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.”

Duke, Cincinnati lead Hall of Fame Tip-Off

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski gestures during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Florida State in Durham, N.C., Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) Duke and Cincinnati, 2016 NCAA Tournament teams, highlight the eight-team field for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.

The participants for the Nov. 19-20 event were announced Wednesday.

Also in the field are Rhode Island, Penn State, Grand Canyon, Albany, Marist and Brown.

The teams, split into two four-team brackets, will play two doubleheaders at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Duke, Cincinnati, Penn State and Rhode Island will meet in the Naismith Bracket, while the others will play in the Springfield Bracket.

The teams will play two early round games at campus sites from Nov. 11 through Nov. 16.

Brandone Francis-Ramirez transferring out of Florida

Florida State center Jean Marc Christ Koumadje (21) fouls Florida guard Brandone Francis-Ramirez (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Gainesville, Fla. (Matt Stamey, The Gainesville Sun via AP)
(Matt Stamey, The Gainesville Sun via AP)
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Brandone Francis-Ramirez is transferring out of the Florida program, the school announced on Wednesday.

A former top 40 recruit, Francis-Ramirez had his two seasons in Gainesville ruined by an academic issues and a loss of confidence. He was academically ineligible in 2014-15, practicing with the team during the second semester. He was granted a redshirt for the year, but he struggled to find any kind of a rhythm this past season. There was a two-month stretch in the middle of the year where he shot 6-for-58 from the floor and 2-for-31 from three.

On the season, he shot 20.2 percent from the floor and 16.9 percent from three.

“I want it to work out for him,” Gators coach Mike White said in a release. “We really appreciate what Brandone did here and wish him the best.”

One of Villanova’s title game stars undergoes knee surgery

Phil Booth, Jack McVeigh
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The forgotten star of the national title game underwent an arthroscopic on his left knee on Wednesday.

Phil Booth, who scored a season-high 20 points in the 2016 National Title game, will be a junior next season and one of the guys called upon to help replace Ryan Arcidiacono, who graduated. He should be ready to go by the middle of the summer; according to a statement put out by the program, Booth will need 6-to-8 weeks to heal.

“Phil is as mentally tough a young man as we have had at Villanova,” head coach Jay Wright said in the release. “He continually impresses our coaching staff with his outstanding attitude. Phil will attack this recovery challenge with great determination, as he does everything in life.”

Booth averaged 7.0 points and 2.2 assists this past season.

Jennings becomes seventh player to transfer from Kentucky

Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell watches his team during the team's regional semifinal in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament against Washington in Lexington, Ky., Friday, March 25, 2016. Washington won 85-72. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
(AP Photo/James Crisp)
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell has announced that sophomore forward Alexis Jennings will transfer, the seventh Wildcat to leave the program since last fall.

Jennings’ departure comes a week after Mitchell publicly addressed the mass exodus of players and assistant coaches and stressed the need for building stability. Jennings figured to be part of that process and the coach said in a release Wednesday night that “it saddens us that Alexis did not see a path for her at Kentucky. … She felt it was in her best interest to finish her career elsewhere and we owe her that opportunity.”

The 6-foot-2 Jennings started 18 of 33 games last season and averaged 10 points and 7.1 rebounds.

DePaul adds 2018 commit

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Wisconsin guard John Diener has committed to DePaul, his grassroots program announced Wednesday night.

The 6-foot-4 Class of 2018 guard ends his recruitment rather early with offers also from instate schools Green Bay and Milwaukee. He’s known as a shooter and becomes the first commit for Dave Leitao in the 2018 class.

Diener, who plays with the Wisconsin Playground Warriors in the spring and summer, commits to the Blue Demons with them coming off a disappointing campaign, Leitao’s first in Chicago. DePaul went 9-22 overall and 3-15 in the Big East, finishing only ahead of St. John’s.

DePaul has been recruiting the Midwest hard with incoming 2016 recruits from La Lumiere School in Indiana, Sagninow, Mich. and locally in Chicago.