The latest college basketball polls were released yesterday and, as expected, Pitt's basketball team dropped a few spots. The Panthers managed to beat Florida State on the road over the weekend, but were also embarrassed in a mid-week game against North Carolina State.
The result wasn't disastrous. Pitt is still ranked in the Coaches Poll, falling three spots to No. 23. In the media poll, the Panthers also slid three spots, going from No. 26 (the first unranked team) to No. 29.
It's a theme that's played out most of the season. Earlier this year, Pitt did get a little more respect from the media, ranking slightly higher among the teams in the Others Receiving Votes category. However, since Week 5 in early December, the Panthers have been ranked higher in the Coaches Poll every single week.
What's behind that? Beats me. But coaches have certainly taken a little more notice this year as evidenced by the polls. After Pitt routed Eastern Washington for a 33-point win earlier in the season, their head coach called the Panthers the best D-I team he's ever faced in his five years of coaching. That sort of sounds a bit ridiculous, but the point is that coaches have always had a lot of respect for Pitt's game in general. At 16-3, some coaches are likely putting them in the top 20 even with some recent struggles.
The media, conversely, have been slower to accept Pitt as a real threat. As a result, the Panthers didn't get into the AP Top 25 until a week later and now, the team has been forced back outside while they remain ranked in the Coaches Poll. I hate to oversimplify things, and while it's only one piece of the puzzle, I think the media looks back at some of the Pitt teams of old and wants more 'proof' that they're for real. There have been early NCAA Tournament exits as well as fast starts due to light non-conference schedules. Heck, just last year the team missed the tourney completely. Overall, I think they have a harder time giving Pitt more respect - whether that's incorrect or not.
Should Pitt be ranked? I don't know - I don't have much of a problem with it either way. I felt that they belonged last week, but after having North Carolina State take it to them at home in the manner they did, it's hard to fault the media for leaving them out this week.
What I will say, however, is that you can make a good argument for Pitt when you look at some of the teams ahead of them in that media poll. The most glaring one, perhaps, is No. 25 Notre Dame. The Panthers beat them head-to-head and have two fewer losses than the Irish. Notre Dame does have a recent win against Duke, but even that looks far less impressive than it did at the time with the Blue Devils picking up their sixth loss on Monday, which could drop them out of the polls. Ranking Notre Dame ahead of Pitt at this time seems like at the very least a minor head-scratcher.
But overall, I don't have a huge problem with the Panthers being on the edge of the polls as they are now.