BASKETBALL: This Week in Pitt Hoops

The Pittsburgh Panthers basketball program enters the top 25 this week at #25 in the latest Associated Press Poll released today. Get the latest on Pitt's basketball program, in this week's edition of the weekly report.

Undefeated, untied, untested.

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.


NOTES AND QUOTES

  • One big weakness on the team in the early season has been defense on the perimeter. Pitt ranks 13th out of 16 Big East Conference teams in three-point defense, a major concern as Big East play looms and teams like West Virginia, Villanova and Louisville await.

  • C Aaron Gray has been a force to be reckoned with early, with six double-doubles in the team's first eight games.

    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.


    ROSTER REPORT

    GAME REVIEW:
    Pittsburgh 63, Vermont 52

    GAME PREVIEW:

    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.

    ROSTER REPORT:

  • G Antonio Graves has been the biggest loser in the battle for minutes in the Pitt backcourt. After spending last season as a full-time starter, he isn't even the sixth man every game this year. He backs up Carl Krauser at shooting guard and John DeGroat at small forward.

  • G Carl Krauser continues to thrive as the team's shooting guard. He not only led the team with 21 points against Vermont, he scored 13 in the final 10 minutes of the first half to effectively put the game away.


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