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Pitt’s Jeff Capel Not in Favor of Downsizing ACC Tournament

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Pitt Basketball HC Jeff Capel
Pitt men's basketball coach Jeff Capel talks with reporters on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023 at ACC Tip-Off in Charlotte, N.C. (Mitchell Northam / Pittsburgh Sports Now)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The ACC is changing. Next year, the conference will add Cal, Stanford and SMU as part of football-driven realignment in an effort to keep up with the joneses in an ever-evolving collegiate landscape.

When the Golden Bears, Cardinal and Mustangs come aboard, it will put the league at 18 teams. As things currently stand, when the regular season of college basketball ends, all 15 ACC teams participate in its conference tournament.

But on Wednesday, conference commissioner Jim Phillips indicated that slimmed-down version of the ACC Tournament could be coming soon.

“I don’t know that we would invite 18 teams to an ACC men’s or women’s basketball championship,” Phillips said. “I’m not sure (what) we’re going to do. We’ll do what the membership wants. I don’t feel like that’s something that we should do. I’ve told them that. I’m not speaking out of turn.

“I think you’ve got to earn your way to play in I think the most prestigious postseason basketball tournaments in the country, and if you don’t get to a certain threshold, then you just don’t make it that year.”

There’s at least one ACC men’s basketball coach that is not in favor of a smaller conference tournament, and that is Jeff Capel. The Panthers made the quarterfinals of last year’s tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina, beating Georgia Tech before losing to Duke.

“As a coach, I wouldn’t like that,” Capel said at ACC Tip-Off in Charlotte on Wednesday. “Because I think it’s just something magical and it’s one of the things that makes our sport so great – it’s because of the hope of the postseason.”

Capel talked about the 1983 N.C. State team, which entered the ACC Tournament that year with a 17-10 record and no guarantee of making the Big Dance. The Wolfpack won three games in a row to take the ACC crown and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, then –with some luck – powered its way to winning the national championship.

A North Carolina native, Capel was eight years old as he watched Jim Valvano’s team make that run.

“That’s one of my favorite memories. But if all the teams didn’t get in, you wouldn’t have had that,” Capel said. “So, I hope that doesn’t happen. If we’ve got to go to six (days), then we’ve got to go to six. You have to be able to change and evolve. Every league is going to be expanding.”

Phillips, meanwhile, would like to see the five-day format remain, which means keeping the tournament field at 15 teams – or smaller – after Cal, Stanford and SMU join.

“Tuesday through Saturday, or Wednesday through Sunday, that’s been a nice flow. It’s been a nice flow I think for the media. It’s been a nice flow for our teams, for fans, our staff,” Phillips said. “I’m not overly interested in adding one additional day.”

There’s also a question of scheduling format for league play. Right now, the ACC men play a 20-game conference schedule, and although the conference is expanding, some argue that moving to an 18-game ACC schedule who allow for more flexibility in non-conference play.

“I would be for what collectively as a group we think is best for our league to help us get more teams in the NCAA Tournament,” Capel said. “I think it’s ridiculous that we’ve only gotten five (teams) in the (tournament) the past couple of years, especially when you look at the success we have in the tournament.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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Rob Radich
Rob Radich
8 months ago

Of course he’s not. With him at the helm, Pitt would only make it every five years!

Eric Payne
Eric Payne
8 months ago
Reply to  Rob Radich

When is your boy Marcus so going to make it?

Rob Radich
Rob Radich
8 months ago
Reply to  Eric Payne

“When is your boy Marcus so going to make it” What? You blather a lot but this sounds stupid even by your low standards!

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