The Syracuse Post-Standard's annual Big East Conference men's basketball preseason poll was released Tuesday, and the Pittsburgh Panthers are predicted to finish fifth in the 16-team league. The poll, put together by conference writers, projects Pitt to finish behind top-ranked Louisville Cardinals, Syracuse Orange, Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Cincinnati Bearcats.
Last season, Pitt finished in 13th in the league standings, which featured the Panthers finishing 5-13 in conference play. The Panthers were picked to finish fourth in the preseason coaches' poll.
Pitt's positive preseason position could be related to head coach Jamie Dixon, who's help the Panthers earn NCAA Tournament bids in 10 of the last 11 seasons, and the return of key players: Point guard Tray Woodall and forwards Lamar Patterson, Talib Zanna, Dante Taylor and J.J. Moore.
Last season, Woodall averaged 11.7 points and 6.1 assists despite missing 11 games with a groin and abdominal injuries.
The Panthers will need to make up for the loss of star point guard Ashton Gibbs, who averaged a team-best 14.6 points per game.
Pitt's first game is schedule for Nov. 9 against visiting Mount St. Mary's.