Sept. 22, 2010
PITTSBURGH-The University of Pittsburgh released its entire 30-game women's basketball schedule on Tuesday. The challenging schedule features 18 contests against schools which advanced to postseason play last year and 14 home games at the Petersen Events Center highlighted by preseason No. 1 and back-to-back NCAA Champion Connecticut, NCAA Tournament Elite Eight participant Duke, rival West Virginia and Big East foe Notre Dame.
"This is the most challenging schedule that we've ever had," Pitt Head Coach Agnus Berenato said. "We start off in January by playing four of our first five conference games on the road. It is an extremely difficult stretch because we will be playing teams which advanced to postseason play last season and who are also at the top of our conference."
Pitt is slated to play 16 Big East regular season contests including four of its first five games on the road. The Panthers will host eight opponents at the Petersen Events Center including DePaul (Dec. 7), NCAA Sweet Sixteen participant Notre Dame (Jan. 15), Marquette (Jan. 29), Cincinnati (Feb. 1), South Florida (Feb. 12), Providence (Feb. 15), West Virginia (Feb. 19) and Villanova (Feb. 28). Road opponents include Louisville (Jan. 9), Seton Hall (Jan. 12), defending national champion Connecticut (Jan. 22), Syracuse (Jan. 26), West Virginia (Feb. 5), Rutgers (Feb. 8), Georgetown (Feb. 23) and St. John's (Feb. 26).
The Panthers will also play a challenging 13-game non-conference schedule. Five of those teams reached postseason play during the 2009-10 season, including preseason top-10 pick Duke (Nov. 24), NCAA Tournament participants St. Francis (Pa.) (Dec. 1) and Austin Peay (Dec. 28), along with WNIT selections Texas Tech (Dec. 19) and Duquesne (Jan. 5).
In November, Pitt will host perennial power Duke at the Petersen Events Center on Nov. 24. The last time the two schools met, Duke claimed a close 51-49 victory in the Maggie Dixon Classic at New York's Madison Square Garden. This year's game marks the third all-time matchup between the two schools and first held on either team's campus. Pitt will also travel to one of the most difficult places to play in the country in Minnesota for a Nov. 17 game in the Big Six Challenge. Pitt is one of two Big East Conference schools to earn an invitation to the inaugural Big Six event.
"We wanted to make sure that we will be prepared for conference action by playing tough programs like Duke, Minnesota and Texas Tech," Berenato said. "Duke is a top-5 team. We are excited to play teams from the ACC, Big Ten and Big 12. Those games will give us an idea of where we stand early in the season."
Pitt will also compete in the Las Vegas Hoops Classic Tournament with contests against Texas Tech (Dec. 19) and Texas-Arlington (Dec. 20). Other non-conference games include Radford (Nov. 21), Loyola, Md. (Nov. 28), Mount St. Mary's (Dec. 4), at Valparaiso (Dec. 11) and at Central Michigan (Dec. 31).
Pitt begins its season by playing seven of its first nine games at the Petersen Events Center. Action begins on Friday, Nov. 5 with an exhibition game against Seton Hill. The Griffins advanced to their first-ever NCAA Division II Tournament last season. In what will be one of the first games of the NCAA Division I 2010-11 season, the Panthers open the regular season by hosting Youngstown State on Nov. 12. The Pitt-YSU matchup marks the second annual "School Day" held at the Petersen Events Center. Following the success of last year's event, local school districts are encouraged to attend and participate in the educational field trip.
"We are looking to have a strong start to the season," Berenato said. "In past seasons, we have opened the season primarily on the road, but it was important for us to play more home games this season. We wanted our fans and surrounding community to have the opportunity to see us play. With so many freshmen on the roster, we wanted to give them experience at home before taking them on the road."
The Big East Championship is scheduled for March 4-8 at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. The First and Second Rounds of the NCAA Tournament begin March 19-22.
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