ACC’s new opening-night schedule draws mixed reviews
Jeff Capel was a winner. Jim Boeheim a loser.
That important distinction dictated how the Pitt and Syracuse coaches perceived their season openers Wednesday night.
Capel’s Pitt team was not at its best, missing more than two-thirds of its shots in a 63-61 victory against Florida State.
Capel was pleased but also relieved to escape with the victory. It was a departure from the usual cupcakes Pitt — and most teams — play in their openers. But he didn’t seem to mind.
“I’m just glad we were able to win,” he said.
Meanwhile, Boeheim’s Syracuse team missed more than three-fourths of its shots and lost, 48-34, to defending national champion Virginia. Syracuse’s point total was the fewest under Boeheim, whose first season with the Orange was 1976. It was also the fewest by a Syracuse team since a 49-31 loss to Temple in 1945.
The games were a departure from traditional openers in college basketball in which teams schedule less formidable opponents to help players ease into the season.
Every ACC team, except No. 3 Duke, opened against a conference opponent. Duke defeated No. 4 Kansas at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.
Boeheim doesn’t like the ACC’s new way of starting the season, calling it “a money grab.”
He wasn’t reluctant to share his feelings but with one caveat.
“I wish we would have won so when I say what I’m going to say, it would matter,” he said after the game.
“You never want to play the league games early. That’s stupid. It’s just a money grab. They’ve got scheduled games for TV, for the TV contracts, so you’ve got to play games early and then somebody had the brilliant idea of opening up the first game with a league game.
“I just don’t think it’s good. I don’t think it’s smart. You want to build up to league. The league’s the most important thing, so why would you play the first game of the year in the league? Makes no sense to me but that’s just what happens when you go up to 20 games and someone wants you to play early.”
Pitt and Syracuse will play another conference game next month, another departure from past procedures. Pitt visits Louisville on Dec. 6, and Syracuse is at Georgia Tech on Dec. 7. In most seasons, teams do not play conference games until the nonconference portion of the schedule ends.
Pitt’s next game is Saturday against Nicholls State of the Southland Conference, and it might not be any easier than its tight victory against Florida State.
Nicholls, which trailed by 20 points early in the second half, took Illinois into overtime on Tuesday before losing, 78-70.
“I thought we were outplayed tonight,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said.
Pitt must keep an eye on Nicholls’ Dexter McClanahan, who scored 25 points in the game.
Pitt will play three more nonconference Power 5 opponents — West Virginia, Kansas State and Rutgers — before the Louisville game.
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .