Pitt Should Be the Highest Ranked ACC Team in the NET and KenPom

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Anybody actually watching Pitt play right now will tell you the same thing.  There are not currently 24 teams in the country that are playing better.  And there haven't been 24 teams in the country that have played better since the turn of the calendar to 2023.  So certainly there aren't 52 teams better per the NET rankings nor are there 54 better teams per the KenPom rankings.

However, Pitt was not ranked in the AP Top 25 when I began this blog.  Luckily after taking some time away from it and just now at 5PM EST on Monday the 27th getting back to it, Pitt is in fact ranked No. 25 in the Associated Press rankings.  However, the Panthers are also inexplicably ranked 53rd in the NET rankings, dropping a spot after their dominant 17-point win over Syracuse, and 55th in the KenPom rankings.  That's because these different ranking systems are either heavily biased, in the case of the AP polls, or it appears they cannot consider current trends in the case of the NET and the KenPom rankings.  Because, again, Pitt is definitely one of the best 25 teams in the country right now.  

And right now is what matters.  The same Pitt team that lost to Michigan and West Virginia back in November is not the Pitt team that will be traveling to the NCAA Tournament, whichever region they find themselves in.  That Pitt team had no inside presence and no identity.  This Pitt team has an inside presence while also being one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the nation.  They also have some of the best guards in the nation and the best player in the ACC, Jamarius Burton.  

Furthermore, despite what some will say about the ACC, it is still one of the best conferences and it will reassert itself as such once the NCAA Tournament starts.  I wouldn't bet against any of the teams that make the NCAA Tournament from the ACC, even if North Carolina makes it solely on reputation alone.  The ACC has canabalized itself, but they still did very well in the ACC/Big 10 challenge earlier this season, including Pitt's dominant win over Northwestern at their place.  Northwestern currently sits at 4th in the Big 10 and are playing the best basketball in their program's history.  Pitt beat them by 29 points in Evanston.

Also, this is where the "ACC is down" argument really throws me for a loop.  Pitt is ranked below many teams in the ACC in the AP, NET and KenPom despite leading the conference.   Pitt has also beaten several of these teams straight up.  In the case of North Carolina, Pitt has beaten them twice!  Pitt is also 3-2 against Top 25 ranked opponents while UNC is 2-5.  Pitt has four Quad 1 wins while the Tar Heels have one Quad 1 win.  Explain to me then how North Carolina is ranked higher in both the NET and the KenPom.

This all boils down to one point I think is becoming clear.  Mathematically figuring out the best teams with a computer algorithm has never worked.  It didn't work in the BCS Football rankings days and it doesn't work now.  Ken Pomeroy himself wouldn't argue that half the teams ranked ahead of Pitt would win in a straight up matchup.  

Take NC State as another example.  Pitt beat them before the Panthers were even playing their best basketball.  Also, Pitt is leading the same conference that the Wolfpack is 6th in, and Pitt has the same overall win percentage.  However, NC State is ranked 5 spots higher in the KenPom.  The math ain't mathin'.

I get how all the ACC teams in these rankings could somehow be low.  Because the mathematical perception is that the ACC is having a down year.  What does not make sense is how teams from the ACC, that Pitt is both leading in the standings and has beaten straight up, can be ahead of them in these mathematical rankings.  And in some cases many many spots ahead of them.  It simply does not make sense.

These formulas need to, but can't, take into account teams getting better or worse over the course of a season.  They can't take into account that early on, Pitt was still game planning around an eventual return of John Hugley that never happened.  These rankings have to, but can't, take into account that Nike Sibande, was not at one point, but has become one of the best 6th men in all of college basketball.  They have to, but can't, take into account that Fede Federiko has suddenly found the ability to be a premier center in this league.  They have to, but can't, take into account that the style the ACC plays will prepare Pitt better for the NCAA Tournament than Big Ten play does.  

The Big Ten hasn't had a National Champion of a current member since Maryland won it in 2002.  But Maryland wasn't even a member of the Big Ten until 2014.  So the last true National Champion for the Big Ten was Michigan State in 2000.  23 years.  So like I mentioned above, I'm not betting against any of the ACC teams that make the Tournament.  The trends show you shouldn't, so I won't and you shouldn't either.  But the KenPom and the NET cannot account for that because they think the Blue Bloods should be leading the ACC and not Pitt.  So the ACC must be down.

Pitt should be the highest ranked ACC team in all of the ranking systems.  They are leading the conference and they have done so by beating very good teams.  If the rankings are this off in the case of Pitt, just think about how unreliable they can be for the 120+ teams that are ranked in them.  Boiling down college basketball to a formula has made bracketology fraudulent.  Pitt should be a 4 or 5 seed going into the NCAA Tournament, and before their win on Saturday, they were "on the bubble."  Absurd.  

These rankings are broken.  Bracketology is broken.  And we'll see it come to fruition in a few weeks when the ACC has a lot of success against other conferences.  And that includes our Pitt Panthers.