Rate Pitt's Big Win Against Duke

Wow, what a month it's been for Pitt's top two athletic programs.

The Panthers football team opened December with a stunning 13-9 win at No. 2-ranked West Virginia. This incredible win has already changed college football immensely, keeping the Mountaineers out of the BCS title game and possibly forcing WVU coach Rich Rodriguez to bolt for Michigan. Pitt has also had a terrific recruiting run since the win on national television.

The Pittsburgh men's basketball team pulled off what some are calling the program's biggest win in years. Surely, the heart-stopping 65-64 overtime win against sixth-ranked Duke Thursday night at Madison Square Garden and seen nationally on ESPN was the top non-conference victory for the Panthers. E.J. Borghetti, Pitt's associate athletic director for media relations, had this to say.

"Given the opponent and the national stage, I would say this certainly deserves credit as an "all-time'' win,'' Borghetti said. "In this current era of excellence, certainly this is the biggest non-Big East win Pitt has achieved in my opinion. I'd say you have to go back at least two decades to make a comparison.''

So, that's what we did. We looked back some 20 years to see how the Panthers' biggest wins stack up against this one against Duke. Pitt opened Big East Conference play during the 1982-83 season, but finally made an impact during the 1986-87 campaign when it went 25-8 overall to tie the school record for wins. The 1973-74 team that reached the Elite Eight before losing to No. 1 North Carolina State finished 25-4.

The Panthers have never beaten a No. 1-ranked team, losing all 13 matchups, including the most recent at Connecticut, 80-76, Jan. 31, 2006. However, Pitt had another big win against Duke. It beat the third-ranked Blue Devils, 71-69, at Cameron Indoor Stadium Feb. 10, 1979 to finish 18-11 that season. Duke was 17-1 going into that game against Pitt.

The Panthers beat Kansas, Arkansas and Wisconsin in the Rainbow Classic in Honolulu in 1986. They beat Syracuse both times in the regular season, but lost to the Orange in the Big East Tournament and dropped a second-round NCAA game to Oklahoma in 1987.

Pitt beat UConn, 71-67, Mar. 2, 2003 in the first season at the Petersen Events Center and thumped the Huskies 74-56 Mar. 15 in the Big East Tournament title game. The Panthers were eliminated in the NCAA Tourney, 77-74, by Marquette.

Pitt split with UConn in 2003-04 as well, winning 75-68 Feb. 15, 2004 at the Pete. The Panthers lost to the Huskies in the Big East Tourney final and to Oklahoma State in the NCAA Tournament.

Pitt won at UConn, 76-66, Jan. 22, 2005, but lost five of its last seven games with first-round defeats in the Big East and NCAA events.

The Panthers also had a big win against Kentucky, 85-67, Nov. 22, 1991 in the Preseason NIT at Madison Square Garden in New York City. However, as far as non-conference wins go, this won against Duke arguably is the best.

Pitt beat Duke, the No. 1 program in the nation based on winning percentage the past six-plus seasons, on a last-second shot in overtime, on national television and in the most famous basketball arena in the world. This victory was special for the Panthers.

Whether or not it was the best is arguable, but it's one that -- like Pitt's 13-9 win against WVU earlier this month -- will be discussed for a long time to come.

And that's what will be most crucial for the Panthers as far as their status nationally with the media, basketball fans and recruits are concerned.

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