Dixon: Pitt's The 1

Senior Sam Young doesn't have cable, so he couldn't watch North Carolina lose, and he didn't believe the initial text message from a friend about it.

Pitt men's basketball coach Jamie Dixon was watching a recruit's game in New Jersey, so he got updates via text messages about it, and other Panthers players tuned in toward the end after watching an NFL playoff game.

And after Boston College knocked off prohibitive favorite and No. 1-ranked North Carolina Sunday night, Pittsburgh (14-0) -- among four remaining unbeaten NCAA Division I-A men's basketball teams this season -- was all but assured the top spot in the polls. That was affirmed Monday afternoon.

For the first time in school history, the Panthers were ranked No. 1 in the weekly Associated Press and USA Today-ESPN coaches' polls.

"In the past we've made history, and we're continuing to make history,'' Sam Young said. "This is only the beginning for us. It's a long road. It's a long season, and I think we'll continue to make history down the stretch. (But) we still have the same goals and want to achieve the same things.

"Nothing's changed at all. We just have more people believing in us now. ... I think every basketball player dreams of being No. 1. This is what we work for, and now that we've got it, we have to fight to keep it. We're here now, but we're not done. It's our job to keep it as long as we can.''

Pitt was third in last week's polls, but along with No. 1 North Carolina's loss to Boston College, Georgetown beat No. 2 Connecticut last Monday. And the Panthers pummeled Georgetown 70-54 Saturday afternoon.

"We were already riding a big high with the win against Georgetown,'' senior point guard Levance Fields said. "We know how well we can play and how good we can be, and the main thing is that everybody's healthy. So we're excited more about that, but this is icing on the cake to be No. 1. Now we're the top dogs in the country, and we have to play that way and practice that way.

"People had been calling and texting since we beat Georgetown, so everybody was already excited knowing that we were going to be moving up to No. 2 and knowing how well we've been playing. And this was even more special. It's a big thing. Everybody on campus is excited; everywhere you go somebody's saying ‘You're No. 1.' But we know we have a lot more to do. And that's the good thing. We know we can get better still.''

Pitt has held the No. 2 ranking on 16 different weekly occasions, the last being on December 11, 2006. Since January 7, 2002, Pitt has been ranked among the nation's top-25 in 117 of the previous 126 national polls. Additionally, Pitt has been ranked among the nation's top-10 teams in each of the last seven seasons (2002-08). So, finally reaching the top spot is special.

"I'm not going to say it's a bad thing,'' Dixon said. "It's a good thing. It's great for our University. It's great for our fans, and it's great for our city. This is a city that has affiliations with a lot of schools, but I think they've really taken to this basketball team over the years.

"Not many people are getting the kind of support that we're getting. It's very rare, and I think it's taken for granted at times. So, I'm happy for (the fans). And I think the team will look at it as more motivation than anything else, and that's a good thing, too.''

In addition, the Big East Conference set new weekly Associated Press and USA Today-ESPN coaches' poll records with nine programs ranked among the nation's top-25. Along with Pitt, Connecticut, Syracuse, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Marquette, Villanova, Louisville and West Virginia are ranked now.

The men's basketball team becomes the first Pitt team to hold the No. 1 national ranking since the 1982 Pitt football season. That squad entered its season ranked No. 1 and held the top spot for three weeks during the year (Sept. 7, Oct. 26, Nov. 2).

Pitt will also enter the week ranked No. 1 in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) with a No. 3 ranked strength of schedule.

The other undefeated men's basketball programs are Clemson (14-0), Illinois State (14-0) and Wake Forest (13-0). Pitt (14-0, 2-0 Big East) plays host to St. John's Sunday at noon at the Petersen Events Center. The contest will be televised on a regional basis by ESPN.

Here are the latest rankings:

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Here are the RealTime RPI rankings:

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Here is a notes column from Fox Sports:

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