Pitt Cincy

Pitt’s loss to Cincinnati highlights peril of weak schedules

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NEW YORK — Dear Pitt: This is why you put together a real non-conference schedule.

This is why you make sure that, more than a month and 11 games into the season, the best team on your schedule is someone better than Cincinnati.

Don’t get me wrong, the Bearcats aren’t a bad basketball team. They’re somewhere between respectable and a potential bubble team, not exactly a bad loss but not quite the kind of win that will define a tournament resume. There isn’t any shame in losing to the Bearcats. They’re tough and they’re physical and they make things tough for anyone trying to run offensive against them. And on the nights when teams shoot as poorly as Pitt did on Tuesday — 31.4% from the floor, 2-for-13 from three, one field goal in the last 14:54 of the game in the Jimmy V Classic opener — the Bearcats are good enough to beat a lot of teams.

That’s before you take into account in the familiarity factor. This is the first time in eight years that the Bearcats and the Panthers aren’t Big East foes. Mick Cronin and Jamie Dixon know each other. They know their sets. They know their defenses. They know how to beat each other.

All of that is a long-winded way of saying that Pitt’s 44-43 loss to Cincinnati is not necessarily a sign that the Panthers are destined for the NIT.

The problem is that there’s no way to tell otherwise. Because the rest of Pitt’s schedule is awful. The average KenPom rating of the 10 teams that Pitt has beaten? 183.9. The best team in that group? Stanford, who sits at 46th in those rankings, or Penn State, whois sitting at 72nd after losing at home to Princeton. In other words, it’s very possible that Pitt has yet to play an NCAA tournament team this season. The lasting impression that we’ll have of them heading into ACC play is of an ugly loss on national television to a middle-of-the-pack AAC team.

“Our coaches, they schedule who they think we should play,” Cameron Wright said. “We don’t question our character or our coach’s character. We know who we are.” According to Wright, the schedule that Pitt has played has nothing with the fact that the Panthers got pounded on the glass or were out-toughed on both ends of the floor. “This wasn’t the University of Pittsburgh basketball tonight.”

And he’s right.

This wasn’t Pitt basketball. The Panthers are probably better than what they showed tonight.

But they have done nothing this season that could prove the opposite.

“We played good people,” head coach Jamie Dixon said, “we just didnt get it done tonight.”

No. 17 Arizona erases double-digit deficit to beat UCLA

Arizona coach Sean Miller reacts to a foul call during the first half of Arizona's NCAA college basketball game against UCLA, Friday, Feb 12, 2016, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
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Allonzo Trier scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half and Parker Jackson-Cartwright scored 16 points in his second career start as No. 17 Arizona knocked off UCLA, 81-75, in Tucson on Friday night.

UCLA was up by as much as 11 points in the first half and took a ten point lead into half time, but in the second half, the Bruins were eventually done in by foul trouble and the stronger front line of the Wildcats.

Ryan Anderson and Kaleb Tarczewski were dominant down the stretch. The duo combined to score 12 of the last 23 point for the Wildcats, including the bucket that put the Wildcats ahead for the first time since early in the first half. Off of a missed free throw, UCLA’s Thomas Welsh battled with Tarczewski for the rebound, but when Welsh finally seemed to gain control of the loose ball, Anderson knocked it out of his hands and bullied through Jonah Bolden for a layup.

All told, those two combined for 20 points and 27 boards, seven of which were offensive. They also managed to foul out both Welsh and Tony Parker, although some of the calls that went against UCLA down the stretch were questionable.

The win keeps Arizona within a game of first place Oregon in the Pac-12 standings and tied for second with No. 23 USC, who will be visiting the McKale Center on Sunday night.

No. 23 USC falls at Arizona State

Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley applauds the efforts of his team during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Arizona, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)
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No. 23 USC missed a golden opportunity to make up a game in the Pac-12 standings on Friday night.

No. 11 Oregon lost to Colorado on Thursday night, dropping back into a tie for first place in the league with the Trojans, a game ahead of No. 17 Arizona. But USC fell at Arizona State, 74-67, keeping them a game off of the pace that the Ducks have set.

The loss is even more painful when you consider that, on Sunday, the Trojans will be making the trip to Tucson to take on Arizona. The Wildcats are not what we have become accustomed to seeing under Sean Miller, but they are still a top 25 team and the McKale Center is still one of the toughest places in the country to get a win.

Thanks to Friday’s loss, instead of entering McKale with an outside chance of taking over sole possession of first place in the league, USC will have top hope they don’t fall two games off the pace.

As far as the game itself was concerned, USC committed 17 turnovers, shot 2-for-11 from three and gave up 16 offensive rebounds to Arizona State. That’s how you lose a game where you shoot better than 51 percent from the floor. USC was just never able to consistently get out into transition, and that caused them to struggle¬†executing in the half court.

Nikola Jovanovic led the way with 25 points and 15 boards for USC.

Tra Holder’s 20 points made the difference for Arizona State, who kept themselves within striking distance of an at-large bid with the win.