Pitt Hoops Ranked Third

For the first time in the history of the Associated Press men's basketball poll, one conference, the Big East, has placed eight teams in the AP rankings of the nation's top 25 teams.

The Big East teams in the weekly poll, released Monday afternoon, include No. 2 Connecticut, No. 3 Pittsburgh, No. 7 Notre Dame, No. 11 Louisville, No. 16 Syracuse, No. 17 Villanova, No. 20 Georgetown and No. 25 Marquette. The Panthers moved up one spot, as former No. 3 Louisville lost over the weekend.

Pitt (7-0) faces Duquesne (4-1) in the annual City Game Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center.

"It's exciting, especially when we turn on the TV and everybody's talking about us and the rankings,'' Pitt redshirt sophomore forward Gilbert Brown said. "With it coming out that we're No. 3, actually, that keeps us going.

"It pushes us to become even better, because I still don't believe that people think Pitt can be up there with the (No. 1) North Carolinas of the world. So, that's what we're pushing for.''

Pitt has been ranked second before, but never No. 1. In 2006-07, the Panthers were ranked No. 2 for two straight weeks. And that marked the first time since Jan. 28, 2003.

"Definitely, it's a goal for us to be No. 1, but the rankings are up to the analysts to decide who's No. 1,'' Brown said. "Since I've been here, I know the highest we've been is No. 2, before we played Wisconsin.''

Pitt lost to the Badgers on the road and dropped in the rankings after that.

"I know we've been two a number of times, but I really can't keep track of all that,'' Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "That's for you guys. ... I could say that it doesn't matter, but obviously we want to be ranked No. 1. Rankings are nice, but you can always lose and drop out.''

Dixon usually tries to downplay the rankings during the season, at least publicly, and sophomore center DeJuan Blair did the same.

"That's cool that we're up there, ranked third,'' Blair said. "That's cool for the school, but it only counts if you keep it for a long time. So, that's what we're working toward. As long as we stay in the top five for now, we'll be all right.''

The Big East set a preseason AP poll record with seven teams in the rankings, and that group remained ranked in each of the first two regular-season polls. Syracuse, which went from unranked to 16th this week, became the eighth Conference entry after beating ranked opponents Florida and Kansas last week.

The Big East had seven teams ranked in the AP poll one other time, in the Jan. 23, 2006 poll. The AP poll began during the 1948-49 season.

In this week's ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll, seven Big East squads are ranked, while Marquette finished one spot of out of the top 25. Connecticut, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame are also second, third and seventh, respectively, in that poll. Louisville was 11th. Villanova followed at No. 16, while Georgetown was 18th and Syracuse 20th.

Big East Conference play begins Dec. 29 when Georgetown and Connecticut meet in Harford, Conn. Pitt plays at Rutgers Dec. 31 in its Big East opener.

Here are the complete AP and USA Today-ESPN polls: http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/rankings

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