Pitt will face Kansas State at the 2019 Fort Myers Tipoff in Florida on Nov. 25, according to a report from Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports on Tuesday. Pitt and Kansas State are part of a four-team field that will take part in the tournament, with the others being Northwestern and Bradley.
The news serves as confirmation that Pitt will face at least three Power Five teams over the course of its non-conference schedule, as Kansas State will join West Virginia and Rutgers in playing Pitt this autumn. The latest installment of the Backyard Brawl will take place on Nov. 15, and the Panthers will meet the Scarlet Knights in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge on Dec. 3. However, one advantage for Pitt is that it will host both teams at the Petersen Events Center.
In addition, Pitt will kick off the season against Florida State at home on Nov. 6 and could meet Northwestern in Fort Myers if it advances past Kansas State in the tournament. If that comes to pass, the Panthers could play as many as five Power Five opponents before the new year.
Pitt faces a tall task in each opponent, as it finished with a worse record than four of the five teams in question. Florida State went 29-8 last season and reached the Sweet 16. However, the Seminoles lost to the Panthers 75-62 on Jan. 14. West Virginia struggled to a 15-21 record in the 2018-19 season but handed Pitt a tough 69-59 loss on Dec. 8, 2018. The Panthers have no recent history with the Kansas State or Rutgers, but both teams bested Pitt on paper, going 25-9 and 14-17, respectively. Meanwhile, Pitt only managed a 14-19 record.
The one team Pitt appears to have an advantage over is Northwestern, as the Wildcats went 13-19 in the 2018-19 season. However, there’s no guarantee that the Panthers will face them. And even Bradley — which is not a Power Five team, to be sure — logged a 20-15 campaign that ended in an NCAA tournament appearance, meaning the Braves might not be an easy out, either.
All this is to say that the 2019-20 schedule marks a significant departure from last season, when Pitt’s only Power Five opponents prior to its ACC slate were Iowa and West Virginia, each of whom dealt the Panthers a loss. The previous season saw similar results, as Pitt went 0-3 against Penn State, Oklahoma State and West Virginia under then-head coach Kevin Stallings.
The Panthers will look to right the ship against Power Five competition in this year’s non-conference slate, and they will do so for the first time with a roster primarily composed of players handpicked by second-year Pitt head coach Jeff Capel. Of course, most of the players Capel has brought in are still underclassmen, but the Pitt faithful will undoubtedly be interested to see how the added depth and frontcourt reinforcements like Karim Coulibaly and Eric Hamilton complement the talented core that Capel assembled in 2018.