West Virginia at Pittsburgh: 2019-20 storylines for Backyard Brawl battle

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NEW YORK – MARCH 12: Travon Woodall #1 of the West Virginia Mountaineers handles the ball against Brad Wanamaker #22 of the Pittsburgh Panthers during the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 12, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The Backyard Brawl returns for the third year in a row as West Virginia and Pittsburgh face-off early in the season. What are the storylines to look for in this rivalry game?

While it may not have the flare or the national spotlight of rivalries such as Duke vs. UNC or Syracuse vs. Georgetown, the Backyard Brawl between WVU and Pitt has plenty of grit. Only 75 miles apart on I-79 in the heart of Appalachia and pick-up truck country, neither program is a stranger to hard-nosed basketball. And, both teams come in with something to prove, adding to the upcoming fireworks. Pitt comes into the season looking to get back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since Jamie Dixon left the program to coach TCU after the 2015-16 season. WVU is looking to rebound after their first loss since 2012-13 last year. Both coaches will be trying to get their teams off to a strong start to the season in a big rivalry game.

This game is the third match-up within a four-year series set to bring the rivals back together. The two schools used to be in the Big East conference together and would play at least twice annually. After a brief hiatus with the two schools each changing conferences, the Brawl returned on December 9, 2017, with WVU taking a 69-60 victory over Pitt. Overall, WVU leads the series with a 70-41 regular-season record. Pitt has yet to beat WVU since the series renewal and has not pulled out a win over the Mountaineers since a 72-66 win in Morgantown.

This year, coach Jeff Capel’s Panthers will look to defend their home-court against Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers. After slightly shaky starts to the season for both teams, each will look to get a quality win early to build a strong foundation for the rest of the season. With relatively evenly matched teams and plenty to play for, look for a hard-fought, tight battle to decide the latest edition of the Backyard Brawl.

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