On Tuesday, the No. 12 seeded Pitt Panthers will kick off the ACC Tournament with a first-round contest against No. 13 Boston College at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, tipping off at 2 p.m.
Pitt (11-20, 6-14 ACC) has faced the Eagles twice this season, winning the first game over BC by a score of 69-67 and falling in the second one 56-69.
Throughout its 31-game regular-season slate, Pitt only played against five teams more than once, and no team three times. Now, with the opportunity to take on Earl Grant’s Boston College squad for the third time, Jeff Capel is trying to finish off the season with a winning record against the Eagles.
“I’d like to think that we know about everyone,” Capel said. “We try to pride ourselves on scouting and knowing the competition. Playing against this team twice, you have some familiarity with them, especially with a new coach. Sometimes if you’re playing against the same coach, there are some similarities from year to year. The style of play and some of the things they do. I think Earl has done an amazing job this year establishing his culture of how they want to play. They’re much more physical this year than they were last year. They’re better defensively this year than they were last year. They’re better really as every phase than they were last year. So it’s a team that is starting to create and identity for themselves and how they want to be as a basketball program and those guys have done a really good job of trying to execute that on a nightly basis.”
In the first game against Boston College, Pitt’s leading scorer John Hugley delivered a dominant 32-point performance, leading the Panthers to victory. However, in the second game, BC locked up Hugley and held him to just nine points.
“They were very physical with him before he caught the basketball,” Capel said when asked what Boston College did on Hugley in the second game. “Very, very physical. He wasn’t able to catch the ball as deep as he did the first game because of how physical they played him. They doubled also, from the passer and when he got the basketball. I thought those were the two things they did. We need him to be good, so hopefully he plays well tomorrow.”
Just minutes ahead of that loss, Capel learned that he had tested positive for COVID-19, and was unable to make the trip. That, among some other travel issues due to a snow storm in Boston, certainly factored into the loss.
“The second game we played against them, I think we can play much better [than that], I hope we can play much better [than that],” Capel added. “There were very extenuating circumstances when we played them the second time. No excuses, just an explanation of what it was. We flew up the day of, five minutes, ten minutes before we left, I found out I had COVID, I didn’t make the trip. So it was just extenuating circumstances and they played terrifically and we didn’t, so hopefully we can be much better than we were last time.”
“We are not even worried about it,” Hugley said about the loss to the Eagles. “I don’t remember what happened in that game. Just the next game. Now we’ve got to go out there, it’s Boston College is going to play hard, so we just have to go out there and play harder. They’re a well-coached team, great team, they play together, they have real great chemistry. So we just have to go out there and knock them down piece by piece.”
If Pitt wins on Tuesday, the Panthers will advance to the second round to face the fifth-seeded Wake Forest Demon Deacons, a team that beat Pitt by 15 points earlier in the season. That game would take place on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m.