I'm sure no Panther would admit it, and obviously head coach Jamie Dixon wouldn't, but the team's game against North Florida is nothing more than a final tuneup before a test against Maryland in Madison Square Garden.
Pitt battles the North Florida Ospreys on Saturday and, let's face it - they shouldn't be heavily tested.
UNF is a relatively new Division I program and is still in the process of getting its feet wet. How hard has it been? Well, North Florida's best season in the five full seasons it's played was last year when the team went 13-18. There's certainly no shame in that - programs take a while to get off the ground. But if Pitt has even the slightest bit of trouble in this game, a full out panic alert wouldn't be out of the question.
So what's the tie-in? Why is North Florida on Pitt's schedule? Part of the reason may be because head coach Matt Driscoll is a Pittsburgh native, coached high school in the area, and also coached at local colleges LaRoche and Slippery Rock.
The Ospreys also don't have any players taller than 6'7". Pitt should be more than a handful in the paint and the Panthers should have a lot of easy buckets down low. And of course, we should see a big advantage in rebounding. North Osprey was already a poor rebounding team last year, ranking 307th in reboudning differential. They'll be playing a physical and much taller Pitt team, so I epxect them to have serious issues getting second-chance shots on offense and limiting Pitt to one shot attempt per possession.
And if North Florida wasn't at a big enough advantage already, the team's game against Pitt will be the second road game in as many nights for UNF. The Ospreys travel to Florida State the night before. To top if off, those two games are just the beginning in a brutal schedule. North Florida plays Pitt, Kansas State, Missouri, Purdue, Texas, Maryland, and Florida State. Five of those teams are ranked and three are in the top ten.
Good news for local fans - it appears the game will be on FSN Pittsburgh.