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 ESPN.com 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.