The Daily Press

Pitt’s surprising first-place ACC run fueled by disrespect

- By Will Graves AP Sports Writer

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The anger is still tangible to Greg Elliott and the rest of the Pittsburgh Panthers. Accessible, too.

A couple of swipes on Elliott’s phone takes him back to the preseason poll that picked Pitt to finish 14th in the 15-team Atlantic Coast Conference. Four months, 19 wins and one surprising sprint to the top of the ACC later, it still makes the guard shake his head.

“I think our whole team, put together, felt disrespect­ed,” the Marquette transfer said. “Everyone felt like they had a chip on their shoulder and had something to prove.”

The edge has not dulled even with Pitt (19-7, 12-3 ACC) inching toward its first NCAA tournament berth since 2016 — maybe because the slights continue to pile up.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim claimed earlier this month the Panthers were among the teams that “bought” players to help turn their programs around, a comment the Hall of Famer quickly walked back.

And Pitt is still waiting to return to the AP Top 25 poll, nibbling at the fringe recently but struggling to impress voters despite a resume that includes a sweep of North Carolina and home upsets over Virginia and Miami that restored some of the swagger to the Petersen Events Center.

A venue that was among the rowdiest in the nation more than a decade ago during the program’s Big East power years has had more of a library-like feel in recent years. But there are signs of life: The

“Oakland Zoo” student section that sits — well, OK, stands — courtside during games has been packed almost all season. The paying customers that avoided the program in droves as it plummeted to the bottom of the ACC are returning. The first sellout since 2019 watched the Panthers stun the Hurricanes in the final seconds.

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