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Hail to Pitt!

January 6, 2009 - Neil Rudel

I go back to the days/daze when Pitt was in the old Eastern Eight, floundering in basketball as much as Penn State was (and still is).

So I can fully appreciate the Panthers' ascendion to No. 1 in the polls for the first time ever.

Yes, they've have fallen short in their ventures into the NCAA Tournament, failing to advance beyond the Sweet 16, but at least they're in the conversation every year. I'll take that any day over a program that is more built for annual late-season NIT push.

There have been some toestubbings, to be sure, but Pitt shouldn't have to apologize -- regardless of seed -- for getting knocked out by Dwayne Wade and, last year, Tom Izzo.

Will this be the year the Panthers get over that hump? With DeJuan Blair inside, Sam Young on the perimeter and Levance Fields at the point, it's possible. And perhaps this level of an early confidence vote will help.

I know this much: When Georgetown pulled even with Pitt midway through the second half Saturday, the Panthers reached back and blew the Hoyas out of their own building. That's impressive.

Clearly, Big East basketball has been incredible for the Panther basketball program, but no more so than the outstanding coaching jobs currently being done by Jamie Dixon and his mentor, Ben Howland.

Pitt may not be No. 1 in April, and if not, it deserves to enjoy this moment for as long as it lasts.


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