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Pitt releases 2014-15 non-con schedule; it's once again largely soft

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

The Panthers will have an OK schedule, but once again, it won't be a true test. (USATSI)

Few teams have been lampooned over the past half-decade about strength of schedule like Pitt.

Jamie Dixon's unquestionably a rock-solid coach. His Panthers teams have made the NCAA Tournament in 10 of his 11 seasons at the school. He's achieved a .750 win percentage and will break 300 career victories this upcoming season. But here are the numbers that have plagued him:

278.

340.

255.

269.

229.

Those are Pitt's non-conference strength-of-schedule rankings, per KenPom.com, over the past five seasons. Dixon managed to schedule into the 100s a couple of times and has never offered up a slate that was in the top 30 percentile of toughest schedules in college hoops. He's not the only major-conference coach that's failed to truly test his team over the years, but few have tossed so many weaker teams onto the schedule like Dixon.

It's cost his team seeding over the years, and in some cases, people believe a weaker overall schedule has prevented Dixon from reaching a Final Four.

So will things be different next season. Perhaps some, but there is no major overhaul coming to the itinerary. Pitt on Tuesday announced its 2014-15 schedule, and here's who's on the docket next season:

Nov. 14: vs. Niagara

Nov. 16: vs. Samford

Nov. 21: at Hawaii

Nov. 24-26: Maui Invitational (teams in field: Arizona, BYU, Chaminade, Kansas State, Missouri, Purdue and San Diego State)

Dec. 2: at Indiana (ACC/Big Ten Challenge)

Dec. 5: vs. Duquesne (neutral court)

Dec. 13: vs. St. Bonaventure

Dec. 17: vs. Manhattan

Dec. 20: vs. Oakland

Dec. 23: vs. Holy Cross

Dec. 30: vs. Florida Gulf Coast

Feb. 2: vs. Bryant

The good news is Pitt will get a bump in non-con SOS by nature of Maui. Arizona, BYU, SDSU and K-State should provide a good opportunity. Perhaps Purdue could be a decent W by year's end, if Pitt plays/wins that game. Regardless, they'll get three games to up their power numbers. But this can backfire, too. It's crucial to win the first in order to get a solid semifinal opponent. Otherwise, you could face Chaminade, which is D-II and does not count for/against SOS in the eyes of the NCAA selection committee. (See: Gonzaga last season.)

"Eleven of Pitt's potential non-conference opponents were ranked among the nation's top-150 in Ratings Percentage Index last season," per the release.

Unfortunately anything RPI-related that falls below even 50 isn't worth writing home over. This is an OK schedule, but you'll notice that, outside of Maui and the mandated ACC/Big Ten game, Pitt's best non-conference opponent is either Manhattan or Bona. Both home games. Only one true road game prior to conference play?

These are the things that can come back and haunt in mid-March.

It's done to some extent because the ACC offers up ample opportunities for top-50 wins. But that shouldn't be an excuse to flake out for two months elswhere. As far as ACC play goes, Pitt gets two-games series against Boston College, Florida State, Louisville and Syracuse. It will host UNC but play at Virginia, Duke and N.C. State.

If curious, Pitt loses two seniors -- and two critical guys. Do-it-all guard Lamar Patterson and solid paint producer Talib Zanna graduated.

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