Here's Friday's Dear Gary ...
Dear Gary: I have to question your low ranking for Pitt this year. Along with Sam Young -- who has been getting nothing but extremely high praise this summer -- and DeJuan Blair, Pitt also boasts arguably the best point guard in the conference in Levance Fields as well as Gilbert Brown, a young man on the verge of great things. Other than finding a reliable shooting guard out of Brad Wanamaker, Jermaine Dixon or an incoming freshman, Pitt is loaded, deep, experienced, and primed for a huge year. I definitely think the Panthers are a Top 5 team going into the season, maybe No. 1 or No. 2 if Mike Cook gets his redshirt granted.
OK, Ryan, let me make sure I understand.
You think Pitt needs to be in the top five.
And I have them eighth.
So we're essentially arguing over three spots in my Ridiculously Early But Still Kind of Fun Preseason Top 25 (and one) that was published last month, correct? If so, wow. And God bless you! Because it's folks like you -- folks who care about this sport 365 days per year and to a somewhat questionable degree -- who keep me going 365 days per year (and provide potential editions of Dear Gary for every single one of them).
Anyway, back to Pitt.
You saw that I have the Panthers eighth, right?
That means we're pretty close in our assessments, though I fully acknowledge a reasonable person could place the Panthers higher because I agree with you that Pitt is "primed for a huge year." In fact, I'm starting to wonder when Pitt won't be "primed for a huge year" considering Jamie Dixon's track record and the way he's recruiting.
Dixon is now five years in at Pitt, for those unfamiliar.
He's made the NCAA tournament every season.
He's won at least 20 games every season.
And now he has a Top 10 (or perhaps even a top five) team ready to compete for the Big East title, and recruiting is also going well considering Pitt just picked up a commitment from Dante Taylor, a 6-foot-8 McDonald's All-American candidate who chose the Panthers over Syracuse, Kansas and Connecticut. In other words, Dixon has continued what Ben Howland started and made Pitt one of the more stable programs in America, and it's comical in hindsight that the school was at least exploring the possibility of hiring anybody other than Dixon when Howland moved to UCLA in 2003.
As for Mike Cook, yeah, that would be a huge boost if the NCAA granted him another year. I'm told Pitt officials believe it's legitimately up in the air, about a 50-50 shot. And if that happens, don't worry, I'll get Pitt into my top five, I promise.