Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Conference Slate Will Challenge Panthers

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Conference Slate Will Challenge Panthers

Article excerpt

For months Kevin Stallings, his Pitt staff, players and anyone who follows the program knew which ACC teams the Panthers would be playing in the 2016-17 season and where those games would take place.

Still, when he first had a chance to pore over the newly released schedule, a thought couldn't escape his mind.

"It looks almost comically difficult," Stallings said Monday with a chuckle. "It's just one really good team after another, but that's the part that makes it exciting."

It's a sentiment that would arise sometimes when he saw the Southeastern Conference schedule in each of his 17 seasons at Vanderbilt. But with a new job come new challenges, and those obstacles, at least this season, are sizable. In Stallings' first season at the school, his team has two meetings apiece with conference powers North Carolina, Syracuse, Louisville and Virginia, highlighting an 18-game league slate revealed Monday by the ACC.

Those difficult tests begin early. After opening conference play with an afternoon game on New Year's Eve against Notre Dame at Petersen Events Center, Pitt has to play Virginia (Jan. 4), at Syracuse (Jan. 7) and at Louisville (Jan. 11) in a span of seven days. All three squads are widely projected as top-25 teams heading into the season, with the Cavaliers and Cardinals often appearing in the top 15.

Another difficult, albeit briefer, stretch comes in late January and early February when the Panthers play North Carolina (Jan. 31) and Duke (Feb. 4) in back-to-back road games. The latter of those two contests will air at 1 p.m. Saturday on KDKA. With Division I's top-ranked recruiting class joining an already-talented group of returning players, Duke has been almost universally labeled as the preseason No. 1 team while North Carolina, after its run to a national championship appearance last season, has been pegged by many as a top-10 or even top-five squad. …

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