Moving to ACC won’t derail Pitt’s hoops success

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Pitt’s Big East departure bodes well for the ACC’s future dominance of basketball. A conference with the Panthers, North Carolina, Duke and Syracuse makes it more top heavy than any other league, to say nothing of its depth and quality.

However. What does it mean for Pitt?

The Panthers have won at least 25 games in seven of Dixon’s eight seasons and have finished lower than fifth in the Big East once. And they’ve done it by recruiting just two 5-star players in that span. Plenty of 4- and 3-star players, but most elite programs fill their rosters with burger guys.

Would a move from the Big East change all that? Mike DeCourcy posed that very question:

Pitt has been able to visit New York, D.C., Philadelphia and New Jersey and entice recruits—most of them not at the top of prep rankings, but nearly all possessing the toughness and team-first character Dixon values—to play in a league they have known all their lives.

Take away the lure of the Big East, and those recruits might view Pitt as a less-appealing destination. The Big East not only provides the opportunity for a Philly kid to return home periodically for a game against Villanova, or to the region to play Seton Hall or Rutgers or even St. John’s, it also provides the thrill of ending the conference season at Madison Square Garden in the Big East Tournament.

Really think there are dozens of kids from Jersey who’ll be excited about playing road games in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Tallahassee, Fla.?

It’s a fair question. Both conferences receive heavy TV time, so watching the game isn’t a problem. But playing in front of family and friends might be a tall order. Dixon – and thanks to Eammon Brennan for the H/T – is optimistic the change won’t matter.

From an interview with 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh:

“I actually read that article, there was a lot more to that article than just that line, but I mean, there’s still planes, there’s still flights going into New York, D.C., Philly — we’re going to be in there. And hopefully we’re still going to be playing there. I’ll just have to see how it all falls out here in the near future with the rest of the league to see if there’s any more movement. But the reality of it is BC is the conference, Virginia Tech, Miami — former Big East teams — and then now with Syracuse in the league, there’s five of the 14 and there could be some others. So once it all settles, it won’t be quite as much change as it may seem initially.”

Pitt’s recruiting base may change. Dixon might convince fewer NYC-area players and focus on the DC area instead. He might take the tough, slightly unskilled players from the Carolinas that Duke and UNC pass on. Or kids might not care and choose Pitt no matter where they play the majority of their games because the Panthers are a damn good program.

Provided Dixon sticks around, that’s my biggest takeaway from this whole thing. He’s won 216 games in eight seasons, never missed out on the Big Dance and has taken the Panthers to the top of the AP poll. When he coaches, his team thrives. A new conference isn’t going to change that.

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