[EDIT: Updated to reflect the final day of conference games.]
Senior day is always an emotional one. Every player that passes through this program has left his own impact. I am always sad to see each one bid farewell.
The home finale in 2009 might have been the most memorable ever. That class was headed for an NCAA #1 seed, beat #1 UConn for the second time that day, and finished as the overall winningest class (112-31) in Pitt history. Levance Fields is my favorite Panther of all-time.
As fun as that was, your 2011 senior class will likely be the greatest senior class in Pitt history. Look at the numbers and tell me I’m wrong.
Big East Gauntlet:
In their four seasons, these seniors have collected a 53-19 conference record in the nation’s hardest conference. The Panthers are tied with Louisville for first in that four-year period. Pitt had won no more than 13 games before 2009, and this class might collect 15 twice.
In the 2007-08 season, Pitt finished a mere 7th (10-8) in the Big East after losing two starters to injury, and then won four games in four days to become Big East Tournament champions. The class then followed that up with 2nd place finishes in 2008-09 (15-3) and 2009-10 (13-5). Having already clinched at least a share of the 2010-11 regular season title, the finale against Villanova will decide it outright.
They had a winning record against 14 Big East teams, with at least one road win against all but Notre Dame and Louisville.
History’s Deepest Conference:
In 2010-11, Pitt has lost three conference games (by a total of 9 points) in a league where 11 teams are predicted to make the NCAA tournament.
In 1985, the Big East set a record by finishing 18-5 in the NCAA tournament. With a possible 11 entrants this year, that win total could be matched.
Home Court Dominance:
The Pete has become famous for its home court advantage. These seniors have tallied a 68-4 home record in their career, including a perfect 37-0 against non-conference foes. Their record hosting ranked teams is 8-3, with an undefeated 6-0 against the AP top-5.
Pitt had at least one win against every opponent, and no more than one loss.
The class also picked up a win at Duquesne’s Palumbo Center in 2008, the final win ever in the Civic Arena in 2010, and the first win ever in the Consol Energy Center in 2011. They finished 7-0 vs Duquesne and Robert Morris.
The seniors finished 48-4 in total against non-conference opponents. They defeated #6 Duke at Madison Square Garden in 2008, won the Legends Classic tournament in Newark in 2009, lost to #3 Texas in the CBE Classic championship game in Kansas City in 2010, then avenged that loss a year later by beating Texas in the 2K Sports Coaches vs Cancer at Madison Square Garden.
Complete Season Success:
During each year, Pitt has tallied at least 25 total wins, 11 non-conference wins, 10 conference wins, and a NCAA first-round win, with no more than 10 losses.
Pitt tied the all-time best season record in 2009 at 31-5. With 26 wins already this year, it is possible they can beat that mark.
The seniors have already moved into second place for career wins at 110-27. They are also currently in second place behind the 2004-05 class in winning percentage at 80.3%.
They advanced to Pitt’s first modern Elite 8 in 2009 and are aspiring to make the Final Four for the first time since 1941.
While much of the credit for the four years of success goes to the players, it would not be possible without Jamie Dixon. It is easy to forget that Jamie has the highest career Big East winning percentage, and is already in 7th place in career Big East wins.
He already broke the record for most wins in his first eight seasons, and doesn’t look like he is ready to stop.
His team was predicted 9th a year ago, and got them to 2nd and earned a NCAA #3 seed. With roughly the same squad, they entered this season in the AP top-5 and are poised for the school’s second ever NCAA #1 seed.
It wouldn’t be Pittsburgh if we didn’t have doubters. If anything is better than what this class has already accomplished in four years, it could be what they do this month.
Go ahead and doubt them, it wouldn’t be the first time.
Brad Wanamaker was a walking turnover in his freshman year.
Gary McGhee picked up three fouls in one second in his sophomore year.
Gilbert Brown was labeled a bipolar scorer in his junior year.
But now as seniors? Go ahead and doubt them one more time. They’ll get one more opportunity to prove you wrong.