January 1, 2007

2006 Year in Review

With the new year upon us, the Pantherlair takes a look back at 2006: the ups, the downs, the goods, the bads, and, yes, the Bradley's. Here's 2006, month-by-month.

January

Pitt's football and basketball programs hit the ground running when 2006 began: despite a 5-6 record in 2005, Dave Wannstedt had collected 20 commitments by the end of December, and Jamie Dixon's team sat just outside the national polls with an 11-0 record, having concluded their non-conference schedule on New Year's Eve with a home win over #24 Wisconsin. The first polls of 2006 reflected that victory, and the Panthers were ranked #22/20.

The beginning of the new year is a dead period for football recruiting, but as Wannstedt and his staff sat quiet, Dixon's squad provided plenty of excitement for Pitt fans. On Jan. 4, the Panthers opened their Big East schedule with one of the most compelling games at the Petersen Events Center to date, a 100-97 double overtime win over Notre Dame. That game resulted in a 10-spot boost in the polls for the Panthers, and the ensuing wins over DePaul at home and #10 Louisville on the road in the next week pushed Pitt into the top ten in both national polls.

By that point, Wannstedt was back in action, and on January 16th Charlie Partridge received a phone call from Pahokee, Fla., wide receiver Tamarcus Porter, who was ringing to say that he wanted to be a Panther.

Back on the hardwood, Dixon's #9 Panthers pulled away from Rutgers in New Jersey on January 18th, but three days later they ran into trouble when they faced St. John's. The Red Storm got on top early, taking a 14-0 lead to open the game. The end result was Pitt's first loss of the season, and the Panthers dropped to #12/10 in the polls. Two days after the St. John's loss, word broke that Aliquippa junior hoopster Herb Pope had decided to reconsider the commitment he made to Pitt as a sophomore.

But the Panthers bounced back, winning home games against #25 Syracuse and Marquette. The football team had some success, too, picking up commitments from cornerback Aaron Berry and unknown defensive end Greg Romeus, a physical specimen who has potential to become a playmaker on the line. A few days later, Wannstedt got a commitment from Duquesne receiver/defensive back Elijah Fields, but right around the same time Porter took an official visit to Wake Forest and made it known that he was re-opening his recruitment.

Dixon's program got a big commitment of its own near the end of January, when Jeannette sophomore Terrelle Pryor made an early verbal commitment, but the basketball Panthers finished the first month of 2006 with a four-point loss at #1 Connecticut.


February

The first day of the second month was probably the brightest moment of Wannstedt's first year as Pitt's head coach: Letter of Intent Signing Day. Wannstedt and his staff signed 24 recruits on February 1st, including New York defensive end McKenzie Mathews, whose signing and commitment happened concurrently. Porter came back to Pitt the next day to make it 25, and Wannstedt had one of the football program's finest recruiting classes in recent memory.

The hoops team continued a rough stretch, though, following their loss at #1 UConn with a road trip to #17 Georgetown. The Panthers battled the Hoyas down to the finish, but Jeff Green and company were too much and the visitors suffered their third loss of the season. Pitt dropped to #14/13 in the next polls, but they rebounded to beat #9 West Virginia and Cincinnati at home later that week. The result was a return to the top ten in the polls, and the Panthers kept the ball rolling with a win at Providence. But a trip to Marquette later in the week proved to be a tough task and Pitt took its fourth loss of the season.

Right around the same time, Wannstedt and the football program gained some attention again when Keystone Oaks offensive lineman Chris Jacobson became the Panthers' first commit from the class of 2007.

On the basketball side, the #9 Panthers picked up win number 21 when they beat Providence handily at the Petersen Events Center. But their final game in February was a trip south to Morgantown, and the #18 Mountaineers got revenge on the Panthers, winning 67-62. With one game remaining in the 2005-06 regular season, Pitt had a 21-5 record and a top ten ranking

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