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Pitt releases 2016-17 non-conference basketball schedule

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

We've known several of Pitt's non-conference basketball games for a while. Last month, it was announced that Pitt's ACC-B1G opponent would be Maryland. News that Pitt would play Penn State broke the month before that. And we knew since last year that the Panthers would appear int he 2K Sports Classic with Michigan, Marquette, and SMU.

A few other games dropped here and there, but this week, Pitt formally announced the full slate of non-conference games (and for the diehards, there will be an exhibition game against Pitt-Johnstown):

• 2K Classic (possible games against Michigan, Marquette, SMU as well as two preliminary games still TBD) [Nov. 11, Nov. 14, Nov. 17-18]

• Yale [Nov. 22]

• Morehead State [Nov. 25]

• at Maryland (ACC -€” Big Ten Challenge) [Nov. 29]

• Duquesne (The City Game -€” CONSOL Energy Center) [Dec. 2]

• Buffalo [Dec. 7]

• Penn State (Never Forget Tribute Classic -€” Prudential Center -€” Newark, N.J.) [Dec. 10]

• Rice [Dec. 17]

• Omaha [Dec. 21]

• Marshall [Dec. 28]

Heavy Hitters

The big games for Pitt look to be whoever they face in the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden, Maryland, and to a lesser extent, Yale. Don't sleep on Yale, who was 23-7 last year and not only made the NCAA Tournament, but beat Baylor in the process.

Rivalries

Penn State and Duquesne (particularly the latter) are both teams Pitt should defeat, of course. But playing on neutral courts against teams that would like to do nothing more than shock the Panthers could make them challenging.

Meh

Morehead State and Buffalo fit well here. Both won 20 games last year and return quite a bit - and Buffalo even made the NCAA Tournament by winning their conference. But at home, again, these are games you like to think Pitt will win without too much trouble. Lose either and we've got problems.

The Rest

Looking at you Rice, Omaha, Marshall, and whoever else the Panthers get in the preliminary 2K Sports Classic Games before MSG (options are: Eastern Michigan, Gardner-Webb, Howard, and IUPUI). All fine teams, but if Pitt drops any of these, it will be a long year.

Verdict

Pitt will be challenged by a few teams here but overall, it's also a non-conference schedule that will allow them to get out and prepare for the difficult ACC. There's not a slam dunk monster opponent exactly, but it's also hard to see Pitt running away from the likes of the 2K Classic teams or Maryland - especially with none of those at home.

The Yale game might be the most intriguing to me. It's a team that upset fifth-seeded Baylor in the NCAAs and return some key players.

Overall, it's a non-conference schedule that could result in four losses if Pitt doesn't show up or adjust well to new head coach Kevin Stallings. But if you're asking me to make a pick, I'll say the Panthers come out relatively unscathed with two defeats.

How many from your vantage point? Vote in the poll below.

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