Flavell: Pitt basketball’s problem is simple without a fix

Posted on Jan 30 2018 - 5:29pm by Cody Flavell
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The Pitt Panthers are struggling in the Kevin Stallings era but instead of scratching your head to find a reason, it’s simple. The ACC move just wasn’t going to suit the Panthers well. (Photo: Matt Freed/Post Gazette)

The Pittsburgh Panthers are off to a slow start as they sit at 0-9 in conference play and 8-15 overall on the year.

Many want to blame the lack of experience on the team and others want to blame Kevin Stallings for his inability to conjure up any offense for the young team. But whether you’re on the “fire Stallings” bandwagon or on the “give Stallings one more year” bandwagon, their truly is just one simple problem and a long time will pass before the fix happens:

The Panthers play in the ACC.

Obviously, the ACC is no death sentence as team’s can succeed in it.

Let’s be real, though. The talent throughout the conference is pretty lopsided.

The Panthers simply can’t recruit on the level of teams like North Carolina, Duke, and, as of recently, Virginia. It just isn’t possible. The heritage of the program. The heritage of the head coaches in charge of the programs. Stallings and his university just can’t do it.

Just look at the 2018 class that Duke has coming in during the fall. They have the three best recruits coming to their program. Duke and Mike Krzyzewski have jumped aboard the ‘one and done’ train grabbing players who likely will bolt after one year for the NBA but seemingly give Duke the best chance to win as Coach Krzyzewski’s career hits the home stretch.

It’s the world’s best conference and there isn’t much denying that. Multiple coaches have taken the podium after games commenting that team’s can’t win with all freshmen. Obviously, Pitt is an almost fully-freshmen team. It’s one of those situations where their freshmen can’t match up with Duke’s or North Carolina’s.

The move to the ACC was a big move in terms of money for the University and that’s totally understandable. It helps the University as a whole so no one is going to shun it. But times were easier in the Big East days.

Jamie Dixon, former head coach of the Panthers, was putting great teams on the floor and even had the Panthers in the top 25, including a few stints at No. 1 in the country. He was a great recruiter and kept bringing in top notch players. As soon as the move to the ACC happened, Dixon began struggling to bring in recruits. Pitt seemed to be trending down and Dixon could see it. He was almost forced out as it was believed a change could bring a new culture in. It hasn’t worked.

Things were a struggle before Stallings. The days of Dejuan Blair, Ashton Gibbs, and LeVance Fields are long gone and their hasn’t been much done to replicate what used to be. In fact, it’s nearly impossible now.

The only real fix to the issue might be to move out of the ACC. Don’t hold your breath. It isn’t going to happen.

The main thing Panther faithful can hope for is that a coach like John Calipari becomes available at the end of the year after a very underachieving year at Kentucky. He’s a Pittsburgh guy and has taken Kentucky to National Championships. But again, don’t hold your breath. The Panthers won’t suffer this bad forever but it might be a long time before Pitt ever sniffs a conference title again.