Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

For Most Part, Luck Has Been Avoiding Pitt 3 of Past 5 Losses Have Come by 6 Points or Fewer

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

For Most Part, Luck Has Been Avoiding Pitt 3 of Past 5 Losses Have Come by 6 Points or Fewer

Article excerpt

At first thought, the idea of luck existing in and determining the outcome of a game of skill seems ludicrous. How is it exactly that abilities honed through careful and diligent work over many years can be occasionally trumped by seemingly inexplicable, even supernatural forces?

In a sport like college basketball -with its many moving parts, all executed by imperfect, still-developing players -there can sometimes be little that separates a win from a loss. As those minuscule moments add up, they can be the difference between a triumphant season and a disappointing one and, yes, perhaps even a lucky team and an unlucky one.

This season's Pitt men's basketball team might well be living proof.

At 12-15 and losers of 10 consecutive games, the Panthers have seen some of their hopes gradually dashed over the past several weeks, as setback after setback has accumulated. Painful as some of those defeats might have been, they're not necessarily indicative of a bad team. Pitt, for all of its shortcomings and limitations, might just be snake-bitten.

With only four games remaining in the regular season, a stretch that begins Wednesday at home against Clemson, the Panthers are rated as the fifth-unluckiest team of 353 Division I squads (and first among major-conference programs) by KenPom.com, a widely used college basketball statistical website. Luck, as founder Ken Pomeroy explains it, is "the deviation in winning percentage between a team's actual record and their expected record." Phrased differently, Pitt is better than its current mark.

It's reassuring in a way to a team in search of silver linings and encouragement, but it's not an idea embraced by its coach.

"I don't believe in 'unlucky,'" coach Jeff Capel said Monday. "I just think we haven't done the things necessary to be able to finish. Whether it's making free throws, whether it's getting one rebound, whether it's stepping up and making a shot. …

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