Thursday, January 14, 2010

getting dizzy here

Well now we've gone and done it. The second ranked team of the season has come into the JPJA and left on the losing end of a score. This time, though, it was a fellow ACC team, which sort of makes people pay attention. Problem is, now nobody can figure out what the hell. A couple media-types have some very different takes on this whole thing:

- Jason King at Yahoo still thinks we're the 10th-best team in the league and duly places us so in his power rankings. (Not to totally discredit him or anything, but, well, the guy was in idiot mode when he wrote this sentence: "RISING: Virginia – The former last-place team in the league has won six in a row following Wednesday’s upset of Georgia Tech." It's cool that we're "rising" and all, but we did manage to stay out of the cellar last year and haven't finished in last place for quite some time. Thanks for the shout and all.)

- Andy Katz at ESPN is much nicer. The piece's opener is a grabber:

The national picture is shaping up like this:

Tier 1 is Texas, Kentucky and Kansas. Tier 2 likely includes Villanova, Syracuse, Michigan State, Duke, Purdue and possibly a few others at your discretion. Tier 3 includes a list that continues for roughly 30 spots or more.

And guess which team is in the last collection? Virginia.
Like.....whoa. When you're talking "national picture," you're basically talking tournament, especially since Katz's numbers don't add all the way up to 65. I realize we just beat a ranked ACC team, but......whoa. This is heavy. It could get heavier if we beat Miami on Saturday: I promise you that will result in votes in the AP rankings. Maybe not an actual top-25 ranking, but....whoa. You might recall that we are less than one full year from completing a 10-18 season. I'm getting a little dizzy with this "national picture" stuff, I might need to sit down.

I'm not the only dizzy one, though. The boards are full of people wondering how many wins it'll take to get us in the tournament, fretting over the RPI, and rooting for UAB to tear C-USA to shreds. In other words, exactly the way you act when your team is square on the bubble. We're mercifully still not at the stage where we speculate about our seed, but still. It's like an illness (but a really fun one, like if the flu made magicians and clowns come to your house), and nobody's immune: last night, I found myself pondering our schedule and thinking, you know, if we can beat Georgia Tech, why can't we beat Miami? Why not Wake? Why not VT and Maryland and BC? How does 9-7 sound? 10-6? 11-5? There's that dizziness again. I did predict a win yesterday, but I totally failed to think about the repercussions of it.

The truth is, I predicted a win not because I thought we were in fact a national contender and should be ranked, but because I think Georgia Tech should not be, and won't be when it all plays out. Tony Bennett had his team ready to play two outstanding games and he and the team should get all the credit in the world for it, but the flip side of that coin is that when the bad games come - and they will come, it's too long a season and we have to go to too many hostile arenas - we are just not talented enough to overcome a poorly played game. Nobody is going to shoot 3-for-11 from the free throw line against us for the rest of the season - I mean, that's just pathetic. GT fans may be excused for thinking if they could have shot free throws like a normal team, they'd have won that game.

The plain truth is, it is way, way too early to even pretend the NCAA tournament is even an option here - we have no OOC resume whatsoever, outside of a home win against UAB. KenPom ranks our OOC strength of schedule as 303rd in the country - and we still lost four games in that stretch! In order to impress the committee, we have to go absolutely batshit on the other poor saps in our conference and also make a run in the ACC tournament. If you think they'll ignore the OOC because the ACC is so badass, I have some 2009 Charlottesville Regional baseball tickets to sell you - they'll be a nice escape from your swampland estate.

If we can beat a Miami team that I don't think we match up especially well against and then go into Winston-Salem and knock off Wake Forest after pulverizing UNC-Wilmington, then I will bend on this stance, but for now, it's best you don't get too excited about Selection Sunday just yet.

All is not Debbie Downer, of course. Just because it's a bad idea yet to readjust expectations too high doesn't mean it's a bad idea to readjust expectations. No longer is the CBI a goal; it's now the bare minimum, and the NIT is in play once again. It was a complete surprise to learn that we haven't been 2-0 in ACC play since 1995. It'd be a shame to waste that kind of a start with a wholesale collapse, and believe me, that is not totally off the table just yet - though it's looking less and less likely by the day and you have to believe Tony Bennett's way too good a coach to allow it. The best advice I can give fellow Virginia fans is the same thing I said when I first guaranteed an improvement over last year's 11th place finish and four wins: buckle up and enjoy the process of finding out how far that improvement takes us.

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