Pitt Rises To No. 1 Ranking Again

For the second time in school history and third week this season, the Pitt men's basketball program was ranked No. 1 in the weekly Associated Press writers' and USA Today-ESPN coaches' polls announced Monday.

"I think we're playing our best basketball,Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "From the last time we were No. 1 to now, I think we're a better team.''

Pittsburgh rose to the consensus No. 1 ranking after entering the week ranked No. 4 in both. However, Pitt defeated then No. 1-ranked Connecticut, 76-68, last Monday in Hartford, Conn. and dumped DePaul, 80-61, Saturday night at the Petersen Events Center. Also Saturday, previous No. 3 North Carolina lost, 88-85, in overtime at Maryland, while No. 2 Oklahoma lost, 73-68, at Texas.

In the AP poll, Pitt garnered 69 of the 72 first-place votes. From its No. 4 ranking, Pitt made the largest jump to No. 1 since UCLA moved from No. 5 to No. 1 in December, 2006. George Geise from the Great Falls Tribune in Great Falls, Mont., Ron Morris from The State in Columbia, S.C. and Seth Davis from Sports Illustrated in New York City did not vote Pitt No. 1.

Geise's top three were UConn, Pitt and Memphis. Morris had Oklahoma No. 1 with Pitt and North Carolina in second and third, respectively. Davis also had the Sooners in the top spot with Pitt second and UConn third.

In the USA Today-ESPN poll, the Panthers picked up 30 of the 31 first-place votes. The No. 4-to-No. 1 jump was only the sixth such move during the regular season in the 12 years of the coaches' poll. The last comparable jump came when Kansas moved from No. 5 to No. 1 November 30, 2003. It isn't known which coach did not vote Pitt into the No. 1 spot this week, because the voting is done anonymously.

"In our minds, I think we were already No. 1 before today,'' Pitt senior forward Sam Young said. "So, for people on the outside to believe now that we're No. 1 ... 'we told you so.' "(Dixon) keeps preaching that our accomplishments are great, but at the same time we still have to keep improving. Everybody's going to keep coming after us. So, we have to go out and produce."

On January 5, 2009, Pitt earned the nation's No. 1 ranking for the first time in school history. The Panthers spent two consecutive weeks as the nation's No. 1-ranked team and went 2-1 during that span. Pitt dropped to No. 4 following a 69-63 loss at Louisville Jan. 17. It's only other loss was against Villanova, 67-57, Jan. 28 in the last college game at the Spectrum in Philadelphia.

Since January 7, 2002, Pitt has been ranked among the nation's top-25 in 124 of the 133 national polls. Additionally, Pitt has been ranked among the nation's top-10 teams at various times during the past seven seasons (2002-08).

Pitt also enters the week ranked No. 1 in the Ratings Percentage Index (RealTimeRPI.com) ranking to go with a 12th-ranked strength of schedule.

"(Being No. 1) is another accomplishment, but this time around it's not as big as it was the first time,'' Pitt senior point guard Levance Fields said. "It's a good thing, but we're holding that thought because we've been through this stage already. We're just focused on finishing strong and getting ready for March.

"With us going through it the first time, I think we're better-suited now. I don't think we let it get to us the first time, though. We just played a tough road game at Louisville, and they knocked us off. It's just something you learn from.''

Pitt (25-2, 12-2 Big East) plays at Providence Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Dunkin' Donuts Center. The game will be produced by ESPN Regional and broadcast locally on FSN Pittsburgh. The contest marks Pitt Head Coach Jamie Dixon's 200th career game.

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Pitt's Media Relations Department contributed to this story.

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