After last year's scheduling debacle for the basketball program, I was actually under the impression that this year was a step up. Silly me, I guess.
Not only was Eamonn Brennan of ESPN.com unimpressed with the Panthers' non-conference slate, he's pretty sure it's terrible. To the footage:
Toughness scale (1-10): 1. In recent seasons, few coaches have proved as good at gaming the Rating Percentage Index as Jamie Dixon. This is not a criticism; the NCAA's current system is made to be gamed, and, by this point, coaches who don't at least try to use the faulty system to their advantage are leaving potential seed-line improvements on the table. So I'm guessing that, by the end of the season, Pitt's RPI will be in solid shape. (And maybe the new-look ACC will take care of that on its own.) But that aside, this is a straight-up awful basketball schedule. Just … ugh. Cincinnati in Madison Square Garden is the only "marquee" game on the list, and that's a generous application of the term. The Legends Classic features an opening game against Texas Tech and a second-round matchup against either Stanford or Houston. None of those teams is truly awful -- same goes for Penn State on Dec. 3 -- but they're hardly inspiring opponents, either.
Wow, a 1 out of 10? I get it - there aren't a lot (or even any) big names on the non-conference schedule. Still, Pitt has several games against major-conference opponents and in the end, that should be enough to rank the Panthers a bit higher in my opinion. Without a big time team, I don't think Pitt should get above average marks. However, I'm really not convinced that a team like Clemson (Arkansas, Auburn, and South Carolina) has a better non-conference schedule than Pitt as Brennan indicates, or that the schedules of a few others are significantly better.
Pitt's schedule doesn't include a marquee opponent. But as Brennan notes, while there aren't inspiring opponents there, the teams on it aren't awful. Cincinnati won 22 games in the rugged Big East and was an NCAA tournament team last year. Stanford isn't guaranteed but was an NIT team with 19 wins last year and Joe Lunardi projects them to make the NCAAs this year. Penn State will be much improved with a strong backcourt.
As I said, it's not a wildly challenging schedule, but of the worst ever variety? Hardly.