"Yes, brave Sir Robin turned about, and gallantly he chickened out...."
You may already know what that picture means - it means we are in for an ACC Roundtable session. One in which most of our knights followed the lead of brave Sir Robin, so there will only be three responses to round up in this session. Four if you count me. (Lesson: never try to get people to do things within about ten days of Christmas.) Our participants:
Blogger So Dear (Wake Forest)
Duke Hoop Blog
Only one of them (the BC folks) actually printed their responses, so that means I get to paraphrase the others. And I'll take a shot at speaking for the other ACC teams, too. Here are the questions we asked:
1. How did the season go, relative to expectations? For bowl teams, are you ahead or behind the slot you thought you'd be at the beginning of the year? For non-bowl teams, is the season indicative of a trend or simply a bump in the road?
Obviously, UVA wildly exceeded expectations, and I'd wager we're the only team that can say so, outside of maybe Clemson. Tech going to a better bowl than even they thought they deserved doesn't count. Just about everyone else in the ACC felt they underachieved, or at best, ended up where they thought they should. BC Interruption points out that BC's win totals over the past few years have been 11-9-8-7-4, which is a disturbing spiral.
2. It looks as though this will be the first offseason since about 2005 or so in the ACC that sees no head coaching changes. For each of your head coaches, on a scale of -10 to 10 with 10 being "we're building him a statue as soon as he retires, which we hope is never," and -10 being "when they build the space elevator to the moon, we're tossing that loser inside and locking the door," how badly do you want to fire or keep your coach?
People are pretty happy with their coaches. Caveat: No response from Maryland this time. The BC guys want to include the athletic director in the space elevator, which is understandable for a guy with way too itchy a trigger finger on Jeff Jagodzinski and not nearly enough of one on Al Skinner.
3. Besides head coach if you're way on the negative side in question 2, what one change do you want to see on your team for next year?
This turned out sort of like a Christmas wish list, so it ended up being an apropos question. Duke wants to pick a quarterback and stick with him, which kind of sounds like a pretty good idea to me, considering. Wake wants a killer instinct; also very understandable, with close losses this season that could have swung Wake into the "exceeded expectations so hard" category had they been wins. BC would like an offensive coordinator. And as for me, I want what we're already getting: an extra year of experience and confidence. As the team gets into the swing of things with Mike London and gets some experience under their belts, games like the NC State game - where we mysteriously forget how to do things - will become scarcer and scarcer.
4. How do you feel about eventually going to a nine-game ACC schedule, if the ACC does indeed go that route?
You know my feelings. I'd be all over it. Other bloggers agree it makes sense, too. (To some degree, most of us ACC bloggers, whether they answered these questions or not, have in the past reacted to a nine-game schedule in the general range from "it's inevitable so fine" to "it's necessary and proper." There's little resistance to the idea.)
The amusing part was this: Wake says "great, fewer games against Liberty and The Citadel" and Duke says "great, fewer games against Stanford and Alabama." Someone's going to be disappointed. I suspect it'll be the Wake camp, truthfully speaking. I don't see UVA canceling its instate I-AA games against William & Mary and Richmond and whatnot.
5. Who do you want in your division, when they finally join the league: Pitt or Syracuse?
By a 2-1 vote, the bloggers want Syracuse in the Coastal and Pitt in the Atlantic; also by a 2-1 vote, they prefer to have Syracuse in their own division. I agree most with BSD's point: Pitt fitting with the Atlantic teams (Maryland, Wake, FSU, Clemson, BC, NC State) "just makes more sense." As does Syracuse with the Coastal teams, though BC is the dissenter here, wanting to play Syracuse every year. (That might happen regardless - it's more than plausible that if Syracuse joins our division, the cross-division rivalries, which currently have BC playing VT, would shuffle so that BC plays Cuse and VT plays Pitt.)
6. What was your team's best single play of the season? Which single play would you change the outcome of if you could?
You know my thoughts on the subject. As for the worst, let's see if we can reverse that 3rd-and-23 conversion by Southern Miss and then see if that game can be won.
BC and Wake picked plays by those they considered their best and most dynamic players; in BC's case, a pick-six by Luke Kuechly (who'd look awfully good in Honolulu blue and silver if he goes to the NFL) against Jacory Harris and Miami, and for Wake, "anything by Chris Givens." DHB went with a sack against FIU that sealed Duke's only win against a bowl team.
Missed field goals plague the memories of fellow bloggers; BCI wants another try at the one that cost them the Duke game, and DHB wants the ones that lost Duke the Richmond game. BSD says, pick anything that happened at the end of the Clemson or Syracuse games, continuing a theme of lamenting Wake's inability to close out a win.
OK, I guess it's time to address the two elephants in the room. Don't worry, they'll be leaving soon; playing time is hard to find for elephants in living rooms. Merry Christmas, Virginia basketball, Santa brought you coal in the form of two scholarship departures by KT Harrell and James Johnson.
Both of these are surprising and pretty frustrating decisions. Playing time is cited as the reason. In Harrell's case, Sammy Zeglinski and Malcolm Brogdon were starting to eat into his minutes. Harrell's time dwindled from 30+ minutes in each of the first four games to 4 and 7 in the last two, and his shooting this year has been unbelievably bad. Johnson had not played since the Longwood game and was the last man in the rotation, if he left the bench at all. Mike Scott and Assane Sene get most of the big-man minutes, with Akil Mitchell third and Darion Atkins starting to worm his way in.
But please don't take that paragraph as a rationalization; losing these two players is a major detriment. Here again is the list of players getting most of the playing time over Harrell and Johnson: Zeglinski, Brogdon, Scott, Sene, Mitchell. And what do three of these players have in common? They're frickin' seniors. As in, not in the plans next year. When Billy Baron left, it seemed understandable, as he was the first of six players in the same class to leave. If you're getting beat out by every one of your classmates, you might be looking at the same thing for the next four years. Brogdon is a freshman, sure, but not Zeglinski.
My original thought was that losing Harrell would be a much bigger loss, because we've seen what he can do and it's pretty good, when his shot is falling. Johnson was a much more unknown quantity. But his decision is more baffling; the guy is so patient with his development that he asks the coaches for a redshirt year, and then eleven games into his first season after taking the redshirt off, he bolts for lack of playing time? Did he think he'd come out of his redshirt year ready for 20 minutes a game, even with two seniors playing his position? Next year, Johnson would have been one of the primary options in the frontcourt.
Harrell could have at least been a vital depth player, but there's at least a prism through which his decision takes on a level of understandability: if he wants to make a career of basketball, or at least make a living for a few years with his skills, his best chance to do so is as a primary scorer for a mid-major team, if he can't be a primary scorer for a high-major one. But Johnson had as good a chance as anyone on this team to be a starter next year; he, Mitchell, and Atkins were the only returning big men and of the three, Johnson is the only one with the ability to play center. And none so far have shown a real scoring aptitude.
So we'll have to hope Mitchell and/or Atkins develop one - or that Mike Tobey and Evan Nolte (and Nolte is more of a threeish four than a fiveish four) come in readier for the grind than Johnson did. Paul Jesperson's redshirt will come off tonight, and I expect he'll get a lot of look tonight and Friday since we're playing two of the worst teams in the nation. Jesperson is supposed to be a real sharpshooter but his other skills are a mystery right now. Meanwhile, we're going to be digging out of a scholarship hole for quite a little while. Right now we have nine guys on scholarship, and ten next year. In the 2013 recruiting class, which will get filled up hopefully between now and next August or so, there's room for four, but I won't predict they'll all be filled because that would leave room in 2014 for only one other player beside B.J. Stith.
Other possibilities to answer as time goes on: Will Brandan Stith commit for 2013 now? Maybe. Will Bennett look into transfer options? Maybe. With only ten guys on scholarship for next season, it would be ideal to find a graduate student who can play right away next year and fill in some of those depth holes that otherwise we'll be depending on freshmen for.
With now only nine scholarship players, let's hope and pray for good health in the next three or four months. It would be terrible to see injuries combine with attrition to derail what should be a pretty outstanding season.
Two last things.....
-- One, with spring sports less than 60 days away, it's time for news about them to start moving in; one of those news items is that the SEC baseball tournament is expanding by two teams and one day. It used to be eight teams like the ACC's; now it will have ten. Partly this is in response to the upcoming expansion of the conference; the natural question would be, will the ACC follow suit, since we too are expanding? And I doubt it. The difference between the SEC and ACC is that the ACC's bottom teams are off a cliff. You can't make any kind of a good case for including a 9th and 10th team when those teams last year were 11-19 and 7-22 in conference play. Besides, the SEC is adding two baseball teams; we are adding just one (Syracuse has no team), and whereas Texas A&M will strengthen SEC baseball, Pitt will weaken our conference. So don't expect to see the ACC baseball tournament expand. It'd be awfully hard on the pitching arms, anyway.
-- Now for a rant against terrible, terrible journalism. There is an article making the rounds that Clemson will lose $185,000 on their Orange Bowl trip. That's fine and dandy, but in their breakdown of revenues and expenses incurred by Clemson on this trip, the article neglects to mention the following facts:
- The ACC will distribute more than just Orange Bowl money.
- The ACC pays expenses for bowl teams, from the combined bowl money pot, over and above a team's slice of the bowl pie.
- The ACC picks up the tab for unsold seats as long as the school reaches 8,000.
- Which Clemson has.
How it works is like this: The ACC collects all the bowl payout money, which this year adds up to a little over $40 million. It then uses that money to 1) give to bowl-bound teams to cover their expenses and 2) absorb unsold tickets for the schools if they fail to reach their quota but exceed 8,000. Whatever's left over is split 12 ways and handed to the schools.
BCS teams get - hey - $1.7 million for their expenses. Which is awfully similar to the $1.75 million cited by the article. Putting two and two together we come to the conclusion that the article-writer completely failed to mention the rest of the money that Clemson gets. It's obvious what happened: he assumed the ACC expense allowance was the only bowl money there was, and ignored everything else. A little simple math uncovers the deception: he even writes -
What about the $18 million payout the bowl game guarantees the participants? That money goes to the ACC and is equally distributed to member institutions.OK, so it's equally distributed - so $1.75 million times 12 is $21 million - so that means that $3 million total came from the seven other bowls?
At best this is slipshod bullshit. At worst, if I may be allowed to climb the grassy knoll for a second, the writer knows and doesn't care because he's trying to present the bowls as an evil corporate racket that stands between you and your precious playoff, you poor innocent exploited football fan that only wants a nice bracket like in basketball and are prevented from having such by assholes in suits. I would say that we are reaching - or have reached - the point where us bloggers are doing journalism better than the journalists, except that's kind of insulting to the fans who don't blog because I'm just a guy with opinions, same as anyone. Here's a thread from your basic everyday message board that does it better than the journalists, for petesake. I think the math is a little off, but not much - I calculate that each ACC team will pocket roughly $2.3 million from just the bowl season. Not a bad bit of change.
Oh, and hell - even if it was true that Clemson ended up paying out $185,000 to go to the Orange Bowl, how is that even a bad deal? Teams routinely pay more than twice that for fluffy pancake games like Idaho and Toledo and William & Mary and whatnot. Are you telling me, Mr. Terrible Journalist, that I have to pay $400,000 to bring Idaho into town but only $185,000 to go to the Orange Bowl? Where do I sign up to get exploited like that?