Pitt basketball: Should Pitt and West Virginia renew their rivalry?

It is time to renew the rivalry of Pitt and West Virginia in basketball.

The Pitt Panthers and West Virginia Mountaineers first played each other in basketball in 1905, and from there a rivalry was born.  From 1918-2012, the two schools met at least once per year for a total of 184 times.  West Virginia leads the all-time series 96-88.

In 2012 the Mountaineers left the Big East conference for the Big 12 as Pitt jumped from the Big East to the ACC in 2013.  Both moves effectively killed the rivalry in football and basketball.

The Pitt-West Virginia rivalry is rich in history in both sports and it is a shame to see it go.   Both teams have upset each other, fought each other and disrespected each other.  There is no secret in saying that West Virginia and Pitt fans and players hate one another.

Four years ago today, I witnessed, what I feel, was the greatest college basketball game that I have ever and will ever see.

The Pitt basketball team used a seven- point come back and three overtimes to upset fifth ranked West Virginia on a magical Friday night at the Peterson Events Center.  Nine days before, West Virginia blew out Pitt 70-51 at WVU Coliseum.  The game got so testy that it resulted in WVU fans throwing loose change at Pitt players, coaches and fans.

The rematch on February 12, 2010 included heightened security as the Pete was a hostile environment for anyone sporting West Virginia gear.

The game tipped off at 9 pm and was physical and closely contested from the get go.  At half, West Virginia led Pitt 37-32.  West Virginia stayed ahead of Pitt for most of the second half and with 49.5 seconds remaining in the game looked pretty comfortable with a 66-59 lead over the Panthers.

After missing three straight free throws Pitt was able to turn it into a one possession game at 66-63 until Truck Bryant of WVU hit two free throws to extend the Mountaineer lead to five.

Pitt’s Travon Woodall was able to cut the lead back to three and make it 68-65 with 29.5 seconds remaining in the game.  And then something magical happened.  Senior Brad Wannamaker was able to steal the inbounds pass while tip-toeing the end line.  Wannamaker was able to pass the ball to Woodall, who swung it to marksman Ashton Gibbs, who hit the game-tying three pointer to tie it 68-68 with just over 22 seconds remaining.

West Virginia was unable to respond and the game headed to overtime.

Pitt led for the most of the first overtime and was able to secure a 78-75 lead and looked in position to win.  That was until Truck Bryant inbounded the ball and made a three with 1.4 seconds remaining to force a second overtime.

Pitt again led for most of the second overtime but three free throws from Da’Sean Butler of West Virginia with a little more than 20 seconds remaining was enough to send the game to a third overtime at 88-88, where Pitt would eventually go on to win 98-95.

One of the things that makes the Pitt-WVU rivalry so special is that neither team has been safe regardless of where either team was in the rankings.  This was a true rivalry, the players hated each other, the fans hated each other, and is a shame that politics have caused a break in the rivalry.

Fans from both sides will tell you, they want the rivalry back.  Officials from both schools with tell you that they want the rivalry back.  Mountaineers coach, Bob Huggins, was on Pittsburgh radio Tuesday morning.

When asked why West Virginia backed out of a rumored agreed-upon game at Madison Square Garden, he responded “…absolutely not, absolutely not. We’d love to play in The Garden, and we’d love to play Pitt, so that would have been a win-win….”

Pitt and WVU seem to be migrating towards rekindling what was once a magical rivalry. I can see them adding the Madison Square Garden game in the near future, things certainly seem to be heading in that direction.