Thursday, March 31, 2011

series preview: Virginia Tech


Date/Time: April 1-3; 5:30/2:30/1:30

TV: none

History against the Hokies: 84-75

Last matchup: UVA 2-1 series win (4-2, 8-2, 5-8); 4/16-4/18/10; Charlottesville

Last game: UVA 2, GWU 0 (3/29); Radford 7, VT 5 (3/29)

Last weekend: UVA 3-0 over Md.; BC 2-1 over VT

National rankings:

Baseball America: UVA #2; VT unranked
Collegiate Baseball: UVA #1; VT unranked
NCBWA: UVA #2; VT unranked
Perfect Game: UVA #2; VT unranked
Coaches: UVA #1; VT unranked
Composite: UVA #2; VT unranked

Opposing blogs: Gobbler Country

File in the "back to normal" department. After being lauded as a "national power" last season by their mouthpiece in Roanoke, Tech is back to strugglesville in baseball and the Roanoke Times, like Hokie fans the world over, once again disregards college baseball as a sport. (Hey, at least the infamous GWU writeup acknowledged Will Roberts's perfect game. No such luck from the Hokie Times.)

The reason is the massive wave of graduation Tech suffered this year. But some talent remains, and truth be told the Hokies are more dangerous than their 1-8 ACC record and split four-game series with Bryant might indicate. As with most teams, the big advantage we'll have over Tech is in the rotation. Tech will probably go with Joe Mantiply on Friday; he's never been a good pitcher but he's been their Friday starter all season, probably as a sacrificial lamb to the other team's ace. Tech will hope for a bad outing from Danny Hultzen (good luck with that) but otherwise punt to Saturday and Sunday. Marc Zecchino and Joe Parsons will pitch those two against Tyler Wilson and Cody Winiarski, and UVA should hold the advantage in both. Zecchino is probably Tech's best, striking out 42 this season. Parsons has a better ERA but worse peripherals, and Cody's decent-but-pedestrian 3.51 ERA masks a .212 opponents' BA and excellent K/BB ratio.

The Hokie lineup is interesting. The first six hitters are worrisome. Mostly that's the holdovers from last year like Michael Seaborn and Tim Smalling. (Those two are good hitters but butchers in the field. That's the middle infield. They each average an error every four games or so, so expect at some point to see a fielding mishap. UVA hitters should be looking to drive the ball up the middle.) Part of the reason VT's dropoff in the standings isn't hella worse than it already is, is the emergence of Andrew Rash, who came on strong last year and clearly Tech's best hitter now. Eight home runs; a helluva number for this early in the season with these new bats. Tech has hit 29 all season, good enough for sixth nationally, so they can rake at times.

Still, that's two-thirds of the lineup. Tech is still trying to figure out what to do with the other three spots. Chad Morgan hits for average ok but never walks and strikes out too much for a guy with his lack of power. Everyone else hits worse than .220. The UVA lineup doesn't have anywhere near the slugging that Tech does, nor the top-end hitting overall, but it's more consistent 1 through 9. The other thing Tech doesn't have is lefties. Two regular left-handed hitters and no switch-hitters; and other than Mantiply the chances of ever seeing a lefty on the mound are slim. Whenever you do, start salivating 'cause none of 'em are any good.

So Tech has a decent lineup, but it's still a sweep-or-die series. Partly because it's Tech and you know you've missed hearing the VT battle cry: "nobody cares about that sport." But partly because, again, you don't want to run the risk that the other good teams will too. UNC already did, for example. It's a dangerous series because like with Maryland, you really do want the sweep, but unlike with Maryland, Tech actually has the capacity to take two of three. I look for a similar series as last week: a large margin of victory on Friday and then two close ones over the weekend.

Other series this weekend:

Miami @ Boston College - People were expecting a closer series between Miami and GT but Miami doesn't have the bats. This is more their speed, but BC could surprise with a series win. Good chance for BC to solidify their chances for a spot in the ACCT.
Clemson @ North Carolina - Series of the weekend. Clemson's been on shaky ground but this is a great chance for a statement series against a UNC team that I think is slightly overrated.
Georgia Tech @ Duke - Probably a GT sweep.
Florida State @ Maryland - Same for FSU.
Wake Forest @ NC State - Two bottom-feeders jockey for position. Loser has a very tough road to ACCT eligibility.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

27

Dave Matthews once sang that "two's a perfect number." I didn't agree then and I don't now; two doesn't even get you out of the top of the first. Ask Maryland what you can do with those two outs. Perfection requires twenty-seven. (And in the rarest of instances, twenty-eight.)

A perfect game always brings its own numbers with it. Baseball's numerically oriented like that. Will Roberts's perfection is no different. Like "one," as in the first perfect game ever thrown by a UVA pitcher. Or eight, the eighth nine-inning perfect game in NCAA history, or if you prefer, the number of shutouts now thrown by UVA pitchers this year, a previously unheard of statistic made possible by a combination of new, less bouncy bats and having cyborgs for pitchers. This perfect game happened to come with a special round number of its own: 2000, the number of wins in UVA history.

Still, it all comes back to 27. Baseball is the best sport partly because the numbers always tell the story. 27 up, 27 down means the same thing, every time. You don't get that in things like football or basketball, sports that are less binary, less digital, more flowing and analog. There's no equivalent achievement. You can score 50 points in basketball but there's nothing necessarily perfect about that. You can run for so many yards in a football game but there's nothing necessarily perfect about it. You still get tackled every time. But 27 is 27. 27 batters at the plate, and not one of them succeeded in the fundamental mission of baseball. There's something sublime about that.

Roberts helped himself along gorgeously. In a strange way it's perversely unfair that the back-slapping and hubbub over the perfect game overshadows a pitching performance that was - incredible as it sounds - even better than the phrase "perfect game" implies. Of the 27 batters, Roberts struck out 10, leaving just 17 chances for his fielders to screw up. And of those 17, 14 of them were putouts by the first baseman John Hicks; that is to say, ground balls. Keith Werman handled seven of them at second base (including the final out), the ideal location for a grounder. The baseball gods demand at least one lucky element to a perfect game, and Roberts got his when a hard ground bounced square off his shin and right in front of him for the easy toss to first. Roberts only saw three balls go into the air, and two of them fell into Werman's glove at second. With 10 strikeouts, 14 grounders, and two popups to second, that leaves just one ball for the outfield. (That flyout was hit by the same guy who rocketed the grounder off Roberts's leg.) Will Roberts did not stumble and luck his way into a perfect game.

Stuff:

- Werman's role in this should not go overlooked. The kid's got major glove chops. Werman's hitting a measly .213 and the lineup could be improved by putting Stephen Bruno (when he returns from what's become a succession of injuries) back at short and shuffling Chris Taylor to second, but there's a reason O'Connor doesn't do that and it has everything to do with Werman's outstanding glove. He made a couple non-routine plays to preserve the perfecto.

- I hear North Korea is looking for a new sports information director. Maybe the George Washington guys should apply for the job. I get that these official-site writeups are, first and foremost, about showcasing your own team's deeds and doings. It leads to occasionally comic moments, like Maryland omitting the score from the headline of a game writeup against Virginia because the score was 27-4 and that's embarrassing. But even then the score was in the first paragraph, and the next two talked about UVA. When the actual media has taken to pointing and laughing at your Baghdad Bobbery, that's how you know you've taken it a little too far. Next time, try the first paragraph instead of the seventh. There'll still be room to talk about the brilliant exploits of your mighty pitchers courageously working their way out of a bases-loaded jam for creation of great fortress of juche.

- Speaking of actual media: yes, top play on Sportscenter this morning. And a headline on MLB.com. UVA is not yet considered an elite program along the lines of an LSU or a Fullerton, but this is one step toward getting there.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

the perfect recruiting board update

OK, it's not really the best recruiting board update in world history, but it's getting its own post this weekend. Anyway, I'm not the perfect one, Will Roberts is. See below about that. The recruiting board is here, and don't forget the handy prospect map. Here are the updates:

- Removed CB Terrell Burt, TE Dakota Jackson, and DE Brent Wilkerson, all from green. They committed to Baylor, VT, and Penn State, respectively. Bummer about Wilkerson because if it weren't for his very high interest in Penn State I'd have had him in the blue. Not to mention he's from DeMatha and a hell of a prospect.

- Moved DE (or WR, whatever) Eli Harold from yellow to green.

- Moved OL Win Homer from green to blue.

- Added OT Adam Bisnowaty to green.

- Added LB Devin Vandyke to yellow. Best guess is that he follows brother Ronny to VT, but who knows?

Also, the "competition" column got a full makeover. About half the prospects got schools added. No, I am not going to enumerate them all for you.

This weekend, of course, is the spring game, and the visitor list for that is a hell of a lot more impressive than either of the junior days combined. You're wanting to know if anyone might commit on Saturday, of course. Maybe. I wouldn't bet on it, but maybe. I won't be blown out of my chair if someone does, but I'm not expecting it.

Two things:

- This couldn't wait til tomorrow. Oh, it'll get it's own post tomorrow. But while I was busy on this thing, Will Roberts was busy mowing down George Washington hitters at Davenport. 27 up, 27 down for the first perfect game in UVA history and the second ever thrown by an ACC team. And only the 8th 9-inning perfect game in NCAA history. Dear UVA athletic department: I can haz moar video streaming plz. Yes I like very much what you've done so far, now I want more candy. I know baseball history used to come through the radio, but this isn't the 1940s.

- The ACC Sports Journal is doing the way-early thing, as the media is wont to do, and - this for basketball by the way - hoists UVA to fourth in the preseason power rankings. If that ends up coming true it means the tournament for sure. I think there'll be two schools of thought concerning UVA hoops next season: the one that says adding Mike Scott to a lineup that won seven conference games and was in the hunt every night will result in a breakthrough season, and the one that doesn't concern itself with basketball in the ACC outside of North Carolina. It'll be interesting to see which one is the more heavily propagated come November.

Bonus amusement line from the ACCSJ: "Seth Greenberg won’t have to worry about getting snubbed by the NCAA tournament selection committee again next year. The Hokies might get snubbed by the NIT instead."

Monday, March 28, 2011

weekend review

I've been watching baseball a long time - longer than any other sport I like - and I haven't seen too many series that put the capricious nature of the sport on display like this weekend's series against Maryland. A sweep, by the way. Which looked as if it was going to be in some danger during the first game of Saturday's doubleheader.

If you're in need of evidence that the baseball gods are the most demanding of all the other sports - perhaps combined - witness the 8th inning of game 2 of the Maryland series. Down 2-1, things were looking dark until Maryland center fielder Korey Wacker caught the final out of the bottom of the 7th and opted against the standard practice of rolling the ball nonchalantly back to the mound for the pitcher to use. Instead he spiked it. Hard. And deliberately. Leave it to Maryland to find new ways to show up the opposition before the game is even over. This violation of the Code was not met by either UVA or the baseball gods with acceptance, and in retaliation the gods turned Maryland's normally sure-handed left-side infielders into Booty the Clown. After they themselves recorded assists on the first two outs of the inning. UVA took advantage by singling home a run to tie, and then brought Kenny Swab to the plate, who hit the pitcher's offering so hard that it bounced past the diving first baseman into foul territory for a base hit - after first ricocheting off the pitcher himself. And who was this hard luck pitcher who saw his infielders twice play an ill-timed game of kickball to put two on with two out and then felt the winning base hit slam into his ankle before he ever saw it coming? Korey Wacker.

UVA scored 22 runs in the series - 17 of them in three innings. The final margin of the third game was provided in the second inning when UVA plated four runs, and the first game saw the floodgates open in the fourth as UVA broke the scoreboard. It doesn't go past nine runs per inning on the line score, see. People arriving late to the game must have wondered how 1 + 2 + 1 + 0 = 14.

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The lacrosse team could have used some luck, because once again they started the game off flat and fell short on their furious comeback. Aiiyy. Oh, and by flat I mean shitty. I might have said this before, but our offense looks like Hokie basketball. One guy runs around a little to see if he can shake his man. When he can't, he passes to someone else, who tries. When he can't, he passes to someone else who tries again. Eventually someone either coughs up the ball or shoots, the latter with mixed results and not often the desired one. Motion without the ball is nonexistent at times, and when finally someone does put himself in position to receive a pass that could actually do some damage to the scoreboard, he lets it fly right past the stick. The ACC schedule is coming up, and it's gonna be awful hard to even go 2-1 if whatever that was makes any more appearances.

Even Adam Ghitelman was less than his usual solid self, but that might be because the defense thinks that other teams run their offense the same as we do.

After two weeks of doing lacrosse bracketology, a few games on TV, and a little over half a season, the lax landscape looks like Syracuse and a bunch of teams separated by nothing. Teams 2 through 10 in the rankings don't seem to be any different from each other, and the next 10 are probably capable of beating anyone in the top 10 as well. So while the good news is we're clearly no worse than any of the other contenders except maybe Cuse (which Villanova demonstrated is not invincible by losing 5-4 in the very last minute of the game) we're also clearly no better unless we figure out how to play more than half a game.

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Other stuff:

- The lady swimmers were 13th and the men a very, very solid 8th at the NCAA nationals these past two weekends. The men were headlined by a second-place relay and the first individual national championship since 2000 when Ed Moses was doing his thing. Matt McLean not only won the 500 freestyle, he blew away the competition by nearly four seconds. Yes, that's an eternity. He's the third swimmer at UVA to win a national title and he beat the event's defending champ en route to it.

- Better cross-pollination is something I wanted to see in the unsolicited suggestion box post I wrote a while back, so I'm pleased about the lacrosse/football extravaganza this weekend. Because Maryland is the lax opponent, Hit A Twerp With A Stick Week is underway and it should be a good crowd for the game. Even more betterer is that the spring game (as well as lax) will be on ESPN3. It's great that the admin is getting on board with the '10s. I'm slightly selfishly annoyed about the ESPN3 thing on account of shelling out $30 for the live video package - part of the attraction of which was the spring game which is now free to all - but regardless, the fact that they have it on the video package is a poor reason not to open it up to ESPN3 if ESPN is willing.

- We're #1 again in 2 of 5 baseball polls. I don't care too much because it puts a target on your back and doesn't get you to Omaha, but some do, so there you go. Annoying siderant: why the hell is ACC baseball broken up into divisions?

- Georgia Tech has a new basketball coach, and hooray it's not Richmond's Mooney or VCU's Smart or anyone you thought might get the job. It's Dayton's Brian Gregory. Gregory's got a decent record at Dayton but this is not the proverbial home-run hire. Instead of swinging for the fences, GT choked up on the bat. Chances are excellent that he's an improvement over Paul Hewitt in the X's and O's department but I'm not sure we'll see GT earning a first-round bye in the ACC tournament any time soon.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

lacrosse bracketology

For the week of the 27th, as follows: Last week I was prepared for the possibility of anyone going "hey why u put UVA 4th" when we pretty much had the consensus #2 team. This week I'm waiting for everyone wondering why I moved us up when we lost. It's really an artifact of Villanova losing and dropping a few spots in the metrics. And yes, they only lost by one and in the last minute of the game, too, and to the obvious #1 team in the country in Syracuse. And I don't create the metrics, I just follow 'em. Probably was the case that Villanova was artificially high to begin with thanks to the earliness of the season and therefore any loss was going to knock 'em down. Remember, too, the RPI is sensitive not only to what you do but what your opponents and your opponents' opponents do, too. Autobids continue to be given to the team with the best conference record, and in the case of ties, to the team with the higher RPI. And it's slightly shuffled for geography (so that Penn State gets the short (cheap) trip to Villanova instead of down to Duke.) You know how the NCAA loves to give some teams cushy travel schedules when it can and shafts others.

Friday, March 25, 2011

game preview: Johns Hopkins


Date/Time: Sat., March 26; 2:00

TV: ESPNUVA

History against the Jays: 28-54-1

Last matchup: UVA 15, JHU 6; 3/23/10; Charlottesville

Last game: UVA 14, OSU 11 (3/19); Syracuse 5, JHU 4 (3/19)

Opposing blogs: none

Best UVA rivalry outside the ACC in any sport? Probably between this and Syracuse, and this one has the benefit of proximity, recruiting overlap, a much longer history, and a trophy. Hopkins got the Michigan State Honorary Invite to the NCAA tournament last year, reserved for severely bubblicious teams with royalty in their names, and then proceeded to be the victims of the worst thrashing in the whole tournament aside from UVA's 18-4 demolition of autovite Mount St. Mary's. They avoided the 18-4 fate by losing 18-5. This year they're much better, and will eventually be legitimately tournamenty, if not quite at the level a Hop fan would be hoping for.

HOW WE CAN WIN

- Score....somehow. I've been on record saying UVA needs to play much better team offense in order to be a real threat to win the national title. It so happens that Hopkins has the best scoring defense in the country right now, and I've been going back and forth in my head as to whether that means we need the team offense to win this, or whether the best way to get past that kind of stingy defense is just go athlete-on-athlete and may the best man win. So yes, this is a cop-out bullet. But I lean toward the former. Sure, UVA also has the best scoring offense in the country, but MSM and VMI are skewing the numbers a bit. 12 goals a game without those two included isn't too shabby either, but still - it ceases to be #1 by quite a long shot.

- Stay disciplined on defense. Penalties this year haven't been a huge problem, but - and maybe this is just confirmation bias speaking - they all seem to come at the absolute worst of possible times. Hopkins can be shut right down by a decent defense; Princeton held them to three goals and Syracuse to four. Princeton's 1-4 this year but not for lack of defense. Adam Ghitelman's played well in net and the defense hasn't disappointed this season. It's not suffocating but it's good enough. Don't give the Hop too many extra-man chances and they probably won't be scoring much.

HOW WE CAN LOSE

- Faceoff boogeyman. Good showings in the past two games doesn't mean this problem has gone away. Hopkins has won fully two-thirds of their faceoffs this year - including 10-of-14 against Syracuse and 8-of-15 against Princeton so this isn't a result of crappy competition - so this is a terrific test. I will exhale a little bit on the faceoffs if we can even win 45%. But the only way Hopkins gets into double digits on the scoreboard is by killing it at the faceoff X, especially on unsettled breakaways.

- Pierce Bassett stands on his head. Which he's been doing all year. Part of the reason Hopkins has such a great scoring defense is because Bassett has an astounding .683 save percentage in net. His insertion into the lineup during our game last year was the turning point in Hopkins's season, and he's establishing himself as worthy of the title "fucking damn good." Even the best-laid offensive plans can be stopped by a hot goaltender, and our individual style means not a lot of shots are of the kind that's unstoppable because they're within five yards.

HOW THE GAME WILL GO

UVA hasn't failed to score double digits in any game this year, but what with Bassett, Hopkins's eminently stoppable offense, and our faceoff misery combined with their faceoff prowess, there's a terrific chance neither team will reach 10 goals. I'll go ahead and say Hopkins almost definitely doesn't, and it's at least 50/50 we don't either. Due to the likely defensive struggle, this is one of JHU's best chances in years at breaking the six-game win streak we have against them. In the end, the UVA athleticism will probably be too much for Hopkins and we'll see a seventh straight win in the series - but by no stretch of anyone's imagination will it be easy or anything but close.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

series preview: Maryland


Date/Time: March 25-27; 6:00/1:00/1:00

TV: UVA webcast only

History against the Terps: 101-76

Last matchup: UVA sweep (5-1, 27-4, 11-2); 4/16/10 - 4/18/10; College Park

Last game: UVA 5, Towson 0 (3/23); Md. 8, GWU 2 (3/22)

Last weekend: UVA 2-1 over FSU; BC 2-1 over Md.

National rankings:

Baseball America: UVA #3; Md. unranked
Collegiate Baseball: UVA #3; Md. unranked
NCBWA: UVA #3; Md. unranked
Perfect Game: UVA #3; Md. unranked
Coaches: UVA #3; Md. unranked

Opposing blogs: no baseball-inclined ones

So, Maryland has been godawful at baseball. This year, probably less so. Second-year coach Erik Bakich is working on fixing the laughingstockitude that was Maryland baseball and has them taking steps from being the laugher of the East Coast to merely bad. This is bad for my ability to write jokes about Maryland but good for the ACC in general when the bad teams aren't pitching-free zones. More improvement may or may not be on tap for the future, but for now Maryland is still an extreme longshot to be eligible for any kind of postseason play. Thus, anything less than a sweep would be disappointing.

HOW WE CAN WIN**

- Roll out the lefties. Southpaws, they haz none. The only left-handed pitcher on Maryland that we're ever likely to see on the hill is Sunday starter Eric Potter. The left-handed batters in our lineup mostly aren't full-time regulars, but they've seen their share of at-bats. Keith Werman is the only really everyday lefty, but David Coleman, Danny the Destroyer, and Reed Gragnani all bat from that side of the plate too. Along with possibly Ryan Levine, they'll see plenty of plate appearances to take advantage of the fact that pretty much everyone the Terps trot out from the bullpen will be right-handed.

- Dominate on Friday. Maryland's pen isn't half bad, but it's shallow. Much shallower than ours, at any rate. It can be taken advantage of. Brian O'Connor is a master of pitching staff usage, but his job there can be cake and a half this week if his job is made that much easier by his hitters burning through Maryland pitchers on the first day of the series. Danny will strike out 13 batters, of course, so if the batters can open up a can on Sander Beck (the likely Friday starter) and then open up a can on his relief, we can turn to someone who might normally be a weekday guy and save the bigger guns for the later games, and let them pitch against a bullpen that's wearing thin quickly.

**By "win" I mean sweep. Can't afford to give up a game against the Marylands of the world, especially since we don't get a series against Wake.

HOW WE CAN LOSE

- Let a pitchers' duel break out. Any one of the games could be. Sander Beck held Georgia Tech(!) to one lousy run, David Carroll held Texas(!!) to one lousy run, and I actually think it's Eric Potter who's pitching the best of the three. His .181 opponents' BA has a lot to do with it. Not that our own pitchers can't hold up in a pitcher's duel, of course. They're still better. But Maryland's best hope for stealing a game in any of their series is in a pitchers' duel. They don't have the lineup horses to win anything 10-8. They've hit double digits once this year: against Liberty, whom they'd lost to the day before.

HOW THE SERIES WILL GO

Seriously, if we lose even one it'll be a big disappointment. GT swept 'em, FSU will probably sweep 'em, Clemson will probably sweep 'em. Win them all, or else have to try and earn the tournament 1 seed the hard way. Fortunately, a sweep is exactly what I see with my magic 8-ball. Maryland scores no more than eight runs all weekend, strikes out at least 10 times against Hurricane Danny, and UVA is 8-1 with an excellent chance to return to at least a tie atop the division standings, what with Miami hosting Georgia Tech this weekend.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

basketball world tour

There are four hundred triple dozen thousand NCAA student athletes, and almost all of them will go pro in something other than sports. Some of them will go pro in sports and you won't hear about them anyway. You know about guys like Roger Mason, Ryan Zimmerman, and Thomas Jones, I'm assuming. The guys in the big leagues. (The Knicks, Nationals, and Chiefs, in case you actually don't.) How about some of the less glitzy destinations? Like overseas? Here are a few of UVA's bouncyballers who are still plying the hoops trade, just not in the NBA.

- Jerome Meyinsse. A man after my own heart, Meyinsse keeps a highly entertaining blog of his own, chronicling his misadventures in Argentina hooping it up for 9 de Julio Rio Tercero.

- Sylven Landesberg. You probably haven't forgotten that he bolted after his sophomore year to play in Israel, and playing in Israel he is, for Maccabi Haifa. But he's not the only one...

- Elton Brown. The bouncyball variety. Brown is in the Holy Land too, hooping for Barak Netanya. He looks as weird in bumblebee yellow as Landesberg does in green.

- Laurynas Mikalauskas. Not surprisingly, Lars is in his native Lithuania playing most recently for BC Nevesis, though he's been bouncing around the league a little. Somewhat more surprisingly, he's got company too....

- Travis Watson. Yup. Watson's been all over Europe, and in Lithuania playing for Zalgiris for the past couple years. Matter of fact, Zalgiris just knocked off Nevesis in the Baltic Basketball League playoffs with Watson missing the game and Lars scoring 12 points.

- J.R. Reynolds. In France these days playing for Entente Orleans. Hurr hurr from one france to another. [/hokie]

- Derrick Byars. Nope, not just limited to guys who played every minute of their college career at UVA. Byars was playing in Greece to start the season, but his time there was short; he's back in the States playing for the Bakersfield Jam of the D-league.

- Donte Minter. In that vein, Donte Minter. He turns up in the Netherlands playing for BSW Weert and scoring more than he did at UVA, too.

- Jason Cain. In Germany with New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig, and yes, still rockin' the world's greatest mustache.

- Jamil Tucker. Started the season with Science City Jena of the second-level league in Germany, but doesn't appear on the roster any more.

- Chris Williams. I had no idea you could do this. Williams plays - or played - for Mahram Tehran this year after a tour in China where he scored the second quadruple-double in Chinese hoops history. That's Tehran as in the capital of Iran, yes. He's not on the roster any more either, so here's hoping he's not making friends with those hikers who thought an excursion near the border with Iraq was a good idea. It's worth clicking to the website anyway, just for the logo, which is - as best as I can tell - a happy ghost marshmallow.

- Keith Friel. Technically the United States isn't a foreign country, but I've never heard of the Rochester RazorSharks or the Premier Basketball League, so it counts for our purposes here. Keith is the highest scorer in the RazorSharks' (short) history and the first player in PBL (short) history to reach 1,000 career points. Got there three at a time, no doubt.

- Adam Hall. It's kind of scary that players I watched in U-Hall when I was in college are now the grizzled old vets of their team, but that's exactly what Hall is for Optima Gent in Belgium.

So. Not quite a comprehensive list, but close-ish, I hope. Only covers the last ten years - anyone older than that is probably retired anyway. And not everyone went into pro basketball. Some did end up in a regular career - and some ended up busted for coke. (Keith Jenifer, to save you the trouble of scrolling.) It'd be awesome if UVA was an NBA pipeline, but the next-awesomest thing is seeing UVA so well represented around the world.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

acc baseball

Last year this was a three-parter, but I had more than enough material for the late winter months this year and it got squeezed. It's really too late to bother with a full-out preview since we're two weekends into the ACC season, so this year you get short capsules in one post of each ACC team instead of something larger. Tell Mike London to stop signing so many recruits so I won't be finishing up those profiles in March - or make basketball less interesting - and it'll be easier next year.

BOSTON COLLEGE

Mediocre team last year, mediocre this year. They had two mashers in 2010 - Mickey Wiswall and John Spatola - and both graduated, leaving behind a lineup that looks a lot like UVA's in the home run department (which is to say, they don't hit any) but nothing like UVA's in the contact department. There's but one hitter batting over .300 at the moment (CF Tom Bourdon), and he's a freshman. The veterans are up and down at best, with a few other semi-reliable hitters scattered throughout the order. The pitching is equally meh, and BC still hasn't really settled on a rotation yet, although John Leonard is pitching very well and gives them at least one building block there. There are some reliable arms in the bullpen, too - it's probably the strength of the team.

Prediction: Another 8 seed in the ACC tournament, at best.

CLEMSON

Now this is a lineup. Kyle Parker is a professional baseball player now, so his 20 home runs aren't in the lineup any more, but despite a few losses to graduation, he was the only really irreplaceable player. There's a pleasant conundrum at catcher, where Spencer Kieboom grabbed the starting spot in last year's NCAA tournament and hasn't let go, starting the year with a .453 batting average. The only problem is that Phil Pohl, the supposed heir apparent, is hitting .426, though mostly at DH. Clemson has five other regulars over .300 as well, all of them seasoned veterans, and is getting quality RBI production from spots 1 through 9. Clemson's bullpen is generally excellent, and the only thing holding them back from national elite status is the lack of a back end of the rotation. Will Lamb and Scott Weismann are getting bombed. The only reliable starter so far has been David Haselden, who got bumped from Sunday to Saturday for the Duke series last weekend and might get bumped further. They may call on Justin Sarratt to help shore up the rotation, who was a respectable pitcher in his first three seasons but lost 2010 to an elbow injury. He's been lights-out so far and Clemson could be a CWS contender if they just get their rotation in order.

Prediction: Solid 4th seed in the ACC tournament, but UVA exposed their rotation in the opening-weekend sweep. Ripe for an upset in an NCAA regional.

DUKE

Clemson swept 'em, but look out. The Blue Devils have been bottom-feeding for a while, having made the ACC tournament just once (as a 7 seed) since expansion to 12, when the ACC stopped letting everyone in. There's a huge crop of freshmen, though, and they're hitting. Most of the lineup is freshmen, and they're bumping the veterans out of the way. Five players are batting over .300 and none of them played an inning of college ball last year except for Jeff Kremer, who is now a sophomore and had 14 at-bats last season. The pitching hasn't been tested much against ACC bats, but it's certainly better than the mess Boston College has to offer. Dennis O'Grady is the only senior on the team, and he's both a reliable Saturday starter and decent htter. Duke's already won a series this year (against NC State, which swept them last season) and figures to gather plenty more than the eight ACC wins they had last year.

Prediction: 7th seed in the tournament, their highest since the pre-expansion days. Potential surprise NCAA tournament team. And maybe more to come in the future.

FLORIDA STATE

What can you say? 32 innings of baseball this weekend hardly proved anything, except that UVA and FSU are the class of the ACC. Few if any weak spots in the lineup, an exceptional bullpen, and just one chink in the rotation (Brian Busch is pitching poorly, but he's proven he's better than his 6.75 ERA and just our luck will probably toss a two-hitter against us in the tournament.) And they seem to have found a good one in Scott Sitz, to go along with Friday stalwart Sean Gilmartin. Probably have to do a little rebuilding next year, but this is a veteran bunch with their sights set on Omaha.

Prediction: 2nd seed in the tournament and a date in at least a super-regional.

GEORGIA TECH

A revamped lineup and no Deck McGuire and it doesn't even matter. A couple of puzzling losses and the aforementioned personnel changes held their rankings down early in the year, but they're rocketing right back up the charts again. More hitting than a team should be allowed to have, and their pitchers haven't allowed a home run yet. Like Duke, they're being propelled by freshmen, so they've got an even brighter future ahead. And wouldn't you know - they get to skip Florida State this year.

Prediction: 3rd seed in the ACC, but if I'm right and they meet FSU in the ACC tournament, things could get interesting quick. And it wouldn't surprise if they win their division and the 1 seed. Major threat to make Omaha.

MARYLAND

The suck is more than I can handle, or it would be if it weren't Maryland. Actually, the Terps' pitching staff ain't bad. Explains how they managed to pull off a win against Texas(!). Last year the Maryland schedule was cratered with 20-run losses (which the Maryland headline writers hilariously never expounded on beyond "Maryland falls to some team" without ever mentioning the scoreboard explosion.) This year they've found pitchers, and they probably won't be giving up any more of those 20-run wonders. But they won't be scoring much, either. Two regulars are below the .200 Mendoza Line, and two more are flirting with it. They got swept by GT but the Friday game was just 1-0; probably not the first time that score will show up on the Maryland schedule. Hey, it's better than 27-4, which was the UVA Saturday score from last year. Maryland's pitching will probably steal them a few games, but there's a long way to go to respectability.

Prediction: No tournament, but probably more than their 2010 total of five wins. Might even crawl out of the cellar.

MIAMI

Started the ACC season 6-0, but that start is masking some major issues in Coral Gables. It's not your daddy's Miami. Your daddy's Miami could play some ball. This one can't hit a lick. One of the sorriest lineups in the whole ACC. Not as sorry as Maryland's, but pretty bad. Hell, even Maryland has a couple .300 hitters. Miami has one, and their team OPS is .697. And it's kind of a shame because the pitching is nasty. The competition so far leaves something to be desired, but they did hold Florida to one run in the Saturday game of their series. (And got one-hit, and lost 1-0.) Losses to Appalachian State and Illinois State are ugly blemishes, and they'll give Tim Weiser and his committee of fools something to think about when seeding the NCAA tournament. Leave Miami out? Hasn't happened since 1972.

Prediction: The pitching gives them a shot. Honestly, the pitching is good enough to get them a high seed in the ACCT. And the hitting is bad enough to leave them out entirely. We'll meet in the middle and say a 6 seed. If they get into the NCAAs it'll be as a regional 3-seed, nothing more.

NORTH CAROLINA

Is UNC back? A win over Cal-State Fullerton says "sure." A series loss to Wake Forest says "definitely not." I'll learn toward yes. It was certainly strange to have an ACC tournament without UNC, but that's what happened last year. This year, they'll be back. They've got the hitting, the veterans, and the pitching to do it. But are they the powerhouse of a few years ago? No. Carolina is solid but no longer among the ACC's elite.

Prediction: 5th seed, and a regional 2-seed in the NCAAs. They could make someone's life miserable there and make the supers, but they won't be a huge contender in the conference.

NC STATE

Awful, just awful. They had a solid lineup last year which could do some damage, but the leftovers include a few guys who can hit and a few guys who definitely can't. They'll give you five innings of some danger and four throwaway innings. The bullpen is good, but they're so rarely handed a lead that it doesn't matter. Cory Mazzoni is a quality Friday starter but there isn't much else for Saturday and Sunday, and he gets bupkis for run support. Losing series to Penn State and Duke is all you need to know about where they fall on the ACC pecking order. They'll still probably take two of three from UVA, though, just because that's how they roll.

Prediction: No tournament.

VIRGINIA

Danny. Hultzen.

Prediction: The 1 seed, of course, and a super-regional in Charlottesville. Tim Weiser would say otherwise, but Weiser is the Dennis Nedry to Hultzen's dilophosaurus.

VIRGINIA TECH

Last year's Hokies had a bunch of seniors, especially senior pitchers, and came within an extra-inning run of going to the ACC championship game. There are a few hitters, but the bottom dropped out of the pitching (that amazing Miami lineup scored a season-high 11 against the Hokies; the only other double-digit effort was against Appalachian State.) With an 0-6 start to the ACC season against two of the ACC's decent-but-not-elite teams in Miami and UNC, I don't see where the wins are going to come from to get VT back into the tournament. Either the ACC or NCAA variety.

Prediction: Scrapping for an 8th seed and probably not getting it.

WAKE FOREST

They've never been good. They still ain't. They got swept in their own invitational tournament, to which they invited Fordham, Towson, and Radford. Somehow they pulled off a series win against UNC, mainly by giving their one quality starter (Tim Cooney) some run support and then stringing together a big inning in the rubber game. Might be the highlight of the season, since the lineup is among the weakest in the conference and did I mention they have one reliable weekend starter?

Prediction: Still no tournament.

For those who didn't keep track, here's the handy guide to the seeding predictions:

1. Virginia
4. Clemson
5. North Carolina
8. Boston College

2. Florida State
3. Georgia Tech
6. Miami
7. Duke

If you put a gun to my head and made me order the rest, too, I'd say VT 9th, NC State 10th, Maryland 11th, and Wake 12th. Pretty good tournament draw; anything that keeps FSU and GT the hell away from our pod is the goal. Now you know what we're getting into the rest of the season.

Monday, March 21, 2011

weekend review

Unemployment is funemployment. CBS's partnership with the Turnerplex of cable channels to broadcast the Dance couldn't have come at a better time for me. I've always wanted a job that would allow me to watch the first round of the tournament from noon to midnight; failing that, the next best thing is not having a job while waiting for grad school. So if you thought I was a little content-light these four days, blame the best basketball weekend of the year.

We might not have had a dog in the fight, but that doesn't mean there's no hoops news to be had:

- With Sidney Lowe and Paul Hewitt fired from their respective employers, ACC coaching figures to improve next season. One expects NC State won't be stupid enough this time around to hire a guy who went 79-228 in the League just because he's an alum. Naturally, Richmond's Chris Mooney and VCU's Shaka Smart have only not been hired somewhere else yet because they happen to still be technically eligible for the national title. Because it's how things go for UVA, expect both instate coaching hotshots to be ACC rivals about 24 hours after their eventual elimination. Maybe we can get Utah to hire one of them instead.

- How incredibly fitting that Jeff Allen fouled out of his final collegiate game. I will truly miss this guy. Comedic gold, every time. Gimme one more salute, for old times' sake.


There ya go.

- Speaking of comedic gold, I wish just once I could hear Charles Barkley and Bobby Knight call a UVA game. Barkley's not for everyone; there are a lot of people who think he's too much of a marblemouth. Well, he is a marblemouth, but how many analysts do we need telling us very seriously that such-and-such a team needs to defend better or else they might lose? Barkley doesn't act like Mr. Serious Man all the time.

- You're aware that the administration passed on the CBI; here, it sounds like confirmation that they could have had a spot if they'd wanted it. If they didn't go this year, when the freshmen could have used any game experience they got and the seniors had to go out with the memory of Miami in their minds, I'm guessing they never ever will. Dunno about you but in the future I'm going to just assume the CBI is never an option.

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In sports we play good, the lax team beat Ohio State, which makes me feel warm and fuzzy. OSU is something of a threat this year to make the tournament - more so than I had them figured for before the season anyway - so the win should be a strong one when it comes time to seed teams in the tournament. See below for current bracketology, which has the Buckeyes seeded 7th.

Even more encouraging was Ryan Benincasa's 14-for-19 faceoff performance. I think this is evolving into a situation where there still might not be a truly 100% reliable performer at the X (Chris LaPierre looked like he might provide a spark there but then went 1-for-5 against OSU) but there might be a hot hand for the day. I guess we just hope we find that hot hand early in the game. It should be noted that OSU isn't an especially good or bad faceoff team themselves - they're just enh.

There still aren't as many assists as I'd like to see, though. Again just 50%. This isn't a problem against the OSUs of the world, and probably won't be one against Hopkins either, but the ACC schedule will test the offense's ability to score against coherent defenses.

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The standings don't show it, but they will: UVA is now the ACC's baseball team to beat. A 2-1 series win over FSU puts them at 5-1. Miami and Georgia Tech are 6-0 but they've both been feasting on the dregs. It's UVA's turn, with Miserable Maryland coming to town and then a road series against VT. Poly was a hot team last year to make some noise, but everyone who could swing a stick or throw a ball graduated and they're back to where they're thoroughly unlikely to make the ACC tournament.

Of course, play that FSU series again and any number of outcomes could result. Three extra-inning games and three one-run margins. You probably won't see a series that close anywhere in the country for the rest of the year. FSU had better keep playing that well all season because I expect a 1 or a 2 seed in the ACC tournament and they'd better not be on our side of the pool. This should make for a pretty excellent championship rematch. GT is a threat to mess that up, but I think it's been well-established for now who the top teams are. FSU barely even dropped in the rankings, but the consensus now in all five polls is that Florida-Vanderbilt-Virginia is the 1-2-3 combo.

It shouldn't be glossed over that Danny Hultzen is now UVA's all-time strikeouts leader. 12 on Friday (and no walks) gives him 62 for the season and 292 for his career, two more than Seth Greisinger. Danny's got a great chance to top the single-season record of 146 before the regular season even ends.

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Been a long time since I took a whack at the recruiting board, so here goes. Also, don't forget the map.

- Removed ATH Germone Hopper, LB Timothy Cole, and LB Devon Johnson from red, who don't seem too interested. At some point the red section becomes full of names who are there just for the sake of having a red section, but for now even that section has realistic names in it. Actually, Johnson may return at some point, but he's committed to Marshall, and there ain't room for everyone in this town. There's adding to be done and someone's gotta go and it might as well be the guy who's given a verbal elsewhere.

- Added CB Terrell Burt, ATH Der'Woun Greene, WR Desmond Frye, and TE Joshua Parris to green.

- Added DT Roderick Chungong, LB Noor Davis, and LB Kaiwan Lewis to yellow.

- Moved LB Trey Edmunds from yellow to green.

- Moved QB Brendan Nosovitch from green to yellow.

- Moved LB Quanzell Lambert from red to yellow.

- Moved RB I'Tavius Mathers and OL Greg Pyke from yellow to red.

- Moved ATH Devin Fuller (whose recruitment has exploded since I last checked in) from green to red.

Tis the season for a huge recruiting board. I'm semi-arbitrarily drawing the line there; no more additions without corresponding subtractions.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

lacrosse bracketology

Don't tell me it's too early to do this. Lunardi is gonna do a 2012 hoops bracketology the moment the current tournament ends. I can do what I want.

How this works: Here are the selection criteria. Six conferences have autobids: the America East, CAA, ECAC, Ivy, MAAC, and Patriot. The Big East gets theirs next year (not that the eventual champ will need it) and the NEC is a brand-new conference so I think 2013. Honestly, this is kinda just plug-and-chug with the numbers that the NCAA, but it takes some fiddling to get the geography right, and some guesswork as to which numbers they'll like better when there are deadlocks.

Also keep in mind that this isn't a prediction, it's an if-today scenario. And, autobids are handed out based on who has the best record so far, or in case of a tie, highest RPI. So:


Yes, the "first four out" section (or as I like to call it: Hokieland) is loaded with ranked heavyweights. That's why bracketology is not a prediction. If I had to pick the biggest surprise of the four it'd probably be 6-1 Maryland, their RPI weighed down by a truly assy non-conference schedule. My committee of one frowns upon loading their schedule with lightweights like Detroit and Bellarmine. MCLA teams (club lacrosse for the uninitiated) beat Detroit and Bellarmine. Like many teams, the toughest is yet to come for Maryland, but it's not a stretch to say they could be left out if they can't get at least one signature win in ACC play (and they already lost to Duke) or against the Hop. That's why it's called a bubble. Still, UMass and Hofstra can't be complacent.

I'm'a do this every Sunday, because it's fun.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

series preview: Florida State


Date/Time: March 18-20; 6:00, 1:00, 1:00

TV: none

History against the Noles: 13-42

Last matchup: UVA series win, 2-1 (5-0, 9-8, 8-9); 3/12-3/14, 2010; Tallahassee

Last game: UVA 7, JMU 3 (3/16); UF 5, FSU 4 (3/15)

Last weekend: UVA 3-0 over Clemson; FSU 3-0 over BC

National rankings:

Baseball America: UVA #7; FSU #6
Collegiate Baseball: UVA #6; FSU #4
NCBWA: UVA #5; FSU #4
Perfect Game: UVA #4; FSU #3
Coaches: UVA #5; FSU #4

Opposing blogs: Tomahawk Nation, Scalp 'Em

Thanks to scheduling gurus who I'm sure are very smart people, the two ACC divisional favorites will play each other in March. You'd think it would make a lot better TV if this was in, say, early May, but that's OK, it's not on TV. I'm sorry for getting sarcasm all over your keyboard.

Anyway, no matter who you ask, it's a top-ten matchup, and to most, it's a top five. Even with Florida visiting LSU, it's the only series this weekend with two top-five teams, and with FSU's ace Sean Gilmartin going against super-ace Danny Hultzen on Friday, you can totally see why the ACC wouldn't think it's worth it to find a way to get this on TV.

Florida State is one of the country's top teams partly because they're Florida State. They're hard to figure, though. They swept Boston College - one of the conference's bottom-dwellers - but had a hard time with it. Then they took Florida to extra innings. The big matchup, of course, is Hultzen vs. Gilmartin. Gilmartin's stats are outstanding, but nothing like Hultzen's. The series could well hinge on Friday's game.

On Saturday, we'll send out Tyler Wilson against the underachieving Brian Busch. Busch was a better pitcher last year, but even if he returns to last year's form on Saturday, Wilson is the better hurler. This year, opposing hitters are batting .343 against, Busch, so Saturday's game is the likeliest for a UVA win. Sunday, Cody Winiarski goes against the semi-surprising Scott Sitz.

FSU's bats, frankly, are better than ours at this point, but not overwhelmingly so. Hultzen vs. Gilmartin is the exciting pitching matchup, but our pitching vs. their hitting is really what will decide the series. FSU's pitching is good, but not so incredible that the UVA batters won't be able to push runs across the plate relatively consistently.

I like how this sets up. As long as Danny Hultzen is in our corner it's nigh-impossible to conceive of losing a game that he starts. Saturday looks good too. When it comes to Sunday, the game should either be a rubber match or with a UVA sweep on the line, because of all possible outcomes, losing on both Friday and Saturday seems the least likely. It's the home conference opener and the team should be fired up for it. FSU is ranked higher no matter where you look, but after this weekend, I think that changes.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

the recruit: Dominique Terrell

Name: Dominique Terrell
Position: WR
Hometown: Manassas
School: Osbourn
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 175

ESPN: 80; four stars; #19 ATH; US #122
Rivals: 5.8; four stars; #11 ATH; VA #5; US #204
Scout: four stars; #23 CB

Other offers: Auburn, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Stanford, Miami, North Carolina, NC State, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, UCLA, Texas Tech, Maryland, Vanderbilt, others

Finally, the end of the line. Dominique Terrell, by virtue of scheduling a noon-ish announcement on signing day instead of a 9 AM one like Darius Jennings, became the final piece of the 2011 recruiting puzzle. We started with a wide receiver - Adrian Gamble, who committed before his junior year - and finished with one.

Actually, Terrell probably isn't strictly a "wide receiver." "Athlete" is usually a phrase assigned by recruiting services too lazy to figure out whether a kid will play defense or offense in college - or he's being recruited as both by a roughly equal number of schools - but here, it's appropriate. Terrell will start off in the slot, but he probably won't be limited there. He's very similar to Darius Jennings, right down to the "quicker than fast" observations. But Terrell is the better passer, meaning he's the more likely to end up playing a little wildcat. Not that he's ever likely to throw, but he might be a threat to, a la Vic Hall.

Terrell was halfway to Virginia Tech in the summer and early fall, and not feeling UVA to the extent that I actually dropped him from the recruiting board. Oops. He then charged right back upwards, after something happened between him and the Hokies to essentially cut VT out of the picture entirely. Lord only knows what that was. You'll probably hear a Hokie claim it was academics - backed up somewhat by his SAT scores not being quite up to par by Signing Day - but Terrell has the requisite Stanford, Vandy, and Duke offers so the academic reasons are 98% bunk. (Being too dumb for Virginia Tech but not for Stanford does not compute.)

My guess? It was probably that Tech told him "you'll play defense and like it." Terrell's finalists - UVA, WVU, and Miami - all recruited him for offense.

Owing to the need to upgrade the pure talent level on the field, Terrell will likely play right away. The Lions - NFL version - had a peanut-sized return specialist named Stefan Logan this year, who proved nigh-impossible to tackle. When he showed what kind of damage he could do in the open field, he started being used in the slot. When running backs became scarce and Logan continued to be a reliable yardage guy, he got a shot there, too, and could often be found on the receiving end of an end-around or even a reverse. Terrell's progression will probably look like that, though over the course of more than just one season. This is a player you use wherever you can. If the coaches are smart, they'll use him like Stefan Logan, and not pigeonhole him into one role only. Bill Lazor doesn't strike me as the kind of guy to stubbornly stick with what works whether or not it actually does, so Terrell should have every opportunity to develop into an all-around shit-not-that-guy-again kind of multiple threat. Those who're still pissed off that Vic Hall didn't play offense til his senior year will probably love it the most.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

baseball preview, part 2

I guess it's a little late-ish for a preview since the baseball team is already 3-0 in ACC play, but whatever. Besides a few rocky innings here and there - none of which happened on Friday - the pitching staff acquitted itself very well thank you in the first weekend of the ACC season, and not against a schlub opponent either. It doesn't get easier this weekend with FSU on the docket.

The batting lineup, though, isn't what we're used to. The hitting is feeling the effects of losing a few key players. But it's warming up and scoring runs, which is the thing. Brian O'Connor is still juggling the order and the positions, which will probably continue most of the year; there isn't quite as much quality as in the past but there's a ton of quantity. Plenty of players who could easily be regulars.

You know I like to go position-by-position, so why don't I just do that?

Catcher

The duties behind the plate have been split pretty evenly so far between John Hicks and Kenny Swab; they probably will be all year. Both are hitting too well for a day off. Hicks especially. He's been the team's second-best hitter after Robo-Danny Hultzen. When he's not catching he's usually at first base; Swab plays first as well, sometimes, but is as likely to show up in right field.

Hicks and Swab are mainstays in the middle of the lineup. Hicks looks like he's settling into the coveted third spot and Swab is sort of nominally sixth, but can float around depending on who else is starting.

Infield

This has been a transient lineup so far, but the infield has been mostly immune to that. Keith Werman is cemented in at second base and Steven Proscia at third. Both should be hitting better than they have, frankly, especially Werman. Werm was a .414 hitter last year, and his BA is less than half of what it was. It may be that defenses are figuring him out, or it may be that the new bat is turning his singles into easy ground balls - Werman has all the power of a grasshopper - but regardless, he's dropped from leadoff to 8th or 9th in the order.

Even so, he's the starting second baseman, because his glove is irreplaceable. Just too good in the field to remove. Proscia's not bad himself, and his hitting isn't that far off last year's pace. He hit the first home run of the season on Sunday to stake UVA to a lead it wouldn't relinquish, and he'll continue to hit square in the middle of the order - often cleanup.

Stephen Bruno started the season as the regular shortstop, but he hasn't played since an injury in the first week of the year. Chris Taylor moved from the outfield and is doing a great job of making it really hard to figure out what to do when Bruno returns. Taylor's hitting has been exemplary (good enough to work his way up to batting leadoff) - regardless of Bruno's status, Taylor will have a spot in the lineup, and his defense has been solid if not amazing.

First base is where Hicks or Swab end up when they're not catching; on days when Hicks catches and Swab is in the outfield, Jared King and Cyber-Danny get their shot here. Danny is Danny; King is truly making it hard to keep him out of the lineup with nine hits in 20 at-bats. He may push for extra time as the season goes on, and we'll probably see less of Danny at first so he can stay fresh for his pitching duties.

Outfield

It's awfully fluid out there, but slowly settling. Nominally, you have John Barr in left field, Reed Gragnani in center (for now), and David Coleman in right. When the season started, Barr was in center and Coleman in left, but that changed after the ECU series. Taylor moved from right to shortstop after the Auburn tournament, and Swab played right field against ECU, except for Sunday when - guess who - Danny Hultzen started there.

For now, O'Connor seems to have settled on Barr, Gragnani, and Coleman, but Coleman still gets bumped in favor of Swab every so often; this is when you'll see King at first. The offensive production from the outfield is less than amazing, though. Coleman and Gragnani are hitting OK so far, not great; Barr has started off slowly. In the Sunday game against Clemson the trio occupied the 7-8-9 section of the order.

I wouldn't count on this being permanent. Swab will continue to see time in right field, and when Bruno returns there'll be further juggling to be done. It may even be Bruno and not Taylor that gets inserted into the outfield. The arms and fielding abilities of the outfielders remain under evaluation. And freshman Mitchell Shifflett remains a dark horse to get some time as the season goes on as well.

DH

Primarily the bailiwick of Danny the Droid, who happens to be the team's best hitter as well as pitcher. At times there is no DH; Hultzen simply bats for himself when he's pitching. As long as he's mashing the ball he can't be taken out of the lineup; he's simply hitting too well. When Hultzen isn't DHing or hitting for himself, Ryan Levine is the usual replacement. Levine's a sophomore that's come out of almost nowhere - he didn't play at all last year.

Overall, this is a lineup that graduated most of its home-run power (Gosselin, Parker, Grovatt) and had the rest pretty much surgically removed by the new college bats. In other words, it's Brian O'Connor's ultimate dream. BOC loves carousel ball, stealing bases, bunting, the hit-and-run. It's sometimes derided as "small ball" but it isn't really, because that would more correctly describe teams that try to manufacture a run here and a run there with sacrifices, squeeze plays, sac flies, and runner advancement. BOC prefers to flood the box score with hits, hits, and hits, steal whenever he can, and use bunts and the hit-and-run to keep the defense off balance rather than try and squeeze a single run out of an inning. He likes the big inning, he just does it without home runs.

So far the team has attempted about three-and-a-half times as many steals as the opposition (and it should be noticed that the catchers are doing a great job of cutting down base-stealers, and the pitchers are cleaning up after themselves with pickoffs.) There are no specialists. Everybody runs.

As I've said, the hitting is down from previous seasons, but not far enough to keep UVA from being a serious CWS contender. Probably everyone looks "down" thanks to the new bats, and those bats give us a big advantage this year; as a team that's never really depended on the home run to begin with, the lack of them doesn't take away one of our weapons. The lineup isn't awesome, but it's good enough.

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Last word on Tony Bennett and Utah and I do mean last. He's not going, never was, and you can believe either Craig Littlepage and TheSabre or semi-delusional Utah fans. You'n'me know how this goes. A name shows up one time in print and no amount of debunking will make that go away until the actual coach is hired. Bennett's failure to show up in Salt Lake City on the day he was said to be there is not enough. Littlepage's denial won't be enough, either, at least not for Utah fans, but it should be all the proof you need. I mean, if you were originally willing to believe Bennett would be willing to take on yet another rebuilding job for a team with lesser facilities, fewer resources, and in a lesser recruiting base, headed to a four-bid league after miserably underachieving in a three-bid one. Oh, and they can't pay him as much. I'll personally guarantee you that Tony Bennett does not get hired at Utah and then let Mike Scott do my talking, and I promise, not a peep more.

Monday, March 14, 2011

weekend review

Eventful weekend. Always is. Good news, too. Except for the tournament selection show. We got snubbed again. Totally ridiculous. If 16-15 doesn't get you in the tournament, then it's time to expand to 96. Or 128. Whatever it takes. Got my hopes up and everything. To assuage our hurt feelings, let's have our yearly laugh at Seth Greenberg, the whiniest bitch alive:

"Just disappointed. You almost wonder if someone in that room has their own agenda and that agenda doesn’t include Virginia Tech. Just plain and simple. I totally wonder it, if someone in that room has an agenda."
Probably not, but could you blame the committee for submitting the bracket and then starting their traditional when-does-Greenberg-flip-out pool? Hard to see how anyone could have an agenda against such a likable guy.

"I guess they even brought up our non-conference schedule. Kansas State, Purdue, Oklahoma State, UNLV, Penn State, St. Bonaventure that was supposed to be big and Mississippi State that was projected to win the SEC."
You don't get to take credit for the games you lost, you dumb fuck. You gotta love taking credit for beating teams that were supposed to be good but in fact sucked. (I don't know who said St. Bonaventure was supposed to be any good, but whatever.)

"They didn’t beat an Oklahoma State. They didn’t beat a Penn State. They didn’t beat a Mississippi State. We chose to go on the road to Kansas State."
And also chose to lose by 16. I think the committee noticed. God I love that VT isn't in the tournament because of UVA. Twist the knife a little.

Not that there aren't Hokies with perspective and a sense of humor. The comment section here is what you want. You'll know what you're looking for when you see it.

Now for the boring stuff, like all those wins our baseball team piled up this weekend.

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Actually, first lacrosse and Cornell. I did say we needed to shut down Rob Pannell, and not doing so made a closer game out of what didn't have to be. That and the hibernating offense. If the game of lacrosse hinged entirely on individual players making plays, UVA would destroy everything in sight. Defenses are smarter than that, though. I'm going to slap myself for saying this, but this lacrosse team reminds me of a way more talented version of VT basketball. A guy gets the ball and he tries to make an individual play for a goal. If he decides he can't, he passes it to someone else who tries again. And so on. Passing isn't used to set up an offense, it's used so that different players can try for a highlight. I'm not saying the team is selfish, even though it sounds like I am; I'm saying the offense is individualized and stagnant. I wish there were more motion without the ball. If we didn't have phenomenal athletes we'd be 3-3.

Fortunately, the defense is coming together well and Adam Ghitelman continues his frankly outstanding play in net. Ghitelman saved 13 of 21 SOG, bringing his SV% up to .590. Good stuff. Excellent stuff.

The team also won a majority of faceoffs and was actually 12 of 17 in the first three quarters, but I'll wait for that to happen more than once before I call it a trend and get excited about it. Still, it's better than a sharp stick in the eye.

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Even better than the lacrosse result is the baseball result. Three wins for the price of one! Debate exists as to whether Clemson - the victim of the sweep - deserves the top-5 rating they've been given (I lean toward not really) but it doesn't matter. They are a likely tournament team, and the sweep was on the road. The bats were alive; Steven Proscia picked a perfect time to hit the first home run of the season, to give UVA a lead in the Sunday contest and went 6-for-12 on the weekend.

Danny Hultzen had 14 strikeouts on Friday. 14, in 6 2/3 innings. Sheesh. He started this season eighth on the UVA career list with 230; he's now second with 50 more on the season and will pass Seth Greisinger's record of 290 either next Friday or the week after. That record is a goner. But there'll be a Danny Hultzen K Watch in this space anyway, as Hultzen takes aim at Tim Burcham's single-season record of 146. If he keeps racking them up at the pace he is now, he'll beat that easily. He has a shot at 200. Hell, he has a shot at making his 2011 season be good enough for a top-ten career, which would require 214. ACC competition makes it a longshot, but we're gonna find out week-by-week just how long it is.

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Football spring practice begins this week, which is pretty cool, I guess. Don't forget about the roadshow: a practice in Hampton this coming Saturday and in Alexandria the week after. Especially don't forget about them if you happen to be a big-time recruit, OK?

To commemorate, the depth chart has been updated. Spring practice is when I push the graduating seniors off the edge of the map and bump the freshmen into the picture. Keep in mind the only freshmen actually in camp are David Watford and Daquan Romero. Here are the changes, most of which are per the Sabre's press conference tweets:

- Linebackers are shuffled big time. They didn't list Ausar Walcott as a starter like he used to be, presumably because he's suspended so hard for being a punk in Harrisonburg. Nominally, for now, your starters are Aaron Taliaferro, Steve Greer, and Laroy Reynolds, with the backups being Tucker Windle, Henry Coley, and.... Daquan Romero? Though the comment about Romero being "behind" Reynolds might easily have meant "more than one space behind," at least we now know where exactly Romero is ticketed.

- Players who aren't participating fully are in purple. Was gonna make them red but red means out for the season and I didn't want to scare you.

- Miles Gooch is now a WR. Big surprise.

- A few additions: Former academic casualties Billy Cuffee and Buddy Ruff have worked their way back onto the team, but not in a scholarship status.

- And a few subtractions: Academic casualty Torrey Mack, injury casualty Aaron Van Kuiken, and one that I don't think I ever saw mentioned anywhere: Jared Detrick. It's totally possible I spaced out and missed the latter. But he's not on the roster at the moment, so subtracted he is, along with backup punter Logan Spangler, who's also not on the roster. Let's hope Jimmy Howell has a healthy senior season because he's the only one left.

By my count, the team is now three over the scholarship limit of 85. Hmm, there were three players arrested in Harrisonburg. I'd be sweating it out if I were them.

I do really wish, by the way, that Kris Burd were participating in spring drills, which he's not. Not because he needs it, but because there aren't that many veteran receivers in camp, and the quarterbacks will really need consistency from their receivers as they battle for position.

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That would be the end, but I feel compelled to address the wackiness emanating from Utah. Somebody out there got the idea that Tony Bennett was reaching out to Utah expressing interest in their now-vacant coaching job. (Kind of like Jeff Capel was angling so hard to get the UVA job in order to get back to the ACC. Hint - no he wasn't.) I wouldn't bother, because this is dumb, but it's out there so what the hell.

Streaking the Lawn does a pretty good job of laying out why this is a stupid rumor, but they're a little too equivocal for my taste. How about this: There's no fucking way Tony Bennett ends up in fucking Utah, and their fans are delusional as fuck for thinking it's possible. Even Washington State fans think it's nucking futs. I wish I could find where this originated, but supposedly Bennett was even in Utah today. Pretty damn hard to do when you have a radio show all day, which he didn't exactly skip.

This must have been what UVA fans sounded like two years ago. I hope we weren't as ludicrously uninformed as the guy who's never heard of Dulles Airport, but regardless. Remember "Rick Barnes was spotted at a 7/11"? Remember when we were totally, definitely hiring Tubby Smith? Now I know how Minnesota fans felt, except not really because the UVA job is a step up from Minnesota by virtue of being in the ACC and in better recruiting grounds. Among other reasons.

So. Dear UVA fans: Stop worrying, because Tony Bennett isn't going to Utah. Dear Utah fans: Hands off our coach, who isn't going to Utah, and yes he'd be a home-run hire but that's what we thought Tubby Smith was going to be and we didn't get Tubby Smith, we got a guy none of us had ever heard of and two years in he's someone else's wishful thinking already. You'll find your prince, just not in Charlottesville.

Friday, March 11, 2011

game preview: Cornell


Date/Time: Sat., March 12; 1:30

TV: ESPNUVA

History against the Big Red: 6-3

Last matchup: UVA 12, Cornell 4; 3/13/10; Ithaca

Last game: UVA 14, Vermont 6 (3/8); Cornell 14, Canisius 7 (3/9)

Opposing blogs: none

I'm going to deviate from the usual format a little bit because first I want to talk Syracuse a bit. A disappointing game. By itself, the result wasn't too bad. Sooner or later you're gonna lose one of those, and there's no shame in a 2-point loss to the top-ranked team in the regular season, even if top-ranked is what you're trying to be.

Still, I think this team has problems that, if they don't get fixed, will guarantee that this group of seniors leaves without a national championship. Faceoffs is number one. Of course it is. The faceoff men rebounded after the first quarter to make it look a little bit even, but, guh. The typical Syracuse run in the first quarter happened just as I'd feared because we lost like the first five or six faceoffs in a row. On Tuesday the team handled Vermont OK, but only won 43% of faceoffs. Against Vermont. Which, granted, has a slightly-above 50% win rate on the season, but their competition is such as Colgate and Air Force and I'm not impressed. If this doesn't get fixed this team isn't winning any tournament.

Offense is problematic too. Defense actually seems passable. The offense doesn't look like a championship offense. It's like a Ferrari that's down a cylinder or two. Tons upon tons of potential that isn't being used. Lots of goals being scored, but too much of it is individual effort. Over half the goals scored this season are unassisted. That's just unsustainable. In years past it's been between 35-40%. 2007 was the worst year in recent memory - a first-round loss in the tournament, three regular-season losses (if the ACC tournament is regular season), and just no domination in our wins - and the unassisted-goals rate was 41%. The championship season of 2006: 31.5% This year, as I said: over 50%.

There are too many good players on this team for that not to change, but if it doesn't, quality teams are going to run over us.

Now. Cornell. Recent Final Four runs notwithstanding, this is typically a team that lurks just outside lacrosse's elite, a threat to knock someone off but usually more of a quality-win machine for Syracuse, Hopkins, and the ACC. If anything, they're a little down this year with a loss to Army and uninspiring wins over Hobart and Canisius and a decent one over terrible Binghamton.

The thing about Cornell is you must take away junior attackman Rob Pannell. Pannell has more than half the team's assists, as well as nine goals in four games. There's no limit to the scoring he can do if you let him, but if he's frustrated I just don't see where their offense is coming from. Last year he had Ryan Hurley, a combo that made Cornell's offense pretty good, but his partner in crime graduated and nobody's really seized the vacancy. This would look like a chance to give the faceoff numbers a tiny boost, as Cornell is also below 50% here, but their primary two guys are a nudge above even, which means they'll probably each go 8-for-12.

That shouldn't matter, though. Cornell's goalie, A.J. Fiore, is in his second year of starting in net and hasn't started off well. And their starting defense is ever so young - all sophomores, two of them also in their second year of starting and one in his first. UVA's wily veterans on offense should be able to find plenty of ways to put the ball in the net. As long as Pannell is shut down - more than doable, as our defense has been relatively stout - this game should be a good national-TV bounceback from last week.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

the return of mephistopheles


There's no good reason a team with a bunch of almost-nobodies should finish the ACC season one win shy of .500 and then get a first-round win in the ACC tournament to boot, so the basketball gods decided to do something about it. Or Basketball Satan. I don't know what other reason there could be for a 50-second sequence in which the easiest tasks become impossible and the impossible shots find only nylon and a game that would be won 999,999 times out of 1,000,000 is lost. Tony Bennett has this team overachieving ahead of schedule, and verily this angers the medieval sensibilities of the basketball gods, and draws their wrath. Their sanity is restored by insane happenings.

Poor Sammy Zeglinski. Our very own Faust could do miraculous things with the shot clock under five and staring down a double-team; in this situation, Zeglinski was money, all year, every time. Then Mephistopheles returned to earth with under a minute to play against Miami and claimed his price, and Zeglinski could do nothing but helplessly fumble the ball out of bounds. Zeglinski's miracle touch was given to Miami's shooters instead.

So that wasn't even remotely fun, but in the big picture - or even the medium-sized picture - it means nothing. Hopefully there's still a CBI in the future, if for no other reason than to make sure the image of Mu Farrakhan and Zeglinski fighting over a rebound that neither one gets isn't the last one of the season.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

game preview: Miami


Date/Time: Thu., March 10; 12:00

TV: Raycom, ESPN3

History against the Canes: 4-8

Last matchup: Miami 70, UVA 68; 2/5/11; Coral Gables

Last game: UVA 74, Md. 60 (3/5); GT 66, Miami 57 (3/6)

Opposing blogs: seriously, you wouldn't even know there's an ACC Tournament if all you read was Miami blogs.

KenPom:

National: UVA #94; Miami #64
Offense: UVA #126; Miami #36
Defense: UVA #74; Miami #106

Tournament time, and raise your hand if you thought UVA would be the 8th seed with a 7-9 record before the season. Those of you in the media, put your hands down, I see you there. No, my hand's not up either. After three straight (competitive) losses, this team finished the season legitimately on fire - 4-1 in the last five - leaving a trail of bad-loss marks in their wake. Ha. No tournament for you, Maryland.

HOW WE CAN WIN

- No big games for anyone. Miami gets very balanced scoring- sort of. It's more like, on any given night just about anyone on their roster is capable of going off. Reggie Johnson, Malcolm Grant, Rion Brown - they've all had their turn playing the star. Against UVA in February it was Adrian Thomas. Miami's losses - even those where they top 70 points - usually occur when nobody steps up to have a big night. The key number seems to be 18 points; keep everyone under 18 points and that's likely to end in a UVA win. It requires very disciplined defense, of course, and double-teams in the post to nullify the size advantage Miami has with Johnson.

- Get ahead early. A repeat from last time. Yeah, "get ahead early" is exactly what happened, not to mention "get ahead late," and it technically didn't work. Well, it damn well should've. It will this time. Once again, Miami might not be in the best frame of mind, coming off a loss to a team that shouldn't have beaten them. But this one's really not about Miami, it's about UVA, which is riding a wave of confidence right now. They've forgotten they're supposed to be this lousy bottom-feeder. Keep the confidence going and it'll just build on itself.

HOW WE CAN LOSE

- Foul. Lost in the disappointment over the 9-for-22 free throw shooting was Miami's excellent performance on their end at 17/22. This is a solid free throw team, and the free throws resulting from fouling three-point shooters were the stake through the heart. Miami can score many different ways, and giving them and-1 chances or getting them into the bonus only exacerbates the problem. Don't foul on defense.

- Poor guard play. It took one of Mu Farrakhan's best nights to get as close as we did to winning last time, as well as en fuego three-point shooting from Joe Harris and Sammy Zeglinski. I think UVA can survive a mediocre night from outside, but not a bad one. We ain't getting no 15 points from Assane Sene against this team.

HOW THE GAME WILL GO

I wanted this one, because I wanted another shot at Miami. So you can blame me if it doesn't go well. I don't think that'll be the case. UVA is playing with confidence and maybe even a mission; Miami is just sort of playing. The crowd should be in our favor; there'll certainly be a larger contingent of UVA fans than Miami fans, and Miami never wins the hearts of neutral observers. With a friendly crowd and the confidence gained from beating Maryland at Maryland, I'll offer up a little confidence of my own. I never do this unless asked, but here goes anyway: 70-62, UVA.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

baseball preview, part 1

In case you haven't noticed - understandable if for some reason this is your only lifeline to UVA sports - there's once again a pretty good baseball team playing at Davenport Field this year. Pitching is by far its strong suit, which will take you a long way, for sure. The team is 12-1 with the lone loss coming in a 2-1 series win against East Carolina. They're ranked as high as 6th and as low as 11th (college baseball has tons of polls) by virtue of three weeks' worth of strong showings, including a total dismantling of SEC semi-power Auburn.

All this without hitting a single home run.

It's a slightly new era in college baseball; metal bats continue to be used, but they're deader than they used to be. This probably bodes well for UVA, at least this year; Brian O'Connor has eschewed power hitting in his recruiting in favor of pitching pitching pitching and guys who can hit for really high averages. Making it harder to hit home runs gives UVA a little bit of an edge since that's not what the offense depends on.

Today we'll have a look at the pitching, and later this week, the position players.

Starters

Unlike last year when the Sunday starter was up for grabs a little bit at the beginning of the year, this year the weekend starters are engraved in marble. They are:

- Friday - Danny Hultzen. Hultzen is the guy Charlie Sheen wishes he was. Sheen was misquoted in his rantings; what he meant to say was, he has tiger blood and Hultzen DNA. Hultzen has a real chance to win every variation of national player of the year award there is, and will certainly be drafted with one of the top ten - maybe top five - picks in the MLB draft ths June. Even though he's leading the team in OPS and batting average and is second in RBI, his hitting duties will probably lighten up a little as the stretch run gets hot. Hultzen's pitching is what makes him valuable - he carries an 0.87 ERA so far and has struck out 36 in just over 20 innings. Yes. Almost two strikeouts per inning.

He did walk a batter once this season, though. So he has been known to throw the occasional pitch out of the strike zone. Still - it's not likely UVA will lose any of his starts this year, until maybe the postseason. To make matters worse for opposing lineups, Hultzen is a southpaw.

- Saturday - Tyler Wilson. Wilson has made a smooth transition from long relief. His 23-to-5 K/BB ratio would look pretty awesome if not for Hultzen's 36-to-1. Aw hell....it's still pretty awesome. Wilson's move out of the pen has created a few question marks in long relief, but so far the team has been able to handle it.

- Sunday - Cody Winiarski. A little bit of a soft-tosser, the start to this season has been tremendously encouraging as Winiarski has been striking out more hitters than last year. He and Wilson have started the year with ERAs under 2, and they share a .206 opponents' BA. A tough, four-run first inning against ECU was enough to tag Cody with the only loss of the season, but outside of that one inning he hasn't allowed a single run, and he's averaged 6+ innings in his three starts. Winiarski's hot start is the most encouraging sign of the whole season; if this kind of pitching holds up, UVA will have easily the best weekend rotation in the ACC.

- Weekdays - Will Roberts and Kyle Crockett. Crockett was probably the most-hyped recruit of the freshman class that actually made it to the season (Justin Nicolino signed with the Blue Jays and Tyler Skulina transferred before the season began.) Crockett won a few awards and such as a high school pitcher and had the added advantage of being from Virginia. UVA fans love a Virginian. But Crockett will spend most of his time in the bullpen and probably only get starts when the weekday schedule includes two games, such as in a couple weeks against Towson. Roberts is the main weekday starter. A junior, Roberts hasn't quite been able to pitch his way into the weekend rotation, but will probably be needed there next year. He's good enough for some emergency innings against ACC competition, if needed, and should be able to rack up the wins one by one pitching against the JMUs and Towsons of the world.

Bullpen

This looked like a question mark before the year began, with Wilson moving to the rotation, but events since then have solidified the outlook. The pen got hit by graduation - especially at closer where Kevin Arico was unbelievably dependable in 2010.

The new closer is sophomore Branden Kline, who had an excellent freshman season, especially late as the fourth starter in tournament play. Kline has yet to allow a run and has five saves already. There will be no problems here.

Whit Mayberry had a tough start to the season, but he's settled down nicely. Mayberry has starter's endurance and will probably be the primary long reliever this year. Kyle Crockett is the first lefty out of the pen and he's pitching well, too. Left-handed pitching out of the pen is much more readily available than it's been in the past - Crockett can provide a couple innings, if needed, and then there's Scott Silverstein. Silverstein's history of arm trouble is longer than O.J.'s rap sheet; multiple shoulder surgeries have kept him off the mound until this year. He made his first pitching appearance for UVA a little over a week ago. He's not gonna be rushed back, but he gives us a situational lefty.

Justin Thompson is another guy we'll see plenty of, though he's more likely to be primarily a weekday reliever. And the freshman class brought a lot of arms that we've already seen a little of and will get a few innings here and there - guys like Ryan Ashooh and Austin Young.

No doubt, pitching is where this team will draw its success from. As you'll see a little later, the batting lineup isn't quite the murderers' row it's been in the past, but given the choice between OK hitting and awesome pitching, or the opposite, I'll take the awesome pitching every time. The new bats should help this staff - not that they need much help - to keep their numbers down. Except for their strikeouts. Strikeouts will be up; Danny Hultzen is rapidly climbing the all-time list at UVA. I'm very confident in calling this the best rotation in the ACC, and if the bullpen continues to pitch the way they started the season, they'll be able to claim the same crown.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

you guys don't know what you're missing

You'd think having two college teams to root for would be the shit, with no qualms, no reservations. It is the shit, but it's trying sometimes; like when the scheduling wizards put their football games on at the same time. Having them battle for recruits actually isn't the can't-lose proposition that it sounds like. And I find myself constantly defending the one to the other's fans; it's amazing to listen to ACC fans thinking Big Ten football should be relegated to mid-major status and vice versa. Worst of all, neither one of my football teams has won their season-ending rivalry game since 2003. That's not just fucked up, it's fucked up twice.

Whatever; two teams is still twice the fun. Those of you without a second team will never know what Saturday was like. While Maryland was busy losing to Virginia after their football coach informed the crowd that Maryland does not lose to Virginia, Michigan dispatched Michigan State with rather more ease than I expected (though it wasn't exactly easy.) This is like winning a million bucks and then winning a million more and then not having to pay taxes on it. It's better than twice the fun. It's twice the fun and then a whole fun factory. And then - with Virginia Tech losing to Clemson and creating a popping sound you could hear in Katmandu - the competing factory across town burning to the ground. It's that damn fun. I may never experience such basketball nirvana again on a day that doesn't involve a bracket. Maryland and Michigan State - there are zero other teams I'd rather beat on a basketball court. That's as good as it gets.

So it's pretty sweet. So, do you remember the goal I set for this team way back when, and abandoned in the aftermath of an ugly loss to the worst team in the conference? Here they are: a winning record. 7-9 in the ACC - even in one of the worst ACCs in recent and not-recent history - is a frickin' hell of a thing to do when the best player on the team is unavailable for the whole thing. And it was sealed against a team I thought we matched up against badly. Badly, because they have a zillion really frontcourt options and we have Assane Sene and Will Sherrill. And then Maryland had to bring in dudes from places that can't even win the Eurovision contest in however many decades of trying let alone an Olympic bronze in basketball because what was a matchup nightmare in game one turned into domination in College Park. "Assane Sene, 15 points 5 rebounds" is something I can get used to. The guy is officially no longer someone that other coaches actively hope gets the ball in his hands. He is a Matchup Problem, one that requires Iceland to fix. If they can.

This team is rolling, and Miami awaits on Thursday. You may remember Miami from Why Can't We Hit A Damn Free Throw and That Was Only A Foul In Your Stupid Imagination. Fix these two eminently fixable problems, and UNC will be the Friday opponent. That's the near future. The distant-ish future is a sky's-the-limit proposition, on account of the rather large number of woulda-coulda-shoulda games (Miami, UNC, Duke, etc.) plastered all over the schedule. You are not only authorized but strongly encouraged to act during the offseason as if Seattle and Norfolk State never happened.

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Other stuff:

- I guess I can live with the complete lack of UVA representation on the all-ACC teams. Joe Harris seems like the most obvious snub, if any, and that'd be for the all-freshman team, but pretty much everyone there is statistically better than Harris. Kendall Marshall of UNC would be the only one who isn't, but I actually appreciate his presence there because it shows the media did more than look at the stats when they voted for the team. Of course, they would only watch North Carolina games - and Duke ones - but people who did watch Carolina couldn't help but notice the improvement in that team with Marshall on the floor. Larry Drew's huffy departure was the best thing that happened to UNC because it saved Roy Williams the dilemma of how much to get Drew on the floor when he was being so obviously outplayed.

- So they highlighted the venerable Maryland tradition of actively ignoring the visitor's lineup being announced. You know it's Maryland when their traditions involve making a big in-your-face deal of showing as much disrespect as possible to the opposition.

- Maybe the best thing about the Maryland game, besides having more points than them, was that unlike most of our wins this season, this one didn't involve grinding the game into an ugly brickfest. No, I'm not complaining about Tony Bennett's style. Winning is fun no matter how it happens. It's just nice to know that we can also win games by simply matching them basket for basket and then some. That's a preview of the offense with a post game. Clemson was your example of offense minus a post game.

- I was hoping for a path to sneak into the NIT if we ended up with a winning record, but the RPI is just too sucky. Blame Seattle. And Wake Forest. I've said it before, but I really do hope the administration uses some of that profit on the CBI, which is still a money-loser. Partly it's because this team really can use all the games they can play against decent competition, but partly it's because ending the regular season 4-1 has a way of making me crave more basketball.

- I haven't said the name "Sammy Zeglinski" yet in this post, which is a shame because he only scored 25 damn points. Yikes. Sometimes you just have one of those days where you're feeling it and can't miss if you try. I know the feeling and I'm five-foot-seven, so, far be it for it to be a totally foreign thing to a guy like Sammy. Nice frickin' game.

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I was going to involve the lacrosse game against Syracuse in this post, but it's getting long and that was a loss and why adulterate happy time with a loss? I'll have some kind of comprehensive-ish lacrosse thing later this week.