While it’s premature to assume college basketball teams have begun prodding at each other’s “bubbles,” a win in Thursday night’s 174th hardwood version of the Backyard Brawl is enough to exhale at least one puff in either team’s inflating sphere of NCAA Tournament hopes.
The Pitt Panthers (17-5, 5-4), 6-5 since beating Duke, have four of the top six Big East teams (three on the road) remaining on their schedule. West Virginia (16-6, 5-4) plays just one team (at Connecticut) with a better league record the rest of the way. For both teams this is, to steal a phrase from Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, “a big game because it’s the next game,” but woe is the team that falls to .500 with the rest of the scrapheap Big East also-rans.
Now, with most readers of the Mondesi’s House already in-the-know as Panther fans –– and also injury apologists with Cook and Fields out –– here’s the dope on the 2007-08 Mountaineers heading into Thursday night’s encounter:
After football coach Rich Rodriguez took his crayons and went to Michigan with former WVU basketball coach John Beilein, it’s easy to say that West Virginia fans are hypocritical –– see “The News” on this site a few days ago –– for crying foul despite their own school plucking Bob Huggins from Kansas State. Unlike Rodriguez, Huggins' long regarded returning to his home-state alma mater as a destination/dream job. There was also rumored to be a free-pass-to-WVU clause written into his K-State contract; something that was denied by school officials, but there was not much financial resistance to keep him in the Little Apple.
Notorious drinker, adored by women...he's a regular Ben Roethlisberger
Huggy also has a thing for Brigitte Nielsen, if you were wondering
Hangover headache, I'm sure
Here’s the skinny on selected Mountaineer players:
#11 Joe Alexander (6-8, 230, Jr., F, 14.8 ppg) –– dubbed “the leaper” by his coach, Alexander was one of three players that Huggins demanded to bulk up for his new style of play. Despite going 0-for-9 in the loss to Cincinnati, Alexander is the Mountaineer mostly likely to throw down a highlight-reel dunk.
Is it too much to say, "the next Brent Barry"?
#1 Da’Sean Butler (6-7, 225, So., F, 12.7 ppg) –– swingman that is entrusted with taking Da’Game-Winning Shots. Scored the game-winner vs. Marshall, but opted not for a dunk but a deadfish, rejected lay-up that cost WVU the Georgetown game.
#14 Darris Nichols (6-3, 200, Sr., G, 12.0 ppg) –– lone contributor left over from the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight teams under Beilein. Quiet leader who penetrates to the basket well. Coming off a career-high 23 points vs. Providence Saturday.
#43 Jamie Smalligan (7-0, 265, Sr., C, 2.6 ppg) –– Rebounding-deficient seven-footer who transferred from Butler to be the next Pittsnogle. A token starter who doesn’t play much (12.4 minutes per game) after the first few whistles.
Who's gonna pay for a new net? The NIT has a small budget!
Enjoy the game and I’ll see you at The Pete!
Bonus Youtube of Last year's Pitt-WVU highlights (basketball, not football...we all know how that turned out):
LAST YEAR YOUTUBE AT WVU
LAST YEAR YOUTUBE AT PITT