More: Breaking down the Backyard Brawl
It was a rough week in New York for the Mountaineers last week. The squad got run off the court at The Garden by St. John's, before dropping a referee-assisted close one in the Carrier Dome. Needless to say, that makes tonight's Backyard Brawl a must win, in hopes of staving off Bob Huggins' first three game losing streak as a Mountaineer head coach. Here's what to watch for as they brawl tonight:
- A rejuvenated Pitt squad. The Panthers have been down so low this season, they couldn't get any lower. However, the worm seems to have turned for the boys from Oakland, as the Panthers have won two in a row. Since Tray Woodall has returned to the lineup, Dixon's squad appears to have stabalized the ship. While their record doesn't reflect it, the Panthers will be a tough out for anyone the rest of the year. Add to that a heaping slice of local rivalry hatred, and this one will be a tightly contested affair.
- Truck's slump. For a brief moment, in the opening minutes of the second half against Syracuse, Bryant had appeared to snap out of his shooting slump, knocking down a couple big threes and putting ten points on the board in mere minutes. Unfortunately, he disappeared the rest of the game, including his god-awful attempt at a game winning shot which was quickly forgotten due to some clueless refs. Needless to say, Bryant will have to score tonight for the Mountaineers to be successful. Even more importantly, he'll draw the task of guarding Tray Woodall and whether he slows him down or not will be a key factor in whether this Brawl delights the home fans.
- Can the frosh get to the rack? To draw Pitts big men away from Kevin Jones and Deniz Kilicli, West Virginia guards will need to be successful getting into the lane and getting the ball on the rim. The freshman tandem of Jabarie Hinds and Gary Browne have excelled at penetrating drives so far this season, a trend that must continue against Pitt. If the WVU guards are content to sit back and jack up deep threes, then the Panthers will be able to jam the lane and neutralize WVU's big men.
For more on the Backyard Brawl stay tuned to SBNation Pittsburgh, Cardiac Hill and the Smoking Musket.