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NCAA Basketball

Getting to know the Pitt Panthers

It’s Big Monday. No. 15 Notre Dame jumped up a spot in the Top 25 rankings this morning, but will face their toughest test of the season tonight when they take on the No. 2 Panther in Pittsburgh. You can watch the game on ESPN starting at 7 p.m.

The Irish are less than 48 hours removed from a gutsy, come-from-behind victory over Marquette, but the win means the team has little time to refuel for tonight’s big game. Irish senior Ben Hansbrough admitted to reporters that he was “dead” after leading the team with a career-high 28 points Saturday night. Notre Dame no doubt will be revved up for a chance to knock off Pitt on a huge national stage, but whether or not their legs will be fresh down the stretch is another question.

Pitt (19-1, 7-0) is as hot as any team in the country after destroying DePaul and knocking off then-undefeated Syracuse last week. The talented Panthers’ backcourt is as strong as any and senior center Gary McGhee is a big reason why they currently lead the nation in rebounding. While surviving a Big East schedule unscathed is pretty much impossible, it isn’t too likely Pitt’s run will end tonight — especially since Notre Dame has yet to win a game on the road this season. But let’s see what the Irish are up against…

Panther Alumni – The Pitt college reunions can certainly attract a paternal crowd. Among their esteemed alums are the Father of CPR, the Father of Televison, the Father of Radio and the wife of the Father of Sirius Radio, Howard Stern. But known of them have been more of a father figure than Fred Rogers, before Mr. Rogers had his own neighborhood he called Pitt’s campus home.

Pitt in the News – Most of the city of Pittsburgh is busy celebrating an AFC Championship win over the New York Jets and former Pitt student Darrelle Revis. But the Panthers old head coach, the Wannstache himself, also made headlines today as he landed back in the NFL as the Buffalo Bills’ linebacker coach.

The Roc – Pittsburgh’s panther mascot is not exactly full of imagination. They became the Panther in 1909 when the student body picked the mascot because of the alliteration and the fact that panthers used to be a popular animal in western Pennsylvania. The mascot’s nickname, Roc, comes from Pitt football legend Steve Petro. Petro played for the Panthers during the 1930s and later returned to the school to coach. He is commonly referred to as “the rock on which Pitt football was built.” I’m just glad they dropped the K from his nickname because any good Irish fan knows there can only be one Rock.