First-year Pitt women's basketball coach Suzie McConnell-Serio has spent the better part of the summer building team chemistry and setting the tone for the way she wants the Panthers to play.
But her biggest challenge has been to make sure the players understand that last season -- and the season before that -- are ancient history.
"We try not to talk about the record that this team has had previously," McConnell Serio said Thursday. "Hopefully, it is something that is behind us and we are looking for a fresh start, hopefully to surprise some people.
"We have all the pieces to the puzzle and the biggest thing has been developing the chemistry. That is something that we have been trying to build on and off the floor."
The record the Panthers are avoiding talking about is 0-34, which is their conference record the past two seasons in the Big East, including tournament games.
Senior guard Ashlee Anderson said that the players are well aware of what has gone on in the past and are working to reverse that trend. She believes a fresh start with a new coach and a new conference should give them a lift.
"We don't talk about numbers statistically," Anderson said. "We just want to get better. Going into the season we have our non-conference schedule, but our main focus is to work on conference play. We have a lot of teams that are coming from the Big East. There is that competitive nature coming from the Big East to the ACC, but now we are facing new teams that we have to also prove ourselves to."
McConnell Serio knows that winning in the Atlantic Coast Conference will be a challenge and that's why she's focused on improving each day rather than a win total.
She said the opportunity to compete in the ACC is extremely exciting but there is a lot of work that needs to be done to get the Panthers ready to compete at that high of a level.
"We look at it as a great challenge going into the ACC, but our players are looking at it as a fresh start," she said.
The good news is she has one key piece to the puzzle in place -- point guard Brianna Kiesel, who should be one of the best guards in the conference.
And Pitt will have all five starters and its eight top scorers returning from last year.
Kiesel, like Anderson, is excited for the opportunity to play in McConnell-Serio's guard-oriented, up-tempo system and said the opportunity to learn from one of the best point guards in women's basketball history has been a wonderful experience.
"There is a lot to be learned from her including how to be a leader on and off the court," said Kiesel, who averaged 14.9 points per game last season. "Having coach McConnell here has brought new optimism to the team and with me especially. She is trying to get me to become more vocal and I think it is paying off."
A rule change this season could be a big help to the Panthers this season. The women's game will have the 10-second violation rule, which requires teams to get the ball across center court within 10 seconds or it is a turnover.
This means there should be more of a reward for teams that press, something McConnell-Serio's teams always do very well.
"I'm hoping we can cause some turnovers and change the flow of the game," she said. "But I think it will speed up the game and it will be played at a faster pace."
Pitt will begin the season with an exhibition game Nov. 3 against California at the Petersen Events Center.
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise.