The following is true of the Pittsburgh Panthers: They average 1.18 points per possession. They allow just .94. The Panthers’ average margin of victory in 2013-14 is 17.2 points. They have 16 wins. They have one loss. This week, when Ken Pomeroy unveiled his 2013-14 player of the year rankings (his “kPOY”), senior Pitt forward Lamar Patterson was the highest-ranked player on the list not named Doug McDermott. According to the qualitative terms used by Synergy to describe its percentile data, there is no offensive play type or setting in which Pitt, relative to the rest of college basketball, isn't at least "very good." (Usually, as on the offensive glass, they are "excellent.") ESPN.com’s RPI calculator ranks Pitt’s overall strength of schedule No. 1 … in the country. (True story.) Despite all of these pieces of information, Pittsburgh has spent almost all of 2013-14 season outside the top 25. Few have cited Jamie Dixon's team as an ACC contender in its first season in the league; fewer have called it a national title contender. Instead, Pittsburgh has floated along under the radar for nearly six weeks, because no one has any idea what to make of Pitt, because Pitt's schedule has been awful. After this season, we need to give Dixon a lifetime achievement award in the area of RPI exploitation brilliance. According to tempo-free statistics (not to mention most viewers’ accurate descriptions), Pittsburgh’s overall schedule ranks somewhere near the 200 range; its nonconference schedule is even worse. According to the RPI, the Panthers have played the toughest schedule in the country to date. Too funny. Down here in the real world, save a Thanksgiving-week game in Brooklyn against Stanford, the only time the Panthers popped their heads up from their dour nonconference minnow-feast was in December, when Cincinnati (which is regarded more highly now than it was then) escaped Pittsburgh with a 44-43 win … in 48 possessions. Good defense, bad offense, or both, the Panthers were easy to dismiss: Their wins a product of their schedule, their impressive efficiency numbers a product of malevolent computers. Since then, Pittsburgh has kept winning, and usually in impressive fashion. Really, a 58-46 New Year’s Eve sleepwalk against Albany was the last time Dixon’s team wasn’t in obvious command of its situation. The only problem is that even the front end of Pitt’s ACC schedule — it has played NC State, Maryland, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, which run the gamut from “transitioning” to “rebuilding” to “disappointing” — has left it without an opportunity to once and truly prove themselves.
Weekend homework: Pitt perceptions
ESPN | Jan 17