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Pitt coach Jamie Dixon’s rep as a weak scheduler won’t change next season

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There may not be a program in the country that is more notorious for their weak non-conference scheduling that Pitt.

In the 11 seasons that Jamie Dixon has been the head coach of the Panthers, they’ve averaged a KenPom non-conference schedule strength of 250.1. Their highest ranking during those 11 years was 129th back in 2007. Only three times in Dixon’s tenure has their non-conference SOS been in the top 200, none of which were in the last five years. In 2012-2013, only seven teams played a weaker non-conference schedule.

While this has allowed Dixon to rack up wins, it has drawn the ire of national media pundits on every medium and annually hurts Pitt’s seeding in the NCAA tournament.

On Tuesday, the Panthers announced their 2014-2015 non-conference schedule:

  • Nov. 14: vs. Niagara
  • Nov. 16: vs. Samford
  • Nov. 21: at Hawaii
  • Nov. 24-26: Maui Invitational (teams in field: Arizona, BYU, Chaminade, Kansas State, Missouri, Purdue and San Diego State)
  • Dec. 2: at Indiana (ACC/Big Ten Challenge)
  • Dec. 5: vs. Duquesne (neutral court)
  • Dec. 13: vs. St. Bonaventure
  • Dec. 17: vs. Manhattan
  • Dec. 20: vs. Oakland
  • Dec. 23: vs. Holy Cross
  • Dec. 30: vs. Florida Gulf Coast
  • Feb. 2: vs. Bryant

The Maui Invitational is a nice addition, but it’s not a guarantee. If the Panthers lose their first game and wind up in the loser’s bracket, they could end up in a situation where they play Chaminade, a Division II program, and Purdue, who doesn’t look like they’ll finish in the top ten in the Big Ten next season.

A trip to Indiana is also nice, but it’s part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, meaning that Pitt had no say in the scheduling of that game. The only other road game on Pitt’s schedule is a visit to Hawaii, which comes as an acclimation to Hawaiian time for the Maui Invitational.

The schedule should be an upgrade of last season, but Dixon once again did not exactly putting together a murderer’s row. We’ll see how it affects them this season.

Marcus Paige, Joel Berry lead No. 9 North Carolina past No. 2 Maryland

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — He’s back.

For the first time this season — and for the first time in more than a year that he hasn’t been hampered with some kind of foot or ankle injury — Marcus Paige donned a North Carolina jersey, and it didn’t take him long to find the form that made him the NBCSports.com Preseason National Player of the Year.

On the first Tar Heel possession, Paige came off of a ball-screen, drove the lane and found Kennedy Meeks at the rim for a layup. Not 30 seconds later, he came off of a down screen and buried a three. Paige would finish with 20 points and five assists as No. 9 North Carolina put together a fairly resounding win over No. 2 Maryland in the Dean Dome on Tuesday night, winning 89-81.

Paige finished 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, hitting a number of threes in the second half that helped hold off a Maryland push sparked by their own all-american point guard, Melo Trimble.

Trimble was erratic early on, committing three turnovers in the first six minutes and eight on the night, but it was his play at the end of the first half and early second half that kept North Carolina from blowing their doors. At one point, Maryland was down 32-19 and in danger of getting run out of Tobacco Road.

In total, Trimble finished with 23 points and 12 assists, hitting four big threes during that stretch. He either scored or assisted on 11 of Maryland’s first 12 second half field goals.

As good as Paige was, the bigger story may actually be Joel Berry II. He took two dumb threes in the first half — which played a role in Maryland being able to make this a game — and he missed a few free throws late, but overall he was terrific. He finished with 14 points and five assists, making 3-of-5 threes and turning the ball over just twice. He’s clearly beat Nate Britt out at the point guard spot, and his ability to take pressure off of Paige as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker is huge.

(More to come from Chapel Hill…)

VIDEO: Melo Trimble drops Nate Britt with a crossover

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North Carolina is hosting No. 2 Maryland in a heated contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Terps sophomore guard Melo Trimble is playing very well and part of his performance was dropping North Carolina’s Nate Britt with a crossover in the second half.

(H/T: The Cauldron)