Although the Pitt Panthers men’s basketball team won twice last week to regain some control over its postseason prospects, the rebound wasn’t nearly enough for a return to the national top 25 rankings.
That’s understandable, since Pitt (22-7, 10-6 ACC) just barely edged Atlantic Coast Conference rivals Boston College and Notre Dame to stay off the NCAA tournament “bubble.”
The Panthers host NC State on Monday night at the Petersen Events Center and travel to Clemson on Saturday, but even if they win both it’s difficult to imagine them climbing out of the “Also Receiving Votes” category.
So it’s probably time to start thinking about the ACC tournament and the Big Dance.
As far as the former goes, Pitt is guaranteed to finish fifth or lower in the conference standings, so a double bye is no longer a possibility. Regarding the latter, the Panthers are listed as a No. 9 seed by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi in his latest “Bracketology” projections.
According to Lunardi’s calculations, Pitt would face No. 8 Kansas State (20-9) in St. Louis as part of the Midwest region. For comparison’s sake, K-State’s RPI ranking is 35th, while the Panthers are 41st. Other No. 9 seeds on Lunardi’s bracket include Gonzaga (25-6, RPI 27), George Washington (21-7, RPI 30) and Xavier (20-9, RPI 46).
No. 8 vs. No. 9 matchups in the NCAA tournament have traditionally been coin flips, so participating in one of them isn’t the best recipe for a lengthy March run.
However, judging by how the Panthers have played since January, maybe they should be grateful to avoid a 10th seed or lower.