Jeff Capel Previews Virginia Tech, Addresses Calls of ACC Having ‘Down Year’
Pitt basketball looks to maintain its spot atop the ACC standings Saturday facing Virginia Tech on the road. The Panthers (19-7, 12-3 ACC) are currently 3.5-point underdogs against a Hokies team with a 5-10 conference record.
Head coach Jeff Capel spoke about the environment and atmosphere at Virginia Tech playing inside Cassell Coliseum. Slotted in 12th place, Virginia Tech is 1-8 on the road but 11-3 at home.
“It’s very difficult,” Capel said. “It’s a great environment. They have a great fan base. It gets loud. It helps that they’re good. They feed off of each other.”
Capel stressed communication and constantly talking to one another will help to alleviate misplays. He said the players watch a lot of games together on their own and study opponents, providing his own trust as he continues to get to know them.
“I trust these guys. I think there is a maturity about them,” Capel said. “There may be times in a game in a timeout where they may say ‘why don’t we do this defense or coach can we just switch this or play this a different way? I trust them with that. I may not agree with them all the time and may not do it, but I welcome their input.”
He mentioned the play of forward Justyn Mutts, playing in his fifth collegiate season, for being a solid scorer who can also pass the ball well. Mutts averages 13.4 points per game and leads the Hokies in rebounds (7.4) and assists (4.9) while placing second in the ACC in steals (1.7). The Wright State transfer is averaging a team-high 16.5 points this season after spending the previous four as a Raider.
“They’re older, they have a good core group of guys back,” Capel said. “They’re really good offensively. They have experience. They’re well-coached. It’s a tough environment to play in down there.”
VT head coach Mike Young lost at Georgia Tech, 77-70, on Wednesday to a team behind them in the standings. Virginia Tech averages 74.5 points per contest while shooting the second-best in the ACC from the floor at 47.2%.
“I think one of the things that makes them so good is that they get into a really good rhythm,” Capel said. “The ball has energy. It’s difficult because of their spacing, their ability to put the ball on the floor and shoot the basketball.”
Pitt once again fell short of being ranked in the AP Poll Top 25, receiving 82 votes to sit No. 29 overall behind Virginia (No. 7, 1,212 points), Miami (No. 15, 693 points), and NC State (No. 23, 140 points). No other ACC team received a vote as the league continues to be described as having a ‘down year’ in many minds.
“I definitely think it’s unfair and not true what’s been said about our league. I think our league is really good,” Capel said. “Other leagues are really good, some of them may only have 10 teams when we have 15. We have a team that’s in the top 10 in the country, and two other teams in the Top 25. We have a team that was preseason ranked No. 1 and spent time at No. 1. Another team that was at one point in the top 5 and another team in Virginia Tech that at one point was a top 20 team.”
He pointed to the seasons North Carolina (16-10, 8-7) and Duke (18-8, 9-6) are having as potentially a reason why the ACC is being painted in a negative regard.
“I don’t really understand why,” Capel said. “Perhaps some of it is that the two programs in our league nationally known are not in the top 25 right now.”
Under Capel, Pitt has broken the program record for most conference wins in a season – previously 11 in 2013-14 – and enters Blacksburg on a six-game winning streak. Four games remain in the regular season before the ACC Tournament begins on March 7.
Could be some mismatches here but if we stay focused, I like our chances. VaTech has a limited bench and most starters log big mpg. 2 guys played all 40 the other night against GaTech. Pedulla is nearly 36mpg, Mutts and Cattoor are nearly 34. Getting them in foul trouble would be huge. H2P !
You’re talking about Mutts and then never mention Basile is the guy you’re referring to averaging 16.5 a game.
I took Pitt and the 6 points, VT is good at home but the Panthers have a little bit of magic this season.