In sports, teams have rivals, and teams have enemies.
The Backyard Brawl is a matchup between two enemies.
The bitterness between Pitt and West Virginia has been evident since the two schools met for the first time over 125 years ago on the gridiron, and over 100 years ago on the hardwood. Separated by just over 75 miles, the two schools have arguably as much animosity towards each other as any two schools in the entire nation.
While Pitt leads the football series all-time, the Mountaineers have won the last three football matchups, and the last four basketball contests. After a one-year absence, on Friday, the Brawl will return to the court in front of a sold-out crowd in Morgantown, with both programs looking for a hard-fought victory.
Friday’s contest is a chance for Pitt to make a statement. Since falling to The Citadel in the season-opener, fans have already counted the Panthers out of this season. However, if they can light a fire within themselves and pull out a victory in Morgantown, this team can prove everybody wrong and make the University and the fanbase proud.
One game into Jeff Capel’s fourth season at the helm, the Panthers do not have much going for them on and off the court. However, if Capel can prove that he can rally his players, out-coach the legendary Bob Huggins, and take home a victory on Friday, then maybe, just maybe, Pitt can gain some confidence and surprise people this season.
The Panthers are going to need sophomore studs Femi Odukale and John Hugley to stand out, as they did against The Citadel. In addition to those two, Pitt is going to need a third, and even fourth, scorer to step up against WVU. Capel is looking at guys like Nate Santos, the freshman wing, and Mo Gueye, the veteran four-man, to step up and put the ball in the basket.
West Virginia struggled to shoot the ball in its first game of the season against Oakland, and if Pitt can limit the Mountaineers from outside as Oakland did, then it will at least have a chance to leave things up to the offense. Then, look to Odukale, Hugley, and the supporting cast to catch fire offensively and lead the Panthers to victory.