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ACC Roundup - State Crushes FSU, Louisville Breaks Through And Jason Capel Lets It Fly In Chapel Hill

Now that was an interesting night in the ACC.

Pittsburgh v North Carolina
 CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA - FEBRUARY 01: Nike Sibande #22 of the Pittsburgh Panthers drives to the basket between Leaky Black #1 and Jalen Washington #13 of the North Carolina Tar Heels during the first half of their game at the Dean E. Smith Center on February 01, 2023 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

It was such an interesting night in the ACC you hardly know where to begin. Is NC State the best team in the Triangle? Wait, wait - Louisville won? And, wow, Nike Sibande! But Jason Capel? WTH??

Okay, we might as well stop there. Except for this: in order to explain this story, we are going to quote some very NSFW stuff. It’s a ways down so you can bail now if it’s not ideal for your current work or family situation.

Pitt beat UNC for the fifth time in the last six games, and did so in the most dramatic way: With a 65-64 lead after Jamarius Burton hit a pair of free throws and just 0.6 left on the clock, Nike Sibande snuffed a Caleb Love shot as time ran out.

We can’t remember an ACC guard winning a game on a blocked shot since Johnny Dawkins took David Rivers shot out in 1986. Well that’s not quite right. Pitt had already scored more points and Love might have missed, so you can’t really say he won the game. But ending a game with that level of drama? What could possibly beat that?

As it turns out, Pitt’s assistant coach Jason Capel could.

For those of you who don’t know, and that’s probably not many but let’s cover the bases nonetheless: Jason, who played at UNC, works for his brother Jeff, who played for Duke.

They are very close brothers. We found this out once when we made a joke about Jason and heard from Jeff in about 10 minutes. Jason is just as protective of Jeff. Fan stuff is fun, but not like that. So we apologized to Jeff, learned a lesson and have tried to be smarter ever since.

As best we understand it, UNC social media released a photo of Creighton Lebo, spawn of Jeff and a walk-on who wears Capel’s old #25. And he was running with his tongue out, which was apparently something that Capel did.

Apparently Jason took that as a dig at him. There are some people who think that UNC fans booed him before the game and he apparently got into an exchange with some other fans after.

And after the win, Capel (Jason again) is quoted by WUNC’s Mitchell Northam as yelling this outside the Pitt locker room: “Y’all gonna disrespect me? All I did for this program? Y’all gonna boo me? I held this shit together when Matt Doherty tore it apart. Fuck that shit.”

In his press conference, Jeff Capel addressed the issue, saying that “[m]y brother loves this school, he dreamt of coming here as a player when we were little. This is the place that he always dreamt of playing. He wore that jersey with a lot of pride, and since he’s left here there has been a lot of disrespect towards him.”

He also called Jason’s relationship with UNC “complicated.”

If you scroll through Twitter, you might agree, but some people, clearly, don’t see it as complicated at all: he’s out of the UNC Family in their view. There certainly aren’t many UNC fans sticking up for him right now and that probably doesn't upset him as much as it might once have. When you’re 5-1 you can talk smack.

Last point: not to argue with the Capels, but most social media teams are overwhelmingly youthful. Jason finished at UNC in 2002 which we’d bet means that, at best, most members of UNC’s social media team were about 10 years old. For that to be an inentional troll, you’d need someone who was there when Capel was. Our guess is that it wasn’t a troll unless someone was put up to it. How many Duke fans would know how to troll the player who used to constantly play with his hair?*

Okay, back to the game.

Pitt held UNC to just 34.8 percent from the floor. RJ Davis is back, but he was just 3-15. Armando Bacot was held to 3-10 from the floor for 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Pete Nance? 6-14. Leaky Black? 1-5.

Nelly Cummings shot 8-11 including, at one point, three straight threes.

Surprisingly, Federiko Federiko hit 4-5. Pitt hit 25-55 overall and 7-19 on threes.

If Josh Pastner thought his seat was hot after Duke doubled the score on Saturday, wait until he sees what people are saying after losing to 2-19 Louisville.

The Cardinals have become the ACC’s version of Mississippi as in “thank God for Louisville” because nobody can be worse than that.

This morning, Louisville fans are saying the opposite: thank God for Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech hung around, more or less, but faded down the stretch.

And it wasn’t like Louisville had to, say, block a shot to preserve the win. The game was tied 45-45 with 9:26 left in the game. And for a change, the rest of it belonged to Louisville.

Jae’Lyn Withers had a tremendous game with 19 points and 13 rebounds, taking some pressure off of El Ellis, who at times has been the only player who can reliably score. He had 11 points. Kamari Lands had 11 off the bench and JJ Traynor had 10.

Emmanuel Okorafor made his debut and played credibly. He had four rebounds and a big-time dunk.

It was a great night for Louisville. The Cards have really struggled and a win means an awful lot. How much? Check this out.

As for Georgia Tech, the Yellow Jackets shot just 29.5 percent. Miles Kelly had 16 but shot just 6-16. Kyle Sturdivant had 17 but he shot just 5-16.

It’s getting really hard to make an argument for Pastner to stay at Tech. Losing to Duke was bad but Duke is at least talented. Louisville has been a train wreck and Tech just lost to them by double digits. The fans appear to be moving into full revolt mode and that never ends well.

Pastner has been at Georgia Tech for seven years. His record there is 102-109. He’s had three winning seasons. He won 21 games in his first season and then had 17 victories both 2020-21 and 2021-22. Tech also won the Covid season ACC Tournament in 2020-21.

In general now, it all seems underwhelming and sad. There was a time when Georgia Tech basketball was glamorous. That seems long ago.

The next gut punch for the team is likely to be Saturday’s trip to NC State.

Remember how NC State shot out to a huge early 20-4 lead against Duke? Well now it’s not just Duke.

The Pack just ate Florida State alive winning 94-66. And it really wasn’t that close. State led 30-4 and then 40-10.

Not just the score. State dominated FSU the entire game. Terquavion Smith, who might still have been getting over his UNC injury when State played Notre Dame and Wake Forest. Well, not any more, apparently: Smith had 32 points and DJ Burns had 15 on 5-6 from the floor.

State hit 60 percent on threes and that’s devastating.

To their credit, Florida State didn't quit and cut into that massive lead, but they weren’t coming back from that kind of a deficit.

Now consider that Georgia Tech got destroyed by Duke Saturday and lost to 3-19 Lousville by 10. If they get destroyed like Florida State just did when they play in Raleigh on Saturday, the pressure on Pastner is going to be extremely intense. And right now, it’s hard to imagine Georgia Tech coming close in that game, let alone winning. Kevin Keatts has his defense tuned to high and Tech can’t shoot. You never know when things will get weird, but that particular game seems as likely any to go as predicted.

No games until Saturday, but that’s a full slate including Virginia vs Virginia Tech, Miami a Clemson, Florida State at Louisville to see if the Cards can do it again, and, of course, UNC at Duke.

*Luke Kennard.

ACC Standings