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Pitt is relatively unproven but hardly overrated

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

There's been a growing sentiment around the country that Pitt's basketball team may not be quite as good as a lot of people are starting to think. But while the Panthers are still a bit unproven, to call them overrated at this point is unfair.

While today's polls could change that, based on what we've seen to this point, there's little to suggest that the Panthers are being thought of as world beaters.

Pitt will surely get a bump in the polls this coming week after defeating both Georgia Tech and Notre Dame - as they should. Both are decent wins and the game against the Irish was on the road. But last week, Pitt was the lowest-ranked one-loss team in both the Coaches and Media polls. Many two-loss teams were all ranked ahead of Pitt and even three-loss Butler, Iowa, and UConn squads were ahead of them in at least one of the polls. Hardly the stuff of overrated teams.

In Joe Lunardi's most recent Bracketology rankings, the Panthers aren't overrated, either. Last week, Pitt was right in line with its relatively low ranking and checked in as a No. 6 seed, putting them somewhere in the upper 20s, which is where they're ranked. Again, nice to see but certainly not up incredibly high based on their record to this point.

As to the team's competition, here's what we know. Pitt's lone loss came against Top 20 Purdue and while the final score showed a 13-point loss the game was significantly closer than that with Pitt down only six with under three minutes to play. The Boilermakers were without starting guard Rapheal Davis but they also had a big game from Ryan Cline in his absence (with 12 points on four three-pointers), who played 15 minutes in that game and has played significantly less in Purdue's games against better competition. Those two things sort of cancel each other out. The Panthers were hardly embarrassed in that game to suggest that they shouldn't be ranked at this point.

To Pitt's wins, while the non-conference outside of that was decidedly light, the Panthers, for the most part, crushed its competition and were near the top of the country in terms of margin-of-victory. Eight of the team's victories have been  by 15 points or more and five were by more than 30 points. Argue Pitt's weak schedule all you want but Pitt has dominated its competition, including a 25-point win against ten-win Davidson on a neutral court.

The unfinished Gonzaga game is also a gauge for the Panthers. Pitt actually led that game heading into halftime and while we don't know what would have happened in the second half, based on where Gonzaga sits in the polls (No. 22 and No. 26 with three losses), the Panthers' ranking this past week doesn't appear to be out of line.

Pitt hasn't been perfect and, as we saw with two nearly-blown 18-point leads against Notre Dame this weekend, they have had some struggles. Those, however, have been few and far between. As a whole, the Panthers have looked exceptionally well.

One recent article claimed Pitt was the team most overrated team likely to miss the NCAA Tournament. It cited this blog, actually, in terms of making a case that Pitt is overrated. I don't typically cite Bleacher Report stuff here but wanted to clarify something since something JD wrote was used. The quote given was in his article after the Georgia Tech game - see below:

Looking ahead, we still just don't know very much about this team. Syracuse or Georgia Tech are Pitt's best win, and they aren't very good overall. Pitt is ranked, but a lot of national media are very skeptical of this Pitt team. ... The good news? Pitt leads the country in free throw percentage.

That's very much in line with what I've been saying here - that Pitt is still a bit of an unknown. However, again, there is nothing to suggest that the Panthers are rated too highly. The reality is that while we don't yet know how great they can be, a team that has won as much and impressively as Pitt has should be ranked in the Top 25. If anything, the argument could actually be made that the Panthers are undervalued given their slots in the polls last week.

Again, this isn't to say that we know for a fact that Pitt is a great team. Questions remain and it's fair to say that the Panthers don't yet have the statement win that would make you feel better about their long-term prospects. But to this point, while there are still some questions about the team, calling them overrated is simply wrong since the polls and projections aren't all that favorable.

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