The metrics were right about Pitt Basketball

The computers were right.

For most of the 2022-23 season, the consensus of those who use math to rate college basketball was significantly more bearish on Pitt than conventional wisdom, as the Panthers got off to a 21-8 start and a mark of 14-4 in ACC. play.

Despite their best record in years, the Panthers haven’t been favored by computer sports rankings, with the likes of, and NCAA NET ratings suggesting Pitt was a more owned team. at the 50-70 level of college basketball teams than would normally be assigned to a team that, most of late February and early March, does not go past a game of ACC first place.

The cries were loud that the NET and KenPom rankings were absurd or somehow unfair to the Panthers, and that not only should Pitt not be an NCAA Tournament bubble team, but the Panthers should have been ranked in the poll of AP Top 25 college basketball.

On Feb. 27, the Panthers were ranked in that poll, for the first time since 2016. Since then, Pitt has dropped three of his last four games, including a game loss to 14th-place Notre Dame and a 27-point loss. to Duke — which finished with an identical 14-6 ACC record — at the ACC Tournament in Greensboro on Thursday.

The late-season slide has certainly dampened the level of excitement about the Panthers heading into the NCAA Tournament, and there will now be at least some drama on Sunday over whether or not Jeff Capel’s team will be in the field of 68, not to mention where they will be sown.

But it shouldn’t have been surprising that the Panthers’ run when they lost just four games from before Thanksgiving to after Valentine’s Day is unlikely to continue.

What KenPom’s efficiency rating – and the NET based on a similar model – is trying to tell us is a team’s true playing ability, regardless of their record. Much of Pitt’s record was made up of numerous close wins, many against lower level competitors, interspersed with more than a handful of very poor losses, both in terms of opponents and margin of victory.

Pitt’s signature of the 2022-23 season is his ability to win those close games. But the fact that Pitt had been in so many close matches, while suffering big losses and also losing major upsets, meant that this pattern was unlikely to continue.

This is not the case. Pitt lost to Notre Dame in a seven-point game, Miami in a two-point game, then was eliminated by Duke. It doesn’t always happen that way. Sometimes unlikely things keep happening. But KenPom has become an industry standard for a reason, not because it’s bad at making predictions.

If you follow that line of thought, maybe a slide isn’t the right way to characterize Pitt’s end of the season. The Panthers didn’t fall off a cliff (at least until the second half against Duke), but instead it was more of a case of the water finding its level.

While Pitt’s record and unique top-25 finish sparked hopes for a better result in the minds of many, what Capel and the Panthers have accomplished this season is nonetheless significant.

For the first time in a long time, Pitt’s fanbase has fallen in love with his basketball team all over again, and one way or another, the Panthers are going to keep playing until mid-March. Bringing that sentiment back means more than the number that is or isn’t next to Pitt’s name and how good, bad or average the computers think they are.

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