A few weeks back, Andy Katz of ESPN mentioned Pitt's scheduling woes after word broke about the Panthers not having a Big East-SEC Challenge partner. At the time, I agreed with him that it was more important that Pitt find a quality opponent than necessarily a good name.
As Bryan posted this morning, Katz has word that Pitt and Valparaiso are talking about a potential matchup.
Here's a bit more on that. Forget about the cries from fans who want better non-conference games at the Pete - that's pretty irrelevant. What does matter is what type of RPI Valpo can bring ... and to me, that aspect doesn't look all that promising.
What's the first thing you think about when you hear Valpo? If you're like me, probably the 1998 Sweet 16 run, fueled by Bryce Drew's last-second shot to beat Mississippi in the first round. But here's the thing: other than that amazing run, Valpo just hasn't been all that good. They've won 20 games the past two seasons, but failed to reach the NCAAs because of a lack of quality wins. In fact, the last time they even reached the tournament was in 2004.
Let's look a bit closer.
Looking more recently, even with a 20-win season last year, Valpo's final RPI was only 95th (ironically, one spot ahead of the Panthers who were 96th). Other than beating Butler a few times, the Crusaders haven't topped anyone of consequence in at least the past decade. Their biggest win? Probably a 2008 victory over an average Washington Huskies team in the CBI.
Putting it simply, it's difficult to see how much having Valpo on the schedule will help in terms of RPI. Now, all of the history I've brought up doesn't mean anything in terms of this year's team, obviously. According to Katz, the Crusaders are supposed to be a Horizon League favorite this year. Well, unfortunately, they actually won the regular season league title last year and still had a pretty weak RPI, so winning their conference is no guarantee that it will be much better. I'd like to feel better about this, but their recent track record doesn't give me a warm fuzzy feeling in terms of boosting Pitt's RPI for next season.
An RPI of 95 isn't downright horrible, but it's not really a strength of schedule builder, either. And this late in the game, there may not be many other options.