The Daily Dish: Pitt is college basketball’s best kept secret
If college basketball fans want a sleeper team to keep track of when the March Madness hits, then look no further than the Pitt Panthers. Coach Jeff Capel’s team uses a wide open ACC. And despite finishing 14th out of 15 in the preseason conference poll, Pitt is currently tied for first place in the league with Virginia.
Yes, with five games left in the season, the Panthers are well positioned to take home their first ACC regular season title in program history. The rest of their schedule even plays favorably. Four of Pitt’s last five opponents are in the bottom half of the league, and three of them are just a few games behind last place.
Compare this schedule to Virginia’s latest games. The Cavaliers will play North Carolina, which is still a talented team despite the difficulties of the Tar Heels, and the Clemson Tigers, who are currently in the top five in the conference. This bodes well for Pitt’s drive to create a division and win the conference. But ohAside from perhaps that, the Panthers are a virtual castle to make their first NCAA Tournament appearance in seven years, and they only need two wins to make their third 20-win regular season since joining the ACC.
This is a team that has only lost one game since January 14 and is on a six-game winning streak. Yet, despite all this success, most of the country is unaware of Pitt’s special season.
This season in the ACC, a lot of attention is paid to the relative “weakness” of the conference. This was exacerbated by the struggles of traditional blue bloods such as North Carolina and Duke. But don’t take a change in the status quo as weakness, because that would invalidate what Pittsburgh is after.
“I definitely think it’s unfair and untrue to what people are saying about our league or what has been said about our league. I think our league is really good… Looking at it, we have a top 10 team in the country,” Capel said. — We have two more teams that are in the top 25. Preseason #1 and spent some time at #1. We have another team that was once in the top 25. We have another team at Virginia Tech that used to be in the top 20 teams. So I think there is depth in our league. I think there are really good players out there. I think there are really good coaches out there. I don’t know why (AKK is not respected).”
The perception surrounding the ACC may be one of the reasons why Pitt is getting little to no recognition on a large scale. This is also helped by the Panthers’ lack of ranking in any major poll. The top 25 polls often serve as a quick and concise way for more casual fans to identify “good” teams.
However, Pitt received 82 votes in the latest AP poll. It wasn’t enough to get into the top 25, although Pitt has more Quad 1 wins than the 11 teams ahead of him.
The ACC teams actually ranked in Monday’s AP poll were North Carolina State, Miami and Virginia. The Cavaliers finished in seventh place despite having a conference record equal to Pittsburgh’s, and the Panthers took a head-to-head victory in their only game this year. Not to mention, Pitt has a better conference record than Miami and NC State, with wins in every program.
Get the fastest results, stats, news, live videos and more. CLICK HERE to download the CBS Sports mobile app and get the latest on your team today.
The only thing holding the Panthers back at the moment is their five losses outside of Quad 1. Three of them came in the first month of the season. In addition, Pitt cannot rank very high in most offensive or defensive stats. However, it shouldn’t matter much when this team continues to just win games.
The point is, Pitt deserves a lot more credit than he’s entitled to. So don’t be surprised to see this piping hot team pick up some hardware at some point this year. Or break the brackets when March comes.
Pitt plays at Virginia Tech on Saturday at 5:00 pm ET.
The Daily Dish is a daily college basketball column that is constantly updated by 247Sports journalists covering the day’s biggest events in the sport and will run through the NCAA Tournament in April.