting back on last year’s team.
Last year, when I tried to educate you folks on the intricacies of The Flex Offense (the one Capel loves) I mentioned that to be effective, you had to hit your jump shots. But…last year’s team was one of the worst shooting teams in Pitt history. I don’t know who taught Xman to shoot a jumper from below his chin, but it is a disastrous way for any outside player to shoot a jumper. It’s easily blocked, so X has to be wide open to even take the shot. This did not bode well for an offense that is predicated on high percentage shooting, and I think the result was pretty apparent on the court.
Editor’s Note – For those not familiar with the Flex Offense, here is a basic overview from Hooptactics.net
The Flex offense is a powerful screening game utilizing strong baseline and down screens. The continuous “Pick the Picker” screening action puts a tremendous burden on the defense by having to defend two different types of screens simultaneously. Teams that exhibit good patience will surely create open shots. The Flex continuity also provides strong offensive rebounding and second efforts by constantly having two rebounders on the weakside.
Offensive Fundamentals Required
Passing – Click Here
Executing Base Screens – Click Here
Setting & Using Down Screens – Click Here
Executing Back Cuts – Click Here
Okay back to Dan’s write up:
Because X-man couldn’t shoot last year, Capel was forced to go into the standard 1-4 offense to get any screens set and shots closer to the basket after just eight games.
Editor’s Note – Here is what my research on the 1-4 offense turned up. From Hoopstudent.com:
The 1-4 High offense is a basketball offense that can be useful to teams that have several guards with the ability to shoot from the perimeter. It features a ball handler at the top of the key, two high post players, and two players located on the wings near the foul line extended areas. This offense can also create scoring opportunities by way of basketball cuts such as the Iverson cut or via basketball screens such as the cross screen. Additionally, teams with high basketball IQ will be able to take advantage of potential backdoor possibilities because of the open space below the free throw line extended. Also, teams can use the 1-4 high offense to execute actions such as high low and screen the screener.
Okay again, back to Dan:
The thing about the flex is that it requires a team to have good shooters AND an offensive threat at center. Regardless of whether we were in the flex or the 1-4, last year Terrell Brown presented such a little threat to score, that defenders constantly sloughed off of him an double teamed our shooters. As a former coach, I simply cannot understand why Brown can’t learn one offensive move back to the basket and one facing the basket. Most inside post players learn those moves in 8th grade.
So to summarize last year’s offensive woes. 1) Our guards couldn’t shoot, and 2) our center literally had no offensive moves.
On defense things were a bit simpler. Pitt was terrific in man to man and good in the full court 2-1-2 press, but when Pitt went to any kind of zone defense, they got hammered.
On to this year……
First, the Schedule: This is as difficult a schedule as Pitt has ever been tasked with, because there are a lot of ACC games against ACC studs. Also Pitt plays Drexel (maybe …Covid problems) Northwestern (ACC/Big 10), and Gardiner Webb. In conference Pitt has Miami, Louisville, Duke, Notre Dame, Florida State, GA Tech, Syracuse then Duke again. How many wins do you see against those ACC studs? I see 2 wins or less unless Sibande plays.
The Ballhandlers (The 1 & 2): I hope that Xavier Johnson has fixed his jumper and foul shooting but most likely not. He’s very good at assists and drives to the basket. I’ll say this right away…If Nike Sibande gets a waiver for this season (he’s transferring from Miami Ohio), Pitt will have a winning record. He is THAT good! If not, .500 or worse is a real possibility. Meanwhile, Ithiel Horton is a Delaware transfer with a 40.9% 3 point shot average. He practiced with the team all last year. Pitt only shot 30% as a team last year. But… that was at Delaware! This is the ACC.
Our best new backcourt addition could be 6’5” Freshman Femi Odukale who shoots 52% from the field and 39% from 3. At least in high school…
I don’t see any of the others being of help in the brutal ACC.
Lets look at the Wings – Positions 3 & 4: It seems like every Pitt team for years has had a plethora of players 6’5 – 6’8 . Justin Champagne is back after a terrific season last year. He was perhaps the MVP of the 2019 team as a freshman.
He is an athletic quick and accurate shooter, but this year he will not be a surprise to any of our opponents. Think of the phrase “doubling down” because if we cannot shoot from outside again, I assure you Champagne will have a lot of defensive company on the wing and low post.
A player who stunned me with his improvement last year was Au’Diese Toney. His shooting form was horrible but somehow the ball went in more often than not. His drives to the basket were epic and flashy. Gerald Drumgoole will be back too…nuff said!
Two impactful frosh, William Jeffries (top 100 recruit and all-time leading scorer for Erie McDowell) and Collier join Pitt as freshmen. But…Jeffries is only 17 and this is the big leagues. Collier is 6’8” and lead a HS team to Friends School Title last year. Again, this is the big leagues.
Finally, a look at the 5: Honestly, I think Pitt is in big trouble at center. You know what I think of Terrell Brown.good defensive player but massive underachiever on offense. How many of us screamed for Capel to recruit a good big man!! Coulibay returns to help but meh!
John Hugley may be the answer. He’s another frosh, but at 6’9” 240lbs he could be the starter at center. Again, he’s a frosh and this is the ACC! Last but not least is 6’10” Max Amadasun from Dublin Ireland. Again, he was a HS star but this is the ACC.
My viewpoint overall is that this Pitt team has more depth and *should* have better outside shooting. Capel should also be able to install the Flex Offense and keep with it (hopefully). Duke runs it but they have 4’s and 5’stars at each position. The bottom line is that our 2020-21 season depends greatly on our Frosh growing up quickly and Nick Sibande being allowed to play. Nike is a fundamentally sound, and yet flashy point guard that could elevate this team to play with the ACC’s best. Without Nike, i.e. with Xman at point guard, Pitt may not win an ACC Game.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL MY FELLOW POVers. What character it takes to be a Pitt Fan – Dan72.