Monday, February 21, 2011

sweeps weekend

It must be spring when UVA fans get a whole weekend full of good news. Never happens otherwise. Hardly a Wahoo took the court, or field, or starting block, without leaving victoriously. Best of all: completing the hardcourt sweep of Virginia Tech in front of a sold-out JPJ Arena.

Did I say sweep? I said sweep. Of Tech. Barring a semi-miraculous run to the NIT (which would likely require winning the next three games in a row) or a thoroughly miraculous tournament run to the ACC championship, that's probably the highlight of the season. It's not a minor deal; regaining our identity as Virginia Basketball requires, among other things, putting Tech back in their place. In the future this needs to be the norm.

I must be the only person who cares enough to write about this stuff to have seen this coming, though. The rest of the media - and certainly just about every Hokie in existence - is all surprised and shit. The excuses are flying. I'm not surprised, because I told you before the game: UVA matches up very well with Tech. We're bigger. We're either deeper, or Seth Greenberg is insane for never playing anyone but his starters. We're smarter. With Mike Scott out, Tech does have the two and maybe three best players on the court (Malcolm Delaney, Jeff Allen, and maybe Erick Green) but otherwise, the point is this: Basketball is a game of matchups, and that can sometimes overcome a sizable talent deficit. And you won't find many other ACC teams that UVA is as well-equipped to beat as Tech. The reason for the sweep doesn't go much beyond that, and to whatever extent it does, it sure as hell wasn't fatigue on Tech's part, as has been suggested. Anyone who thinks that ought to be embarrassed.

Another thing that's been made a big deal of, and shouldn't be, is that UVA outrebounded Tech. By one, but that's not the reason it shouldn't be a big deal. It's true that we usually get outrebounded, because somebody will launch a three and most of the team will be on the other side of halfcourt by the time it hits the rim. That's Tony Bennett's way. On the defensive end, though, guess who the best rebounding team in the conference is? If you guessed "not Virginia," you're wrong, and you're making the same mistake everyone else does, by using raw, non-tempo-adjusted rebounding averages. The fact is, UVA has the best defensive rebounding percentage in the ACC, and 36th best in the country. File under "another reason I'm not surprised we won."

So yes, Akil Mitchell had a nice game with seven rebounds, but I'll wait to throw his debutante party til he double-doubles one of these days. Stats-wise the player of the game really is Sammy Z, who should never be allowed to shoot until thirty seconds of the shot clock have elapsed, but if you want to make a case for "blossoming potential" from that game, Assane Sene and Jontel Evans are your guys. Jontel actually can shoot, and when he realizes it he'll be that much better. Sene can score when he catches the ball. We just have to figure out how to optimize the transition from someone else's hands to his, and we're set.

The future holds three winnable games, and I'd allow you to get excited about the possibility of winning them all except the moment I do, we'll lose by 30 in Atlanta. So as far as the fates are concerned, it's one-game-at-a-time mode from here on out. Just to be on the safe side, try and give 110% too. It is what it is.


Sweeps weekend continued in Auburn, where Danny Hultzen, in between striking out 10 UAB Blazers and driving in seven runs for the weekend, also took a leak on Toomer's Corner and healed the trees. Chuck Norris has nothing on Danny. The opponents for the weekend were UAB, Auburn, and Arkansas State, in that order; UAB and ASU are fringe top-100 types in the RPI, while Auburn isn't SEC royalty like LSU but is a borderline top-25 team. Tyler Wilson shut down their powerful lineup, and UVA nickel-and-dimed their way around the basepaths for 13 runs against Auburn and 27 on the weekend in sweeping the tournament.

It's certainly refreshing to see that Hultzen is in his usual form. Enjoy it; the man will be a first-rounder this year. It's even better to see Tyler Wilson pitch six innings of shutdown baseball as the new Saturday starter, and Cody Winiarski did the same on Sunday. It makes me giddy. Winiarski, even at his best last season (and he certainly got better as the year went on) was never a strikeout pitcher, barely averaging one every two innings. He posted six on Sunday in six innings of work. Branden Kline also proved worthy of the closer role, slamming the door on a UAB rally on Friday. Six pitches, six strikes, and a one-out situation became Kline's first save of the year.

The wins bump UVA a few spots in most of the polls. East Carolina comes to town next weekend, with a home game against VMI in between. The ECU series won't have the same stature it did last year when ECU was considered the up-and-comer on the baseball scene, and a sweep there would open up the possibility of being undefeated heading into the ACC season in about three weeks.


The lax team started its season with its usual solid, if slightly uninspiring, win over Drexel. Drexel's a half-decent team, so the margin of victory - 12-9 - is no cause for worry. As per usual, though, the game offered some reasons for optimism and some for worry. UVA won the faceoff battle, which they did not last year, and maintained its usual dominance in clearing the ball, successfully clearing all but one opportunity. This was without Adam Ghitelman (who is one of the nation's top goalies at starting a clear) in net, who didn't dress because of a mystery suspension. Rob Fortunato played, and played reasonably well.

On the other hand, ground balls, normally an area of UVA dominance, tilted only slightly in UVA's favor, at 46-43. (That's a lot of ground balls to begin with.) Nothing's perfect, though.

Ghitelman will hopefully be back in net tomorrow against Mount St. Mary's; it'd certainly be ideal to have him see game action before Saturday's dangerous matchup against Stony Brook.


For the fourth straight year, the women's swim and dive team is ACC champions, and for the second straight year, it's sprinter Lauren Perdue taking home the honors as the meet's most outstanding swimmer. Perdue sets records like it's her job, but freshman butterflier Rachel Naurath gave her a run for her money for the top-swimmer title. This was, as suggested by the psych sheet scoring, a close meet - our girls were behind UNC by 37 points (not quite a virtual dead heat but close) going into the final day, and the meet was in doubt until the 200 yard butterfly - the second-to-last event. UVA swimmers went 1-2-3-5, seizing the lead and putting UNC far enough behind that they could afford a safe-start relay in the final event; they went ahead and won the relay regardless. You have to love the championship attitude Mark Bernardino has instilled into his swim teams, as well as the talent he's brought to UVA.

This week, it's the men's turn. Psych sheet scoring, with all the caveats of last week's exercise, is as follows:

UVA - 844
UNC - 764
FSU - 500
VT - 314
NCSt. - 190
Clem. - 186
Md. - 177
Duke - 160
GT - 150
BC - 70

Wake Forest doesn't have any swim teams, and Miami doesn't have a men's one.

This is eerily similar to the women's results, no? UVA and UNC will duke it out for the title, and it'll definitely be close. We are nasty strong in distance events - all strokes - and a little thin on sprinters - all strokes. FSU is a factor, but probably not a threat for the title, VT is a comfortable fourth, and the peasants will have themselves a really stirring chase to line up fifth through ninth. (Except BC - as with the women's events, the only points they'll garner will come from placing last in every relay.)

This is even closer than it looks thanks to the general lack of points we'll get from diving. The women didn't get any - the men might scrape a couple but we'll take a bath here. Figuratively. Frankly, this meet should be considered just about neck and neck, just like the women.


Speaking of four straight championships, and national-wise this time, it's the men's tennis team's turn for championship glory. This is indoor tennis, so before you get too excited - it still doesn't count in the NCAA tally. Not once in this run has UVA managed to win an outdoor tennis title. Why so different? Beats me. They'll have another shot this spring. This championship was a 4-0 win over Tennessee - yup, another sweep - and that's the kind of dominating fashion they've been using this winter, so with any luck this is a stronger team than years past and they can finally bring home an NCAA title in a couple months.

That finishes the good news weekend. Hope it wasn't too much all at once. They say starving people shouldn't pig out the moment they see food, it's not healthy. Unfortunately for your health, there's a recruiting board update in the hopper for tomorrow and you'll probably like what you see there, too.

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