Could this be the last Backyard Brawl?

Tomorrow could very well be the last Backyard Brawl between the West Virginia men's basketball team and the University of Pittsburgh men's basketball team.  After getting the nod yesterday from the Big East, West Virginia was allowed to move to the Big 12.  So will this move be an end to a great rivalry?

The first meeting between these two teams in basketball occured on February 17, 1905 and they have been playing each other every year since 1918.  West Virginia and Pittsburgh have played each other 183 times over the years with the Mountaineers leading the All Time Series 95-88.  West Virginia also holds the largest margin of victory by the score of 103-63 which happened in 1966.  The rivalry has been heated the last few years which involved one case of West Virginia fans throwing quarters at the Pittsburgh assistant coach.  In the last 10 games these two teams have played, Pittsburgh currently leads 7-3 and the Panthers also have a current winning streak of 4.  The Mountaineer women’s basketball team has been playing Pittsburgh since 1975 and leads the series 25-18.  Their final game against the Panthers is February 27th.

The last time these two teams played, the Panthers came away with the win by the score of 72-66 in Morgantown.  If the Mountaineers want to come away with a win and end this rivalry on a high note then they will need every single player on the team to step up.  Kevin Jones has been a monster this year and he will without a doubt win Big East Player of the Year.  Last time they played Pittsburgh, Jones had 21 points, 13 rebounds, 1 steal and 2 blocks.  He will need to play like this again in order to keep the Mountaineers in the game, but he can’t do it alone. 

Truck Bryant has been very inconsistent all season, one game he dropped 32 points and then the next game he had zero points.  Bryant has to stay focused and take smarter shots if he wants to be able to efficiently help Jones out on the offensive side of the ball.  One unsung hero of the Mountaineers offense has been freshman guard Jabarie Hinds.  Last time he faced the Panthers, Hinds had 10 points, 3 assists and 1 block.  Since that game Hinds has been up and down, but he remains a big threat if he can get hot and Hinds can also dish the ball out to his fellow teammates. 

On the defensive side of the ball, the Mountaineers had a total of 4 steals, 5 blocks and 10 trnovers the last time they faced the Panthers.  The defensive play in West Virginia’s past two games has seem sluggish at times, especially at the end of the game when the score can be tight.  They will have to play smart and hard no matter what the scoreboard says.  One area the defense is very good at is rebounding; they out rebounded Pittsburgh last time 32-28.  While that is a small margin of victory, the Mountaineers will need to get as many rebounds as they can and make them count when it comes time for them to play offense.

Since this could be the final meeting between these two teams, the Mountaineers need to not only end it with a win, but celebrate the victory on Pittsburgh' home court.  This will not only be the most exciting game of the season, but also the most emotional.

Should the Backyard Brawl continue even with the Mountaineers heading to the Big 12 and the Panthers staying in the Big East for a few more years before they move to the ACC?  Please comment.

Prediction:  WVU-76   Pitt-68 

Player of the Game: Kevin Jones 22 points, 15 rebounds, 3 assists


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