Pittsburgh Panthers

A strong offseason retool brings the Pittsburgh Panthers back on the map.

The countdown is officially on. For the second straight year, CBB Review has ranked the top 100 teams in college basketball heading into next season. Each day, we will reveal the next team, until we get to number one. Our number 81 ranked team are the Pittsburgh Panthers.

Since Jamie Dixon left in 2016, the Pittsburgh Panthers have been a bottom feeder in the ACC, finishing with a losing record the last 6 years. This year, with the late addition of a highly touted recruit Dior Johnson and some big-time transfer portal pickups, the Pittsburgh Panthers are not only in a position to finally finish with a winning record, but compete for an at large bid in the NCAA Tournament.

To those who have not, click here to learn more about our preseason top 100 teams in the 2022-2023 college basketball season.

Head Coach: Jeff Capel (5th Year)

2021-2022 Record: 11-21 (6-14)

2022 Postseason Finish: Missed NCAA Tournament

Notable Departures: Femi Odukale (Transfer), Ithiel Horton (Transfer), Mouhamadou Gueye (Graduated)

Projected Rotation

PG: Nelly Cummings (6’0, 190, Gr-Sr.)

2021-2022 stats: 14.7 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 0.9 steals, 38.4 FG%, 35.7 3P%, 79.2 FT% (Colgate)

SG: Dior Johnson (6’3, 185, Fr.)

247Sports #40 Ranked Recruit

SF: Jamarius Burton (6’4, 200, Gr-Sr.)

2021-2022 stats: 12.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.9 steals, 40.5 FG%, 88 FT%

PF: Blake Hinson (6’7, 255, Jr.)

2020-2021 stats: 10.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.6 steals (Ole Miss), *Missed last season at Iowa State.

C: John Hugley (6’9, 265, Jr.)

2021-2022 stats: 14.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.7 steals, 0,5 blocks, 47.1 FG%, 71 FT%

6: Nike Sibande (6’4, 185, Sr.)

2020-2021 stats: 6.9 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 41.5 FG%, 43.6 3P% *Missed last season

7: William Jeffress (6’7, 205, Jr.)

2021-2022 stats: 3.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.4 blocks

8: Greg Elliott (6’3, 180, Gr-Sr.)

2021-2022 stats: 7 points, 2 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.8 steals, 88.7 FT% (Marquette)

9: Guillermo Diaz (7’0, 205, Fr.)

10: Jorge Diaz (6’11, 195, Fr.)

Team MVP: Nelly Cummings

You can really choose a lot of people here, but the impact that Cummings had on a Colgate team that not only made the tournament last year but nearly upset the 3-seed Wisconsin in the first round earns him this honor. He can score and takeover games, distribute the ball, and is a tremendous leader on the court. If the Panthers play through Cummings, they can see a lot of success, especially if the other X-factor guys can’t step up.

Make-or-Break-Player: Blake Hinson

You can really choose a couple of guys here. Dior Johnson could be a lottery pick, but his indecisiveness in the recruiting period makes you think if his heart is in the game. Like Hinson, Sibande is coming off a major injury, so whether he can produce at the high level we have seen remains a question mark.

Hinson however looked great at Ole Miss before sitting out last season at Iowa State, and added 20 pounds this offseason. If he can solidify a solid frontcourt while paired with Hugley, the Pittsburgh Panthers could have a really deadly starting 5. If he is unable to perform, not only will that impact the Panthers, but he might see his spot taken by a somewhat deep rotation.

Analytic to Know: 332nd in Tempo

Of the 358 division 1 teams, Pittsburgh ranked in the bottom 26 in tempo. This is nothing new for the Pittsburgh Panthers, as they ranked 308th in 2020 and 209th in 2019. Pittsburgh is going to play it slow, meaning less possessions for the opponent, but also for themselves. In a situation where you’re losing, this isn’t a good thing, as we saw a lot the past few seasons. With guys like Dior Johnson and Nelly Cummings coming in, Coach Capel should explore pushing the pace more, especially with Dior Johnson who does a good job driving and making the tough shots.

Team Outlook

This is probably the best team Pittsburgh has had since Capel took over, so if Pittsburgh can’t find a way to make it into the tournament field or at least be on the bubble, then expect the bags to be packed. Another question is chemistry, as three of their projected starting 5 are all coming from different places, so while we might see some ordinary early season struggles, it will be telling when conference play starts what this team will be able to accomplish.

What it will really come down to as mentioned before are those three make-or-break guys. If two of the three can perform at the level that is expected, then Pittsburgh should have no problem finishing in the top 5 of what looks to be a deep ACC this year. That is a big if, and time will tell if they are able to do so.

The nonconference shouldn’t be too difficult, with the only teams on the CBB Rank top 100 they will be playing being West Virginia, and possibly one or both of Arizona State and Michigan in the Legends Classic. This will be a team to keep an eye on all season, because you really won’t know what you’re going to get from the Pittsburgh Panthers on any given night.

Projected Conference Finish: 10th in the ACC

Projected Postseason Finish: NIT Tournament

Ceiling: NCAA Tournament Round of 32