Finals week prompted some disenchanted Pitt fans to complain about the ho-hum opponents that have paraded through the Petersen Events Center this year. The Panthers have played host to Mount St. Mary’s, Howard, North Florida and others and still has Bethune-Cookman, Delaware State and Kennesaw State before Big East play gets under way.
Maybe fans ought to look 75 miles south to see what a more challenging schedule can do to a team.
West Virginia is 4-4 heading into Saturday’s game against No. 3 Michigan in New York. The Mountaineers lost three of their first four against Gonzaga, Davidson and Oklahoma. Then they lost to Duquesne Tuesday night. Also, they were fortunate to beat Virginia Tech last week.
Even after Michigan, the Mountaineers still have to play host to Oakland in Morgantown, the same Oakland team that held an 18-point lead at Pitt before falling in overtime.
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins has had to replace Kevin Jones and Darryl Bryant. Many of his key players are getting the most extensive playing time of their careers.
The early-season losses put more pressure on Huggins to have a better showing in West Virginia’s first season in the Big 12. There is smaller margin for error when it comes to the NCAA tournament.
For Pitt, the non-conference schedule isn’t doing much for the team’s RPI, but the young Panthers have been exposed to winning while being involved in some competitive games against some teams such as Oakland.
I think everyone would like the Panthers to field a more competitive schedule, but would you trade that for missing the NCAA tournament? Fans of West Virginia are in that boat now, and they might wish they had Pitt’s schedule come March.
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