After just under half of Pitt’s 2018-19 season, it’s time to look at what Jeff Capel has accomplished. After taking on a team that at one point was in risk of not being able to field a team after multiple players threatening to transfer, Capel’s first season wasn’t met with high expectations. After possibly the darkest year in Pitt history that saw the Panthers go winless in conference play, the Panthers are off to a 11-4 start and have finally won an ACC game.
In terms of on-court performance, Capel has exceeded expectations. With few returning players, Capel has showcased his first recruiting class and has Pitt looking like a respectable team. Watching the Panthers take down Louisville last night was one of the most emotional college basketball games I’ve ever watched. Ending a streak of 673 days without an ACC win, Pitt is back. The Petersen Events Center was rocking, and there’s few things better than watching Pitt finally knock off Louisville after 12 straight losses. Although morale is high, the 11-4 record is misleading as Pitt is 1-3 versus Power Five opponents. The young panthers have a few good wins and have mostly taken care of the weaker teams on their schedule. We’ll get a real sense of what this team is about in ACC play where there is a wide range of competition this season. Overall, winning is not as important as the development of the three freshman leaders this season. With that being said, I’d give Capel an A- for on court performance as Pitt has definitely exceeded most expectations coming into the season.
Capel’s recruiting profile cannot be considered complete at this point as his first legitimate class while on campus hasn’t been finalized, but it’s off to a rough start considering Pitt currently has 0 recruits in the 2019 class. While he doesn’t have any commits, Pitt is still in the running for four-star forwards Karim Coulibaly and Qudus Wahab. As Pitt averages under 10 points per game from their two most used big men combined, landing one of these recruits will be key for the next few seasons. The panthers are favored to grab Wahab, who is also looking at Georgetown, Syracuse, Virginia Tech, and Uconn. Previously set to make his decision on Dec. 13, Wahab decided to push his decision further back and we now must wait. Capel’s current freshman class, however, has been a breath of fresh air that gives hope to the Pitt fanbase. Johnson, McGowens, and Toney have combined for 40 points, 13 rebounds, and 7 assists per game. You’d probably hear more about this freshman trio if Duke didn’t have the three best prospects of the 2018 class, but regardless Pitt is in good hands moving forward. Considering Capel came from an assistant role in the offseason, this is a great haul. Overall, I’m giving Capel a B- for recruiting, but it could rise to a B+ if he manages to land one of the forwards mentioned above.