The Pitt men's basketball team returns to action after eight days off--a rarity. It's a noon tip-off against Youngstown State, prior to heading to New York for the Jimmy V Classic on Tuesday, against Cincinnati.
Pitt enters the game at 9-0, one of 13 unbeaten teams not ranked in the Top 25. As a result, is this team playing with a chip on its shoulder?
"We've gone through it year after year," head coach Jamie Dixon said. "You get teams to play. You beat them, but when you do, they're not ranked."
PITT: James Robinson (8.3 ppg, 4.4 apg); Cameron Wright (11.8 ppg, 2.7 apg); Lamar Patterson (16.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg), Mike Young (6.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Talib Zanna (13.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg)
If it's the schedule, then maybe scoring margin will help. Pitt leads the ACC in scoring margin, an average of +21.3 points a game. Clemson, 7-2, is second in the conference with an scoring margin of +14.3 per game.
Either way, Dixon says whether the team is ranked or not, he doesn't see the need for any extra motivation.
"They're pretty motivated, as is," Dixon said. "We're in the ACC (Big Ten) Challenge, we're in the Legends Classic. We've played a lot of the best people. Generally, teams that are in there haven't beaten a ranked team, either."
It's unlikely a win over Youngstown State would leap Pitt into the polls. The. Panthers are 19th in the country in RPI. Even though Youngstown State is 7-4 entering this game, their RPI is 123rd in the country.
The biggest focus on the court for Pitt is a third game in a row against a top flight guard. Penn State's Tim Frazier scored 27 points against Pitt last Tuesday. Last Friday, it was Anthony Ireland scoring 20 for Loyola Marymount.
This time, it's Youngstown State's Kendrick Perry. Perry is the Horizon league Preseason Player of the Year, averaging 20.7 points a game.
There is some familiarity, too. Youngstown State's players participated in the Pittsburgh Basketball Club's Pro-Am League this past summer, where Perry was an integral part of. Dixon said his players going up against Perry of the summer makes them aware of what he can do. What Perry has done in the regular season, where it's a little more competitive, heightens their awareness even more.
"They know how athletic he is," Dixon added. "It's something we don't have to explain to them, and how explosive he is."
Youngstown State is coming off a 88-80 loss at Kansas City last Saturday, and they are leading the Horizon League with an average of 83.1 points per game, three-pointers made per game (8.4) and assists per game (17.3)
A win would also give the Penguins an 8-4 start, since starting 9-3 to start the 1997-98 season.
In addition to leading the ACC in scoring margin, Pitt also leads in rebounding margin per game (+10.7) and is second in the conference with 17.4 assists per game.
Lamar Patterson has scored a double-double in seven consecutive games, and also leads Pitt in scoring (16.4 per game) and assists (4.4 per game).