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This Date in Panthers History - January 5, 2009

Pitt is number one for the first time.

Syracuse v Pittsburgh Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The 2008-09 Panthers headed into Big East play with a spotless 12-0 record and #3 national ranking. The December 29 poll had UNC at #1 and UConn at #2 as had been the case all season. It would be short-lived as UConn fell to #11 Georgetown at home 74-63 that night in the Big East opener for both teams.

Pitt meanwhile took care of business by defeating Rutgers 78-72 on December 31 and that same Georgetown team easily in their own building 70-54 on January 3. Pitt would move to number two where they had been 16 times before. UNC just had to handle BC at home in a little Sunday Night ACC action. Spoilers, they didn’t. Behind a clutch 17 points from freshmen super sub and future Detroit Piston Reggie Jackson, BC won 85-78.

The next afternoon, Pitt was on top of basketball world for the first time. They received 70 of the 72 first place votes in the AP poll and 30 of 31 in the Coaches poll. The three who didn’t select them kept UNC at #1. Pitt would beat St. John’s and South Florida at home and spend another week at number one before suffering their first loss of the season on the road at Louisville. Speaking of Louisville, Pitt somehow has spent more weeks at #1 in their history (3) than them (2). That’s wild.

The basketball team will always live in the shadow of the football team at Pitt (even if the Sun Bowl happened a week before this). That’s what happens when your school is an assembly line for NFL Hall of Famers, but it’s a huge deal when one of your best basketball players scores eight points off the bench in an NBA regular season blowout win. I know all of us would rather have Pitt be unranked forever and win a national title than be ranked number one and choke in March, but there is something magical about seeing your team at the very top. And we all felt that magic for a few weeks ten years ago.

Hail to Pitt.