That's the usual knock on Pittsburgh in December, and this year is no exception.
The Panthers roared to eight early wins against teams that likely won't be playing anywhere in the postseason, and worked their way into the lower strata of the Top 25. That doesn't mean much this time of year, when conference play hasn't even begun.
Still, in the past the schedule seemed ridiculous because Pitt was seen as a national contender who nevertheless opened the year feasting on cupcakes. This year's squad was not expected to be nearly as good, and not everyone felt that eight straight wins would be a safe bet even if they all came against Athletes in Action.
The party's over now, though. After the Coppin State game on Dec. 21, only BCS conference teams remained on the Panther schedule.
KEY EARLY-SEASON CONFERENCE GAME: vs. Notre Dame, Jan. 4 -- If the Panthers want to prove themselves a contender for an NCAA berth, this is a game that would be tough to give up.
TOP CONFERENCE RIVAL: West Virginia. Old hatreds die hard.
LAST YEAR'S CONFERENCE RECORD: 10-6, fifth place in Big East.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think sometimes we play down to teams' levels. It's kind of hurt us, keeping teams around. We don't have the killer instinct against certain teams." -- Freshman point guard Levance Fields, in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
PLAYER ROTATION: G Carl Krauser, G Ronald Ramon, F John DeGroat, F Levon Kendall, C Aaron Gray. Key Subs -- G Levance Fields, G Antonio Graves, F Sam Young, G Keith Benjamin, F Tyrell Biggs.
Pittsburgh 63, Vermont 52
vs. Coppin State, Wednesday, Dec. 21.
at South Carolina, Wednesday, Dec. 28.
vs. Wisconsin, Saturday, Dec. 31.
vs. Notre Dame, Wednesday, Jan. 4.
KEYS: Playtime is over for the Panthers, and the step up in class may be a shock. South Carolina and Wisconsin are both teams that can make opponents look ugly, and the Irish strength -- three-point shooting -- matches up uncomfortably well with the Panthers weakness defending the perimeter. Carl Krauser has done a great job leading the team to confidence so far, but he'll need to make sure everyone is on the same page if he hopes to enter January unscathed.