On Monday morning, Pitt head coach Jeff Capel announced that the team would be without at least two scholarship players, maybe even three, in addition to Justin Champagnie when they take on Syracuse on Wednesday night at 4:30 p.m.
“We will not have a full roster for our game against Syracuse on Wednesday,” he said. “We will be down obviously with Justin not being able to play but then we’ll also be down at least two more guys and possibly one more.”
Champagnie is currently out with a leg injury, one that sidelined him for 6-8 weeks back on Dec. 22. The other players will be out due to contact tracing for COVID-19 within the program. The Panthers were forced to postpone their past two games, ACC contests against Duke and Notre Dame, also because of COVID-19 contact tracing within the program.
While the team was on the way to the airport to head out to Durham to take on Duke, they learned that the game had been postponed.
“One of the most brutal things was, we’re on the bus, and we hadn’t even gotten on the highway yet, fortunately, and I yell up to the bus driver, ‘Hey, we need to go back,'” he said. “All of a sudden, we have two buses, and the guys that were on our bus, you see them and they’re starting to try to figure out what the heck is going on. Then we go in and we meet and you tell them, hey, the game is cancelled. So that was tough, they were really disappointed because we were ready, we had had a couple of good practices. And obviously the excitement of playing an ACC game and for us coming after a loss. It’s just really difficult.”
While preparing for the Notre Dame game, Capel said, they had “a little bit better of an idea” that the game was going to be postponed.
“Once there was a positive within the athletic department and we looked at contact tracing and we knew that would affect our team somewhat,” he added. “And so those decisions are made by both schools, I don’t think they are ever made by one program.”
While he tested positive on Dec. 19 and multiple games have now been postponed due to other contact tracing during the program, Capel said that the program has still not had to go on pause.
“We were never on pause,” he said. “The games were cancelled, or postponed so to speak, whatever the term is that we use in the ACC, not because of positive tests within our program, it was because of contact tracing. So even though we did not play the game against Duke, we practiced the next day, or worked out I should say. We worked out. We were starting to prepare for Notre Dame and then I think it was on Thursday when the contact tracing came in from a positive test within the athletic department and so again, we never shut down.”
During the 2020-21 season, scheduling has been one of the most inconsistent, unexpected things the college basketball world has ever seen. On Sunday, Jan. 3, the ACC announced that Pitt would travel to Syracuse to take on the Orange on Wednesday, Jan. 6, just three days later.
“How the game got scheduled, well, that’s the ACC,” he said. “I didn’t have much to do with it. That’s the higher ups, the administrators, the athletic directors, the ACC, and then the doctors and the trainers. What we looked at from our end, and I’m pretty sure Syracuse did too is, would you have enough bodies to be able to play. Obviously everything is pending on test results as we go forward getting ready for the game.”
The game against Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse team, who sits at 6-1 through seven games, was originally scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 13, but will now be played more than a month in advance of that date.
“Really, right now, to be completely honest, you’re trying to focus just on one game ahead, because you don’t know,” Capel said. “We’re trying to get ready for Syracuse, and you find out yesterday that it’s going to definitely happen, I started hearing about it on Saturday, but find out definitely that it’s going to happen. The only thing I’m concerned about is my fingers are crossed that it happens. It’s hard to kind of look ahead and see, you know, when is this going to happen, or a make-up, or whatever. It’s hard. It’s really really hard.”
Pitt will look to get back on track against the Syracuse Orange who are currently on a three-game win streak, but have also not played since Dec. 19. Tipoff will be at 4:30 p.m. and the game will be televised on ACC Network.