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.