Pitt men look to measure up against perennial ACC power Duke
Pitt views Duke as the standard for college basketball, one that stands in its way of an ACC championship, so the Panthers have a healthy respect for the Blue Devils and plans to earn theirs.
No. 18 Duke (16-4, 5-2) and its legendary coach, Mike Krzyzewski, visit No. 20 Pitt (18-2, 6-1) for the first time at 7 p.m. Monday at Petersen Events Center, the first game of ESPN's “Big Monday” telecast.
Pitt and Duke last met as undefeated, top-10 teams in the Aeropostale Classic on Dec. 20, 2007, at Madison Square Garden. Panthers point guard Levance Fields made a 3-pointer with 4.7 seconds left for a 65-64 overtime victory.
This time, the Blue Devils see Pitt as the favorite.
“They're a really physical team, older team. We've got to go up there and fight and try to get a win,” Duke forward Rodney Hood told the (Raleigh, N.C.) News & Observer. “They're at the top of the conference, and that's where we want to be.”
The Panthers are aware of Duke's history: four national championships, six NCAA runner-up finishes, 15 Final Fours, 22 ACC regular-season and 24 ACC Tournament titles, 36 All-Americans and nine national players of the year. And they know Coach K is the all-time victories leader (973) in Division I who just won his 900th game at Duke, joining Syracuse's Jim Boeheim as the only coaches to accomplish that feat at one school.
Pitt can't wait to prove which team is better.
“It's going to be a great game,” Pitt fifth-year senior swingman Lamar Patterson said. “Duke obviously has a prestigious program. They've got national championships. They've got one of the best college coaches ever. They're just known for their success.
“So when you have a team like us and coach (Jamie) Dixon — he's building a program, and we're reaching a level where Duke is at — it draws a lot of attention. Our fans are going to be ready, the Oakland Zoo is going to be ready, and we're going to be ready.”
Dixon doesn't downplay Duke's status as one of college basketball's elite programs, calling it a model for what he is trying to build. But he believes in his Panthers, even though the Blue Devils have a roster filled with blue-chip recruits.
“I love the guys we have, and I've said that all along,” Dixon said. “One of my assistants said that I probably have higher expectations for this group than anybody around. I think we have the best guys. I don't care what award they got three or four years ago. It's what they want to become, not what they were.”
So Dixon will take his talented tandem of Patterson and Talib Zanna — who are combining for almost 32 points a game — against Duke's high-scoring Hood and freshman phenom Jabari Parker. The 6-foot-8 Hood, a transfer from Mississippi State, averages 17.7 points and has scored 20 points or more 11 times, while the 6-9 Parker, a potential top-5 NBA Draft pick, averages 18.7 points and 8.0 rebounds and has six double-doubles.
“I know them, and I watch them. They've got good players,” Patterson said. “That's what makes Duke ‘Duke.' They've got great players. But Pitt's known for having guys who don't have the accolades but just get down and gritty and grinding stuff out. If that's what we have to do, that's what we're going to do.”
Perhaps that's why Patterson was dismissive of talk of the presence of Coach K standing on the sidelines at the Pete for the first time.
“I'm a Dixon guy, anyway,” Patterson said. “Coach K is a legend, but we're trying to get Dixon to be a legend, also.
“It's going to be crazy. The Oakland Zoo is the best student section in the world, so I'm looking forward to getting out there and seeing how they are. First and foremost, I want to get the W.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Starkey: Pederson had to go at Pitt
- Pederson’s 2nd tenure as Pitt AD comes to abrupt end
- Chryst returns home, named football coach at Wisconsin
- Pitt players support Rudolph for job
- Pitt football fights to overcome steppingstone status
- Many Pitt fans endorse move to oust Pederson as athletic director
- Rossi: It’s OK if Pitt coaches don’t stay
- Analysis: Misunderstood Chryst served Pitt well
- Pitt: Football coach hire comes 1st, athletic director 2nd
- Position move fits Pitt sophomore Artis
- Assistant at Duke eyes Pitt football job