Apparently this could be the final Backyard Brawl meeting. There’s a little history involved. You may have caught a brief mention of it somewhere. I’m sure ESPN will show it’s usual reserve and sense of understatement on the topic for tonight’s 9pm game.
I’ve been on record of wanting to continue the Brawl. That hasn’t changed, but the hand-wringing does bring out the contrarian in me. [As does lazy writing that opts for short, one-sentence paragraphs to fill the space rather than any sort of actual writing on the topic. Joe Starkey takes it to Ron Cook levels today, with an epic effort of 12 short, one-sentence paragraphs.]
For a better view, this from Ray Mernagh is superior in style and substance.
Pitt fans don’t want to go to WVU anymore because of the behavior of the crowds in Morgantown. That’s fine and it’s also understandable. So don’t go. I’m sure the Pitt players want to continue to go to Morgantown. It’s the kind of setting that gets your juices flowing as a player. It’s you, and your 14 guys/coaches, against the world. It’s a test. It’s what a rivalry should be. It’s what Truck Bryant and Kevin Jones and Jabarie Hinds will relish tonight when they step on the floor and get verbally assaulted by the Oakland Zoo.
The Pitt/WVU basketball series has given us far too many memorable evenings/afternoons to stop it because both are headed to greener pastures. Both programs will continue to be strong in the future and playing each other can only help.
I suspect that Pitt and WVU will end up missing next year in the basketball side, but I believe that going forward there will be an annual game. Unlike the arguments against continuing in football, basketball is an easier sell.
There’s more room on the non-con schedule in basketball. Even as an away game, it is a low cost deal for Pitt to still add a quality non-con game. Neither Pitt or WVU have to worry about recruiting issues in each other’s backyard for basketball. That just isn’t a factor.
Coach Dixon definitely is hedging. Not giving anything away about the future.
“We’ll see what happens,” Dixon said. “Things are changing. A lot of things are going on. When things settle, we’ll go from there. No decision will be made [right away].
“I think it’s been a great experience for us. I’m not the one who makes all the decisions. There’s a history way before I got here. There are a lot more people who have been through a lot more games than myself. It means more to some. We’ll see how everything plays out. We have to see how everything falls.”
Dixon was asked whether he will take into account that the game has been played every year for almost a century.
“Sometimes there are things you can control and sometimes there are things you can’t,” he said. “I don’t know where this one will fall. I haven’t sat down and looked at what we need to do. No decision will be made [right now] for good reasons. We won’t make any decisions at this point. Let’s get all of the information, see where we stand. The biggest issue for us is a football game. That’s what we have to be focused on as a university.”
WVU Coach Huggins has said he wants to continue to keep playing, but he’s not going to make it a big public issue now.
“Honestly, I’d be kind of shocked [if it ended],” Huggins said. “I mean, we’ve been playing since 1904. We’re all looking for good non-conference games.”
Indeed, the WVU-Pitt basketball series has survived changing conferences before. Most recently, Pitt left the Eastern 8 in 1982 for the Big East, while WVU stayed with the same core teams to form the Atlantic 10. Despite the shift, West Virginia and Pitt alternated home games each year until the Mountaineers joined Pitt in the Big East in 1995.
So there will be talks.
“I want to talk to Jamie [Dixon, Pitt's coach] about it when the season is over,” Huggins said. “Obviously now isn’t the time.”
To give credit to Huggins, he has never shied away from scheduling good teams on the non-con. Home and away.
It really is an annual game that would benefit both sides in terms of non-con SOS and having a low expense road game every other year. Heck, if both sides were smart, they would make sure to schedule the annual game in mid- to late-December. When winter break is taking place, and everyone struggles to fill a home arena. A good way to assure that the attendance gets the boost. Not to mention, it would definitely get picked up by ESPN.
At the same time, Pitt will hope that the the bench actually contributes. J.J. Moore is now admitting that he doesn’t have confidence right now.
Moore has struggled in particular with his 3-point shooting. He is 4 for 31 (12.9 percent) from behind the arc in Big East play.
“The seniors — Nas and Ashton — they tell me every day that I’m a good shooter, so keep shooting,” Moore said. “That’s what I’m doing in practice, shooting and trying to build my confidence back up. Coach is telling me every day how to work on it and get better at it. I’m just taking it in and trying to find my flaws and keep shooting and get better with my shot.”
Forget the shooting. Just look to drive. He’s so hung up on getting his stroke back, that he ignores open lanes.