Been a while since I did this, but there is no real theme to what I’m posting, so…
I blasted Dejan Kovacevic a couple times for his “I’m not saying, but the questions are out there” columns. So, good for him on admitting that, yes, he was actually questioning the non-con schedule for preparing the team for the ACC.
For all the teeth gnashing over Pitt not “getting respect” (specifically, being ranked), it’s coming.
More than a couple pieces noting Pitt.
It was the first win in ACC play for Pitt, which of course is new to the league this season. And of all the teams ranked in the top 25 this season — seriously, all 40-ish that have found their way into the polls at some point to another — no group has been on the wrong side of skepticism as much as Jamie Dixon’s Panthers. The doubt was (and maybe still is) warranted.
Now at 13-1 with its next to home games against Maryland and Wake Forest, two teams with 19 wins total, but zero of those Ws against teams ranked in the top 70 of KenPom.com, Pittsburgh is set up to to have it best start, record-wise, since the team got to 19-1 in 2010-11. (In a few ways, that group reminds of this one — and also had a lousy non-conference schedule.)
This season, the Panthers’ sole defeat stems from a hideous Dec. 17 loss, 44-43, to Cincinnati. But it was by just one point, and on the heels of Cincinnati’s win at Memphis Saturday, it’s looking better by the week.
I think Rothstein meant top-50 of KenPom.com, since Stanford is at #54.
Seth Davis at SI.com who has been one of the louder complainers of Pitt’s non-con and why they shouldn’t be ranked is also taking note.
This is for all you bargain shoppers out there. After waltzing through a weak nonconference schedule and losing to Cincinnati, 44-43, at Madison Square Garden in one of the ugliest games of the season, the Panthers were demoted to the discount rack. When they fell behind at N.C. State on Saturday, it looked like even that might be too good for them, but you have to give them credit for getting off the mat and winning a conference road game going away. Now I think Pitt is ready to get some work done in its new league. Most of the ACC teams they play are not used to the physical brand of ball that Pitt will bring. The Panthers might not look pretty getting to the NCAA tournament, but I think they’ll get there.
He has seen the rest of the ACC — not to mention college basketball in general — right? Barring major injuries, Pitt is going to be in the NCAA Tournament.
ESPN’s own proprietary computer rankings, the BPI, have Pitt at #5.
Pittsburgh still has not entered the AP Top 25 despite being ranked No. 5 in BPI.
The lone blemish on Pitt’s schedule is a one-point loss on a neutral court against No. 26 Cincinnati. It came on a Titus Rubles offensive putback with less than five seconds remaining. That’s how close Pitt is to being undefeated right now.
Sure, Pitt hasn’t played the most difficult schedule –- its strength of schedule is ranked 90th.
But the Panthers have fared well against their toughest opponents. Other than their one-point loss to Cincinnati, they’ve won each of their other five games against top-100 opponents by at least nine points. Their average margin in those five wins is 17 points.
Thirteen of Pitt’s 14 wins are by at least 12 points. Its closest win was by nine points, 78-69 against No. 81 Penn State.
The biggest issue for Pitt is not the non-con slate is so bad. It’s that they haven’t had many national appearances.
Since I’m always going to watch Pitt, there is little difference in my head between ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU or most RSN games. For the casual viewer and a lot of sportswriters who are covering other games that night, it matters. ESPN is what will play in the media rooms, offices and bars. so those will be their glimpses Since Pitt wasn’t ranked in preseason, their patsy games have gotten little play. Even pollsters have to be able to see a team to think about them and decide to rank them. The Cinci game was that big appearance. It was a hideous game, that cemented a lot of biases built-in against Pitt by preseason prognostications.
Only now, after the start of the ACC play has there begun a thawing of that perspective.
It also doesn’t hurt that the ACC is looking more and more like it brought in the lastest wave of Big East teams to raise-up the basketball. Yeesh, UNC. The ACC is not looking hot right now.
Every year, another story on the overall versatility of the Pitt players. The biggest difference in my view, to past discussion of versatility is that it usually centered on the guards. How they can play point or elsewhere. This year, it is much more about the forwards. Mike Young, Jamel Artis, Durand Johnson and Lamar Patterson. These are players with different skill sets than in past years. Different strengths and weaknesses. We are seeing the team this year, much more willing to create different match-ups. Stretching opposing defenses.
Hey, yeah. Time for the “Pitt is a physical and tough team” story.
“They were tougher than our team was, period,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said after Pitt’s 74-62 victory Saturday in Raleigh, N.C. “They defended us tougher than we defended them. They got after loose balls, they pushed the ball on the break. And we did not respond.”
Gottfried called it a “tough lesson to learn.”
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon echoed those sentiments after a 79-59 loss Monday at Petersen Events Center, noting the difficulty of driving the lane against Pitt caused his players to stray for perimeter shots.
“If you drive, you’re going to get bumped,” Turgeon said. “They’re going to reach in. A lot of times, they strip it or hit you. So I do think that we settled for too many jump shots, which was disappointing.”
Gottfried called the Panthers’ ability to strip the ball out of an opponent’s hands or diving onto the floor for a loose ball, which resulted in fast-break opportunities and points off turnovers, “part of being tougher with the basketball.”
Again. This is a different team than past ones. Is Pitt strong? Yes. Are they able to play very tough defense? Absolutely. Are they a bruising, brutish team? Absolutely not. Turgeon is playing to the officials for the next game with the bumping and hitting claim. Especially considering how much zone Pitt used against his team — which is what sent them to more jump shots. This team does very little of the style he is claiming. They are getting their hands in on the ball more, but the only time they are bumping is when the ball is loose. Not in the lane.
Point guard columns. Josh Newkirk and James Robinson. If only we could combine the two. Robinson’s court vision, passing, defense and free throw shooting. Newkirk’s speed, three point shooting and aggression. Right now, I’m happy with both.