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Pitt basketball faces No. 7 Duke tonight

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NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Virginia Tech Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

The Pitt men’s basketball team remains winless in the ACC and things don’t get any easier tonight as the team faces No. 7 Duke tonight.

The Panthers get the game at home but that’s about all they have going for them, to be honest. Pitt will again be without senior Ryan Luther, who Kevin Stallings indicated recently could still be a while from returning. Pitt will also face a Duke team that likely isn’t going to be in the best of moods after being upset by NC State their last time out.

The Blue Devils will be a little shorthanded, which I suppose helps. They will be without their backup center and possibly sixth man Javin DeLaurier, who is listed as doubtful. But those are role players for Duke and don’t cancel out the loss of Luther, who is Pitt’s best player.

Is Duke a top five team? The jury on that is still out. They beat a really good Michigan State team earlier in the year and also defeated then No. 7-ranked Florida, but the Gators have since fallen off and have four losses already. In addition to the NC State loss, Duke was also shocked by Boston College, making them only 2-2 in their past four games.

But while the Blue Devils may not be elite this year, they still figure to have plenty enough to beat Pitt who continues to struggle. The line opened at 16 12 points in favor of Duke and has grown to as much as 20. Pitt is not only expected to lose, but to lose big.

Could Pitt keep it close? I mean, anything’s possible. The Panthers had a similar scenario last month facing West Virginia, who is now all the way up to No. 2 in the polls. Pitt was able to keep that one relatively close, losing by only nine and even having a chance to win it until fading late. But even in that matchup, the Panthers were dominated early and given Pitt’s recent losses, it looks like it was more about West Virginia taking their foot off the gas and less about Pitt being as good as them.

Interest in the game is pretty low and that’s a product of what can happen with a weak team. Look back at the Duke game several years ago in Madison Square Garden as well as the hype around playing teams like North Carolina and Duke since joining the ACC. Tickets for the game on StubHub can be had for $60 and you can get lower-level seating for only a little more in some sections. Those prices might even fall more as the game gets closer.

Student interest seems high, which is good. That in and of itself will make the atmosphere halfway decent. But Pitt could go into this nationally-televised game with plenty of empty seats and a few years ago, that would have been unheard of.

The game will be televised nationally at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN2.

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