While some of Pitt’s rivalries have fallen by the wayside in the wake of conference realignment and changing priorities, one does not appear to be in danger, as West Virginia announced on Thursday morning that the Backyard Brawl basketball series would resume in November.
The Panthers and Mountaineers are set to play in Morgantown on Nov. 12 in the 188th meeting between the two rivals on the hardwood. The series was put on hold in 2020 due to issues that arose from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The resumption of the Backyard Brawl will feature two essentially all-new teams, as both rosters have been ravaged by transfers and exits in other forms. Pitt’s starting lineup in the teams’ last meeting, which was in 2019, consisted of Terrell Brown, Xavier Johnson, Trey McGowens, Ryan Murphy and Au’Diese Toney. Each of those players has transferred in addition to several others. West Virginia’s starting five included Derek Culver, Jermaine Haley, Emmitt Matthews Jr., Jordan McCabe and Oscar Tshiebwe. West Virginia will have none of those players in tow this year.
Given all that, this year’s iteration of the game will largely be about which team is able to rebuild the best and the quickest, as the game will be among the earliest scheduled for both Pitt and West Virginia this season.
For Pitt, that will present certain challenges, considering only three regular contributors — Ithiel Horton, Femi Odukale and Nike Sibande — are set to return from last season’s team. However, the Panthers also have up-and-coming underclassmen in John Hugley and William Jeffress as well as promising transfers in Jamarius Burton, Mouhamadou Gueye, Daniel Oladapo and Chris Payton.
As for West Virginia, the team could find itself in a situation similar to Pitt’s, as it lost top rebounder Derek Culver to the NBA draft, and Deuce McBride and Sean McNeil are also testing the waters at the pro level. Taz Sherman also considered a departure but will return, which should greatly benefit the Mountaineers. And if either of the two players on the fence return, West Virginia would quickly become a heavy favorite to top Pitt in this matchup.
The game will be played at WVU Coliseum, a venue that has only seen Pitt come away with a victory on 10 occasions in 36 trips. In addition, momentum will be on West Virginia's side in the upcoming game, as the Mountaineers have won the last four matchups in the series.