The Telltale Sign that Pitt Basketball is All the Way Back

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Earlier this season, my colleague Brian Torchia wrote a blog asking the question we've all been wondering: Is Pitt Basketball back?

That sparked debate as to what qualifies a program as "back".  Some just simply answered "Yes".  Others argued that until Pitt is consistently making the NCAA Tournament or winning the conference, they are not back.  

I don't agree with those people.  A) because I don't believe Pitt has to consistently win the ACC to be back, since they didn't consistently win the Big East, but also B) I have one indicator that tells me if the program is back or not.  And that has nothing to do with the play on the court, but something that is reflected by it.  

This indicator, for me, is the crowd at the Petersen Events Center.  See, what I remember most about those Big East seasons under Ben Howland and Jamie Dixon is just how special it was to even get a ticket to a Pitt Basketball game.  We had season tickets to the Pitt football games and, at risk of pissing off all those who hate the attendance police, they were easy to get.  So when my Dad would come home with tickets to see Pitt basketball, it was a big deal.

Every game was raucous.  It didn't matter if Pitt was playing Syracuse or St. John's, a Big East matchup at the Pete had the best gameday atmosphere anywhere for a decade.  Forget Cameron or Chapel Hill, the Petersen Events Center was the place to be.  The Oakland Zoo was also the best student section in the country.  I remember being at the final home game of the 2008-09 season when the graphic on the scoreboard appeared after another Panther win: Full Season - Undefeated at Home.  Those were the good old days.

Then Pitt left the Big East followed by Jamie Dixon exiting for TCU.  The magic left with him.   And as the magic left, so did the fans.  For some home games, the fees on the ticket were more than the base price you were paying for it.  Pitt was accumulating more losses at home in single season than they had in the entire history of the Pete to that point.  

Fast forward all the way to this past Saturday and that has all changed.  The Panthers have started the season 15-7 and 8-3 in conference play.  On Saturday against the 20th ranked Miami Hurricanes, Pitt played in front of its first sellout crowd since 2019.  And the Oakland Zoo was absolutely a difference maker.  

Pitt went on an 11-0 run to end the game and win 71-68.  Turnovers were a plenty by the Hurricanes, which were mightily aided by the hostile crowd and the booming student section.  Had Pitt played that same game on the road they would have most certainly lost.  But the Zoo showed up in a big way and willed the Panthers to their third win over a ranked opponent this season.  

So is Pitt Basketball back?  Ask the students that were there on Saturday.  Ask any fan that was there on the Saturday.  Because when the atmosphere at the Pete is back, so is the Pitt Basketball program.  My fellow Panther fans, Pitt Basketball is back!