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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Bob Huggins wants West Virginia’s rivalry with Pitt to continue. Will the Panthers agree?

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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West Virginia's Kevin Jones celebrates a win at Pitt in the last scheduled game between the rivals (AP)

If West Virginia coach Bob Huggins has his way, the basketball version of the Backyard Brawl won't be on hiatus more than a year.

Huggins said Monday he has told Jamie Dixon he'd like to restart the rivalry as soon as possible, but the Pittsburgh coach has been non-committal. Next season will be the first year since 1918 that the two longtime regional rivals have not faced one-another during the basketball season.

"I've said we're willing to play," Huggins said. "It's a great rivalry. Why wouldn't we play Pitt? You want to talk about the betterment of the student-athlete and doing what's right by the student-athlete? We're talking about an hour and a half drive. We're not talking about flying across the country. It just makes sense. There's not a downside.

"It's great for the fans. The players really enjoy it. You can play the game and be home. There's no problem waking up and going to class the next day. You're not missing class time. All the reasons anyone could give for starting a series or maintaining a series, they're all there. They're all positive."

The future of the hoops rivalry between Pittsburgh and West Virginia has been in doubt since both schools announced last fall they were leaving the Big East. The Panthers will join the ACC next fall and the Mountaineers have begun play in the Big 12 this year.

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Since West Virginia's departure from the Big East was so abrupt, Dixon has said too much of his team's 2012-13 non-conference schedule was already set in stone to consider adding the Mountaineers for next season. Asked by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette earlier this month about restarting the West Virginia series the following season, Dixon neither ruled out the possibility nor seemed especially eager.

"It's something where many factors go into it," Dixon said. "When all of the factors come together and it makes it so we can play, we'll play. There are so many factors involved and they don't just revolve around our program."

What Huggins believes is Dixon's hands may be tied by his administration. The football programs do not have plans to play one-another in the future despite pleas from fans on both sides not to let the Backyard Brawl die.

"When I've talked to Jamie about it, it was kind of like, 'We'll have to see,'" Huggins said. "I don't know how much of it is Jamie's call or not. That's what I think. I don't know either way, but I wouldn't put it all on Jamie. Or even any of it on Jamie."

Pittsburgh and West Virginia have played 184 times since 1904, with the Mountaineers holding a 96-88 lead in the series. The two schools split their final two games as Big East rivals last season, each winning on one-another's home floor.

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