Pitt, along with the rest of the Big East, released its schedule Wednesday and a lot of fans aren't real happy. It's the typical Pitt schedule: a light non-conference slate to with the occasional challenge to prepare the team for the rigors of Big East play. Of course, the tickets against Bethune-Cookman costs the same as the game against Syracuse, but from a strategy prospective, I like Pitt's schedule this year.
(More after the jump.)
With the released schedules, it's easy to criticize Pitt's non-conference games. With the likes of Bethune-Cookman and Kennesaw State weighing down it down, the only marquee match-ups are games Pitt might not even get to play in:
The ACC-bound Panthers, left out of the Big East/SEC Challenge, are competing in the Preseason NIT — its only opportunity for a marquee win outside the Big East. The semifinals and finals are Nov. 21 and 23 in New York against — provided the host schools advance — Michigan, Virginia or Kansas State.
But host schools aren’t guaranteed a spot at the Garden. Pitt first must win two preliminary home games Nov. 12 and 13 against opponents that likely will come from a group including Fordham, Lehigh and Robert Morris. If Pitt fails to advance, they would host two additional Preseason NIT games Nov. 19 and 20.
In case you've forgotten, Lehigh beat 2-seed Duke in the tournament last year will be returning star guard CJ McCollum. Lehigh should be a favorite in the Patriot League and if the Panthers can win at home, that should be a nice RPI achievement if the Panthers can knock them off and advance to New York.
The fear is that Pitt doesn't make it New York. A loss to Lehigh means Pitt will be staying home and playing two games against fellow runner-ups instead of two presumably against Michigan, Virginia or Kansas State. Not getting the opportunity to raise their RPI with a high-profile game or two in the Big Apple would be a big blow to the Pitt's perception and would leave the Panthers with little breathing room in the Big East.
So it's a risk. But it's a calculated risk, since scheduling power conference opponents in the non-con would mean Pitt playing more games on the road, and I just don't see that happening with their ability to still draw fans and sell tickets. At the end of the day, it would be great if Pitt played a home-and-home or two against a marquee opponent, but that's just not realistic. In the Big East or the ACC, Pitt will have more than enough opportunities to earn a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament if they're capable of it. Nor does the program need further exposure in the region. A big non-conference schedule is something that a lesser conference might have to do, but Pitt's definitely not in one of those. And yes, I understand that teams like UNC, Indiana, Kentucky and Michigan State do it, but that's more about being a national brand than raising RPI, and Pitt's not just at that level either.
"I came on a visit, sat in the stadium and they were going crazy,'' Adams said of the Petersen Events Center. "I was like holy shizz. It's loud and going crazy here.''
He spent the last few months playing summer basketball in Pittsburgh and is now enrolled for the fall, working out with the Panthers and loving the experience of being stateside.
"It's fun," Adams said. "It gets pretty wild, but I find it cool. This part of the town, it's a city and campus put together. It's a pretty cool area. There's some green, some forest area. It's a nice little balance.''
Adams is a bit of a character. It doesn't take long to pick up on his quirky personality -- as fellow students in his acting class are no doubt picking up on.
"[I'm having] fun with it,'' Adams said of the course. "Some of the girls in the class don't like to do anything. But I'll have fun with it.''
His personality seems to be a staple of any Adams piece and I'm looking forward to him from a chemistry standpoint almost as much as I am about his potential to be a dominant big man and NBA lottery pick:
Dixon is downplaying Adams' potential to dominate during his first season, but it's not out of the question. One thing is for sure: He will be a treat for anyone who covers the team or hangs around this crew.
"Everyone loves him,'' Pitt associate athletic director Greg Hotchkiss said. "He's got a vivacious personality. He's a big guy. And for three-plus years he's been dreaming of coming to Pitt.''
He's there now. And he's not planning on leaving anytime soon.
"I want to get a ring,'' Adams said. "The time will come when [the NBA] will present itself. But I don't give a crap about that. I'm worried right now about getting to the NCAA tournament and a ring.''
And he already knows the right things to say! Mission accomplished, Mr. Hotchkiss.