The 2019-20 College Basketball season has finally arrived, and after some key additions, Pitt basketball finally has reasons for hope.
College basketball is finally here, and the Pittsburgh Panthers are hoping for a significant improvement on last year’s 14-19 record. After inheriting a program that former head coach Kevin Stallings ran into the ground, Jeff Capel took over as head coach and did some nice things in his first season, but the results still weren’t necessarily pretty.
That said, Capel deserves credit for what he has done so far. This program was truly one of the very worst in the nation in Stalling’s last year at the helm, and Capel was able to return them to respectability at least. Entering year two under his reign, Pitt has a chance to take another leap forward, but for that to happen, several newcomers will need to live up to the hype.
Pitt’s four returning starters figure to provide a significant impact yet again, but behind those guys, the incoming freshman class and a couple of transfers will provide critical depth and production. It all starts with the freshmen. Gerald Drumgoole Jr. figures to provide a scoring punch off the bench, and his willingness to attempt three-pointers will be a welcome addition to Pitt’s lineup as the team’s most highly-anticipated freshman.
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Meanwhile, fellow incoming freshman Abdoul Karim Coulibaly will help in an area that Pitt struggled mightily in last season: rebounding. Standing at 6-foot-8, 215 pounds, Coulibaly is a physical presence that should help set the tone down low. Finally, Justin Champagnie may be the wild-card that put’s this team over the hump. Despite struggling with a knee injury this offseason, Champagnie has the natural scoring ability, and once he gets comfortable, the former three-star recruit could play a huge role.
As for the transfers, Eric Hamilton and Ryan Murphy each bring skills to the table that should mesh well with the capabilities of Pitt’s returning players. Hamilton is another physical guy that should provide rebounding and physicality against the fierce ACC competition. Murphy, on the other hand, is hoping to find his once-consistent three-point shot to provide spacing as a spot-up shooter.
At the end of the day, Pitt probably isn’t talented enough to win a ton of games within the ACC, but improvement should be expected. Capel is actually building something here, and the players he brought in this offseason show that he is serious about making Pitt into a better, more physical team. This season might not end up in an NCAA Tournament appearance, but for the first time in a while, there is hope for Pitt basketball.