I actually started writing this piece in mid-February, right smack in the middle of our... whatever it was that we were doing in mid-February. These were dark times for West Virginia fans, and people were understandably upset. However, even on the coldest of nights, there was always one thing that I knew I could count on to warm my aching heart - the failure of my enemies. Nothing like some good old fashioned schadenfreude to lift the spirits, right? And in that regard, rarely have we seen anything like the 2018 Pittsburgh Panthers.
I think we had some idea that Pitt was bad by the time we played them on 12/9, mainly because their record was bad and they’d already lost to bad teams, but what they’ve gone on to accomplish since then truly boggles the mind. However, any joker can look at the ACC standings, see Pitt at the bottom, and surmise that their basketball team is a dumpster fire; the question we want to answer is, how bad have they been, really?
For starters, let's take a closer look at their conference record. Now, having 0 wins and 18 losses in conference is plenty impressive in-and-of itself (nobody in the country won less or lost more), but did you know that 14 of those L's came by double-digits? To put it another way, Pitt has managed to lose by less than 10 just four times since January 1. Even more impressive though is the fact that they were outscored by 342 points over that time, which means that they were losing by a margin of just over 19 points per game. For context, no team in America won by that much on average and only Chicago State lost by more. However, you don't just fall ass-backwards into 18 blowouts, and Pitt's suck obviously extends far beyond their results.
Consider, for example, that CBB Reference tracks and displays 22 stats (FG, FGA, FG%, 2P, 2PA, 2P%, 3P, 3PA, 3P%, FT, FTA, FT%, ORB, DRB, TRB, AST, STL, BLK, TOV, PF, PTS, PTS/G) as part of their standard team reporting. The Panthers rank 300th nationally or worse in 10 of them, and only find themselves ranked better than 200th in 3P, 3PA, and assists. What’s more, they somehow look even worse if you switch lenses to look only at their 18 conference games, where they rank dead last in the ACC in a staggering 13 out of 22 categories (and 2nd-to-last in 5 more). This means that their "total" rankings, paltry though they are, were still propped up somewhat by playing the likes of Montana (oops, sorry, they lost to Montana), Lehigh, High Point, and Mount St Mary’s (a thrilling OT win for Pitt) out of conference.
So what does all this mean for Pitt historically? Are they actually so bad as to warrant consideration as one of the worst major conference teams ever? I'm not unbiased, but I do think you can make that argument.
Looking back through CBB reference's database, I was able to find some precedent for teams to be as bad as Pitt is this year, but not much. Several smaller schools have gone winless in conference over the past decade, and a handful of major conference teams were only able to win a game or two, but I was only able to find two major conference teams that were so bad as to mirror Pitt's 0-18: 2016 Boston College and 2014 TCU. I think this means we can say that, at the very least, 2018 Pitt is one of three worst major conference teams of the last decade. It's difficult to say how they match up with some of the really bad teams of yesteryear (I don't like comparing bad teams across eras), but it's hard to argue that this year's Panthers shouldn't be included in any "worst major conference team ever" conversations going forward.
Some other fun Pitt-related tidbits...
- Sags has more blocks in conference play (62) than they do as a team (61), and he's only 8 behind their season total (109) despite playing one less game.
- We have 25 more steals than they do this year (162-137) WITHOUT including National DPOY Jevon Carter's 89.
- Basketball is, and always has been, about getting buckets, and based on FG%, only 13 out of 351 teams are worse than Pitt at doing that (40.6% on the season, 37.5% in conference play).
The lesson here? Sometimes it's every bit as rewarding to see somebody you hate struggle as it is to see somebody you love do well. We humans are some sick puppies.