PITTSBURGH — In Jeff Capel’s second year as the Pitt head coach, he’s still attempting to get his young team to show growth and the ability to adapt to the many challenges that come along with playing major college basketball.
One significant challenge is having them ready to play no matter who their opponent is, what arena they will be playing in, or at what time the game will tip-off.
Pitt’s first loss of the year came against a less-than-stellar Nicholls St. team at home following their opening night win — just three days before — against ACC juggernaut Florida State.
The Nicholls State loss was a noon tip-off.
At times on Monday, Capel could see the lack of energy and focus that might not be apparent from his team if the game was played during a typical evening tip-off. But having those two non-conference noon games were all planed by Capel. He wanted to prepare his team for the schedule that they have ahead of them in ACC play.
“It was strategic (playing non-conference noon games),” Capel said Monday. “We have talked to our guys about (early games). We got to wake up ready. … We have to be ready right away.”
The Panthers have six noon games out of their remaining 18 conference games, with home early starts against Wake Forest, UNC, Miami, and Virginia and road noon tips against Syracuse and N.C. State on the docket.
“It’s just an adjustment, it’s different,” Capel said about the early starts. “You get into a rhythm of playing at 7 (p.m.) or 9 (p.m.). You don’t really have a shoot around (for noon games). When you wake up, you’re up. … It’s go time. You have to wake up with energy. For a later game, you get to work your way into it during the day.”
Even though it might not be the best-case scenario for the players, the early starts aren’t something that they haven’t dealt with before.
“It really felt like AAU days,” sophomore guard Au’Diese Toney said after the Canisius game. “Getting up early in the morning and playing ball. … You just have to find your own energy and stuff.”
Last season, Pitt was 1-2 in noon conference games, with the win coming against Notre Dame in the last regular-season game of the year.