Pitt Expected To Be No. 1

The Pitt men's basketball program has been around for more than a century, and its faithful likely have shouted "We're No. 1'' on numerous occasions.

However, the Panthers have not had the rankings to back those claims.

That likely will change Monday when the weekly Associated Press and ESPN-USA Today rankings are announced. Pittsburgh (14-0), among just four undefeated teams in Division I-A, should be rated No. 1 in both polls for the first time in its 101-year men's basketball history.

Even though Pitt senior forward Sam Young noted that Jamie Dixon said this was his best team ever, the Panthers' head coach downplayed that talk after the team's last game.

"I told them this could be our best team,'' Dixon said during a post-game interview with CBS-TV. "If we continue to improve and do all the right things, then that could happen. But we're not there yet.''

The national polls should say otherwise. Pitt already has been No. 1 the past couple weeks in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) rankings with a No. 3 rating for its strength of schedule.

The Panthers entered this past week rated third nationally in both major polls. However, since No. 1 North Carolina lost at home to Boston College Sunday night and No. 2 Connecticut lost at home to Georgetown last Monday, Pitt should roar into the top spot. The Panthers dominated then No. 11 Georgetown 70-54 in Washington, D.C. Saturday afternoon.

"They were saying, 'Who did Pitt play? Who did they play?' '' Pitt sophomore center DeJuan Blair said. "We came into Georgetown, and we showed them what we can do. They can't say nothing now. We can play with anybody in the nation.''

Pitt certainly would have ascended to No. 2 after that victory and might have even received a couple first-place votes, but no one expected unranked Boston College -- a 21-point underdog on the road -- to stun the Tar Heels, 85-78.

North Carolina (13-1) had received all 72 first-place votes last week and was the first unanimous No. 1 since the AP preseason poll began in 1981-82.

Pitt, No. 5 in the AP preseason poll, is one of four undefeated teams, joining Clemson (14-0), Wake Forest (13-0) and Illinois State (14-0).

Pitt has reached No. 2 in nine different AP polls during the 1987-88, 2002-03 and 2006-07 seasons.

Prior to Georgetown, Pitt hadn't played a ranked team in its first 13 games and struggled to get past Rutgers in its Big East opener. Georgetown (10-2) had won at No. 2 Connecticut in one of the most impressive road wins by any team this season.

Panther Digest Top Stories