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Pittsburgh's men's basketball team will begin its mission to build on last season's NCAA Tournament appearance and prove Blake Hinson made the right decision when it opens at home against North Carolina A&T on Monday night.

The Panthers, who finished their prior campaign 24-12, reached March Madness for the first time since the 2015-16 season and notched two wins in the bracket.

Pitt was picked to finish ninth in the ACC preseason poll, but Hinson doesn't agree with that prediction.

"Honestly, I feel like we are the best team in the ACC," said Hinson, a returning senior forward and a preseason second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference pick.

Hinson averaged 15.3 points and 6.0 rebounds last season. As part of a Panthers group that set a school record for three-pointers made and attempted, Hinson also paced the conference in treys (97) after transferring in from Iowa State.

Starting center Federiko Federiko is also back after averaging 6.6 points and 5.3 rebounds last season. Forward William Jeffress will return to the court after missing last season because of a foot injury.

The visiting Aggies closed out last season 13-19. They bowed out in the second round of the Coastal Athletic Association playoffs. They're led by new head coach Monte Ross, who won the league's Coach of the Year award at Delaware in 2014.

He spent the last three years as an assistant on Temple's staff.

"North Carolina A&T has a very enthusiastic fan and alumni base, and they love basketball," Ross said after being hired. "The excitement and passion for the men's basketball program will be matched by our passion for building a first-class program."

With a fair amount of turnover, forward Jeremy Robinson, who averaged 3.9 points last season, is the team's leading returning scorer. The Aggies were picked to finish last in the conference preseason poll.

--Field Level Media

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