In the offseason, Pitt lost Steven Adams to the NBA Draft, J.J. Moore and Trey Zeigler to transfers, and Tray Woodall and Dante Taylor to graduation. That was reason enough for most voters to leave the Panthers off their ballots early in the season and it was easy to see why.
Pitt had a slew of questions heading into this year and with so many freshmen expected to play key roles for the team, it was easy to be down on them early.
The Panthers, though, responded as they usually do, racing out to an 18-3 start so far this year. Few people would have been disappointed with the way the team has played this year and barring something abnormal, Pitt will again reach the NCAAs and could even do so as a Top 25 ranked team.
The glaring thing missing for Pitt to this point is the lack of a true statement win. Pitt has beaten up on its competition, recording numerous 20-point victories, but their best win to date is likely a 33-point beatdown against Clemson or the 21-point win against Stanford.
Good, but not great.
So far, Pitt has squandered their opportunities against the heavyweights they've faced. They lost by one to Cincinnati, by five to Syracuse, and by 15 to Duke this week. The Panthers' biggest problem is that they don't have many chances left for the big win their resume could use. The ACC is down (okay, really down) this year and Pitt really has only a few opportunities left to come up big.
In fact, you might even say that there's only a single chance left - when Pitt hosts Syracuse on February 12th.
Beating Virginia this week will be nice, but I'm not convinced it will be a statement win by the end of the year. The Cavs are 15-5, but their resume isn't all that impressive. Their record includes a loss to Green Bay and an ugly 35-point loss to a very average Tennessee team. Like Pitt, they've lost their big games against the likes of Duke, VCU, and Wisconsin.
Pitt also has a chance left against North Carolina, but that game is on the road and a win against the Tar Heels isn't really the big deal that it is most seasons. North Carolina is a solid team with several big wins earlier this year, but at 12-7, they could even miss the tournament if they're not careful. Their big victories are evened out a bit with questionable losses to teams like UAB, Belmont, and Miami.
The Panthers also get games against Clemson and Florida State, but are really statement wins? I don't think so.
The good news for Pitt is that, as I've pointed out recently in comment sections, they have oodles of good wins. There are the Stanford and Clemson victories. A 20-point home win against Maryland and a 15-point win over a decent Wake Forest team. Road wins at Georgia Tech, North Carolina State, and Maryland. Lots to like there.
But if you're hoping for a signature win, the Panthers may have only one chance left.