David Butler II-US PRESSWIRE
Playing UConn always brings a bit of an added intensity, but before the season began, it just wasn't looking like a huge game this year. There were the standard questions about both teams and to the nation, this won't be a big deal. The fact that the Huskies were banned from the NCAAs this year and Jim Calhoun retired made it even more lackluster.
But Pitt should be treating it as if their season were on the line.
The Panthers have a good chance to make up some ground on the Big East standings with a win here. After the game with the Huskies, Pitt gets a road game at Providence and then comes home for DePaul. Those are two of the weaker teams in the conference and there's no reason to think Pitt can't win both (insert appropriate joke about the Panthers losing to DePaul last year here).
A win here and the Panthers could be on a nice little four-game roll if they show up. A loss, though, and feelings about the team won't be nearly as good - even with wins over Providence and DePaul. The same questions will continue about the Panthers' ability to defeat a quality team ... and they should. There was the Georgetown win, obviously, but if Pitt falls to UConn, that will look like even more of a mirage than it does now.
The bottom line is that Pitt desperately needs wins over the next three games. With games against Syracuse and Louisville on the horizon, things are going to get much more difficult.