College Basketball Preview: Pittsburgh vs. Cincinnati

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 4, 2009

Associated Press
PITTSBURGH ó The Big East didn’t need to add an extra game, book an empty stadium, negotiate a TV slot or split into divisions to get what the SEC, Big 12 and ACC already enjoy.
No, an exceptional season by Cincinnati and a very good one by Pittsburgh, plus an astute schedule maker, gave the conference parity with some of the other top conferences without all the extra muss and fuss.
Finally, after 19 seasons, the Big East is playing a football championship game.
It’s a de facto one ó No. 5 Cincinnati (11-0, 6-0 in Big East) already owns a share of the Big East title, and No. 14 Pittsburgh (9-2, 5-1) can claim only the other half. The real payoff to the winner of today’s sold-out game at Heinz Field is the BCS berth and all the rewards, monetary and otherwise, that go with it.
There’s even an outside chance ó if No. 3 Texas loses to No. 21 Nebraska in the Big 12 title game, the polls mesh and the BCS rankings concur ó that Cincinnati also could play for the national title next month. That’s a lot of ifs, but also a lot riding on a single game.
“Whoever set up the schedule this way in the Big East, we’ll call them geniuses because it pits the two best teams in the league over a long period of time,” Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly said.
The latest game in a relatively new rivalry ó the schools have met only eight times, seven of them Pitt victories ó would have been even bigger if then-No. 8 Pitt had beaten rival West Virginia last week.