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Evaluating the expectations of Pitt basketball heading into Big East play

After a relatively easy non-conference schedule, Big East play is right around the corner. What should our expectations be for the Panthers going into 2013?

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

The Panthers' lackluster non-conference schedule ends this Sunday against Kennesaw State. Pitt opens Big East play on New Years Eve against the eleventh-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats. We're nearly halfway through the season, but what do we really know about this team? We've graded the performance so far, but it's hard to get a real handle on the situation based on the opponents (Are Howard, Bethune Cookman, and Lehigh great barometers?).

First, we know that they can hang with the best of them. Pitt gave a very talented Michigan team all they could handle at Madison Square Garden. The Wolverines, still undefeated and ranked 2nd in the nation, trailed for the majority of that game. James Robinson proved his talent and his "it" factor. Steven Adams has had some rough games, but is showing improvement. Guys like Tray Woodall and Lamar Patterson have played as expected. And some players, especially Talib Zanna, are breaking out.

Secondly, Pitt has done what they were supposed to do so far. They have one loss to a strong team on a neutral court. This is good news for Panther fans. They avoided a slip-up at home against Oakland. Pitt has dispatched their opponents with regular conviction and confidence. That is nice to see.

But again, how can we measure this team? What should we expect against the Cincinnati's, Louisville's, and Syracuse's of the world? We'll find out soon, but I'm curious to see where you envision the Panthers finishing in their final season in the Big East. Can they win the conference? Maybe, I haven't seen evidence that they can't...or that they can. In either case, this should be a fun team to watch the rest of the way. I think they might even surprise us.

Everyone enjoy your holidays and safe travels. Here's an appropriate song to leave you with today:

R.E.M. - It's The End Of The World (via emimusic)

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