The ACC is the best conference in the country. That seems to be the consensus among most “experts”. Currently, there are seven teams ranked in the AP Top-25. That doesn’t account for the Syracuse Orange who came into the season ranked and remained there until early December. The Miami Hurricanes have also received votes over the last several weeks. While there is a lot of basketball left, the ACC could be represented by as many as 10 teams in the NCAA Tournament come March.
Will the Pittsburgh Panthers find themselves among those in attendance? With a home loss against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish last Saturday, they’ve already lost one chance to land a staple win at home. Their non-conference schedule wasn’t all that inspiring outside of a road win against the Maryland Terrapins. Coming into conference play with two losses, especially the one against the Duquesne Dukes, isn’t ideal either.
Assuming Pitt needs at least 20 wins to be taken seriously, let’s take a look at their remaining schedule and provide a roadmap for the Panthers to get there.
Remaining games at home against ranked opponents (as of 1/3/17):
#11 Virginia (1/4), #9 Louisville (1/24), #21 Virginia Tech (2/14), #12 Florida State (2/18), #14 North Carolina (2/25)
I am going to be optimistic here and presume that they win two of these. It would be fitting for them to defeat either VT or FSU followed by a UNC win on their last home game of the season.
Remaining games on the road against ranked opponents:
#9 Louisville (1/11), #14 North Carolina (1/31), #8 Duke (2/4), #11 Virginia (3/4)
I honestly can’t see Pitt winning any of these games, but they’ll probably be competitive in a few. They were 3-6 on the road last season, but one of those wins was against the 21st ranked Cardinals in mid-January (mistake: They beat the Fighting Irish on 1/9). Still, they lost to a Hokies team that wasn’t as good as this years iteration and barely beat a Seminoles team that is currently ranked. Two years ago, they won just two roads games which included an insane comeback against the Eagles and their customary win at the Carrier Dome.
Remaining games at home against non-ranked opponents:
Miami (1/14), Clemson (1/28), Syracuse (2/11)
If you think about the fact that these are the only three teams that will visit the Petersen Events Center that aren’t currently ranked, it makes the loss to Notre Dame all the more painful. The Panthers could win all three of these games, but they could lose at least two of them as well. I’ll be optimistic here and give them the sweep.
Remaining games on the road against non-ranked opponents:
Syracuse (1/7), NC State (1/17), Boston College (2/8), Wake Forest (2/22), Georgia Tech (2/28)
Honestly, this is where Pitt needs to win basically all of these games. If you’ve been following, I have them at just five wins so far. In order for them to reach at least 20 wins, they’ll need to win four of the five of the above road games. That’s probably a tall order.
Under this circumstance, the Panthers would finish 20-11 with only two wins against ranked opponents, and both of those would be at home. I think Pitt will get a win or two that they “shouldn’t” and inevitably lose one of two games that will frustrate fans. That’s just the nature of the game and this group of players.
In my opinion, the Panthers are definitely going to need to win at least nine ACC games and they’ll probably need to win two games in the conference tournament just to get off the bubble.
I’ll take a look at kenpom and analyze the numbers a little more later in the season, as there will be a lot of movement in some of those numbers as the level of competition in the ACC is much higher than every teams non-conference schedule.