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Pitt wrestling up a spot in the polls after Duke win

With the regular season now complete, there was one more set of polls due to come out before postseason action. The Panthers had been No. 24 in the rankings and got a slight bump up this week to No. 23.

The move up came after the Panthers topped Duke, 28-9.

Pitt has this weekend off then heads to the ACC Tournament where wrestlers will be hoping to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

The Panthers have had a pretty tumultuous year. In addition to some injuries, the team lost its head coach in the middle of the year and finished only 2-3 in conference. All things considered, it was nice to see them be able to stick in the Top 25 for the last regular season poll

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 blows lead and drops game to Wake Forest, 63-59

Despite playing on the road against a team that needed this game as badly as the Panthers to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive, I felt that Pitt had a pretty good chance to win Tuesday's game against Wake Forest. The Panthers had won three out of four and were fresh off a double-digit win against No. 17 Florida State this weekend.

At one point, Pitt held a 19-point lead and seemed poised to take the game. But after yet another late collapse, they go home 63-59 losers. Full disclosure here in that I didn't see the game. From the gamethread and checking out the play-by-play afterwards, it looks as if I benefited from that.

The frustration with this team is entirely justified, of course. Blowing 19-point leads against beatable teams is sort of ridiculous. And when you consider all of the leads they've lost or nearly lost this year, it's even more incredulous. And I can't even go down the Kevin Stallings rabbit hole right now.

This is less about their ability to make the NCAA Tournament (which I wrote earlier that they could even with 14 losses) right now and more about what they've shown they are at this point. Can Pitt still technically make the NCAA Tournament? Well, if they won their last three games and took one in the ACC Tournament, maybe. But when you consider the reality of that with a team that just blew a 19-point lead to a team that is in the same exact position they are and one of the ACC's weaker teams, then I don't know you how you justify that such a run is possible.

I remember thinking at one point this week that I would love to see this team squeak into the NCAA Tournament because they've shown they can play when they're running on all cylinders. But for whatever reason, this team simply can't hold leads. I still believe that if they got into the NCAAs they could put together a two-game run and make a Sweet 16. But when you think about it, just about any P5 program (and many mid-majors) can do that, too, if they play their best. While this team has some talent at the top, stringing off two wins to advance to the second weekend isn't really something exclusive only to them.

In the end, Pitt likely to be undone by their refusal or ability (I can't quite decide which yet) to put teams away. I'm not sure if this is a team that runs out of gas or a team that simply gets disinterested. I'm inclined to believe it's the latter but, knowing the position they were in absolutely needing a win and having so many sizable leads blown or nearly blown this year, it's sort of mind-boggling that disinterest continues to take over.

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 softball team up to No. 19/20 in latest rankings and receives first-place vote

Last week, the Pitt softball team got into the college softball rankings for the first time in program history. The Panthers won four games this past weekend against Northwestern and Nebraska and with a 9-0 start to the season, were bumped up several spots in the latest polls.

This week, the softball checks in at No. 19 in the USA Today poll and No. 20 in the ESPN poll. Those polls ranked Pitt No. 24 and No. 25 last week, so they jumped up five spots in each poll.

Of some importance is that Pitt not only moved up several spots but also managed to get a first-place vote in the coaches poll. Yep. First place.

Now, I have no idea if coach Holly Aprile has a vote or not but if so, we might have our source. If it wasn't Aprile, I'd love to know who slotted the Panthers that high. The Pitt article states that one coach from each conference has a vote so it's far from a given that Aprile is that representative, obviously.

Regardless of if it was Aprile or not, this is exactly why I've said for some time that coaches shouldn't be voting in a poll. Outside of inducing some raised eyebrows from outsiders, there's zero incentive to not give your team a favorable ranking and that poll, along with the ESPN poll, is obviously a determining factor in teams getting into the NCAA Tournament and where they are slotted.

That said, I cannot be more clear about this: If it was Aprile who voted the team No. 1, I have absolutely zero problem with it. Just like I would have zero problem with a coach of a team with a terrible record voting their team in the top 25. At the end of the day, a coach's job is to put their team in the best position to succeed as long as it's within the rules. And that success determines the stability of their job. As long as the poll exists, coaches in it using it to their advantage are well within their rights to help not only their teams, but themselves. Some would argue, even, that a coach not using it to his/her advantage isn't fully doing their job.

This weekend, the Panthers will play a combined five games against Southeastern University, Troy, and Lipscomb. Each of those teams have decent records so far but all have at least two losses right now, too, including a few to not-so-great teams. Pitt might not win all five games but the chance of that happening seems quite reasonable.

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.

Against the Odds: Wake Forest is a solid favorite over Pitt

Sometimes Vegas knows best when we see unusual lines and this may be the case with Pitt and Wake Forest. Let’s hope not.

Sometimes when I see a line that doesn’t make sense, I just tell myself, “Vegas must know something.” Let’s hope not for tonight’s game between Wake Forest and Pitt. Vegas has installed Wake as a 6.5 point favorite this evening, despite the recent strong play of the Panthers. Both teams are in desperate need of a win to keep their very slim NCAA Tournament hopes alive. I can’t believe I just said that this late in the season about Pitt.

The game will tip off at 7 p.m. in Winston-Salem, NC. Danning Manning brings his Demon Deacons in with a 15-12 record and 6-9 in the conference. However Wake has dropped three of it’s last four, while the Panthers are reversed in that regard. Maybe it is that the game will take place on Wake’s campus at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum that has Vegas thinking this way.

Maybe Vegas sees a distinct advantage over Pitt in the paint with sophomore forward John Collins. Collins is averaging close to a double-double this season. The 6’10” big man is dropping 19.0 points per game and 9.6 rebounds per contest. Sheldon Jeter, Mike Young, and others will have their hands full and keeping him under control is priority number one for Kevin Stallings crew.

This is a big one for both teams in the terms of ACC seeding and, as mentioned, the Big Dance. Win and you keep your hopes alive. Lose and you keep putting yourself in a bad, bad spot in the eyes of the committee. Not sure many thought this would be a big game heading into the season. But it is and Pitt can put itself in good position with another upset tonight.

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@BrunoPittsburgh

Ryan Solomon named ACC Wrestler of the Week after upset of No. 3 Jacob Kasper

As I said in the recap of the Pitt-Duke dual, Ryan Solomon had a decent shot to take home ACC Wrestler of the Week honors after his upset win over No. 3 Jacob Kasper. Sure enough, Solomon had his name called on Tuesday for that award.

Pulling off the victory against Kasper was no small feat. He hadn't lost in 20 bouts and the loss to Solomon was only his second of the season. He's very much a national championship contender.

It was his second time securing the honor this year as he won it back near the start of the season as well. 133-pounder Dom Forys has also won it twice.

I'll be looking to see how this impacts his overall individual rankings as well. Solomon was already a top 20 guy and this should give him a nice bump.

The Panthers get a break this weekend and then will participate in the ACC Tournament the following weekend in Raleigh.

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-Wake Forest Q&A with Blogger So Dear

Had a chance to do a short Q&A with Robert Reinhard over at SB Nation's excellent Wake Forest site, Blogger So Dear. Be sure to check in on them leading into the Panthers' next game this week.

Check out his answers to my questions below and head over there to see my answers to his questions a bit later.

After a couple of down years at Wake Forest, Danny Manning seems to have righted the ship a little. Are fans enthusiastic about what he's done there so far?

I would say fans are overall pretty positive about Manning. He definitely has his flaws, but seems to be improving on them, and is doing a very nice job of building the program. The vast majority of the team will be returning next year (Collins certainly up in the air), and has an excellent recruit in Chaundee Brown joining the team next year. He inherited a bad situation from Jeff Bzdelik, but has bounced back well. I'm excited to watch his growth and have been pleasantly surprised with the performance so far this season.

Sophomore forward John Collins has been a handful all year but has even stepped it up lately with 60 points in the team's last two games against Clemson and Duke. What are the chances of him leaving early for the NBA either this year or next?

Unfortunately I think they are pretty high. I have seen him around 15th or 20th for this upcoming draft on most mock drafts. He is still young for his grade (just turned 19), so hopefully he will stay for one more year. Wake will be very good next year if he returns, but I believe it's likely that he's gone after this season. I'd say it's almost a guarantee that he leaves by the end of his junior season.

Even at 15-12 and however unlikely that it may be for Pitt, there's still talk about sneaking into the NCAAs since they have three wins over ranked teams and a few more opportunities. Wake has had some very close losses against ranked Duke, North Carolina, and Xavier teams. The team seems really close to being an NCAA Tournament caliber squad. Are there similar hopes for Wake or are fans mostly looking to next year in terms of reaching the Big Dance?

Wake fans still believe that it's possible this season. Though the team is just 15-12, the Deacs are currently 30th in Ken Pom, 32nd in BPI, and 37th in RPI. They've been extremely close in your aforementioned games, and have been unlucky because their games against teams around 25th overall have been on the road. That said, Wake definitely blew some opportunities by blowing late leads against Duke and Clemson. Still, Wake has a lot to play for with games remaining against Pitt, Louisville, and a road trip to Virginia Tech. If Wake can win two of those three, and then potentially an ACC Tournament game, then they are absolutely right there. It will be interesting to see how the committee weighs advanced metrics vs. win-loss record.

One of the stories of Pitt's season has been a continued decline in attendance. That's happened over the course of the past few years when Pitt hasn't been as successful on the court. Has Wake Forest seen increased fan interest with their play this season?

Wake has definitely seen an increase this year, as it's Wake's best team since at least the 2009-2010 season. In fact, Wake's game against Duke was the first sellout since that same season. Wake fans went through some very rough years when Jeff Bzdelik was the coach, so being in NCAA Tournament contention again is extremely refreshing.

How do you see this game playing out?

I like Wake Forest in this one. The Deacs are one of the better offensive teams in the country and think they should be able to score fairly easily against Pitt. Pitt has definitely been playing better as of late, but I like Wake's chances at home in a game they really need. 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.

Panther of the Week: Sheldon Jeter

The streak of Mike Young and Jamel Artis is finally over as they move aside for Sheldon Jeter

Michael Young or Jamel Artis have won the Panther of the Week dating back to last season. This past week fellow senior Sheldon Jeter takes the award and ends the streak.

It wasn’t just Jeter, though, as Cam Johnson also had a solid week. But Jeter’s massive game against Florida State puts him over the top. I said it would either be a really good week or really bad week if Artis or Young were unseated. We had a mixed bag, but it was oh so close to being very good.

Pitt started the week with a bad loss to a very improved Virginia Tech team. Jeter had a very bad turnover late to help seal the loss but it still doesn’t take away from his solid game. Jeter finished with nine points and 10 rebounds, along with two assists, one steal, and two blocks. Cam Johnson finished three assists shy of a triple-double in the game, but it wasn’t enough.

Saturday saw a nice upset at home of top-25 ranked Florida State. The upset in front of the Zoo and the retro uniforms reminded us of better times with the program. Jeter definitely did his part. The Beaver Falls product scored a career high 29 points to go along with eight rebounds, one assist and one steal.

He started off the upset with a nice start before getting into foul trouble, although his second foul was questionable to say the least. The Panthers’ bench allowed Kevin Stallings to sit Jeter for a good while. The second half saw him pick up where he left off and down the stretch he seemed to be all over the floor. It was nice to see the senior playing up to his capabilities.

I think more than one person has said that Pitt would be a tough team to play if someone else steps up to go along with Artis and Young. This proves it. The truth is that for the better part of the last month, Pitt has been playing better and it’s mostly because of other players stepping up. In addition to Jeter and Cam, Rozelle Nix has provided some spark off the bench along with a few others. If they can continue to trend up, it could be a fun ACC Tournament, rather than a one and done with Ryan Luther scheduled to come back.

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@BrunoPittsburgh

Pitt baseball opens season with 3-1 start

Last week I wrote about the Pitt baseball team needing to step up a bit this season. While they aren't perfect, the team got off to a decent start winning three out of four games this past weekend.

Playing down in Kissimmee, FL, the Panthers defeated Delaware twice (5-3 and 3-2) and also knocked off defending Big Ten champ, Ohio State, winning 7-2. The lone loss came in a tough defeat when Pitt gave up a 4-3 lead in the ninth inning and loss to Kansas State.

Offensively, it was Alex Amos and Frank Maldonado leading the way. Amos is batting .417 to lead the team and Maldonado has a team-high six hits, is batting .353, and four of his six hits were doubles.

All four of Pitt's starters (Josh Mitchell, Josh Falk, Dan Hammer, and Matt Pidich) had solid outings. None has an ERA over 1.50 and all went at least six innings without giving up more than one earned run. It was the team's relief pitchers that ran into trouble. In only eight combined innings of work, the relievers gave up five earned runs and had the blown lead against Kansas State.

Pitt heads down to Vero Beach next weekend to play Siena three times.

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.

Can the Panthers still reach the NCAA Tournament? Let's have a look.

At 15-12, many have written of Pitt as a contender for the NCAA Tournament. But the Panthers have also won three of their past four games and with a victory against No. 17 Florida State, have added another quality win to their resume.

Pitt senior Sheldon Jeter had a monster game with a career-best 29 in that 14-point win against the Seminoles. And according to him, the NIT isn't in the team's plans just yet.

"We're playing to get into the [NCAA] Tournament," Jeter said. "We still believe in each other and the team. It doesn't matter if other people don't believe in us. We believe in ourselves and we believe that we can still make it. We haven't given up hope, or said we'll go play in the NIT [Tournament]. We still believe we can get into the [NCAA] Tournament."

Sure, there's a hint of 'what do you want him to say' about that. And if he had said the team is just hoping to make the NIT, he would be killed for that. But it also serves as a reminder that the Panthers aren't yet completely out of things.

Make no mistake about it - the team needs a lot of help. Only four games remain and three of them are on the road. A fourth is against No. 10 North Carolina. In terms of 'gimmes', there really aren't any. And while the game at Wake Forest might be the most winnable, the Demon Deacons are 15-12 - the record same as Pitt.

As I said Saturday, I believe that the team probably needs some combination of at least five wins to have a shot at getting in. And to me, losing only once more might be the Panthers' only option. That would mean either running the table in these last four regular season games or winning at least three and then winning the NCAA Tournament. That last option seems the more difficult one because teams will be playing even harder to win the conference championship and improve their own resume.

If the Panthers lose two more games, can they get in with 14 losses? Historically, it's not likely but it has happened. Several at-large teams have made it with that many and at least two (Arizona in 2008 and Michigan in 2011, according to this site) even had 18-14 records. Pitt probably doesn't get in with only an 18-14 record but at least there's precedent there.

A somewhat realistic path for Pitt would be winning three of the next four games and then winning two more in the ACC Tournament. That gets them to 20-14 and since it would mean defeating either Virginia or North Carolina in the regular season, would give them at least one more high-quality win. 19-14 doesn't 100% mean they're out but you have to think their chances are significantly lower.

But even in the 14-loss scenario, there's also the idea that Pitt's resume isn't terribly strong. They haven't beaten a Top 5 team or anything. And while they have a few nice wins, it's not as if they've beaten great team after great team. They also have a terrible loss to Duquesne and while committee members may take into account that Jamel Artis didn't play, it's still a bad loss. They also have several head-to-head losses against teams like Virginia Tech, Miami, and Syracuse (with whom they split) that are all playing to get in as well. Also, we have to account for things like conference tournament upsets where some mid-major conferences steal an extra bid if a lower-ranked team wins their tournament, etc.

In other words, 13, not 14, might be the most acceptable number for the Panthers. And, of course, even that's no guarantee.

And don't even consider a 2-2 split in the regular season. That gives them 15 losses, looks incredibly damaging, and means that they need to win the ACC Tournament to get in.

A couple of Panthers, alluded to effort in the post-game press conference on Saturday. Jamel Artis was one of them. "We can play against any team in the ACC," the senior said. "It just depends on whether or not we show up to play that day." At this point, the Panthers don't have much room for margin and showing up to play is no longer an option.

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.

UNCC quarterback, brother of Panthers tight end, arrested on rape charges

University of North Carolina at Charlotte quarterback Kevin Olsen was arrested on rape charges Sunday, police said.

Kevin Olsen in jail, records show. Charges of 2nd degree forcible rape, cyberstalking, assault on female, 2nd degree force sex offense. pic.twitter.com/SKlzrxcdhg— Blake Hanson (@BlakeWSOC9) February 20, 2017 <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Olsen is the younger brother of Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen.

Kevin Olsen was arrested on charges of second-degree forcible rape, cyberstalking, assault on a female and second-degree forced sex.

The Charlotte 49ers were Olsen’s fourth team since September 2014.

>> Read more trending news

Out of high school in Wayne, New Jersey, Olsen committed to the Miami Hurricanes but left after being suspended from the team several times and failing a drug test.

Olsen never played at Miami after being charged with a DUI and possession of a fake or stolen ID in September 2014.

Olsen transferred to Towson, in Maryland, where he was kicked off the team in March 2015 for violating team rules.

Olsen played football in the fall of 2015 for Riverside California City College.

He played well there and signed with the Charlotte 49ers in December 2015.

Olsen won the 49ers' starting quarterback position last spring.

However, he appeared in just six games last season.

He lost his starting quarterback job halfway through the season.

UNCC Charlotte football coach, Brad Lambert, said he and the university are aware of his quarterback's Kevin Olsen's arrest.

UNCC released this statement:

The University administration has been in close communication with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department regarding its arrest of student-athlete Kevin Olsen Sunday afternoon.The allegations in this incident took place off campus. This incident occurred a week after a separate, unrelated case of alleged on-campus sexual assault involving acquaintances. Olsen has been suspended from Charlotte Athletics, and the University is reviewing the case consistent with its disciplinary procedures. Due to the ongoing CMPD investigation and federal protections on student information, the University will have no further comment on the investigation at this time.

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