Key Departures: Justin Champagnie (NBA); Xavier Johnson (–>Indiana); Au’Diese Toney (–>Arkansas); Karim Coulibaly (–>St. Bonny)
New In Town: Jamarius Burton (<–Texas Tech); Dan Oladapo (<–Oakland); Mouhamadou Gueye (<–Stony Brook); Nate Santos (#228)
State of the Program:
Three seasons of mediocrity are now in the book in the Jeff Capel era with Pitt as virtually no progress has been made toward building this program back to where it once was in the glory days of the Big East. The outlook for year 4 looks as dire as ever, as the 3 leading scorers from last year’s group all have left campus early and there has not been a large influx of talent. While the offense at Pitt has gone from pathetic to average under Capel the defense has gone in the other direction, going from 70th year 1 to 122nd a season ago. It finally looked like he had enough talent to contend with the best in the Conference, especially behind Justin Champagnie, but they couldn’t stop anybody and ended with a 10-12 record, the 3rd straight sub-.500 showing. The seat has to be heating up for Capel as you don’t have a lot of excuses for no progress being made after 3 years with a program that has had sustained success before. He does get a couple of young pieces back in Ithiel Horton (JR) and Femi Odukale (SO) but the rotation will be mostly made up of transfers and largely unproven bench players. An outlook no program ever wants to face.
Leading the incoming group is Texas Tech transfer Jamarius Burton (SR). Burton was a role player off the bench for the Red Raiders a season ago after popping a little in his sophomore campaign with Wichita St. He’s a tough defender and plays well in transition but he’s certainly not a guy who is going to carry a team offensively at this point. He will likely start in the backcourt and Capel will hope he can step up his scoring given the holes left behind by the exodus. The next newcomer is transfer F Daniel Oladapo (JR), who was an All-Horizon selection a year ago after averaging 13/9 for Oakland. He is a big bodied physical force in the paint, but a little undersized height wise at 6’7”. He doesn’t have a jumper so at the 4 he may clog the court so he may be best utilized as a small ball 5. He’ll be needed desperately to provide offense in the interior for Pitt right away though. The last of the transfers is Mouhamadou Gueye (SR), another F via Stoney Brook who was All-AEC and the AEC DPOY a year ago after averaging north of 3 bpg. He’s a lanky F who could play alongside Oladapo due to his ability to stretch the floor with his jump shot, albeit inconsistent. The two of them will likely start at the 4 and 5 and complement each other well. The final newcomer is Freshman wing Nate Santos (#228). Santos doesn’t jump off the page in any 1 category but has a solid jumper that can translate and good length at 6’7”. He will need to add strength and improve his handle and playmaking ability but definitely has the potential to contribute down the road for the Panthers.
It’s a pretty gloomy outlook for Pitt in year 4 under Capel after having your 3 leading scorers, all non-seniors, leave the program and really not making any splash plays in recruiting or the transfer portal. Burton, Oladapo, and Gueye should all start and be ok but there’s no star power or even a clear candidate for a breakout performer. Add that onto the fact that they have consistently gotten worse and worse on the defensive end as a program and you start to wonder just how bad it will have to get before they move on from Capel, as there’s not much to signal things are going in the right direction. Offensively Nike Sibande (SR) and Horton are the best returning shooters at 43% and 37% a season ago and they are the most likely candidates to become leading scorers. What they will miss the most is the playmaking ability of the 3 departing stars, who not only led the team in scoring but averaged nearly 10 assists a game as well. No star power offensively, no defensive ability, and a rotation made up of several guys who’ve never played together is a recipe for disaster, especially in a Conference as tough and deep as the ACC. Unfortunately for Pitt fans this will be another season as a punching bag for the top half of the Conference and another season missing the NCAA tournament.