After putting up back-to-back ACC victories to move to 3-2 in the conference, Jamie Dixon’s Pitt Panthers are about to find out how difficult conference play can be beginning Monday night.
Beginning with a trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium to take on No. 4 Duke, the remainder of the Panthers schedule shapes up as a very tough gauntlet for a young team to run.
Needless to say, if Pitt doesn’t win some big games during this upcoming stretch, there’s a good chance that they won’t be dancing come March.
“We will be ready to go and fly down there and get ready,” said Dixon. “We have to take care of the ball and knock down shots. We have to make them take contested jump shots. I believe our best basketball is ahead of us and we have fought and battled to put ourselves in a spot where we are in contention.”
That may be easier said than done considering that after playing the Blue Devils, the Panthers play No. 6 Louisville and No. 12 Notre Dame before the end of the month. There is a game against Virginia Tech sandwiched in there, but that is on the road where Pitt tends to struggle.
Luckily for Dixon’s squad, both the Cardinals and Fighting Irish have to come to the Petersen Events Center, but the Panthers will likely be home underdogs in both contests.
Things don’t get any easier in February for the Panthers either.
After a home non-conference game against Bryant, the Panthers host Syracuse, travel to Louisville, hosts No. 15 North Carolina and then hits the road again for games against No. 2 Virginia and Syracuse.
Needless to say this current stretch of games will determine the Panthers postseason fate.
For now though Pitt remains solely focused on trying to upset Duke, as the Panthers play at Cameron Indoor for the first time in 36 years.
A good sign for the Panthers is that they have won three of its last four games and nine of its last 11 games. Since senior Cameron Wright returned to Pitt from injury, the Panthers own a 9-2 overall record.
Last year, Pitt accumulated the ACC’s best road record at 7-2 and have won 15 of its last 21 contests away from the Petersen Events Center.
They will surely be tested in a big way Monday night as Wright and his teammates are looking forward to the challenge.
“They are a really good team and a ranked team,” said Wright after Saturday’s win. “We were really focused on Georgia Tech today. We will be preparing tonight and tomorrow for Duke. We are excited to go to Cameron Indoor Stadium.”
We will find out Monday night, if the Panthers are prepared to survive what promises to be a tough gauntlet of ACC play.
If they don’t, it could be tough to watch them limp towards the finish line.
Photo Credit: Associated Press