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Pittsburgh showing more bite after a portal makeover of its own

There’s plenty for State to worry about tonight.

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Capel is in his fifth season at Pittsburgh, and he’s a little lucky to be here after a dreadful 11-21 campaign in 2022. Pitt has still yet to finish a season with a winning overall record under Capel, let alone a winning conference record. Roster turnover has made it difficult to establish any sort of continuity.

There’s very little continuity on this edition of Pitt, either, but Capel did exactly what Kevin Keatts did after last season: hit the portal to add experience. Three of the Panthers’ starters are veteran transfers; combined, they’ve played in more than 300 games.

And Pitt is vastly improved—up from 195th in the Pomeroy Ratings to end last season to 91st now. It still doesn’t look like an NCAA tournament team, but it’s one that doesn’t figure to be a pushover very often.

The Panthers are more Capel-able this year.

Pitt in '23 Adj OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% 2FG% 3FG%
Pitt in '23 Adj OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% 2FG% 3FG%
Offense 107.0 (73) 51.2 (130) 20.4 (248) 35.1 (43) 52.2 (110) 33.3 (179)
Defense 99.1 (118) 46.6 (90) 17.7 (238) 27.8 (145) 47.4 (114) 30.3 (90)

The transfers Pitt brought in (guards Nelly Cummings and Greg Elliott, wing Blake Hinson) each like shooting the three, and the Panthers have gone extreme in that respect. Almost 46% of their shots this season have been threes, a proportion that ranks 39th. (They ranked 276th in this category last year.) Pretty much every guy who plays meaningful minutes for this team is willing to shoot from outside, to one degree or another.

Hinson didn’t play in either of the last two seasons, and you can tell he’s feeling refreshed. He leads Pitt in scoring at 16.6 per game, and is shooting 62.5% from two and 41.5% from three, both career-bests. He’s a good offensive rebounder and does a good job getting to the line.

Guard Jamarius Burton, a holdover from 2022, is averaging 14.6 PPG on 58.5% shooting inside the arc.

And Pitt still has big man John Hugley, who was a force in the team’s win over State last year. Hugley hasn’t played big minutes, but remains a potential problem.

This has been a good passing team, but also one prone to mistakes, and that is a worrying tendency for the Panthers heading into tonight. The Panthers are averaging about a -2 turnover margin, and if that number is significantly larger, and they don’t shoot well from outside, they’re in trouble. That’s how they got blown out by 31 by Michigan earlier this season.

KenPom likes NC State by seven.