December will be the month of the Backyard Brawl(s) for Mountaineer athletics. Four sports teams at West Virginia will be playing in December, and three of them will be competing against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the month. Let’s take a look at the top five games for WVU athletics in December.
Honorable Mentions: Wrestling vs #13 Virginia Tech (December 19); Wrestling at South Beach Duals vs Virginia, Michigan State, #19 North Dakota State, and #15 Purdue (December 29-30)
The first honorable mention is the rivalry matchup for the WVU wrestling team with the #13 Virginia Tech Hokies. The Mountaineers had some matchups against wrestlers from Virginia Tech earlier this season in the Hokie Open. Ten WVU wrestlers had top five finishes at the event, and that also included multiple wins over Hokie opponents. The Mountaineers will now take on VT head-to-head later this month in Morgantown. A win in this matchup could provide momentum for the Mountaineers as the season moves forward.
After the match against Virginia Tech, WVU will head to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for the South Beach Duals. The Mountaineers will take on four opponents at this event, and two of these teams are nationally ranked. On the first day, WVU will face Virginia and Michigan State. The second day will likely be more difficult, as the Mountaineers take on, Big 12 opponent, #19 North Dakota State and #15 Purdue. Facing two ranked opponents will be a tough task for the Mountaineers, but if they can pull off an undefeated weekend, they may find themselves in the top 25 before January.
5. Women’s Basketball at Pitt (December 8)
The WVU women’s basketball team is off to a solid start this season. The team has been led by senior Naomi Davenport, who is averaging a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds per game. She has been helped by junior Tynice Martin and sophomore Kysre Gondrezick, who have both been averaging over 18 points per game.
The Mountaineers have only lost one game this season to #14 Iowa. After the Big 12/SEC Challenge, WVU will play in the Backyard Brawl against Pitt. The Mountaineers dominated the Panthers in a 72-53 win at home last season. The WVU women’s basketball team has not lost to Pitt since the 2008-2009 season, when the Panthers narrowly won in Pittsburgh.
4. Wrestling at #24 Pitt (December 15)
This is currently the only Backyard Brawl this month where a WVU team will be taking on a nationally ranked Pittsburgh team. This match is the next one on the schedule for the Mountaineers, and a big win over their arch rival could give the team confidence as they continue with tough matchups throughout the month. WVU has been led by sophomore Nick Kiussis and senior Christian Monserrat. Freshman, and Coal City, West Virginia native, Noah Adams has also been one of WVU’s top performers this season. The Mountaineers will need these three and the other starters to step up if they hope to pull out a win in the Backyard Brawl.
3. Men’s Basketball vs Florida (December 4)
The WVU men’s basketball team will be playing in the Jimmy V Classic this season. The Mountaineers are hoping that the third time will be the charm, as they have lost the first two times they played in the event. The first loss was in 2008 to Stephen Curry and the Davidson Wildcats, and the second loss was in 2015 to Malcolm Brogdon and the Virginia Cavaliers. This time WVU will take on Florida.
The last time the Mountaineers took on the Gators was in the 2016 Big 12/SEC Challenge. Florida came away with a 88-71 win in that game. The Gators have struggled early this season with three losses, but they are also receiving votes in the national rankings like the Mountaineers. A win in this game could boost the winner into the top 25. The game will take place in Madison Square Garden in New York City, and it will be nationally televised on ESPN.
2. Football Bowl Game (December)
It is very likely that the Mountaineer football team will play in their bowl game in the month of December and a two game losing streak moves this game back to second on the list. There appear to be three likely December bowl game destinations for WVU. The first is the Valero Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, and this game would be against a Pac-12 opponent. The next likely destination is the Camping World Bowl against an ACC opponent in Orlando, Florida. It is also possible that the Mountaineers could be playing in Houston in the Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl.
This will be the fifth consecutive bowl appearance for WVU. The Mountaineers have lost in their last two bowl appearances, with the last win coming in the 2016 Cactus Bowl against Arizona State. A win in a bowl game would boost WVU’s final record to 9-3, and it would also give Dana Holgorsen his third bowl victory with the Mountaineers.
1. Men’s Basketball vs Pitt (December 8)
The Backyard Brawl is finally returning to Morgantown. WVU and Pitt have not faced off in the Mountain State since the 2011-2012 basketball season, which was also the last season the two rivals played until last season. The Backyard Brawl returned last season and it was everything Mountaineer fans hoped it would be, as WVU handled their arch rivals with a 69-60 win and the Mountaineer fans in attendance let one of their favorite chants echo through the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh. Coming into this year’s matchup WVU has a two game win streak and leads the series to 97-88. This year will be a tough matchup for the Mountaineers, as Pitt only has one loss this season in a close game with #14 Iowa. The Panthers have been led by freshman Xavier Johnson and senior Jared Wilson-Frame, who are averaging 16 and 14 points per game, respectively. WVU will need senior Esa Ahmad, junior Sagaba Konate, and others to step up in this game if the Mountaineers want to come away with a win. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN2.
Bragging rights are up for grabs this month. The WVU men’s and women’s basketball teams, and the Mountaineer wrestling team will each have a shot at claiming victory in the Backyard Brawl. And the WVU football team will have a chance to end the season with a win in their bowl game.