December 17, 2013

Not Sweating the Non-Con

Filed under: Basketball,Non-con,Schedule — Chas @ 7:21 am

I’ll understand if you were wringing your hands over Pitt’s non-con schedule again after this past weekend. The non-con has not gotten better looking. Not after Cinci went down big to Xavier. Penn State showed why it doesn’t get basketball respect after losing to Princeton at home — by blowing an 18 point lead with 6:34 left. Duquesne lost to Robert Morris. Heck, Fresno State and Albany lost over the weekend.

So no matter what computer metric you use (KenPom, RPI, Sagarin…), Pitt’s non-con strength of schedule is down near the bottom.

It’s the reason why Pitt is still unranked despite piling up a 10-0 record. Stanford is presently the best win, and while nice, provides no boost. And thanks to getting blown out by Xavier, the same can be said for today’s game with Cinci as far as potential impact — assuming a win.

Jamie Dixon was overly cautious in his scheduling this year, following all the departures from the program. Coupled with some teams being worse than expected. Not a good mix. I’m not debating that.

Then there were the items that were not controlled. The B1G/ACC Challenge gave Pitt a “meh” game with Penn State. But that shouldn’t have been a big surprise. When set up no one knew what Pitt would be like this year. A Pitt-PSU game was at least a storyline for ESPN to sell.

Per this report from Andy Katz, it seems that the Legends Classic was not originally going to be such a dog. Ohio State was supposed to be in the Legends, but Kentucky made a late decision to pull out of the Gotham Classic. The Gazelle Group runs both tournaments so they shifted Ohio State to the Gotham Classic.

The Andy Katz bit is definitely done with a pro-Dixon/Pitt slant — even hitting on the goal of playing in NYC regularly — but the tidbits are there. Pitt has been trying to set up home-and-homes with Georgetown and Villanova. In what should surprise no one, neither seems that interested. They don’t  want Pitt to come to their turf to recruit, and playing in Pittsburgh doesn’t offer a similar benefit.

All that said, I just don’t get that worked up over the non-con. From an entertainment perspective, of course I would like some better games. From the point-of-view that it helps Pitt get ready for the NCAA Tournament. That a team is “battle-tested.” Well, that just strikes me as absurd. A conference slate with teams that vary in style from Virginia to UNC will do more for that than a game played in December or November.

The issue is really that one game. One game that justifies all the dreck of the non-con. Would it surprise you that Louisville has a schedule played to this point that is considered to be worse than Pitt’s? Even though they played and lost to UNC in a neutral site game? Defending national champs. Bringing back a bunch of players, plus a top recruiting class and a top-5 pre-season ranking. Yet, outside of UNC and their Commonwealth game at Kentucky, nothing else. But that UNC game with all the attention and name recognition. That is what shapes the narrative. Though, I’m sure their fans hated that home schedule.

Ohio State is up to #3 in the rankings. They looked to have a few good games on the slate but it isn’t working out that way with Marquette down to 6-4. Maryland is injured. And their finish in the Gotham Classic this Saturday against Notre Dame may or may not help given the up-and-down showing by the Irish in the non-con.

One final misconception that needs clearing is how Pitt got seeded so low in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. That was not about the non-con schedule. That had to do with the NCAA mandate on avoiding early rematches — Pitt got bumped down two seed lines to avoid playing any other Big East teams and Michigan in the first couple of rounds. Where it used to be a matter of simply sending a team further away geographically. When you now regularly have conferences getting 6 to 9 bids yearly, the only way to avoid early rematches is to play with the seeding.

That rule has been removed because it became harder and harder to manipulate without major games with the seed lines. It created ridiculous movement for teams like Pitt and Cal with the Big East,  SEC and Pac-12 all too big. It would have been absolutely impossible by next year following year when the Big 10 goes to 14 teams as well as the ACC at 16 to go with the SEC at 14.

The only ranking that matters is in the end. If Pitt beats quality opponents they will get a better seed in the tourney. If teams are afraid of the Pete, schedule games at the Consol…oops there goes the home court advantage. I’m just sick of bitching about the weak non con stuff. It is what it is. The media needs to get over it. Beat Cincy. Beat Cancer. H2P!

Comment by TX Panther 12.17.13 @ 7:27 am


Non-conference games are used to prepare the team for
the grueling conference schedule. As you mentioned before
criticizing Pitt’s non-conference scheule peruse the schedules
of other major programs. With a few exceptions most majors
follow Pitt’s template. Practices can’t totally replicate game experience. Game experience is needed to build chemistry and in game strategy. Support your coach. He is one the best!

Comment by JR 12.17.13 @ 7:35 am


On FB like the pedigree of James Folston. Athletic oriented
family. Father was an NFL player. The kid’s vertical, speed, etc
are highly competitive. Also, he has a frame that will allow
weight gain and increase in strength.

Welcome James!

Comment by JR 12.17.13 @ 7:42 am

I don’t care about rankings. I don’t care about the non-con.

If Pitt beats quality teams in the ACC, the rankings will come soon enough.

I want some performance in the spring.

I’m a big JD and Pitt hoops supporter, both with my attendance and my dollars. We’re lucky to have him.

But his teams have gotta stop crapping the bed at tourney time.

Sorry to be negative after a nice and unexpected start to the year.

Comment by BATR 12.17.13 @ 8:16 am

Pitt versus Cincinnati will have little meaning… UNLESS Pitt loses.

Comment by PittofDreams 12.17.13 @ 8:53 am

Thanks for the level headed look at the non-con. Much needed and completely agree. Every night I see the ESPN ticker, and see the all of the Top 25 teams playing patsies. Yet Pitt gets all the flak because douches like Doug Gottleib have decided to make them the poster child. We ain’t the only ones!

Comment by JCE 12.17.13 @ 9:02 am

Pitt won’t get any respect this year regardless who they play or beat. Mark my words, if Pitt pulls out big wins against one (or more) of the “elite” ACC teams, the spin doctors will emerge diminishing the victory. Let’s just enjoy what we can and hope that nothing gets lodged in their throats come March.

Comment by Yeti 12.17.13 @ 9:04 am

This year Coach Dixon’s bed is being taken away from him.

Comment by TX Panther 12.17.13 @ 9:10 am

I don’t have a problem with Pitt being underranked given the soft non-conf. schedule, however I find it odd that other teams with the same scheduling difficulty level, such as Ohio St. (ranked #2) & Oregon (ranked #11), to name just a few, seem to escape media scrutiny.

Comment by 1618mt 12.17.13 @ 9:11 am

Rankings are actually important… from a perception point of view. They do help with seeding. In the past pitt has had lofty preseason rankings so the non con was fine. But starting unranked every game is critical to get in that top 25. And what if pitt loses to penn state ? It would be probably end of Jan till pitt has another shot to get ranked.

Comment by Snala The Panther 12.17.13 @ 9:32 am

As Coach Chryst likes to say, “control the controlables”, so just “win baby, win” and let the RPI, rankings, tourney seeding and respect or lack thereof take care of themselves.

Comment by Dr. Tom 12.17.13 @ 9:41 am

BTW, Does everybody else have the same banner add at the top of this thread that I do? (copied below) I found it to be a LOL moment via my computer’s tracking key words I suspect!

“I Stopped Sweating”
Powerful supplement stops sweating safely without surgery, guaranteed.

Comment by Dr. Tom 12.17.13 @ 9:44 am

Dr. Tom,

How much are getting paid per Click?


Comment by PittofDreams 12.17.13 @ 10:07 am

The teams with big followings catch the media eyes because that is where the media get readers. Unless Pitt or one of its players performs exceptionally (Donald) the media looks the other way. PSU gets better paper coverage in Pittsburgh than Pitt. I believe the FAN 93.7 does bring more Pitt because that is the Pitt station. It always seems to be about money.

Comment by Frank MD 12.17.13 @ 10:07 am

When you start out as low as we did, it is hard to move up. Teams above us are not going to lose until they get into conference play and even when they do, they don’t drop very far.

What happens when we lose our first one, we will drop like a rock.

Especially this year, when the Big 10 is strong and there are good teams in all conferences.

We will have to beat Syracuse, Duke or NC convincingly to make a decent jump.

Until then, take them one at a time and stay unbeaten.

Comment by gc 12.17.13 @ 10:32 am

Pitt has played a team from the B1G, Big 12, PAC 12, & play an AAC team tonight. Sure those teams weren’t the best their conference had to offer, but they handled their business. I’d like to see them play better teams, but it’s a 2 way street. If the big boys are scared to come to the Pete then play some neutral sight games. Get on the horn with some of the better mid majors, Dayton, Xavier, Butler, etc., they don’t seem to have a problem doing home & homes with top teams.

Comment by Nick 12.17.13 @ 10:33 am

Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time.

Comment by Dan 12.17.13 @ 10:46 am

Pitt could be 17-0 before they play someone that the rest of the country calls a quality win. Teams like Colorado and Baylor jumped Pitt because of one good win. The problem with early season rankings is that it is all about perception after watching UNC, Mich ST, Louis, and Kentucky play they really don’t look like world beaters, Pitt just needs to keep winning that’s the great thing about BB just win and you keep playing it doesn’t matter what other people think

Comment by Steve h 12.17.13 @ 11:05 am

No matter how you slice it, Pitt’s non-con BLOWS.

However, Pitt will be properly ranked in March when it cvunts the most.

One more thought … the Top 10 rankings this week has Cuse, LVille, Nova, UConn and Duke (which is automatically ranked of course.

Now, nobody here is going to insult my intelligence by saying how the ACC measures up to the recent Big East. (Pitt’s non-con isn’t the only thing that blows.)

Note that I’m not saying that Pitt made a bad move or that the ACC (espeically with LVille) eventually will become a top onference … but I currently would rank them behind the B10, BE and PAC12.

Comment by wbb 12.17.13 @ 11:05 am

Basketball season dose not start till March.

Comment by alcofan 12.17.13 @ 11:12 am

The non-con. is terrible. It’s true. And it seems so long to me, almost endless, consisting of 1/3 of the season.
It’s also true that Pitt fans make too big of a deal out of not being ranked at this point. And, I believe many have acted obnoxiously as a result. At this stage of the game, it really means nothing.
If we win in the ACC portion of the schedule, we will be ranked and get the respect that we deserve.
Next year, hopefully we meet Arizona or K -State in Maui. And have one or two more interesting games before the ACC portion of the schedule begins.

Comment by Don Walnut 12.17.13 @ 11:13 am


Back to FB. Huge week for Pitt. Signing
Brookster, Montae, and Shai would elevate
Pitt to Top 40 class ( just guessing)?

Comment by JR 12.17.13 @ 11:47 am

It’s easy to say that Pitt’s non-con sucks when you’re not paying at a minimum $36 per pair of tickets to see blowout after blowout against unappealing teams. i understand having the number of games for budgetary purposes as stated in the PG awhile back, but if they had a name opponent come in, they could double the single game value of the ticket to cover the cost of the away game the following season. i’m not an AD, so what do i know. i just think there has to be an alternative somewhere.

Comment by Joey T 12.17.13 @ 11:59 am

If this team finishes as strong as we think they will, no one will ever underestimate a Dixon team again!

Comment by Howard 12.17.13 @ 12:00 pm

Aaron Donald CBS Sports unaminous All-American and Defensive Player of the Year ….. yawn!

link to

Comment by wbb 12.17.13 @ 12:10 pm

@Joey T., you mean you’re not fired up for the rematches next year with Albany and Kennesaw St.??

Comment by Dan 12.17.13 @ 12:21 pm

I agree with Snala, the perennially weak non-con hurts perception of the program nationally, and for whatever its worth in rankings and seeding.

The weak non-con’s affect on Pitt’s tourney performance is debatable, but I have always felt that at the very least, Pitt needs to leave the Eastern time zone more in the non-con, even if not vs. a top tier opponent. A tough road loss is better than a 40 point home win in preparing a team for the post season. Do a home and home with a mid major like a St. Louis or San Diego St. Hell, we should have scheduled Wichita St. this year!

Lastly, I think we can all agree it sucks for the fans. Every year, the blue bloods face off during the non-con, generate buzz for their programs, and every year, Pitt is on the sidelines. Just looking at the top tier of the ACC, UNC plays Louisville, MSU, Kentucky. Duke plays Kansas, UCLA, Arizona, Michigan. Syracuse plays Baylor, Villanova, Indiana. We play…well, you know, Stanford is ok and we’re all practically drooling to play somebody as mediocre as Cincy.

Every year there are excuses for why a tougher schedule didn’t materialize. Those arguments wear thin after so many years. I don’t expect Pitt to play 4 traditional top 20 opponents in the non-con, but one would be nice. Or how about a rivalry game (insert Hoopies here)? To paraphrase Dr. Evil, throw us a frickin’ bone here!

I’ve come to the conclusion that it ain’t gonna change. This is how Jamie wants it and who am I to judge? But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Comment by Iron Duke 12.17.13 @ 12:28 pm

@Iron Duke, I have nothing left to say!!

Well, for the next hour or so anyhow! LOL

Comment by Dan 12.17.13 @ 12:40 pm

Look the non con is what it is. as a season ticket holder, its hard to get to all these patsy games and even harder to find someone who will use them (may I recommend giving tickets to your local boys and girls club or the charity set up for ticket donations). this all said, I don’t want to overlook the bearcats. They have to be PO’d about the loss to xavier (imagine losing to duquesne – not a great comparison as xavier is a much stronger program, but you get the idea). As for the last couple of patsy’s, I hope that HCJD is able to get JU some minutes and turns the keys to the car over to JN (JR has logged some big minutes and could use a break me thinks). As for DM, don’t hold your breath. Its my impression he has some real work to do academically in prep school and it could be a coin flip if we ever see him in a Pitt uniform…

Comment by ptbreezeb 12.17.13 @ 1:06 pm

The quality of Pitt’s OOC schedule pretty much depends on the quality of teams in the pre-season tournaments or “classics” we play in. I don’t think there’s a deliberate attempt by Dixon to avoid early competition. And I disagree the image of the program is affected long term. Some years are simply better or worse than others…If we don’t make the NCAA’s and the OOC schedule is the root cause, then it’s time to be concerned.

At my city office today- one block from MSG. Looking forward to beers and seeing the boys in person!

Comment by SilverPanther in NYC 12.17.13 @ 1:08 pm

oh, EMel please come home…

Comment by ptbreezeb 12.17.13 @ 1:11 pm

@SilverPanther: I’ll be at the game, too. Should be pretty empty considering neither team has a tremendous NYC draw + crappy weather today. Should be ample opportunity to move down into the lower section! Unless the ushers are in a bad mood…

Comment by MikePITT 12.17.13 @ 1:39 pm

Aaron Donald. 1st Team All American via AP. CONGRATS!

Comment by tedsptman 12.17.13 @ 1:45 pm

I agree with Iron Duke. Pitt has 2 really bad annual perceptions that it may take years to remove…they play a bad non con schedule and they stink in March.It would sever Dixon and the university well to remove both those perceptions.

The later one will be harder to do, but there’s no excuse for the first one, but Dixon needs to undo both perceptions ASAP. Fortunately Pitt is perceived as an annual BB power and one that’s really tough to beat at home, and that’s most important.

Comment by Jackagain 12.17.13 @ 1:46 pm

ptbreezeb, Emel has been MIA since Hanukkah, oy vey!

Comment by Dr. Tom 12.17.13 @ 1:47 pm

Only in Pittsburgh: Post-game handshake replaced by a nose kiss:

link to

Comment by steve1 12.17.13 @ 1:48 pm

oops, a close-up:

link to

Comment by steve1 12.17.13 @ 1:49 pm

Nice article on AD wbb, even gave one of Pitt’s defensive coaches some love, how can that be? Total Blasphemy!?!?

Article quotes, “Donald wins with anticipation at the line of scrimmage. He worked all season with defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield to break down offenses, offensive lineman tendencies, offensive schemes. They would hole up for hours, either in defensive line meetings or one-on-one, to assess what Donald would face on Saturdays.”

Maybe all of the Pitt’s defensive coaches aren’t moronic one eyed cretines after all.

Comment by Dr. Tom 12.17.13 @ 1:55 pm

Screw the script…this is what I am talking about. Bring back this helmet and the uniform.

link to

Comment by notrocketscience 12.17.13 @ 2:19 pm

@Dan, sorry to suck up all the oxygen with my rant! Ha! Just this non-con schedule is a pet peeve. As Jackagain says, it is one of the 2 negative perceptions of the program that is easily fixable.

Notrocketscience – I like it! The Ditka helmet. I would take it as an annual throwback, or over the fighting groundhog any day.

Comment by Iron Duke 12.17.13 @ 2:29 pm

Pitt and Dixon have to make it to the final four before they will get respect

Comment by DocJLK 12.17.13 @ 2:32 pm

@Iron Duke. Nails on head, couldn’t have said it better.

Comment by Dan 12.17.13 @ 2:42 pm

How about Steel Bowl Tourney. Pitt, WVU, PSU and play in with Duq and RMU. Would at least generate some local interest for the ticket price.

Comment by Jimbo 12.17.13 @ 2:43 pm

Pitt got lots of respect when they were competing and winning the Big East Tournament. Crapping the bed in the conference tournament like they have the last several years is not helping our perception. Just win, baby!

Comment by Caw Miller 12.17.13 @ 2:51 pm

I can’t be at the game tonight (annual partner dinner) but one of my sons will be there!

Comment by Pitt Dad 12.17.13 @ 2:53 pm

(ESPN Insider) Jeff Goodman on “Top ‘Question Mark’ Teams”:

The Panthers are 10-0 and outscoring opponents by an average of 21 points per game. Wow. Impressive, right? Not really. No one knows how good this team truly is because the nonconference slate is loaded with home games and cupcakes — the Panthers’ wins have come against Savannah State, Fresno State, Howard, Lehigh, Texas Tech, Stanford, Duquesne, Penn State, Loyola Marymount and Youngstown State. Seven have been in their own building, one more in Pittsburgh and the other two in Brooklyn against teams from west of the Mississippi.

I’m impressed with Lamar Patterson’s production. He leads the team in scoring at 16.4 points and is also averaging 4.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists, but the only possible tournament team these guys have played is Stanford — and the Cardinal could well wind up in the NIT.

Pittsburgh faces Cincinnati at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday in the Jimmy V event, but the Bearcats are also a fringe NCAA tournament team, and that game is followed by two more cupcakes at the Pete, against Cal Poly and Albany, before ACC play gets underway.

Comment by MikePITT 12.17.13 @ 3:40 pm

Chas, you glossed over the entertainment value of the non-con games. People pay a lot of money for their season tickets, the least the University could do is schedule one or two games that won’t bore the hell out of them. Those “big” crowds at the Pete this season are a testimony to what the fan base thinks of this schedule….When I think of a team being tested by their non-con it is not to prepare them for the NCAA’s. It is to test them for their upcoming conference schedule. To get them in a few tough games that go down to the wire so that when that happens in conference they are more prepared for that type go game.

Comment by HbgFrank 12.17.13 @ 5:54 pm

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