Friday, April 29, 2011

game preview: Pennsylvania

Date/Time: April 30; 3:00

TV: UVA webcast

History against the Quakers: 2-2

Last matchup: UVA 12, Penn 7; 3/11/98; Charlottesville

Last game: Duke 19, UVA 10 (4/22); Penn 9, Dartmouth 4 (4/23)

Opposing blogs: I don't think the Ivy League "blogs," it's a very public-school thing to do

I missed my chance to get in some quality rumormongering.  Now that the school has put out a press release confirming that, yes, Shamel Bratton has finally misbehaved his way right off the team, I guess it no longer qualifies as a rumor.  Would Rhamel's status still be rumory?  Probably, and honestly it wouldn't surprise me if he's at least unavailable for this game.

I don't know if this is a result of Starsia cracking down on the crap after last season's mess, or if Shamel has been thinking "fuck it, I'm a senior and this season is going nowhere, wuteva I do what I want," or both.  I'm not gonna bother psychoanalyzing this because I'm a little bit relieved we won't have to put up with this Viking drama during the postseason.  Here's to hoping that addition by subtraction means anything.


- Hope for the Ewing Theory to come through.  You know, where you remove the star player and everyone thinks you're through and then you crush everyone because of better chemistry, motivation, whatever.  This didn't work with Stanwick out, but Stanwick is not a constant distractor off the field.  No Shamel means a lot less athleticism on offense but hopefully fewer screwy turnovers as well.

- Dominate the faceoff X.  We can do this.  We can do this.  It might come true.  Masked by the godawful 1-for-5 slide we entered a month ago is some improving faceoff performance.  Penn is a sub-50% performer here, checking in at 44%.  This would be a great chance to get back onto the plus side of the ledger ourselves (we're exactly 50%) and keep our defense rested.

- Stop making goalies look like all-stars.  If we can't get shots past this guy, we can't get them past anyone.  Penn's Brian Feeney has an awful save percentage of .488.


- Matchup nightmare.  OK, so get this.  Remember a couple days ago I posted a quick look at our offensive and defensive efficiency as compared to a few select teams we've played.  Since then I've done the same for every team in the country.  Here's a miserable stat: In terms of percentage of defensive possessions that result in a turnover, UVA is second to last in the country.  The bottom six are, from least bad to worst: VMI, Mercer, St. Joseph's, Presbyterian, UVA, Providence.  That's five of the country's shittiest teams, and Virginia.  One of those teams is in its first year of D-I lax.  One is in its last.  The combined record of those teams: 8-53. 

We also do very badly in percentage of defensive possessions that result in a goal, but not that bad.  Penn, on the other hand, is the second-best team in the country at getting the ball back from opposing offenses.  So they'll find it easy to get the ball and easy to keep it.


Penn is not to be taken as lightly as I thought earlier this year.  They're solidly in the tournament.  They opened the season by beating Duke and Bucknell.  But their resume is perhaps stronger than their stats.  The silver lining in the above matchup nightmare is that Penn is not much good at holding onto the ball - their offensive turnover percentage is very high.  So that's weakness vs. weakness there, and something's gotta give and you have to like our chances.  It also turns out that UVA is actually quite good at holding onto the ball on offense, despite what your eyes have been telling you, so that end of the field is strength vs. strength.

Since we should do well on faceoffs, and Penn isn't well-equipped to take advantage of UVA's biggest weakness, and besides that Dom just kicked a turnover machine off the team, I think you have to like our chances.  This game is a godsend, a chance for the team to get its collective head right before the postseason, and not only that but a team that looks good in the metrics and if we can get the win it'll be a boost to our seeding and offer a chance to host a first-round game.  I rarely make specific predictions, but we need a break in our luck, so I'll break tradition: UVA wins this game 10-7.

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