December 24, 2012

Go figure, Pitt puts forth one of its more lackluster efforts and a day later Pitt is ranked. How lackluster? It was the first game this season where Pitt failed to score more than 60 points. Yet, they still beat Kennesaw State by 16.

While the Owls hit a bunch of 3s to keep it tight early, Pitt put the game out of reach before the first half was complete. The constantly hitting 3s does give the guards something to improve.

“They played hard the whole game and hit open jump shots,” Pitt guard James Robinson said. “They were on. We didn‘t have one of our best defensive performances, and that‘s something we‘re going to have to work on heading into Big East play.”

Pitt held Kennesaw St. to sub-40% shooting overall. The problem was they let KSU go 9-15 on 3s (7-27 on 2FGs). So, yeah, that’s something to improve.

So, Pitt is now ranked for the first time in a year. They are 24th in both the AP and Coaches Polls.

They have a week before opening Big East play with Cinci (ranked #8 in both polls).

“We’re starting over 0-0 is what I told our guys and we’re going forward here now,” said Dixon, who picked up his 250th career win. “Everybody in our conference has a pretty good record at this point. We have to go into conference play and be ready for that.”

Everyone will angst over the non-con. It’s why suggested if Pitt could get a Christmas wish it would be for a do-over.

And while it would be easy to rail about how people just don’t understand per-possession statistics and how wrong the polls are every week (I’ve been there), it’s hard to blame it on the voters. Pittsburgh had one marquee nonconference game on its schedule — against Michigan in Madison Square Garden. It played well and lost. The rest of the schedule has been bunk, and no, I am not awarding credit for playing Lehigh and Detroit at home.

If a Pitt fan tells you his team is underrated, he has a seriously good case. At which point you tell that Pitt fan: OK. Beat someone first, then I’ll believe you. That is not an unfair response.

Which is why I’d like to give the Panthers a noncon-schedule time machine just in time for Christmas.

I’m glad Pitt is ranked. I appreciate someone like Ken Pomeroy taking up for Pitt.

And, anyway, why single out Pitt for their weak schedule? To this point that schedule (No. 288 SOS in Division I) rates out as similar to Ohio State’s weak schedule (No. 276), and stronger than Missouri’s weak schedule (320). Good teams sometimes play weak schedules. Indeed, Pitt, Ohio State, and Missouri are all one-loss teams that came up short in their one shot against an elite opponent (Michigan, Duke, and Louisville, respectively).

At the moment Dixon has no fewer than six players who’ve posted offensive ratings of 125 or better. Let’s put that into context: Steven Adams is a seven-foot freshman who’s projected to play in the NBA someday. He already takes excellent care of the ball and makes 60 percent of his twos. And on this roster that’s been good enough to make him the No. 9 option on offense.

Naturally I’ll be much more confident in my grasp of Pitt’s true worth once Big East play begins. That’s why, for now, I have ranked the Panthers at a lowly No. 10, and not the lofty No. 5 or 6 suggested by the rating systems. But you should harbor no illusions about what’s taken place so far. Scoring 1.27 points per possession is amazing, and this team’s performance to date has been far more aberrant than their schedule.

Yet, part of me would have liked to see Pitt stay unranked. At least to drive home how bad the non-con scheduling was.

The one thing I don’t care about is the latest bit of rumoring that when Pitt didn’t got jobbed out of the SEC/Big East Challenge, it cost them a game with Kentucky.

Reportedly, Kentucky was nearly a ranking christening in Oakland until the Panthers, who held an open date for a home game to host the SEC/Big East challenge, was snubbed by the Big East from participating in the event, possibly payback for Pitt’s announcement to depart the conference for the ACC.

Kentucky ended up playing Notre Dame in South Bend.

“I know that these games are important for us,” said Detroit coach Ray McCallum, whose Titans replaced Kentucky on the schedule. “It brings up the RPI and it gets you prepared somewhat more for your conference slate, when it really counts.”

Notice how quickly it shifted from “nearly” in the first cited paragraph to seemingly definite in terms of Detroit filling the schedule gap. Here’s the reality. There was no such guarantee that it would have been Kentucky.

Pitt did anticipate getting a home game against an SEC team. It also hoped that it would be a quality SEC team. The problem is, that in the Big East/SEC Challenge it turns out that there weren’t exactly many quality SEC teams playing at a Big East program this time.

Here are the SEC teams that played at a Big East school: Kentucky, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and Miss St.

SEC teams playing at home: Florida, Arkansas, Ole Miss, LSU, Auburn and Vandy.

We all know that Pitt wasn’t going to be playing Tennessee for the 3d straight time. In fact, based on how the SEC has done this year, only Kentucky constituted a truly quality SEC team playing on the road. The only other “qualtity” team — at least in terms of what was expected in preseason — was Alabama (who lost at Cinci). And ‘Bama is a disappointing 7-4. In case you missed it, the SEC is down quite a bit this year in basketball. Not necessarily Pac-12 down, but pretty damn low.

They would have been higher profile teams, but not likely quality teams. So QED, when you get those whispers that Pitt got screwed out of playing a decent SEC team at home this year, the only logical team fitting the description was Kentucky.

Happy Hanukkah to you Chas for all your hard work throughout the year. Reed as well.

And Merry Christmas, Happy Year, Festivous, whatever, to all the loyal Pitt Fans on this blog. May the new year bring health to you and your family and may we all share the joy of some Pitt victories this year.

Pitt is on the upswing in both sports. Let’s all ride the wave together.


Comment by Jeff in CPa 12.24.12 @ 6:00 pm

Was looking at the Kennesaw game stats and noticed something “curious.” Fix the 3-point shooting stats and Pitt wins by about the Sagarin predicted amount of 36-37 points:

Kennesaw was shooting 27% on 3s for the season. They made 9 of 15 vs Pitt. Pitt was making 37% of its 3s and only made 1 of 8. If Kennesaw shoots 27% and Pitt shoots 37% Pitt makes 2 more 3s and scores 6 more points and Kennesaw makes only 4 3s and scores 15 less points. That would have made the final score Pitt 65 Kennesaw 28 a 37 point margin. If nothing else it does show what poor 3-point shooting defense can do to you.

Comment by pitt1972 12.24.12 @ 8:24 pm

My concern with the soft non conference is that it does nothing to generate interest in Pitt hoops. In the Big jump year under Howland, we went into Columbus and beat OSU. They came to Pitt the next year and we best them again.
Now, no one and I mean no one cares.
The Pete is an empty cavern. If we had NCAA championship banners hanging from our rafters like the blue bloods then maybe we could endure it.
But we don’t.
As a season ticket holder I am upset. I donate money to get access and then I buy the tickets for a schedule of dull foes.
Is our budget so tight we can’t play a Xavier, VCU, butler, Michigan State on a home and away basis.
Going into the BE we still have more unanswered questions.
So what did the non conference schedule prove?
Nothing except that we have good players.
I fear that our conference games will extend our learning curve into February.
I love Dixon. Feel lucky to have him, but if we really want to be a big boy too, we have to play somewhere other than our own driveway before January.
MSG doesn’t count. We play there a million times and no one threw anything at us.
I don’t care if we are ranked. I care about being prepared.
Happy holidays if you celebrate them! If not, join in on the fun!

Comment by SFPitt 12.24.12 @ 8:54 pm

Happy Holidays, guys.

I am absolutely flabbergasted by how little press JR is receiving.

Comment by steve1 12.24.12 @ 8:58 pm

+1 SFPitt

Comment by alcofan 12.24.12 @ 9:08 pm

I think part of the poor NC schedule was because of the fact that Pitt stunk last year and Dixon was breaking in two freshman.

He also was relying on the SEC game to round out the schedule. Next year Pitt will be playing a B1G team.

Comment by Jackagain 12.24.12 @ 9:14 pm

Rankings are nice but it is simply window dressing at this point. Who really cares about rankings until the start of BE tournament. The great thing about the BE (and future ACC with old BE teams) is that we can play a soft NonCon schedule because there will be plenty of opportunity to beat ranked teams this season (ND, SU, UC, UofL) and that will certainly provide us with a top 20 ranking.

Now time for the good ole Pitt to make its run through the BE. By the end of the BE regularly season it will be nice to see up in the Top 10 headed into the BE tourney. A good solid run through our last tourney could land us a top 3 seed in the BE. That is our plan. Who cares about where we are or arent ranked at this point.

Merry Xmas Pitt fam.

Comment by Pitt Fan In Atlanta 12.24.12 @ 9:21 pm

I’m sorry guys, but it’s hard to get excited about Pitt’s con-conference games this year. When they played Michigan it was different. Now the Big East schedule is starting, that will change and the intensity and interest will dramatically change. I look at this time of year as the pre-season. Actually I find the Pitt football recruiting of greater interest. About the Big East season, Bring It On!

Comment by Justinian 12.25.12 @ 9:08 am

I’ll be ther new years eve to cheer on our panthers and beat cincy….whoever is going will have to make “extra” noise cuz the full alotment of students will not be there…so if your going, were all gonna have to bring our A game..h2p!!

Comment by Keith 12.25.12 @ 10:17 am

With the Steelers done and the Pens absent, Pitt has a chance to become the single focal point for Pittsburgh sports fans. If Pitt BB is even nearly as good as I think they are, we could ride a nice wave of new fan support into the football season.

Cannot wait for Cinncy!

Comment by Dan 72 12.25.12 @ 11:24 am

How can Pitt basketball take a step forward without playing somw quality teams in the pre-conference. Sure, every school plays some “cupcakes” to help get their act together and to pad their seasons won/loss record, but if Pitt ever aspires to be held in the same breath as UNC, Duke, Michigan State and the like, they need to put some beef in their schedule. The 2012-13 non-coference slate was an insult to the University, the team, and to Pitt fans. To get respect you need to earn it, so lets quit moaning that we are underrated by others (poll voters, serious college basketball fans) and build a schedule that creates interest in and builds respect.

Comment by PENGUIN 12.26.12 @ 4:00 pm

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