Is Pitt-Clemson a "MUST-WIN!!!" Game?

By Paul Zeise 4 years ago

Is it a must win or not?

That is the question about Pitt’s game against Clemson Saturday.

Specifically, does Pitt need to win this game in order to get into the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team?

That’s a great question.

My immediate answer is – the Panthers probably don’t want to find out the answer to this question and thus it would be a good idea to, you know, just go win.

The problem Pitt has is that their best (and some would say only) two arguments are these:

(a) A really good record on the road and in neutral games and (b) a really good record and 5th place in finish in a power conference with 15 teams.

Both of those arguments take a huge hit with a loss here.

If Pitt wins, the Panthers will improve to 7-2 in true road games and 10-3 in road/neutral site games. Those are strong numbers, too strong probably to be ignored, especially for a team from a power conference that played all of those road games in conference.

Pitt would also finish 11-7 in ACC and in 5th place behind Virginia, Syracuse, North Carolina and Duke.

Those two numbers, to me, would indicate that Pitt is a lock for the tournament and probably going in as a 9th seed regardless of what happens next week in Greensboro at the ACC Tournament.

But what if Pitt loses here?

Pitt then would finish 10-8 in the ACC and fall behind Clemson and into 6th place and then if Florida State wins Sunday over Syracuse, they would claim sixth and Pitt would fall to 7th.

Pitt would also be 6-3 in road games, 9-4 in road/neutral games, which is still OK, but not nearly as good on paper as if they win.

And here is the other thing - not only is Pitt's entire resume hinging on ONE win over a Top 50 RPI team (Stanford, which, as of this morning is actually percentage points ahead of Pitt at 48 in the RPI, Pitt this morning is 49) and even worse - Pitt only has four wins against teams from RPI 51-100 as compared to two losses from 51-100.

So think about that - Pitt is 1-6 against the top 50 RPI teams and only 5-8 against the top 100 now and a loss to Clemson (No. 73) would mean they would fall to 5-9 against top 100 teams (as opposed to rise to 6-8 with a win).

I don’t know if that pushes Pitt out of the field or no but given how awful their non-conference schedule was and given that they haven’t beaten anyone of consequence other than Stanford – a borderline NCAA team at best – I’m not sure what the argument to put them in would be?

Perhaps you can convince me otherwise but I have to believe that Pitt as the 7th place team from the ACC at 10-8 with no good wins is going to be a hard sell to the NCAA Tournament Committee absent a big run in the ACC Tournament.

Again, who knows what these people are thinking but from where I sit, looking at this game, I have to believe the Panthers really, really need to win this in order to feel good about their NCAA Tournament future.

Here is what “ Bubble Watch” has to say about the Panthers today, by the way:

Pittsburgh [22-8 (10-7), RPI: 49, SOS: 92] It's one thing to lose close games to good teams. You can lose to Virginia on a last-second shot, or Syracuse on a 35-foot buzzer beater, and discerning basketball minds can still recognize your team's inherent quality. But when you fail to win any of the big close opportunities you have, and you have a bad nonconference schedule, and you start mixing in bad home losses to bubble teams, well, why would anyone stand a chance to defend Pitt's tournament honor? We're now at the point where Pittsburgh, a putative ACC title contender in the first half of the season, is at serious risk of missing the NCAA tournament. The Panthers were a No. 10 seed in Joe Lunardi's Thursday bracket projections, which is dangerously close to last-four-byes territory. A loss at Clemson on Saturday would be cause for alarm. An early loss in next week's ACC tournament could put them at genuine risk of missing the tournament. If that happens, Pitt will have no one to blame but itself.

But please remember one thing, though, and that is these games don’t take place in a vacuum!

I’ll repeat, Pitt-Clemson is not the only game this weekend.

All the "bubble teams" -- Oregon, BYU, Xavier, Sant Joe’s, Arkansas, Tennessee, Dayton, Nebraska, California, Providence, Minnesota, Florida State, Missouri, St. John’s, Georgetown, Louisiana Tech, Baylor, Georgetwon, etc., etc.…..

They all play this weekend, too, and all play huge games for their NCAA Tournament lives. What if a bunch of them lose? That means there is going to be a scramble to find teams and maybe Pitt survives a loss to Clemson and gets in anyway.

And what if a bunch of them win? Well, that obviously strengthens the bubble and makes it a much tougher for Pitt to make a case with a loss this weekend.

In other words, this may be a must-win game and the Panthers should do everything in their power to win it – but we won’t know exactly what it really means until the weekend is over and all the regular season games are complete.