Now that the college basketball season has officially ended, it is time to put this season in the past and look forward to the bright future that is in store for the Pitt basketball program. Over the next few weeks, I will unroll a report card for each of the team’s returning players from this season and what they need to improve upon for next season.
However, looking at the program as a whole, this season was not at all a failure.
The Panthers entered the ACC, a conference that was regarded by many as one of the best conferences in the country coming into this season. The team started pretty much the same as they always do, crushing weak opponents in their non-conference schedule.
In fact, the Panthers non-conference schedule was so bad, that they did not get a signature win until the ACC tournament in March when they defeated UNC in the quarterfinals. Yet, this Pitt basketball team still managed to earn a record of 26-10 this year.
For the most part this season, Pitt beat all of the teams that they were supposed to beat, and lost to all of the teams that they were supposed to lose to. It was an average season for the Panthers, the team was not spectacular but they were not bad either.
Panthers fans should have every reason to believe that their team will be back next season.
The only players that are leaving the program are Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna. Both of them will be greatly missed as they were clearly the Panthers’ two best players this past season. However do not underestimate what a healthy Durand Johnson can do for a team.
Johnson was poised to be one of the team’s top contributors this past season, but after tearing his ACL early into the conference schedule, he was sidelined for the remainder of the season. There is no guarantee on when he will be fully healthy and able to play again, but he will surely be a leading scorer for the team when he his healthy.
Returning to the Panthers next season is the backcourt duo of Cameron Wright and James Robinson, two cerebral players who are superb defenders. Expect the two of them to continue maturing and score more frequently for the Panthers next year.
The Panthers will again lack a star next season, there will be no DeJuan Blair, Brandon Knight, Chris Taft, Aaron Grey nor Sam Young.
Next year’s Pitt basketball team will be a squad that gels together and is extremely unselfish with the ball. They will continue to have players near the top of the conference in assist to turnover ratio and be considered one of the better teams in the ACC.
Especially a conference that is losing sophomore-star, player of the year TJ Warren to the NBA Draft. That is one less team that stands in Pitt’s way of the top.
I expect next year’s team to continue where they left off this season.
Next article: guard James Robinson