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2017-18 Pitt basketball ACC opponents named

Earlier this month, Pitt's basketball program released its non-conference schedule. A few days ago, the ACC matchups were settled as well.

Pitt's breakdown of opponents looks like this:

Pittsburgh Home/Road: Louisville, Syracuse, Miami, Duke Home: Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, NC State, Virginia, Boston College Road: Florida State, Clemson, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame Yeah, it's pretty tough and the home/road matchups, in particular, aren't light. Three of the four teams are in the top four of the conference, according to Sports Illustrated. Pitt gets the Boston College game at home and that could be beneficial if the goal is to stay out of the conference's basement this season. If there were ever a need to have a home/road series with Boston College, well, this would probably be it. Overall, it's hard to see too many wins here. Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Pitt Football Recruiting: Panthers add a local kicker Will Connelly as 2018 preferred walk-on

Jerry DiPaola in the Trib had a story up earlier this week about a local kicker joining Pitt's program for 2018. Beaver's Will Connelly is expected to join the team next season. Connelly, who had been playing basketball and soccer in high school as well, says he's focusing on football this year.

Connelly's longest field goal at Beaver has been 39 yards but he's up to 65 yards in practice.

He will reportedly join the team as a 'preferred' walk-on. The difference between that and a regular walk-on can vary a little but, in general, it seems that they will automatically be added to the 105-player roster for the start of training camp. Typically, 'regular' walk-ons have to earn their way to reach even that point.

We don't discuss walk-ons too much but the kicking game is one area where Pitt will be seeing an adjustment this year with the departure of Chris Blewitt. Blewitt was invited to a Steelers minicamp back in May after going undrafted.

Currently, Pitt has two kickers on the roster in redshirt freshman Alex Kessman and junior Ian Troost. If Kessman works out for Pitt and stays healthy, they won't have to worry about another kicker for four years. But the Panthers need a capable backup there so the more options you have, the better.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Quadree Henderson named to Walter Camp Award Watch List

Pitt star Quadree Henderson was named to another watch list on Friday - this time for the Walter Camp Award. The award is for the Walter Camp Football Foundation's college football player of the year.

This would obviously be one of the more difficult awards for Henderson to legitimately contend for. It's open to everyone and is similar to the Heisman. Henderson would need to not only have another big year as a return man, but also become a much bigger factor as a receiver to gain any kind of real consideration.

Still, to be named as only one of 40 players on the watch list for such a prestigious award, it's another great acknowledgment of his talent.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Ole Miss football coach made phone call to number tied to escort service

University of Mississippi football coach Hugh Freeze announced his resignation Thursday night after school officials cited personal conduct issues that included a one-minute telephone call to a number associated with a female escort service, USA Today reported.

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The phone call was raised as a potential issue in a legal battle between the school and former Rebels coach Houston Nutt, who filed a lawsuit July 12 alleging that Ole Miss violated the terms of his severance agreement. Nutt’s attorney, Thomas Mars, sent an email to Ole Miss general counsel Lee Tyner, mentioning a “phone call Coach Freeze made that would be highly embarrassing for all of you and extremely difficult to explain,” USA Today reported.

School Chancellor Jeff Vitter, announcing Freeze’s resignation at a news conference, called it a “sad day” for the university.

“While Coach Freeze served our university well in many regards during his tenure, we simply cannot accept the conduct in his personal life that we have discovered” VItter said. 

Athletics director Ross Bjork said the resignation did not involve NCAA allegations but was based on a pattern of inappropriate conduct, USA Today reported.  Ole Miss put a self-imposed postseason ban this season and is already is operating with self-imposed scholarship reductions. The school faces the outcome of an NCAA investigation that traces back to 2012, ESPN reported.

Bjork said the phone call was brought to his attention last week.

“Because the call lasted less than one minute and did not appear at the time to be part of a pattern, we initially attributed this call to a misdialed number,” Bjork said. “We proactively looked into the rest of his phone records. In our analysis, we discovered a pattern of conduct that is not consistent with our expectations as the leader of our football program. As of yesterday, there appeared to be a concerning pattern.”

Freeze went 39-25 at Ole Miss and took the Rebels to a Sugar Bowl victory. He also guided Ole Miss to a pair of victories against Alabama when the Crimson Tide was ranked in the top three nationally.

Matt Luke, the team's co-offensive coordinator and line coach, was named interim coach on Thursday.

Cardiac Hill Poll of the Week: How closely will you follow James Conner with the Steelers?

Pitt fans have a unique connection with former running back James Conner being selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL Draft this year. Conner will not only stay in the area, but he'll be working out with current Panthers over at the shared training complex in the south side.

With the news that Conner's jersey leads all NFL rookies to date, I'm curious about how many people will be following his pro career. I think in general that Pitt fans, like other college fans, tend to not pay close attention to what ex-players are doing in the pros after they move on from the program. But Conner's situation is really unique because he was a star player at Pitt that will now be playing for the pro franchise that a good number of fans consider their favorite as well.

All that said, how closely will you be monitoring Conner's rookie year in the NFL?

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.
Poll How closely will you follow James Conner's career with the Steelers? Very closely Somewhat closely Meh   0 votes | Results

Does Max Browne have competition for Pitt quarterback job? Pat Narduzzi says yes.

Max Browne, once a highly-touted quarterback prospect, transferred from USC to Pitt for this season. The idea is that, in his last year, he will be the unquestioned starter.

According to a recent Post-Gazette article, however, Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi says, not so fast:

"Max Browne is leading the way," Narduzzi said last week, "but he's got a guy right on his footsteps, Ben DiNucci." ... "It's a tight race, and there's not a lot of separation," Narduzzi said. "At the end, E.J. came to my office and said hey, we need somebody, so I said here's what it looks like to us right now. We talk about it every day. But Ben DiNucci has done a great job of developing."

By the way, Narduzzi is referring to the preseason depth chart he had to assemble for the athletics department in that last part.

My general thought on this is no different than it is whenever high-profile transfers move to a program - they expect to play. I won't come out and say Browne was guaranteed anything here but there is zero chance (in my mind) that he would come here if he didn't feel he was going to be the guy going into the season. Any number of teams are looking for quarterbacks and no coach will ever sell me on the idea that a kid like Browne, who could go to a lot of programs and start immediately, would come here with only the expectation that he might play. It's common sense.

Now, if Browne comes here and struggles with the job, he obviously won't keep it. Or if he gets to camp this fall and is so bad that even he realizes he shouldn't have the job, I could see an exception there, too. But if both guys are reasonably close, he's getting the job.

You also have to keep in mind that playing transfers doesn't only have an implication on the current team, but the future. Pitt has been fortunate in the transfer game in landing Nathan Peterman and others who have been above average. If they want to continue to land guys they need to play the ones that come here so they can point to some past successes. You don't think what Peterman did here at Pitt had an effect on Browne?

I'm all for Narduzzi putting this out there and keeping pressure on his top guy (and no, not these top guys). Browne should be under pressure to play well. But do I buy that there's a chance Browne doesn't start to the season unless it's due to injury?

Not necessarily.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Max Browne on Unitas Golden Arm Preseason Watch List

The watch lists keep coming. Pitt quarterback Max Browne was named to his first one this year as he finds himself on the preseason list for the Unitas Golden Arm Award.

That award is a little different than most in that you have to be either a senior or a fourth-year junior to win it. So a lot of the top quarterbacks will automatically be out of consideration for it right away.

Browne is one of the biggest question marks for Pitt heading into the season. He's only attempted a little over 100 passes over three years with USC before transferring to the Panthers. He is the team's unquestioned starter at this point but until we see him working with the offense in actual games, his effectiveness will remain a mystery. But on a watch list with so many quarterbacks (47) and the class specification of needing to be a four-year player, it makes sense that he would be added to the list.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Brian O'Neill, Quadree Henderson named to All-ACC preseason team

Brian O'Neill and Quadree Henderson have both gotten their share of preseason recognition through various award watch lists. They added another honor this week with the news that both made the All-ACC preseason team.

The team was voted on by the media attending the Media Days last week.

As a consensus All-American last year, Henderson was a no-brainer. And by the amount of recognition that O'Neill is racking up while going into the season starting for his third consecutive year, it's no surprise seeing him there as well.

Others, such as Jester Weah, Jordan Whitehead, Ryan Winslow, and Alex Officer all got more than ten votes. Alex Bookser and Avonte Maddox recorded a few votes, and fullback George Aston even got a vote at running back largely on (I'm guessing) the strength of his impressive ten touchdowns last year.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Former Pitt running back James Conner leads all NFL rookies in jersey sales

Former Pitt running back James Conner was selected in the NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier this year. A wave of Pitt fans vowed to buy his jersey when it was released and, well, that seems to be happening. So far, Conner leads all rookies in jersey sales across the league. Not only that but Conner's jersey is close to tops in the NFL.

Steelers running back James Conner was the 105th player chosen in this year's NFL draft. But he's first in jersey sales. According to data released by Dick's Sporting Goods, Conner's jersey is the No. 1 best seller among NFL rookies this year. Among all NFL players, only Dak Prescott and Tom Brady have sold more jerseys this year.

Now, obviously established veterans that have had their jerseys available for years will be at a disadvantage when it comes to that second part. After all, if you've already got a Tom Brady jersey, chances of you buying another one this year are slim. But the fact that he's beating out practically everyone else in the league, including all of the newcomers is mindblowing.

Sales were expected to be pretty high. With him going from Pitt to the Steelers, a team that many Pitt fans also embrace, it's not a huge surprise that the sales are doing well. Conner's story of beating cancer, too, was an inspirational one that reached the entire nation. It was all sort of the perfect storm for selling a jersey. But ranking so high on the list is really impressive even despite that when you consider he wasn't a very high pick and is still outperforming all of the first-round guys, who typically sell a lot.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Sports Illustrated joins CBS Sports in ranking Pitt basketball last in the ACC

You can probably expect to see a few more of these.

Recently, CBS Sports ranked Pitt's basketball team last in the ACC in their preseason rankings. They're not alone in that sentiment as Sports Illustrated says the same, slotting the Panthers dead last in the conference:

The cupboard is quite barren in terms of proven talent for Pitt, which loses its top five scorers (all starters) from a team that went 4-€”14 in league play. Senior Ryan Luther (5.7 ppg) is the top returning scorer and only returning Panther who averaged more than 10 minutes per game.

The only team that will probably give Pitt a run for its money in these sorts of early-season rankings at this point is Boston College. Even that is probably based more on a historical thing than actually looking at the rosters for this season. That's not to say that Pitt can't avoid finishing last in the ACC. But the Eagles return several key players, including their top three scorers.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

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