In the Dawg House

PantherDigest.com senior writer Steve Gephart brings you another fantastic "In the Dawg House". GepDawg brings you the odds and ends from the world of Pitt and College Sports.

"You are what you are." And not who you play. The first part of that statement can be attributed to legendary NFL coach Bill Parcells; the second part comes from yours truly. I've added my two cents to this famous quote because I don't remember Parcells specifically making any exemptions regarding the quality of the opponents on his schedule. Yet somehow, the rest of the national media covering college basketball today believes it should. Or at least when it comes to this year's undefeated Pitt basketball team.

The Dawg is really starting to get fired up about the seemingly regular, annual national assault on the Panthers. Of course, the most recent offense being that although they remain undefeated more than halfway through their season, they still deserve criticism for having the audacity to play an allegedly suspect schedule. I know…it makes absolutely NO sense.

I don't know Coach Parcells personally, but I bet he would feel the same way.

However, it's sadly become a regular occurrence these last few years. Pitt teams that over achieve are somehow ripped for their success while other teams are applauded for exactly the same endeavors over similar scheduled opponents. Of course the biggest irony seems to be that in football, no matter who Pitt plays on its out of conference slate, the Panthers are still very much denigrated for being in a suspect conference. Yet in basketball, where the Big East is an undisputed power, the Panthers are now lambasted (not only in the media, but the NCAA tournament selection committee) for playing a weak OUT of CONFERNCE schedule. Of course in basketball, the pundits don't care if a team has to play in a tough conference, because they apparently HAVE to. Anyone else find it interesting that this same logic apparently does NOT apply to football as well?

For the Dawg, this truly is a very perplexing situation.

What is also frustrating to the Dawg is that not only is college football and basketball excellence seemingly judged by completely opposite standards, but even worse, that the Panthers always seem to come up on the short end in BOTH sports as well.

So my question is this: what is so different from what Pitt is doing now in basketball, from what Penn State did in football this past season? At least Pitt has actually played a ranked non conference team as well as played someone other than a Big East team on the road. Yet in football, the media gives a total pass to the teams from great conferences like the SEC or the Big 10, teams who very rarely venture out of the friendly confines of their own home venue. Apparently the same rules do NOT apply for college basketball.

It sure doesn't make sense to me, and I'm sure it doesn't make sense to most Pitt fans either. To be honest, I think it only makes sense to the most avid and biased fan bases of the teams in other BCS conferences that run college football - and therefore have a huge influence on basketball as well. But that seems to be the common view point of not only the national media pundits, but the millions of fans they influence as well.

Look, I'm very cognizant of the fact that I've produced quite a few editions of this column slamming the national media for its very uneven coverage of college football, and EVEN more importantly the Big East conference. But the Dawg promised himself he would not back down from writing about what was important for Pitt fans, and even more significantly...himself. And after a quick perusal of the Panther Digest message boards, it's quite evident to this puppy that this is an issue just as baffling to most Pitt fans as it is to me.

And guess what? It's still important AND it still needs to be addressed.

Maybe it's just me, but I think I'm getting to the point where the national media just has no REAL credible influence on my own outlook of college sports, or even the Pitt Panthers any more. As much as I am a crusader for the Big East, and more importantly Pitt sports, I'm just not amazed any longer about the now routine skepticism of Pitt basketball. To the Dawg, the national media has decided to harp on the same old story year after year…and its getting REAL old.

But that's my point. This time, it just doesn't matter anymore. Unlike football, the fate of college basketball (and subsequently the Pitt Panthers) is NOT ultimately affected by the whims of the media. There is no complicated formula incorporating their rankings to produce just two teams out of over a hundred to slug it out for the right to be called national champion, as they currently do in the Bowl Championship Series. No, in basketball the NCAA calls the shots. And the NCAA has a system where every conference champion, as well as a plethora of other worthy teams across the nation, deserves a shot as well. So instead of two teams having a chance for the crown, sixty four teams do.

So who cares if the likes of Doug Gottlieb or Grant Wahl try to convince the world the Pitt Panthers are not legitimate even if they are undefeated? In the end, the Panthers will have their chance to prove to everyone, including the skeptics in the media, that they are a legitimate national title contender. Their resume doesn't have to be what ultimately gets them to a title game.

It's their performance on the court that will…

In the Dawg House: You know what? I know Frank Burlison is a venerable writer on this network. But how can a respected writer continue to publish a weekly ranking of college basketball's best teams that still has Wisconsin in its Top 10 and ranked six spots higher than the Pitt Panthers? Granted, this comes from an article dated January 16th and before Pitt beat Rutgers and Wisconsin lost to Ohio State, but nonetheless it's been a few weeks since Pitt beat Wisconsin at the Petersen Events Center.

I know Wisconsin has a slightly higher RPI ranking on CBS Sportsline, but every other major poll has the Panthers correctly ahead of the Badgers. Maybe Frank isn't purposely trying to knock the Panthers and feed into the negative hype against the Pitt basketball team perpetrated by the national media. Nevertheless, he doesn't really attempt to refute that negativity either.

And does he really think that eight teams with two losses or more are actually better than an undefeated team that has been ranked almost continuously the last four years? If he does, it only would make this even easier. But because I have so much respect for Burlison as college basketball analyst, I HAVE to call him out when the Dawg disagrees.

So, this week...Frank Burlison…you are IN the DAWG HOUSE!


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