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Cardiac Spill: Delaware State is the Perfect Storm

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Why Tuesday’s basketball game against Delaware State could be something that we remember for a long time to come.

NCAA Basketball: Delaware State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The past few weeks of Pitt basketball have been refreshingly calm when compared to how things started. November featured twin losses to deeply pedestrian Navy and Montana squads, followed by the absolute indignity that was the game against Penn State at the Legends Classic; the worst thing about December wasn’t the expected Backyard Brawl loss, but that it took overtime to beat a very, very bad Mount St. Mary’s team. But hey... they did beat them! They lost to Montana, got beat up by Penn State, and learned from it! They are making progress! That was the scare, right?

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, no, stop nodding. One thing you must know if you’re trying to stick around through this cold winter of Pitt fandom is that tragedies and miracles are not random - they come only when no one expects it. (The #2 upsets. The loss to North Carolina in football. That time the basketball team beat FSU last year. And so on.) And because I sense that your guard is down right now - going nearly a full month without a major indignity makes one’s character soft and spongy - I am here to get you nervous for what would be the greatest possible tragedy.

You see, Delaware State isn’t just any bad team. As of Sunday morning, they are the page-down-button champs, rated as the (near-consensus) worst team in Division I:

kenpom.com ratings as of 12/17/17, 1:30pm
Jeff Sagarin's College Basketball Ratings as of 12/17/17, 1:30pm
2018 T-Rank College Basketball Ratings as of 12/17/17, 1:30pm (http://www.barttorvik.com/)

They are also (as of Sunday) 347th in ESPN’s BPI, 345th in ESPN’s RPI estimation, 347th (and falling!) in the NCAA’s RPI rankings, and 349th on This Geocities Page I Found.

How does a team drop to the very bottom of the pack? If you’re dumb, you may see that they have two wins on their record, with several teams above them still looking for their first victory. Problem is, those two wins are against a still-winless DII school from New Jersey and a DIII bible college in Bucks County dedicated to teaching small, aggressive terriers the word of the Lord. Season highlights outside of those are limited to the time they only lost to AAC filler East Carolina by six (the AAC is weird). All their other losses have been by double digits: DePaul beat them by 24, Illinois Chicago beat them by 40, and Duquesne - I swear this is a real thing that happened - beat them by 49. (That’s the real bar to clear, by the way.)

As it stands, Pitt is expected to win this game by about 22 points. Maybe Ryan Luther’s absence dampens that line some - it absolutely should not matter. The guy’s good, but he’s not a walking 22-point advantage. If this game is close it’s still a shame, but the loss would and should send us all into my horrible brain, the place where E M B R A C E C H A O S is the most base survival instinct. And you know, deep down, it is possible for them to lose even this one, this year.

And if they do lose this one, it’s actually, for-real-this-time, no-qualifiers, rock bottom. It has to be! There is no one out there worse to lose to, unless we start putting IUP or Slippery Rock back on the calendar. (And even then, it’s unclear that those teams are definitely worse.) Sure, maybe Pitt gets blown out by Louisville in conference play again, or Duke laps them in points five times over, or Miami’s walk-ons break our starters ankles in garbage time. Those would be fresh indignities; they would not be worse ones.

Merry Christmas!

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill’s facebook page and follow us on Twitter (@PittPantherBlog) for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. @N_THEYSTAYTHERE (nicetryilluminati@gmail.com) is working on the blame poll results.