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Pitt women picked 13th in Big East

| Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012, 5:16 p.m.
Agnus Berenato was fired as Pitt women's basketball coach Monday, April 1, 2013.
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Former Pitt coach Agnus Berenato is 444-413 in her career. (AP)

NEW YORK — Following a winless season in the Big East, the Pitt women's basketball team was picked to finish tied for 13th in the preseason coaches' poll announced Thursday at the conference media day at the New York Athletic Club.

That means colleagues of Agnus Berenato expect her team to be at least a little better in 2012-13.

One coach is certain of it.

“Pittsburgh was a lot better than their record,” said Geno Auriemma, whose Connecticut team was picked to finish first over last year's champion, Notre Dame. “They had a lot of really good players. They were just really young. Once you start struggling when you're really young, it just spins out of control. I think they're going to surprise a lot of people this year. I'd be shocked if they didn't.”

How much improvement is realistic for a team that went 0-16 in the Big East and 8-22 overall is uncertain. Berenato said she's never been the type to put a goal on number of wins because there's just too much involved in the equation.

A game can come down to whether a free throw goes in or whether a whistle is for a charge or a block. A season can come down to injuries.

“Too much depends on chance,” Berenato said.

Few coaches in the Big East would argue that little separates the No. 5 team from the No. 12 team. A big week one direction or the other shows up in the standings. Two big weeks the wrong direction can put a team in a hole from which it's tough to escape.

“In our league, once you get behind the eight ball, it's hard because there are just so many good teams ahead of you,” Auriemma said. “Every time you're on the road, you're playing against a really good team, so where are your easy wins? ...The kids in Pittsburgh have to learn how to win, and until they do, it's going to be a struggle.”

Harry Perretta has been coaching at Villanova since 1978 and has been through ups and downs. Like Pitt last season, his team consisted of all freshmen and sophomores in 2006-07, and they won just two Big East games. They won five the next year and 12 the year after that.

“One thing about this league is if you're young and inexperienced, you're going to get hammered,” he said. “You're not going to get beat, you're going to get hammered. I think it's a question of how you handle getting hammered. I'm real with my kids. I just say, ‘You're young and inexperienced and you try hard, but you have to be prepared for what's going to happen.' If you can live with that, then you have a chance to move up.”

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7980 or kprice@tribweb.com.

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