Pitt Basketball – Where are we now?
Any summary of Pitt Basketball progress has to include last night’s Pitt – Duke game.
(Please note that Saturday’s game vs Boston College has changed to a game with Wake Forest).
It is with unbridled joy that I comment on last night’s game. Pitt led virtually all the way leading to a final of 79-73 Pitt. Pitt had great energy from the outset opening an 8-0 lead and repelling every run Duke made. To me, the dominance inside was very Jamie Dixon like, except this team has Champ and can shoot. Pitt seemed to dominate the glass, yet when I look at the box score we were outrebounded 43-42.
Coach K threw at least 8 different defenses at Pitt in an effort to slow down this very athletic team. After opening in a full court press, Duke went into a kind of Syracuse Zone. 3-2 zone morphed into 2-3 and then went into a matchup zone every other time Pitt came down the court.
Pitt shot 46.2 % overall vs Dukes 38.6 %. /Pitt was 35% from 3 point land while Duke was 28.6 %. Pitt was 24/37 from the free throw line or 64.9% and Duke was worse (hard to believe from Duke!) 11/19 or 57.9%.
Pitt played tenacious man to man defense the entire game with a look of zone twice. This is one of the best efforts from Pitt in years and Champagnie has an opportunity to be a very special player. My only negative comments are about the Duke homer announcers (note -I shut off the sound second half) who never let a mute second go by without praising Duke and outwardly hoping for a comeback. Pitt does need to work on their in-bound defense as Duke got within 2 on an easy pass under the basket which should never happen.
My only peeve is with the officials. The charging call on Champ late in the game was a complete farce. It was an ACC dive! A replay showed he never touched him but the ACC used to be known for great “actors” feigning “near death” to get a charging call. Other than that the refs did not ACC Pitt and called a pretty even game.
As you know, the season started with a loss to St Francis. Pitt would beat them today by 40. I had not realized how little time Coach Capel had to put the team together and St Francis played disciplined basketball and shot lights out. Pitt utterly panicked as most young teams do. Best learning occurs after losses. This Pitt team is just now finding itself.
Since then, Pitt has improved every game. Their athleticism is off the board. They don’t back down from anyone. While XMan will drive you nuts at times, out of control, his drives late in the game are daggers in an opponent’s heart. There are not enough words to describe Champs play! He is an assassin from 3 land, mid -range and inside and has incredible basketball intelligence. His defense and rebounding are beyond description.
Toney has horrible shooting form but many of his shots go in anyhow. No one is more tenacious on the boards. Horton, while not always the best shooter can get hot from 3 land and is the best 2 guard that Pitt’s had in years. He does the little things off the ball. Odukale is the worst FT shooter on the team but gives intelligent minutes as a sub.
The post position players loss of Hugley hurts but Xman, Toney and Champ handle 70% of the scoring so all Brown and Coulibaly have to do is play defense, get rebounds and not screw up. Looking forward to seeing more Sibanda as he has the best shooting form I’ve seen at Pitt in years.
Pitt’s remaining schedule is all ACC but who we play and when is up to Covid. I don’t think there’s a team in the ACC that Pitt can’t hang with and beat save for UVA. Florida State is tough but Pitt seems to have their number in Pittsburgh.
I see Pitt maybe losing two more games and making it to the NCAA’s as a #6 seed. We have every chance to win the ACC outright and make some serious noise in the tourney.
Kudos to Coach Capel and staff for their terrific recruiting and pulling this team together. So much fun to watch! H2P . I hope you all are as excited as I am to watch this team progress! The sky is the limit if Pitt stays healthy.