When Jamie Dixon signs on to play in preseason tournaments such as the N.I.T. Tip-Off the Panthers are competing in this season, he does so because he expects to get games against quality opponents from other major conferences. But when Delaware upset Virginia earlier this week, the Blue Hens created the possibility that Pitt might get only one game versus another team from a major conference for the first time since 1999-2000.
Pitt will play No. 5 Michigan in an N.I.T. semifinal game Wednesday. Delaware will play Kansas State. Should Pitt and Delaware lose, they will play a consolation game Friday.
Dixon has always played two and sometimes three non-conference games against teams from other major conferences. When Pitt still played its annual series with Penn State, the Panthers played two others in addition to that game.
The plan this season was to play three, but Pitt was left out of the Big East/SEC Invitational. Dixon had been promised a home game in that event after playing at Tennessee last year in the same event, but the Big East went back on its promise after Pitt announced it was leaving for the ACC.
These games against teams from other major conferences are important because in most cases they boost team’s RPI, a piece of the formula the NCAA selection committee uses to select at-large teams for the NCAA tournament in March.
Right now, Delaware’s RPI is 68 and Virginia’s 148. However, as the season progresses, Virginia should ascend and Delaware descend because of their conference schedules.
Of course, Pitt can provide a remedy for all of these worries by beating No. 5 Michigan. A neutral-court win against a top-five team would go a long way alleviating any concerns about the RPI for the rest of the season.
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