Pittsburgh and West Virginia have always 'gotten after it' in football, and this 98-95 gutcheck between two Top-20 ranked teams in their 180th meeting in hoops was every bit as intense as any of the gridirons Backyard Brawls.
Okay, Duke-North Carolina (64-54) had its usual quantity of desire even if not the normal stakes during a very down year for the now 13-11 Tarheels, Harvard-Yale (82-79 Crimson in OT), Syracuse-UConn (72-67 Orange), #6 Purdue-#10 Michigan St (76-64 Boilermakers) and 3-win-17 point-'dogs Penn's unfathomable 79-64 thrashing of #22 ranked Cornell were all terrific, but Pitt-WVU is what Big Games are all about.
Let's face it, proximity or importance of outcomes count with your arch-rivals, but when its only been nine days since you let a two point game turn into a 19-point humilation at "their place" and somebody threw a coin that hit your assistant coach, you *really* want a piece of somebody's you know what when they come to yours, and they call Pitt's fans the Oakland Zoo for a reason.
Brad Wanamaker and Gilbert Brown of Pitt were obviously *highly* motivated for the rematch; after getting exactly ZIP between then at WVU they had 24 apeice before their Zoo fans. The game had drama every step of the way--Pitt coming from five down in the last :32 and holding the 'eers without a 3-point FG for 20 minutes at one point; the 'sportscaster jinx' comment on one of the top FT shooters in the country ("Gibbs is the #6 FT shooter in the country, no way he'll miss the 2nd FT") just before WVU rebounded that exact miss and pushed upcourt to make that first three in forever; then the lightly used Mr. Robinson for Pitt getting perhaps three clutch rebounds in a row that made the ultimate difference. Hey, in hoops you play until someone actually wins--definitely ain't no kissin' of cousins gonna happen.
ESPN always touts these rivalry weeks, and when your particular school is playing, its truly "must see TV." If I note I was at one brothers house when another called with a fairly serious relationship situation and the upset one ACCEPTED the explanation "the Duke-Carolina game is on, I'll call you a little later," well, thats what rivalry is about.
Since the beginning of the Big East conference I've always appreciated its no-quarter-given attitude, and I often said "the only way to beat Ewing is catch them the second game of a Thurs.-Sat." Having seen Syracuse spit the bit numerous times over the years, watching them blow a 16 point lead against UConn was no surprise; that they hit six FTs down the last :33 (after an incredible time out was awarded to Boeheim when a 'cuse player was being stripped of the ball) was way different. That the announcers regularly stated this was the teams first meeting since last years 127-117 6 OT game in the Big East tournament is again the stuff that counts in a rivalry.
Purdue winning three Big ten games while MSU lost three straight to be caught at the top of the standings is the same deal, and you can't deny Purdue's first win at Lansing since '98 coming on the heels of their first win at Indiana in over a decade counts as well. #22 Vanderbilt beating under-manned Tennessee 90-71 reminds me oa a two line joke from when I worked with a scholastic fundraising organization based in Nashville, which is Vandy's turf. "Why is the state prison in Nashville and the state university in Knoxville?" Answer: Nashville had first pick. Nyuk, nyuk, thats rivalry humor.
Two final notes about teams I track in particular, mostly because certain family members care about them. South Florida is now 15-8 and looking at the possibility of its 1st NCAA bid since 1992 after winning four Big East game in a row (including 70-61 over Pitt and 72-64 at Georgetown) before losing to Notre Dame. The Bulls were a Sunbelt Conference team when I covered them in the '80s, and the fact that prior to this string they never won back to back Big East games and Georgetown was their first road victory over a ranked team in 18 years means I haven't missed much--they were 0-for-history at several Sunbelt venues. Being from upstate New York, I saw plenty of MAAC good guys Siena, and my still-a-Yankee brother has season tickets to the Saints. Siena, having won 14 straight in league play, ran into a very motivated Niagara team and got thumped 80-64 the other night.
My guys might not be on top at this point, but if we're talking baseline attitudes, as long as I can say "mine'r better'n yours!", that counts in any rivalry.