Pitt’s Jeff Capel seeks improvement, will worry about ACC standings, 2020 later
The words “last place” never slipped through Jeff Capel’s lips after Pitt’s loss to Clemson.
Capel doesn’t concern himself with won/loss records or standings in the conference. He has a team to coach.
His thoughts over the last three games of the regular season, including a visit to No. 2 Virginia at 2 p.m. Saturday, will be focused solely on his team improving.
In the end, the ACC office will tell him where he stands and the team Pitt will play March 12 in the first round of the ACC Tournament.
“We are concentrating on right now,” he said, with authority. He also hinted at change, saying, “We don’t know what our team is going to be after the season.”
Here are three thoughts as the Panthers (12-16, 2-13) try to escape last place.
1. Repeat of last season?
A case can be made that, other than two games almost two months ago, this season is unraveling in the same way the final days of the Kevin Stallings era ended. Again, Pitt is last among 15 ACC schools.
Pitt has lost 11 in a row.
It’s different than last year, though, because freshmen Xavier Johnson, Trey McGowens and Au’Diese Toney are more talented than anyone Stallings would have brought back last season.
But here’s a thought: How does Pitt replace senior Jared Wilson-Frame’s 3-pointers? He is the third Pitt player with 70 or morein consecutive seasons. Only Ashton Gibbs (2009-11) and Jason Matthews (1990-91) had done it previously.
Wilson-Frame did it this season while taking 38 fewer attempts and showing leadership on and off the court. Big loss.
2. Can Capel hit the jackpot again?
In the middle of a difficult situation last year, with players transferring or threatening same, he recruited well in his first months on the job.
“We needed talent, point-blank, period,” he said.
The fact that he got it speaks well of his recruiting ties and ability to close deals.
Capel admits to getting lucky with the freshmen.
But Capel also sold them on what he plans to build at Pitt. Don’t underestimate his ability in that area.
Pitt already has commitments from 6-foot-8 center Karim Coulibaly and 6-6 forward Gerald Drumgoole. Getting a ‘yes’ from 6-11, 215-pound Ibrahima Diallo would be another step in the right direction.
3. Check out company Johnson keeps
In the Clemson game, Johnson scored in double digits (14 points) for the 25th time. In Pitt history, only Sam Clancy and DeJuan Blair have done that as freshmen. That also makes Johnson the only freshman guard to do it.
Also, only Vonteego Cummings, Brandin Knight, Carl Krauser and Lamar Patterson had 450 points and 125 assists in a season. Johnson joined them, with 462 and 126.
Most impressive, his scoring average in the ACC (16.7) is better than what it was (16.3) through the nonconference games..
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .