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The Brawl is Back: Pitt to face WVU in basketball

Pitt and West Virginia to resume hoops series

Pittsburgh Panthers v West Virginia Mountaineers Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The University of Pittsburgh and West Virginia University announced today that the two schools will renew the Backyard Brawl on the hardwood. The series will be a four year deal with the first game being in Pittsburgh next season and again in 2019, while West Virginia will host the game in 2018 and 2020.

Pitt and West Virginia have met 184 times throughout history, with the Mountaineers edging the Panthers 96-88. According to the press release on the official Pitt website, the Panthers have won 10 of the past 14 meetings, including five of the past six games held at the Petersen Events Center.

The game has always been a spirited rivalry, and new Pitt head coach Kevin Stallings acknowledged that as well while watching from the outside.

“I saw the passion and intensity of the Pitt-West Virginia series from afar and felt it was important that we work to renew the series,” said head coach Kevin Stallings. “Our goal in scheduling is to put together games that will generate great interest from our amazing fan base as well as prepare our team for conference and postseason play. Bob Huggins is an outstanding coach and competing against his program enables us to accomplish both of those things. I can’t wait to witness this rivalry firsthand.”

One of requests by the fan base to new athletic director Scott Barnes was to upgrade the basketball non-conference schedule. Whether it was warranted or not, the non-conference schedule by Jamie Dixon in recent years was under heavy fire by both the fans and the media. Barnes has listened to a degree, and getting a home and home with West Virginia is a great start. It’s a competitive game for one, and one filled with passion. Some of Pitt’s old Big East rivalries still resonates more with the fan base than games against ACC opponents.

The Backyard Brawl will be coming back in football in a few years as well. Last September the two schools got together and made that official. With West Virginia off in the Big 12 and Pitt is the ACC, the rivalry has more less died. Conference realignment has claimed plenty of rivalry casualties, but it’s nice to see Pitt and West Virginia get this done, especially in basketball. Scheduling games in football is complicated that takes years of planning. Basketball, on the other hand, takes very little effort. It’s been a shame the game has been on a hiatus since 2012.

This rivalry has provided many memorable moments. Since the 2001-02 revival of Pitt basketball, the two programs have played in some epic showdowns. West Virginia made the final four in 2010, and they have a fantastic team that crushed Pitt in Morgantown. Nine days later, however, a scrappy Pitt team defeated the Mountaineers in Triple overtime 98-95 in perhaps the craziest game in Petersen Events Center history.

There was also the 2008 game that will be remembered for the Ronald Ramon buzzer beater to beat the Mountaineers 55-54. One more that sticks out is when the 14th ranked Panthers beat the 9th ranked Mountaineers 57-53 on February 10, 2006. It will be remembered mostly for the shutout of an all-time Pitt villain, Kevin Pittsnogle. He was held scoreless on 0-12 shooting.

What has made this rivalry great the past 10-15 years or so, has been the emergence of both basketball programs. Jamie Dixon had Pitt as a perennial top 25 team making the tournament annually while a member of the Big East conference. John Beilein and then Bob Huggins had West Virginia enjoying similar success. Every time the two teams met in recent memory, it seemed to be a nationally televised game with either one or both teams in the top 25. Meaningful showdowns against a local rival makes for fun games. It may not be the same as it was in the Big East, but the renewal of the Backyard Brawl is a positive measure for both programs.