PITTSBURGH -There's no more Backyard Brawl -at least not for a while.
And it remains to be seen whether longtime rivals West Virginia University and Pittsburgh will play one another in basketball once the Mountaineers move to the Big 12 and the Panthers become part of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
About the only thing that is certain is that West Virginia will play at Pittsburgh at 9 p.m. on Thursday in a game nationally televised by ESPN.
It's been a disappointing season for both squads -at least going by past standards and high expectations. While Pitt is 15-10 overall, the Panthers are just 4-8 in the Big East and not being mentioned in NCAA Tournament talk. West Virginia, meanwhile, has lost five of its last six to slip to 16-10 overall and 6-7 in the Big East.
Obviously, this is a big game for both teams. It's big for Pitt because the Panthers can't afford to lose another regular season game. It's big for West Virginia because the Mountaineers already have a loss to Pitt, 72-66, at the Coliseum on Jan. 30, and WVU is fading after a fast start to the season. Once a lock to make the NCAA Tournament, West Virginia's fortunes now are up in the air.
Pitt appeared to be righting its ship when it went ended an eight-game skid by going on a four-game winning streak, including the victory in Morgantown. But the Panthers enter Thursday's game coming off back-to-back road losses to South Florida and Seton Hall.
The Panthers are led by senior guard Ashton Gibbs, who averages a team-high 16.3 points per contest. Gibbs is a shooter as he averages making 35.5 percent of his 3-point field goals and hits 84.3 percent from the free throw line.
While Gibbs accounted for 15 points in Pitt's win in Morgantown, it was his fellow backcourt mate, Tray Woodall, who tore up the Coliseum with a 24-point performance.
Senior forward Nasir Robinson is averaging 11.9 points per game and has started all 25 games, something only he and Gibbs have accomplished. Robinson had nine points in the win over West Virginia.
Leading the Mountaineers in that contest was senior Kevin Jones with 21 points. Darryl 'Truck' Bryant, Deniz Kilicli and Jabarie Hinds also scored in double figures for West Virginia.
The Mountaineers not only have lost five of their last six, but they haven't won a game in regulation since beating Marshall, 78-62, at the Charleston Civic Center on Jan. 18. WVU's last two wins - against Cincinnati and Providence - came in overtime.
With a national TV audience watching and a lot on the line for both teams, you can expect Thursday's WVU-Pitt game to be as intense as any contest between the long-time rivals.