Posted on: March 7, 2009 3:23 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2009 4:04 pm

Pitt probably secured a No. 1 seed

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- There are no guarantees a week away from Selection Sunday.

Let me say that first.

But Pittsburgh's 70-60 victory over Connecticut should be enough to secure a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament regardless of what happens going forward because it:

  • pushed the Panthers' record to 28-3 overall, 15-3 in the Big East.
  • ensured the Panthers will finish no worse than second in the Big East.
  • made the Panthers 7-2 against the top 25 of the CBSSports.com RPI.
  • made the Panthers 9-2 against the top 50 of the CBSSports.com RPI.
  • made the Panthers 15-3 against the top 100 of the CBSSports.com RPI.
  • gave the Panthers two wins over another possible No. 1 seed (Connecticut).
  • strengthened the Panthers' hold on the top-rated RPI.

That last point is key because the school entering Selection Sunday with the top-rated RPI has been awarded a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament 10 of the past 13 seasons. The only times it didn't happen were in 2000 when Cincinnati got a No. 2 seed despite being No. 1 in the RPI, in 2005 when Kansas got a No. 3 seed despite being No. 1 in the RPI, and last season when Tennessee got a No. 2 seed despite being No. 1 in the RPI. And when you consider that Cincinnati didn't get a No. 1 seed in 2000 only because Kenyon Martin broke his leg in the C-USA tournament, the reality is that a No. 1 RPI has translated into a No. 1 seed 11 of the past 13 seasons.

In other words, book it.

And if you want a prediction, the prediction here is that the four No. 1 seeds will be comprised of two Big East teams (Pitt plus UConn or Louisville), an ACC team (North Carolina or Duke) and either Oklahoma, Michigan State or Memphis (with OU being the most likely, at this point). Another possible scenario (that would drive college basketball fans insane) would be for Duke to beat UNC on Sunday, then for those two to play a close game in the ACC tournament final, which could then lead to the top seeds being UNC, Duke, Pitt and either UConn or Louisville.

Yep, two ACC teams and two Big East teams.

If Duke wins here Sunday, get ready for it.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 24, 2009 10:28 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2009 12:45 am

From No. 1 in the nation to No. 4 in the Big East

Well that didn't last long.

Roughly 30 hours after Pittsburgh ascended to No. 1 in the national polls, the Panthers fell on their face Tuesday night, losing 81-73 at Providence. Put another way, the team that started Tuesday with what was clearly the country's best body of work ended Tuesday with a loss to a team (Providence) that opened the season with a loss to Northeastern and entered this week with a 4-11 record against schools in the Top 100 of the CBSSports.com RPI (and only one victory against the Top 50).


Some of this is just basketball, of course, more specifically what tends to happen to teams from power leagues regardless of their previous or future achievements. Remember, it was two years ago this week when Florida (i.e., the eventual 2007 national champion) lost three of four outings to Vanderbilt, LSU and Tennessee, and a year ago this week when Kansas (i.e., the eventual 2008 national champion) lost to Oklahoma State. Those inexplicable developments obviously didn't impact the big picture for Billy Donovan or Bill Self, and that's something in which Jamie Dixon can take solace. But this is still a rough defeat for the Panthers because it gives them a third Big East loss and pushes them from first to fourth in the league standings, and when you're enjoying an unprecedented amount of attention like Pittsburgh spent last week enjoying it's a downer to watch it all go away so quickly and without warning.

That said, it's just one game.

Just one loss.

And the reality is that the Panthers -- with a national-best six victories against the Top 25 of the CBSSports.com RPI -- are still in solid shape to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. That's the good news. But their margin for error has become smaller because of this awful performance Tuesday night, and now Connecticut, North Carolina, Memphis and perhaps even Louisville or Marquette  -- honestly, who knows? -- are in position to possibly become the seventh new No. 1 when the polls are updated next week, although it's getting to the point where it's difficult to find anybody who seems worthy of the honor.




Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 21, 2009 11:58 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2009 11:10 am

Your new No. 1: Pitt (and it's not debatable)

Pittsburgh, you may now proceed to the top of the national rankings.

That's the end result of a wild Saturday on which No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 3 North Carolina both lost (to unranked Texas and unranked Maryland), clearing the way for the Panthers -- who beat top-ranked Connecticut last Monday -- to rise to the top of the Top 25 (and one) late Sunday night, then the AP and Coaches polls on Monday. It's the only logical move, so much so that I imagine Pitt will get all 72 first-place votes in the AP poll and all 31 in the Coaches poll. Anything short of that will be proof that somebody with a vote isn't paying attention, and if such a person presents himself (or herself), that person will be Poll Attacked on Monday afternoon.

Here's all you need to know:

  • Pitt is 25-2 overall.
  • Nobody has more wins or fewer losses.
  • Pitt has compiled this record against a schedule rated 12th nationally.
  • Pitt has six wins against the top 25 of CBSSports.com's RPI rankings.
  • Nobody else has more than four.
  • Both of Pitt's losses came on the road.
  • The losses were to the schools ranked seventh (Louisville) and 12th (Villanova) in the latest AP poll.

So to summarize, the Panthers have more good wins (i.e., wins against the top 25 of CBSSports.com's RPI rankings) than anybody, just as few losses as the other elite teams, and no bad losses (like Oklahoma's loss to Arkansas, North Carolina's loss to Boston College, Connecticut's loss to Georgetown, etc.).

Best I can tell, that makes Jamie Dixon's team the easy No. 1.

Any other opinion is a faulty opinion.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 17, 2009 9:51 pm
Edited on: January 17, 2009 9:57 pm

Wake Forest deserves the No. 1 ranking

CLEMSON, S.C. -- It'll be a debate, because people love to debate.

But there really shouldn't be any debate at all.

So go ahead AP voters -- and you too, coaches -- and slot Wake Forest No. 1 on your ballots now that top-ranked Pittsburgh has lost at Louisville. Why? Because otherwise you'll be wrong, that's why. Dino Gaudio's team is 16-0 with wins over No. 5 North Carolina, No. 10 Clemson and No. 21 Baylor. One of those games was at home (UNC), one was on the road (Clemson) and the other came on a neutral court (Baylor) -- meaning the Demon Deacons have proved they can beat you here, there or over yonder, and they have all the ingredients of a traditional No. 1 team.

A star?


His name is Jeff Teague.

At least three future NBA players?


Their names are Jeff Teague, Al-Forouq Aminu and James Johnson.

A strong defense?


They have one of the five most efficient defenses in the country, according to KenPom.com.

So while I like Duke, Connecticut and Pittsburgh plenty -- you have my permission to rank them second, third and fourth, if you want -- the reality is that none of them can match Wake Forest's body of work, if only because Wake Forest's body of work doesn't include a loss. The lone one-loss team that can even try to make a case for the No. 1 spot is Duke, which is 16-1 overall and 4-1 against schools currently ranked in the AP Top 25; that's impressive, no question. But Wake Forest is 16-0 overall and 3-0 against schools currently ranked in the AP Top 25, and that's the difference, to me.

Duke and Wake Forest both have good wins.

But Duke lost at Michigan.

And Wake Forest hasn't lost anywhere.

So that's why the Demon Deacons deserve to be No. 1 in any respectable ranking.

And you can rest assured that's where they'll be in mine -- i.e., the Top 25 (and one) -- come late Sunday night.

Posted on: January 17, 2009 12:19 pm
Edited on: January 17, 2009 3:55 pm

No. 1 and No. 2 are technically underdogs today

CLEMSON, S.C. -- I'm not big on sports betting because I'm convinced there's no way to consistently win, regardless of what you might hear on your local sports talk radio station. But I did find it interesting this morning that No. 1 Pittsburgh and No. 2 Wake Forest are both technically "underdogs" today, according to SportsBook.com.

Louisville is a 1.5-point favorite over Pitt at Freedom Hall.

Clemson is a 2.0-point favorite over Wake Forest at Littlejohn Coliseum.

So if you believe the oddsmakers, Clemson should be the lone undefeated team left in Division I basketball by the end of the night, and if it goes down that way it should be quite a scene here this afternoon, which would make my second consecutive weekend in ACC country (I was at North Carolina-Wake Forest last Sunday) just as wild as the previous.

Posted on: January 5, 2009 10:48 am

Dear Gary (on how I ranked Pitt and UNC)

Here's Monday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: You vote North Carolina No. 1 every week, then they lose and all of a sudden Pitt is No. 1? Get a life, Gary. UNC is the best team in the nation and still should be No. 1.

-- AW

OK, that's one note from this morning.

Here's another ...

Dear Gary: What time do you make your Top 25 (and one) decisions for the following week? With North Carolina's loss -- on its home court to an unranked team that led the entire second half -- how can UNC still be No. 2 in the country?  Wake Forest beat BYU at BYU in front of 26,000-plus fans, and Duke thrashed Virginia Tech. So how is Carolina ranked ahead of those two teams? The rankings should be:

1. Pittsburgh
2. Duke
3. Wake Forest
4. North Carolina

-- BDC

As you might be able to tell, the first guy is a North Carolina fan, the second a Duke fan.

So you can understand why they see things differently.


I'm a fan of being right.

And that's why I have Pitt first, UNC second, Duke third and WFU fourth, and I can defend my position.

Let's start with Pitt over North Carolina.

The reason I went that way is because the Panthers have a win (at Georgetown) that is better than any win UNC possesses, and when you combine that with the fact that UNC has a home loss to Boston College while Pitt has zero losses, well, I think Jamie Dixon's team has earned the top ranking. Who has played the better overall schedule to date? North Carolina, no question. But if the knock on Pitt is that it has merely played Georgetown, Florida State and a bunch of grossly inferior opponents, I would just point out that the Panthers haven't lost to any of those grossly inferior opponents, which is something North Carolina can no longer claim.

As for UNC over Duke and Wake Forest, to me that's logical. Though the Tar Heels don't have a win as nice as Pitt's win at Georgetown, they do own wins over Michigan State, Notre Dame and Kentucky. Wake Forest (even with the win at BYU) can't touch that body of work, and though Duke has some nice wins of its own (over Michigan, Purdue, and Xavier), I still think UNC's win over Michigan State is better than any win Duke possesses, and that's why I believe UNC should be ranked second, slightly ahead of Duke and Wake Forest.


Posted on: January 3, 2009 2:58 pm
Edited on: January 3, 2009 2:59 pm

Pitt legitimized its record at Georgetown

OK, I'm ready to accept Pittsburgh as the obvious No. 2 team in the country.

That's what Saturday's dismantling of Georgetown did.

Final score: Panthers 70, Hoyas 54.

So it's time to cement Pitt as the Big East favorite and biggest threat to North Carolina this side of Tyler Hansbrough jumping off a house, breaking his leg and ending his career prematurely, because the Panthers were fantastic at Georgetown, grabbing nearly as many offensive rebounds (18) as the Hoyas did total rebounds (20) thanks to a 20-point, 17-board effort from sophomore DaJuan Blair.

That's strong.

That's convincing.

That's why the Panthers should be the unanimous No. 2 team in the country.

And just so we're clear, it's not that I ever doubted Pitt, because it's always been clear that the Panthers have a great coach (Jamie Dixon), some great experienced talent (Sam Young and Levance Fields) and a developed habit of winning. It's just that I have trouble pushing teams to the top of the rankings when they haven't beaten anybody of note (that, by the way, is the reason I have UCLA ranked lower than  the Bruins are in both the AP and Coaches poll), and entering this weekend the Panthers were 13-0 with their best win coming by single digits over a Florida State team that had previously lost by double digits to Northwestern.

Meantime: No. 1 North Carolina had wins over Michigan State, Notre Dame and Kentucky; No. 2 Connecticut had wins over Wisconsin, Miami and Gonzaga; No. 4 Oklahoma had wins over Davidson, Purdue and Southern California; and No. 5 Duke had wins over Michigan, Purdue and Xavier.

In other words, Pitt's resume was less impressive than the other four teams in the top five of the latest AP poll.

But not anymore.

The Panthers went to Georgetown and pounded a team with wins over Maryland, Memphis and Connecticut.

And that's strong.

And that's convincing.

And that's why the Panthers should be the unanimous No. 2 team in the country.

Posted on: December 9, 2008 1:46 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2008 4:09 pm

Dear Gary (on the paranoia of a Big East fan)

I mentioned yesterday that I had traded emails with a Big East fan, and that I might introduce him in Tuesday's Dear Gary. So that's what I'm doing. He sent a note, I responded, and then he responded to me. And now I'll just let you guys tell me how to handle it from here.

So without further ado, here's Tuesday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: Pitt is seventh in your poll (seventh last week; now the Panthers are fifth). Really? How can a team that wins the Big East last year and brings back the core (of that) team this year not be ranked higher than seventh? You are probably a Big East hater that goes after the smallest market in the northeast to try and make the rest of the conferences look less inferior. The agenda seems to be to discredit the Big East by making the top tier teams appear to be over-ranked. This ploy is sad because Pitt this year will be a contender, and had Pitt not been injury prone last year it would not have been boned by the selection committee yet again. (I'm) tired of jackasses like Parrish having an opinion that seems politically motivated. If his opinion was not politically motivated (then) how does the weeny justify (Pitt's ranking)? Perhaps the winning of the past eight years would have helped give the benefit to a higher rank! Good luck, Gary. You are now a Dickie V Baby with an overt agenda!

-- Rob


So I could've just ignored him.

But I'm not good at that.

So I replied like this:

Exactly. I'm a Big East hater. That's why I had seven Big East teams ranked in the top 16 of my preseason rankings. You know, one day, you guys will smarten up and realize that most of us don't have agendas outside of just trying to be right. I mean, why on earth would I hate Pitt? You couldn't name one reason. But whatever. Carry on with your wild ideas. They're wrong and insane, of course. But that doesn't make them any less amusing.

All the best.


Naturally, Rob had to respond.

Here's what he wrote:

Dear Gary: Please save your BS for the mentally impaired morons that do not understand the politics at play when NCAA tournament time begins. OK, you had seven Big East teams ranked at the start of season, and if things go south which is what every other conference cheerleader, err, sports writer is hoping for to undermine the credibility of the league. I worry that conference AD's will use referees to help win games, NCAA selection committees will make it harder on the Big East by longer travel and lower seeds, and writers and media will pander to these conferences by jumping all over the Big East if they do not perform up to the hype by "guys" like you.  I agree that you want to be right but you are also hedging your bet because if you are wrong then you can win by attacking the Big East. The fact that you responded to my email means that I hit a nerve and that makes me more critical because if it was gibberish why respond? I get it when media peeps like you use code phrases like Pitt is "physical" and they "muscle in the middle" as if to indicate or foreshadow that Pitt will be susceptible to a sh-tload of fouls, and that way a fast whistle can slow down Pitt's explosive offense. I listen to other schmucks like Joe Lunardi (ESPN's St. Joe's cheerleader) talk about how big the Big East is and says that eight teams is not a big thing if they get into the dance. That is code for recruits to be skeptical of playing for the lower-tier teams because the chance for a ticket to the dance is hard. You "guys" can use all the tricks in the books and the Big East will survive regardless!

-- Rob

Wow, huh?

So to recap, it appears Rob believes I hate the Big East, and that I only called the Big East the best conference in America and ranked seven Big East teams in the preseason Top 25 (and one) because I am raising expectations in an attempt to undermine the league in a way that will lead to conference AD's using referees to help win games and the selection committee screwing the Big East in terms of travel and lower seeds. Also, my kind words are just a set-up so that I can "attack" the Big East at the proper time. Beyond that, he's certain I also hate Pitt, specifically, and that I've targeted the school because it's in a small market (is Pittsburgh a small market?), and nevermind that I wrote this nice column about Jamie Dixon a few months ago and have consistently sung his praises.

Anyway, you be the judge.

Am I trying to undermine the Big East?

Or is Rob just insane?

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com