The Norman Transcript

Sports

January 27, 2014

Panthers can make an ACC statement

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon has his team well drilled.

The next game is the most important of the season, regardless of what name is stitched across the front of the jersey.

Still, junior guard Cam Wright allows things will be different Monday night when the 20th-ranked Panthers face No. 18 Duke.

Thought Pitt has already swept Maryland and won on the road at Georgia Tech and North Carolina State, Wright is well aware that walking onto the court and seeing Mike Krzyzewski will be borderline surreal.

“Looking down to my left and seeing Coach K on the sideline, I don’t even know how to explain it,” Wright said. “That will be a pretty remarkable moment I guess.”

One that will make the somewhat emotionally painful transition — though financially lucrative — move from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference worth it. Tickets were going for as much as $1,200 on the secondary market on Sunday afternoon, good enough to pay for season tickets and then some.

“People have been talking about it, about tickets,” Dixon said. “It doesn’t really bother me but my assistants have been a little flustered.”

Maybe, but it hasn’t translated on the court.

The Panthers (18-2, 6-1) were Big East royalty for much of the millennium before moving to the ACC. While the destinations on their conference road trips have changed. The results have not.

Pitt’s only loss in league play so far is to fellow Big East ex-pat and No. 2 Syracuse, which says something about the state of the Panthers’ new home.

The ACC hasn’t quite looked like the ACC through the season’s first three months. That includes the Blue Devils (16-4, 5-2), who have already lost on the road to Notre Dame and Clemson.

It doesn’t get any easier for Duke, which travels to the Carrier Dome on Saturday. Two losses would all but take the Blue Devils out of the conference title race by the first week of February.

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