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Pitt with final shot for big win against Louisville, Duke this week

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt's basketball team has some strong conference wins this season against Syracuse (two) and Notre Dame. They'll get two more cracks this week, though, at a statement win.

All three of those victories are above-average ones, don't get me wrong. The Panthers' latest feat, knocking off an improved Orange team on the road on Sunday to sweep the season series, was a truly significant victory. However, what Pitt doesn't have yet is a ranked win and, assuming Duke doesn't tumble out of the rankings for losing to ranked Louisville this weekend, the Panthers will get two more chances to achieve that.

On the surface, both of those look to be extremely difficult for Pitt. They haven't fared well in most of their other ranked games this season and, with the exception of a good showing in a near win against Miami, they have lost in double digits to their other top opponents (Purdue, North Carolina, Louisville, and Virginia). The Purdue game was closer than the final score indicated, but overall, the Panthers have been outmatched by the better teams they've faced.

One thing in Pitt's favor for games against Louisville and Duke, however, is that they get both of those games at home. Games at The Pete are no longer the near-guaranteed win they used to be. But the team is still pretty good there and this season, they are 14-3 there.

Louisville is almost always a tough matchup for the Panthers, but it's also hard to knock off the same team twice in one season. Pitt dropped the first game to the Cardinals and will almost certainly give a better effort this time around at home. And while clearly a better team than Pitt right now, Duke is also not the unbeatable team they often are, having lost last month to the Syracuse team that the Panthers just beat twice this year.

Pitt is not likely to be favored in either contest and both will be difficult. Given how things have gone this year, you almost expect them to lose both. But winning one isn't an impossible task and if they do, the Panthers will finally have their statement win.

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