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Two programs that have gone two different ways

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Following the Mountaineers 69-60 win in Pittsburgh this season I noticed how the tides have completely turned for the two schools since they last played. I have to admit Jamie Dixon had a great era being the head man at Pitt, but toward the end of his tenure there, things started to slowly go downhill. His last two seasons he had records of 19-15 and 21-12 and were bounced in the first round of the NIT in 2014-15 and were eliminated in the first round of the NCAA tournament in 2015-16.

Since both teams officially departed the Big East Conference, Pittsburgh has an overall record of 87-59 (.595) while the Mountaineers have a 118-64 (.648). Also in that time, West Virginia has played in two Big 12 Conference championships and reached two Sweet Sixteen’s ad Pittsburgh has only made it to the ACC semifinals once and their deepest run in the tournament being to the third round. Pittsburgh has only been ranked in 12 weeks over this span as West Virginia has been ranked an impressive 44 straight weeks in the AP poll and 64 straight in the coaches poll. You can easily tell that West Virginia is making its way to elite status as Pitt is fighting for its life in the ACC Conference in hopes of being completely forgotten about.

One thing I was concerned about heading into this seasons matchup was if the “Brawl” lost any of its hostility, which it did not, thanks to Mountaineer fans. The Petersen Events Center was dominated by the West Virginia faithful and to me, should be considered an embarrassment for Pittsburgh. This is the first time you’ve been able to play your top rival in over 5 years and you have to depend on the away team to pack the arena? We all know that Pitt struggles to fill Heinz Field for home football games, but this is a whole new level of sadness. Would you expect this to happen in the North Carolina-Duke rivalry? No. Although Pitt does have a history of being a solid basketball program they are holding themselves back. The fan base can’t be counted on and that plays a major factor into whether or not home court advantage even exists. It wasn’t the usual Backyard Brawl in the sense that every possession was intense and crucial, even when Pitt climbed back in the game it still felt as if West Virginia was in control of the game since the beginning tip.

As the game ended both fan bases took to social media to exert their emotions toward one another and a statement that I found interesting was,”I don’t care for WVU that much, it’s their Super Bowl to play us, for us, it’s just another game.” My analysis? Well…umm I think you got that backwards buddy, I know Pitt has lost its lust in college basketball, but that doesn’t mean you are still among the top. The landscape has changed and Pitt is one of those programs that has just fallen off the map. If anything, this was Pitt’s “Super Bowl”. Take a look at the current state of both programs and you tell me who desperately needed that win. This is the same squad that has dropped games to Navy, Montana, Penn State and Oklahoma State and needed overtime to beat Mount St. Mary’s. I’m sure the excuses of a “young team” will be thrown around, but what happened last year when there was veteran talent? A 16-17 season is what happened. Hell, West Virginia has 7 players on its roster who are freshman/sophomores and are standing at 13-1 with a win over No.15 Virginia and also won its early season tournament vs Missouri. West Virginia is fairly young, yet will be looking to make a run in the NCAA tournament in March with Pitt watching from home more than likely.

 

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