Pitt braces for tough Big East opener
College Football Videos
The Big East opener is always special, but this season is like a late Christmas present.
No. 6 Pitt (12-1) will begin its conference play against No. 4 Connecticut (10-0) on Monday in one of the most highly anticipated Big East debuts in league history.
This marks only the second time Pitt will open against the rival Huskies — the other was 1996-97 — and will stake the winner to an early head start in a grueling 18-game schedule in a conference with five teams ranked in the top 10 in the nation.
"It will be a nice kickoff," said coach Jamie Dixon, who earned his 200th victory with Pitt's 61-45 win over American on Wednesday. "It's pretty hard to get those two teams ranked and playing together, especially in the first conference game of the year."
Pitt has opened Big East play against a ranked team 11 times, including an 80-78 loss to top-ranked Syracuse in a 1989 thriller at Civic Arena and a victory over No. 5 Notre Dame in '02 in the first-ever Big East game at Petersen Events Center.
But UConn-Pitt games always seem to have more at stake, settling Big East titles and NCAA top seeds in recent seasons.
"It's going to be a tough battle," senior forward Gilbert Brown said. "But we're definitely looking forward to it."
Pitt has won three in a row against Connecticut, which bolted to a surprising start after coach Jim Calhoun's youthful team was picked 10th in the Big East. Guard Kemba Walker, the nation's leading scorer at 26.5 points per game, said he is unable to accurately describe to the freshmen what to expect in league play.
"Words can't even explain what is going to happen," Walker told reporters in Hartford. "They have to be mentally tough. That's it."
Pitt will hold a practice on Christmas Day to prepare for its only regular-season meeting with Connecticut.
"It's a grind," guard Brad Wanamaker said. "Yeah, we want to be home with our families. But we've got something to do."
While the rest of the Big East teams open later in the week, the Pitt-UConn game got an early start because the Huskies lose two Saturdays - days typically used for Big East games — due to nonconference national TV games in January against Texas and Tennessee.
Dixon, for one, said he isn't surprised by UConn's undefeated start, which includes victories over Michigan State and Kentucky.
"To underestimate a Jim Calhoun team, that's pretty hard to do," he said. "Here they are, back where they usually are."Additional Information:
This is only the fifth time in 29 seasons a ranked Pitt team will open Big East play against a ranked opponent:
2009-10 : No. 4 Connecticut vs. No. 6 Pitt
2007-08 : No. 17 Villanova 64, No. 13 Pitt 63
2002-03 : No. 6 Pitt 72, No. 5 Notre Dame 55
1998-99 : No. 18 St. John's 73, No. 20 Pitt 52
1987-88 : No. 14 Georgetown 62, No. 2 Pitt 57
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.
- Steelers kicker Boswell puts best foot forward
- South Fayette, Aliquippa form unique traditions for Thanksgiving Day
- McIntyre students hope Buddy Bench is beneficial to all
- Gorman: Look out for unsung hero
- Penn State suffers home loss to Radford
- West Virginia football team finds late-season mean streak
- Steelers notebook: Tomlin not grooming successor to RB Williams
- Occupying playoff spot on Thanksgiving good harbinger for Penguins
- Kiski Area boys a team in transition after graduation of top scorer
- Penn State-West Virginia rivalry renews at Elite Eight
- Expanded roster helps boost Kiski Area girls