What’s the current state of Pitt basketball?

What’s the future of Pitt basketball?

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These questions are so important because we all know the past with Pitt basketball. It was a program built on toughness, a hardly-ever-falls-at-home program that, when you woke up the next day it felt more like you played a football game than a basketball fray.

Playing Pitt struck fear; it intimidated and was daunting.

Now? Do you think ACC coaches circle that game against Pitt — even when they have to travel to The Petersen Events Center — and get frightened a bit? I’m not thinking it forces anywhere near the anxiety it used to.

Pitt now sits and waits to see if it will get an NCAA Tournament bid, after bowing out against a wonderful North Carolina team on Thursday afternoon in the ACC Tournament. But we all know how this will go, right?

Pitt will probably get in.

Pitt might win a game in the NCAA tournament, but no more if they manage to do that.

This isn’t a team built for a deep NCAA run, not a team destined to march through March, but more like that .500 team in the league that we all saw never forge a true identity this season.

I’m not trying to be negative for the sake of being negative (and, trust me, I think Jamie Dixon is a wonderful man and leader of young men) but I ask this question without the hint of any jest: What are all the things I’m supposed to be looking forward to as it pertains to Pitt basketball?

Let me know, because I’m all ears.

It’s one thing to have an off season or two, but what are those things appetizing me in the near future? I’m having a tough time identifying them and that might be the biggest problem.

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You see, it isn’t just that Pitt has had a down season to this point — and one on the heels of missing the NCAA Tournament — but it doesn’t feel like there is that huge light at the end of a tunnel that is compelling me to be overwhelmingly positive.

Again, if you know what it is, I’m all ears. Tell me. Let me know.

Am I supposed to be looking forward to the senior seasons of Jamel Artis and Michael Young, who at times played very well this year but at other times underwhelmed? Are they going to push Pitt from this rut?

Is Sheldon Jeter suddenly going to grow into a consistent player next season, taking games over and being an inside-out threat, wing scorer that Pitt so desperately needs?

Are local kids Ryan Luther and Cam Johnson — with another year of growth and a summer to bulk up — going to carry this Pitt squad next season? Maybe. But that seems like a pretty big ask.

Is Chris Jones going to turn into a real player?

Is Damon Wilson going to be able to handle running the offense and the massive yet unproven Rozelle Nix come back from an injury — and keep his conditioning where it needs to be — to be a power in the post? I’m not certain I’d bet a ton of money on both those happening if I were looking toward 2016-17.

So people will bicker and complain, they will squabble and moan about this season and normally I’d shout them down and point toward a pleasant horizon with the Pitt basketball.

But I think that’s the whole thing here. What’s out there on that horizon that gives you the confidence Pitt will break free from this underwhelming cycle they are in?

If you know, let me know.

Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weekdays from 5:40 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at colin.dunlap@cbsradio.com. Check out his bio here.

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