No. 20 Pitt is a really, really good basketball team.
They entered Saturday sitting second in the nation in KenPom’s rankings, a fact that was more-or-less supported when they went into College Park and knocked off Maryland, 83-79. Lamar Patterson led the way with 28 points, seven boards, seven assists and three steals while not making a three all night long.
The Panthers are sitting at 18-2 on the season. The only two games that they have lost this season have been to Cincinnati in NYC and at Syracuse. They came by a combined six points.
So why is Pitt only ranked 20th? Why are they only a No. 5 seed in the most recent NBCSports.com bracketology?
Because they still haven’t beaten anybody. The only team that they’ve beaten that currently is projected to be in the tournament is Savannah State, the leader in the MEAC. Their next win in non-conference play came against Stanford, who is currently 51st in the RPI. Their best league win? At N.C. State, who sits at 64th in the RPI.
The good news for Pitt is that there still have four teams on their schedule that are ranked in the RPI top 25, and all four of those games are at home — Duke, Virginia, Syracuse and Florida State. Those are all winnable games, especially in Pittsburgh. Then there is the ACC tournament. So the Panthers will have their chances.
But regardless of what happens in those four games, the Panthers are not going to have a notable road win on their resume this season. And that non-conference schedule isn’t going to get any better unless teams like Stanford and Texas Tech go on a crazy run over the last month of the season.
Pitt’s poor non-conference schedule put them behind the eight-ball this year. How about this for a hypothetical: if the Panthers lose to Duke and Syracuse, beat Florida State and Virginia, and then fail to notch a big win while losing in the ACC tournament semifinals, the Panthers will enter Selection Sunday with just five losses on the season and a resume that could end up keeping them outside the top four seed lines.
Has that ever happened for a power conference team?
Will that continue the trend of the Panthers losing early in the Big Dance?
Whatever the case, there is going to be a No. 1 or No. 2 seed that’s not happy to see Pitt in line for a Sweet 16 matchup.