Credit: University of Pittsburgh Athletic Dept.
Since the day Ralph Sampson watched in awe as newspaper editors around the country were forced to ask "Where the hell is Chaminade?", the Maui Invitational, as it later came to be known, has become one of the most prestigious events of college basketball's regular season. This fall, for the first time ever, Pitt will participate.
The Panthers will be in a field Nov. 24-26 that includes the host Silverswords, as well as Arizona, BYU, Kansas State, Missouri, Purdue and San Diego State. Arizona and the Aztecs both won regular-season conference titles and went deep into the NCAA tournament, for which K-State also qualified. All three made Bleacher Report's C.J. Moore's preseason top 25.
Meanwhile, of the rest, Division II Chaminade notwithstanding, only Purdue finished the 2013-14 season with an RPI outside the top 50.
In other words, you might want to keep your eyes glued to a certain four-letter cable sports network during your Thanksgiving break. Longtime rival Syracuse won the Maui Invitational in its first year as an ACC member, so there will already be something of a spotlight on the Panthers.
In other nonconference scheduling news, Pitt can now look forward to being part of the Tom Crean farewell tour when it visits Indiana for the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Dec. 2. It will be the Panthers' first appearance at Assembly Hall since World War II, and obviously, it's another big-name opponent.
Anyway, having the chance to play in such a low-risk, high-reward setting as Maui should be of great help to this team developmentally. There's a reason UNC and Michigan State signed up for the inaugural Carrier Classic a couple seasons ago, there's a reason Duke and Kansas agreed to meet in Chicago last year, and so forth.
Jamie Dixon understands the potential for his team to lose and maybe even to get embarrassed. Even so, he'll gain a clearer picture of what he has to work with, and his players—particularly the underclassmen—will mature as a result of the experience.
At the very least, fans and journalists who belong to the "Pitt never plays anybody" camp will now have less to complain about.