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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.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Some conference matchups play out before football

Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, left, reacts after scoring a basket against Utah during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. Oregon defeated Utah 77-59. (AP Photo/George Frey)
(AP Photo/George Frey)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Utah at No. 16 Oregon, 4:00 p.m.

From Rob Dauster’s Weekend Preview:

Utah suffered one of the worst losses I’ve seen in a while on Thursday night, when Brandon Taylor, for some unknown reason, decided to foul an Oregon State player firing up a half court prayer at the buzzer. The Utes, who are arguably the second-best team in the Pac-12, will look to bounce-back on Sunday against the best team in the Pac-12, No. 16 Oregon at 4:00 p.m.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1. No. 12 SMU will attempt to stay atop the American standings as they travel to South Florida. While the Mustangs won the first matchup between these two teams at home by 14, they’ve dropped their last two games on the road.

2. A few more American contests are going down as East Carolina travels to UConn and Houston heads to Tulsa. The game between the Cougars and Golden Hurricane is especially interesting because both teams are sitting two games back of SMU and trying to make a move on the postseason.

3. No. 5 Iowa continues the soft part of the schedule as they face Illinois on the road. The Hawkeyes posted recent easy victories over Northwestern and Penn State and will be heavily favored again on Sunday.

4. Could be an intriguing game as No. 17 Miami travels to Georgia Tech. Although the Yellow Jackets aren’t a major contender in the ACC, they’ve been tough this season, especially at home. The Hurricanes fell victim to Georgia Tech last season while they were ranked by Marcus Georges-Hunt has to get back on track after a recent slump for that to happen.

5. There is an Atlantic 10 game that will be featured on NBCSN on Sunday: Saint Louis at St. Bonaventure (2:00 p.m.).

CLICK HERE to watch these games on NBC Sports Live Extra Sunday afternoon.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.