Pitt Ninth In Big East Media-Coaches' Polls

If history means anything to the Pitt men's basketball team, and it certainly does with the Panthers playing in eight straight NCAA Tournaments and their best finish with an Elite Eight appearance last spring, a pedestrian ninth-place finish in the Big East coaches' poll won't mean anything once this season starts.

And as history also has proven, Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon doesn't let things like a preseason poll hold his teams back. The Panthers also were chosen to finish poorly in the 2001-02 preseason poll and had a spectacular season.

Pitt was selected fifth in the six-team Big East West Division in 2001-02, basically 10th among 12 teams. But the Panthers won the Big East West with a 13-3 record, finished at 29-6 overall and advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen.

Pitt was selected ninth in the preseason Big East Conference coaches' poll Wednesday at Madison Square Garden in New York City with 119 points. The Panthers were represented by Coach Dixon and junior guard Jermaine Dixon.

"We've got one returning starter (junior guard Jermaine Dixon), and he's got a boot on a broken foot,'' Jamie Dixon said. "You can understand that situation. (But) we've always kind of finished higher than we've been picked, so nothing has changed in that regard.''

Pitt lost four starters from last season's 31-5 team that placed second in the Big East regular season with a 15-3 record and advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight for the first time since 1974. The Panthers also earned the program's No. 1 national ranking (on two occasions for three weeks total), concluded the campaign with a perfect 19-0 home record and garnered a No. 1 seed going into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history as well.

Six Panthers on scholarship this season, including two redshirts -- 50 percent of the roster -- have freshman eligibility. And a seventh, senior transfer Chase Adams, also has never played in a Big East game. The two most-experienced players Jermaine Dixon and redshirt junior Gilbert Brown (academics) are expected to miss the majority of the non-conference schedule.

"We have a lot of young guys, and they're all probably going to have to play,'' Jermaine Dixon said. "But we also have a lot of talent there, so we'll be all right. Once the Big East schedule comes around, I'm confident that we'll be ready for it. We have to be ready, or we won't be successful in this Conference.''

Villanova was picked to win the Big East title with 218 points and 10 first-place votes, while West Virginia finished second with 215 points and five first-place votes and Connecticut third with one first-place vote and 185 points.

Following UConn in the coaches' poll, Louisville placed fourth (179 points), Georgetown fifth (161), Syracuse sixth (152), Cincinnati seventh (135) and Notre Dame eighth (132). Following Pitt were Seton Hall, 10th with 110 points; St. John's (11th, 82); Marquette (12th, 78); Providence (13th, 52); South Florida (14th, 44); Rutgers (15th, 43); and DePaul (16th, 15).

Notre Dame's Luke Harangody was named the Big East's preseason Player of the Year, while Cincinnati's Lance Stephenson was named the Big East's preseason Rookie (freshman) of the Year.

Pitt also was ninth in a media poll conducted by the Syracuse Post-Standard newspaper. No Panthers were on the preseason All-Big East teams in either poll. In a media poll, where 17 beat writers were contacted, Pitt freshman Dante Taylor was the rookie of the year.

Here's how the coaches' voting went:

2009-10 Preseason All-Big East First Team Luke Harangody, Notre Dame (Player of the Year), F, Sr. Deonta Vaughn, Cincinnati, G, Sr. Greg Monroe, Georgetown, C, So. Lazar Hayward, Marquette, F, Sr. Scottie Reynolds, Villanova, G, Sr. Da'Sean Butler, West Virginia, F, Sr.

Second Team Jerome Dyson, Connecticut, G, Sr. Kemba Walker, Connecticut, G, So. Samardo Samuels, Louisville, F, So. Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall, G, Jr. Dominique Jones, South Florida, G, Jr. Devin Ebanks, West Virginia, F, So. *tie in the balloting created six positions

2009-10 Preseason All-Big East Honorable Mention Stanley Robinson, Connecticut, F, Sr. Arinze Onuaku, Syracuse, C, Sr.

Pitt holds its annual Blue-Gold intrasquad scrimmage Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Pitt opens the season with two exhibition games at the Petersen Events Center: against Slippery Rock Sunday, Nov. 1 and Coker College, S.C. Nov. 8. Both games tip off at 4 p.m.

The Panthers regular-season opener against Wofford is Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center.

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