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Monday, December 19, 2005

Can They Possibly Play a Weaker Schedule?

Take a look at #25 in the USA Today Poll, the 8-0 Pitt Panthers.

Perennial appearance-fee gatherer Coppin State is in the offing, and I'm surprised Jamie Dixon hasn't found a way to schedule Kennesaw State, Longwood and Immaculata. What are these voters thinking?

There is no way Pitt is a better team than Bucknell or a host of other schools that garnered votes. Do the coaches who vote in this poll actually watch enough of other teams to place a meaningful vote? One, Ron "Fang" Mitchell, of Coppin State, definitely does -- his team plays a very tough schedule that's chock full of good teams. But how about the others?

Here's the complete list:

Dana Altman, Creighton; Tevester Anderson, Jackson State; Eddie Biedenbach, North Carolina-Asheville; Jim Boeheim, Syracuse; Rick Byrd, Belmont; Charlie Coles, Miami (Ohio); Barry Collier, Nebraska; Dick Davey, Santa Clara; Fran Dunphy, Pennsylvania; Mick Durham, Montana State; Rob Evans, Arizona State; Steve Fisher, San Diego State; Pat Flannery, Bucknell; Greg Graham, Boise State; Tom Green, Fairleigh Dickinson; David Henderson, Delaware; Johnny Jones, North Texas; Eddie McCarter, Texas-Arlington; Bob McKillop, Davidson; Phil Martelli, Saint Joseph's; Ron "Fang" Mitchell, Coppin State; Joe Mihalich, Niagara; Dan Monson, Minnesota; Dave Odom, South Carolina; Doc Sadler, Texas-El Paso; Bob Thomason, Pacific; Jimmy Tillette, Samford; Perry Watson, Detroit Mercy; Gary Williams, Maryland; Ted Woodward, Maine; Rich Zvosec, Missouri-Kansas City.

I don't know what the right answer is, and the polls, especially at this time of the season, are more wrong that right, but you do hope that when you get to the bottom of the Top 25 that there is more to it than a team's being undefeated. Because I'll go out on a limb here -- I don't see how Pitt, with this junk food of a pre-season schedule, will fare well in the Big East and make the NCAA Tournament. Cupcakes and gummy worms do not a good hoops diet make, and outside of Auburn, Pitt has played a bad schedule.

The Panthers just cannot be a Top 25 team. If they are, then it's a very off year for college basketball. Surely, there have to be other teams who play more meaningful pre-league schedules who are more worthy.

Who knows, perhaps next year they'll schedule some of the schools whose coaches are on the voting roster for the poll. Not Syracuse, Maryland, St. Joseph's or Minnesota, of course. But there are many others who could fill in quite nicely.

Sorry, Pitt fans, it's not your fault, but when your team is gasping during the tough weeks that comprise the Big East season, you only will have to look as far as the pre-season schedule to determine why your Panthers are faring poorly. For those of you who are frustrated that your favorite team, which plays a tougher schedule than Pitt, is not in the Top 25, have no fear. Once the Big East season rolls around, the Panthers will fall out of the Top 25. And fast.

It's always a good thing to have a pre-season schedule that gives your team confidence.

But it's another thing when that confidence rests on a foundation of Silly Putty.

You remember Silly Putty? It's the gummy stuff that you can put on the funny papers, lift an impression of your famous comics, and then stretch it to make the comic strip look funnier.

Except there's nothing funny about Pitt's schedule.

Just silly.


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