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Pitt-West Virginia MBB preview: Will the Panthers bring their fight to the brawl?

The Backyard Brawl, basketball edition

NCAA Basketball: Tenn-Martin at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Game Time: 7:00 PM

Opponent: West Virginia Mountaineers

Head Coach: Bob Huggins (16th year at WV, 38th as a head coach)

Conference: Big 12

Record: 1-0

Last Game: W 76-58 vs. Mt St Mary’s

2021 season: 16-17 (4-14 10th Big 12)

Top Player: F Emmitt Matthews (1st game stats: 15 PTS, 7 REB, 5 AST)

It’s time to write another chapter in the history books of the backyard brawl for the Pittsburgh Panthers! This edition features a near entirely different cast from last year, with 2 of the 10 starters from last year likely to get minutes tonight (Nate Santos on Pitt and Kedrian Johnson for WVU). With both teams being large beneficiaries of the transfer portal this past offseason, it’ll be interesting to see if the typical animosity associated with this rivalry is as present as in past matchups.

West Virginia has won the last five matchups, and they’ve done so handily, per this tweet from everyone’s favorite college basketball commentator Jon Rothstein.

For Pitt to turn the tides of the rivalry, they would need to replicate something closer to the second half offensive performance they put together against UT-Martin, as opposed to that slow out of the gates, sub .300 shooting from the field first half. Pitt should hold the advantage inside on the boards even with the absence of John Hugley IV. Between Frederiko Frederiko, Blake Hinson, and the twins, Pitt holds a relative size advantage over the Mountaineer front-court.

It’s worth noting that the Mountaineers had a large turnover problem in their first contest, totaling 18. If that same feisty Pitt defense that showed up against UT-Martin makes another stout showing, the lack of chemistry present in the WVU squad could be exposed by the Panthers.

The Mountaineers are the betting favorites, at last check they were sitting at 2.5-point favorites. If Pitt’s past shooting woes continue, the Mountaineers could win this handily on the back of crisper execution, but I don’t see it working out that way. This Panther squad has a little more charisma and chemistry to it than squads past, and Blake Hinson will make a clearer case that he will put together an all-ACC type of season this year tonight.

Prediction: I’ve got the Panthers winning a rowdy affair 72-66 on the back of a Hinson 25+ point game and a good showing from Greg Elliot behind the three-point line. Both teams got a little scrappy in their first contests, so expect some fireworks tonight.