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Picks, predictions for Backyard Brawl between WVU-Pitt on Friday

We go over the latest installment of the Backyard Brawl with the Mountaineers taking on the Panthers on Friday night.

West Virginia Mountaineers forward Emmitt Matthews Jr. dunks the ball during the second half against the Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers at WVU Coliseum.  Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

The West Virginia Mountaineers will head North 30-45 minutes to take on their long-time rival Pittsburgh Panthers in the Backyard Brawl on Friday night on the college basketball slate.

The two teams hadn’t played each other after conference realignment until 2017-18. WVU has dominated the matchup since then, winning four straight meetings the past five seasons. Last season, the Mountaineers got away with a 74-59 victory at the Coliseum behind 18 points from Jalen Bridges. This year, the matchup should look drastically different with the transfer portal being so big.

Let’s take a look at the odds and lines on DraftKings Sportsbook and make some picks.

WVU vs. Pitt odds

Spread: WVU -2.5
Over/Under: 136.5
Moneyline: WVU -150, PITT +130

The Mountaineers have dominated the series in recent seasons despite not having great teams in Big 12 play. WVU enters this season with plenty of new faces from the transfer portal, including F Tre Mitchell via Texas, G Erik Stevenson via South Carolina, and G Joe Toussaint via Iowa. The carryovers from last season include Emmitt Matthews Jr, who figures to be the leader on the court. Seth Wilson and Kedrian Johnson should also play a big role in the back court.

This has the makings of a classic Bob Huggins squad. The Mountaineers are riddled with size and length. They have some solid shooters and bigs who will crash the boards on both ends. WVU took a bit to get going in the opener vs. Mount St. Mary’s but eventually got things together in the end of the first half, coasting to a 76-58 win. This team will only get better as they play more together with all the new faces and transfers.

As for Pitt, Jeff Capel III has not fared well in his tenure as head coach, coming over from Duke after being an assistant under Coach K. The Panthers went 11-21 last season in the ACC. Still, there’s optimism heading into this season with the transfer portal. Pitt’s top players figure to be all newcomers, including Greg Elliott out of Marquette and Nelly Cummings from Colgate. The leader should be Blake Hinson, a transfer from Ole Miss who scored 27 points in the opener vs. UT Martin.

History is on the Mountaineers side and the spread suggests it should be a close matchup. I’ll take WVU and Huggins to get it done on the road.

Pick: Mountaineers -150

Bonus: As for the point total, 136.5 suggests the books see more offense than defense. Let’s not forget this is basically an old Big East matchup. Each of the past four matchups went under the 136.5 total. Last year came the closest at 133 in a WVU win. Again, history seems to lean on the under in this one. We should see plenty of ugly offense and defensive intensity/turnovers. This isn’t Press Virginia, but WVU has plenty of length and can rebound well and defend the rim. If the Mountaineers can contain Hinson, this should go under.