Chukwuka a Projected Starter at University of Pittsburgh for 2017-18

Chukwuka a Projected Starter at University of Pittsburgh for 2017-18

2017-18 Pitt men's basketball preview

 
Craig Meyer
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
cmeyer@post-gazette.com
8:56 AM
Nov 9, 2017
 
 
 
 
 

Quick facts

2016-17 record

16-17 (4-14 ACC), lost to Virginia in the second round of the ACC tournament.

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Coach

 
Craig Meyer
Kevin Stallings and Pitt basketball embark on season unlike any other

Kevin Stallings, second season, 16-17 (471-300 overall).

Projected starters

G – Marcus Carr, Fr., 6-1 (Monteverde, Fla.)

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G – Parker Stewart, Fr., 6-5 (Union City, Tenn.)

G – Jared Wilson-Frame, Jr., 6-5 (junior-college transfer from Northwest Florida State)

F – Ryan Luther, Sr., 6-9 (5.7 points ppg, 3.9 rpg)

F – Kene Chukwuka, So., 6-9 (junior-college transfer from New Mexico Junior College)

 
Brian Batko
North Carolina upsets Pitt, 34-31

Three keys to the season

Who's going to emerge?

Even with the start of games just a handful of days away, it's understandable for Pitt fans to feel a bit like the ironworkers looking over the Cleveland Indians' roster near the beginning of "Major League" — who are these guys? In all, Pitt has 11 new players on its roster, 10 of whom are eligible this season. Of those 10, seven are freshmen and only Lafayette graduate transfer Monty Boykins has any Division I experience. The players in this recruiting class, particularly the freshmen, are going to form the foundation of the program and its ultimate success, both for this season and the next several years. This season will provide the first glimpse at those faces and their skill sets. There's a good idea of who some of those players will be — Marcus Carr, Jared Wilson-Frame, Parker Stewart and Shamiel Stevenson — but it won't be certain until a few months into the season.

How small will they play — and for how long?

In stark contrast to last season's Pitt team, which didn't have a player shorter than 6 feet 6 in its starting lineup, this season's iteration of the Panthers will be largely lacking in size. They have four players taller than 6-7, but only two of those — Ryan Luther and Kene Chukwuka — are ready to play significant minutes. That means, as coach Kevin Stallings has said, they'll have to go extended stretches with smaller lineups, depending on speed and outside shooting to compete on offense and tenacity and physicality to neutralize opponents on defense. Over the course of the season, that could change as 6-10 freshman Terrell Brown develops. Early on, Luther may have an outsized workload at center and players like the 6-6 Stevenson might have to get accustomed to life as a big man.

How many ACC games will they win?

There are challenges to be had in Pitt's non-conference schedule, but like many teams in major conferences, there are also a fair share of gimmes. ACC play is a different story. While not the deep behemoth it was last season, a time in which people thought it may send 11 of its 15 teams to the NCAA tournament, it is still perhaps the strongest collection of programs in college basketball. The schedule-makers did Pitt no favors, either, as its four home-and-home opponents in conference play include three of Division I's top 16 teams in both preseason polls (so six games in total). Even Boston College — picked to finish next-to-last, right ahead of the Panthers — features one of the ACC's best backcourts. While it's hard to envision Pitt going winless in ACC games, it's almost as difficult trying to figure out where its wins will come.