Mar 13, 2023; Dayton, OH, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers head coach Jeff Capel III talks to the press during the NCAA Tournament First Four Practice at UD Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
The following are excerpts from Pitt head coach Jeff Capel’s official NCAA Tournament press conference on Thursday ahead of Friday’s first-round game against Iowa State in Greensboro.
Q: Blake (Hinson) wasn’t very talkative about his time at Iowa State and leaving, but this is going to be a more common occurrence in the transfer portal era where guys end up running up against teams they had seen before with more player movement. Have you addressed that much with him at all, or do you have to, and is that something you will as a coach generally have to be more cognizant of the emotional connections or whatever to a previous stop?
CAPEL: Yeah, I really haven’t. You know, it’s interesting. I don’t think young people are as emotional about this stuff as we maybe adults are. They’re able to move on very, very quickly and turn the page. So for us, it’s Pitt against Iowa State. It’s not Blake against Iowa State or Iowa State against Blake. They have an outstanding team. They have an outstanding coaching staff. They’ve done an incredible job, T.J. has, in his second year. The run they made this year, they played in an incredible conference. We have our hands full with Iowa State, not just the emotion of — or not just the emotion of Blake playing against Iowa State.
Q: You mentioned Iowa State is a great team, I think you said, with the outstanding staff. What did you kind of see basically on how they play defensively? What has stood out? Also, how does kind of a quick turnaround affect your preparation process?
Capel: Well, they are outstanding defensively. They’re very physical. They’re very disciplined. They play with great energy. They’re unbelievably connected on that side of the basketball. You can tell that that’s their identity and that’s what they hang their hat on.
They rotate well. They defend the basketball well. Their ball screen defense, their bigs are athletic. They’re energetic, just the physicality in which they play with. So that’s what makes them one of the better defensive teams in the country.
As far as the short turnaround, you know, fortunate we’re not playing today. So we were able to, after the travel and everything yesterday, get a lot of rest. You know, we didn’t get out of the arena in Dayton until 1:00, a little bit after 1:00 in the morning. We spent the night. We got up the next morning and flew here.
So hopefully we’re rested, and I know we’ll be excited. The adrenaline will be going, and we’ll be ready to go.
Q: When you look at Iowa State, what is your biggest concern? What do you guys have to do well to win?
Capel: We have to rebound the basketball. They’re a really good offensive-rebounding team. We have to be able to play through physicality and not turn the basketball over. Especially live ball turnovers. They turn those into baskets. Then we have to be able to execute with strength against their defense.
Q: You guys did a relatively good job of containing Smith against Mississippi State the other day. Turned the ball over five times. Do you see anything similar from Iowa State’s bigs that could present similar challenges to what Smith gave you?
Capel: They’re similar. There are probably more of them. They’re physical. They’re athletic. They have great motors. They play really, really hard, and they’re threats down there. So we’re going to have our hands full with all of them, with their whole team, with the way they play. They play a lot of guys, and they get after it. They’re well-coached. I know they’re going to be anxious and hungry.
Q: As a little bit of a follow-up to that, when you watch them on film preparing for this, is there a guy or two who stands out to you that you think, could give you a problem?
Capel: I never go into it thinking about one or two guys. I think about their team. I think what makes them good is they’re a really good team. They have guys that can step up, guys to make plays for them on both sides of the floor. I’ve been really impressed with their whole team, and so, again, we’ll have our hands full. We’re anxious. We’re excited about it, and we’ll be ready to go.