Pitt Cincy

Pitt’s loss to Cincinnati highlights peril of weak schedules


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.”

Syracuse receives mixed news on sanctions appeals

Jim Boeheim
Associated Press
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Wednesday the NCAA made its ruling on two¬†appeals of sanctions made by Syracuse University, with the news being mixed for the men’s basketball program.

On the positive side the NCAA ruled that Syracuse will be docked two scholarships per season for the next four years, as opposed to the original ruling of three. As a result Jim Boeheim’s program only has to account for the loss of eight total scholarships, meaning that they’ll have 11 to fill in each of the next four seasons as opposed to ten.

One scholarship may not seem like a big deal, but in a sport where you only get 13 (when not dealing with sanctions) getting that grant-in-aid back really helps from a recruiting standpoint.

As for the negatives, they both concern Boeheim. Not only has there yet to be a ruling on Boeheim’s appeal of his nine-game suspension that goes into effect when ACC play begins in January (that appeal is being heard separately), but the appeal to reinstate the wins that were vacated as part of the sanctions was denied. As a result Boeheim officially has 868 wins instead of 969 (not counting today’s game against Charlotte).

And with Mike Hopkins set to take over as head coach in 2018, the denial means that college basketball will have to wait quite some time before anyone threatens to join Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in the 1,000 wins club.

While not having the wins officially reinstated does hurt, getting a scholarship back for each of the next four seasons is a bigger deal when it comes to the long-term health of the Syracuse program. Also of great importance will be the ruling regarding Boeheim’s suspension, as a suspended coach is not allowed to have any contact with his players or coaching staff while serving the penalty.

And with the original ruling due to take up half of Syracuse’s league slate, not having Boeheim (or the chance to speak with him) is a big deal when it comes to this current team.

St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe cleared by NCAA

Chris Mullin
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe has been cleared by the NCAA to play this season and will be eligible immediately, the school announced on Wednesday.

Yakwe is a 6-foot-8 forward that reclassified and enrolled at St. John’s this fall. He attended the same high school as Kansas forward Cheick Diallo, who was also cleared by the NCAA to play today.

St. John’s played in the Maui Invitational this week, and Yakwe did not take part. His first game with the Johnnies will be on Dec. 2nd against Fordham if the program plans to play his this season.

The question that must be asked, however, is whether or not he will suit up or simply redshirt. The Johnnies are in the midst of a serious rebuild and will be without their other elite recruit this season, Marcus Lovett. Lovett was ruled a partial qualifier. Would it make sense to burn a year of eligibility on what make amount to a wasted season, or will head coach Chris Mullin opt to save that year for down the road?