David Borne | Staff Writer
March 28, 2019
When the news broke about Pitt’s decision to not play the annual City Game next season, I was disappointed. The City Game is a fun, great way to celebrate basketball in Western Pennsylvania.
With that being said, I can fully understand why Pitt doesn’t want to play it. If I were in charge of things over there, I wouldn’t think it was worth playing, either. Sorry to play devil’s advocate, Duquesne fans.
On the men’s side of things, the City Game is almost meaningless unless Pitt loses. Pitt beating Duquesne repeatedly isn’t a storyline, and it hasn’t even been a good win for the Panthers to put on their resume come March.
The game hasn’t garnered enough attention or relevance outside of the city of Pittsburgh to earn a spot on ESPN’s television channels or any other major sports networks in recent years.
Under the new ACC scheduling format, teams will no longer play 18 conference games, but 20. That effectively takes away two non-conference matchups for each ACC school. That complicates the way the school can go about playing these matchups.
If Pitt doesn’t want to play a game that they don’t gain much from winning, but losing leads to an embarrassing headline, then how can I blame them for choosing to skip out on it for a year?
With the upward trajectory that Duquesne’s program seems to be on, obviously that could change in years to come. Until then, it’s worth almost nothing for an ACC school to play an Atlantic 10 team that they’ve beaten 18 out of the last 20 times they’ve played.
Pitt’s replacement for the City Game will be a trip to Robert Morris to take on the Colonials in the first game at the brand new UPMC Events Center. The arena will be packed, both sides will be into it and I imagine Pitt will get a pretty nice paycheck as an incentive for taking the short drive to Moon. Not a bad way to fill the gap left by not playing the City Game.
Running with the topic of the Colonials, Pitt choosing to dump the City Game should remind Duquesne supporters of a similar situation that happened last year. Duquesne decided to not throw Robert Morris on their schedule for the 2018-19 campaign.
The Dukes don’t really get anything out of beating RMU, but it definitely looks bad when they lose. If Duquesne didn’t want to “waste” a non-conference spot on an NEC program like Robert Morris, who they have had plenty of recent trouble with, that makes full sense.
It’s hard to be mad at Pitt for making a move that’s pretty similar to the one that Duquesne made just a year ago.
Reports from both Duquesne and Pitt’s athletic departments seem to suggest that the City Game will return following the one-year gap. If that is indeed the case, I would love to see it happen.
Maybe by then, Duquesne will be a legitimate mainstay at the top of the Atlantic 10 standings. With Pitt’s fresh look and young core, perhaps their team will be back in a respectable spot again as well.
Not having the City Game is a bummer, for sure, but maybe when it returns the game will hold more weight. It could be something more than two teams just playing each other because they’re both in Pittsburgh, but rather a game that both teams value greatly as a way to boost their chances at the big dance.
Until Duquesne can prove that it’s worth scheduling, Pitt is not in the wrong by not playing them.