Friday, January 13, 2012

go the distance

That might've been my favorite loss ever.  I got over the Peach Bowl loss within a couple hours, and I thought that was pretty good.  Then I was over last night's loss to Duke a few fractions of a second after the final horn.

No, it's not "OK" to lose, and we shouldn't settle for second fiddle, etc. etc.  Then again, Rocky was alright with it, at least for a while.  You go the distance with Apollo Creed, you ain't just some bum from the neighborhood any more.  UVA hit first, hit hard, took Duke's best shot, and instead of folding like we saw last year, hit back.  And the result was a game that could've swung on any number of what-ifs, like, what-if just one lousy three had fallen in the second half, or, what-if Seth Curry didn't decide to channel his inner Dookieness and flop like an Italian midfielder? 

They're there, but I don't even care about them.  Such a scare was put into Duke that if a rematch were held at the JPJ, UVA would be favored.  UVA went up, not down, in the KenPom ratings, and it wouldn't surprise in the slightest if they went up, not down, in the polls, too.  (#14/#15 Louisville got boned by Providence(!) to the tune of a 31-point loss since the last poll.)  This is the main thing: Loss column aside, UVA earned respect, and plenty of it.  In the big picture, it hardly even matters that we came out three points short: the tournament committee knows a good loss when it sees one, and the theme from the talkyheads is that UVA is cementing its spot as the #3 team in the conference.  I'll take it one farther: Duke is 2-0 but vulnerable, having beaten UVA and GT by a total of just 10 points.  (And GT isn't, like, good.)  I don't see why we shouldn't think that, when the ACC tournament comes around, it's a given that seeds #1 and #2 are spoken for.  Play good ball the rest of the way and #3 doesn't have to be the ceiling.

In the end, you just can't have any complaints about a team that has proven itself not the least bit scared of the toughest gym in the country.  They went a full fifteen rounds.  Ain't gonna be no rematch, which is the disappointing part..... but then again, there was a sequel after all.

Scattered bullet points:

-- How can you tell that UVA showed out?  As effusive in his praise as Dickie V was for Duke, which is par for the course, he was nearly as effusive for UVA as well.

-- Similarly, the Duke crowd was howling at the refs at times, which also means it was a fair game from the stripes.  We bag on the zebras quite a bit, so it's only fair to point out when they call a very good game, especially at Cameron.  Curry's flop was the only beef I had, and really you have to blame the Dookitude for that, not the refs.  They picked up on two moving screens by Miles Plumlee, which were definitely fouls but not always called - particularly the first in which Plumlee sneakily stuck out a limb or two.  And I don't remember any ticky-tack fouls called on either team.  Duke had a big free-throw advantage, but they should've.

-- I finally figured out how to remember which Plumlee is which.  Miles (the eldest) looks like a truck driver, who drives a lot of..... miles.  GEDDIT??  Mason just looks like.... well, he looks like a Dookie.

-- With 23 points and 10 rebounds on national TV in front of Dick Vitale at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Mike Scott might have leapt to the front of the ACC POY conversation, and probably won't be left off of anyone's Wooden lists any more.

-- Probably the single most disappointing aspect of the loss was that if we had won, Akil Mitchell's thunderous tomahawk putback (which ended up being the final bucket of the game) would have otherwise gone down in history.  Now that is some damn athleticism.

-- Paul Jesperson had a nice slam, too, fed by Sammy Zeglinski's beautiful backdoor pass.  Not to be outdone in the white-guy dunking contest, Miles Plumlee had a pretty splendid breakaway jam, but Jesperson is four inches shorter and hella whiter.  Advantage UVA.  And speaking of Jesperson, I was glad to see him in the second half, because I'd like to not see him relegated to the purgatory that is the token-three-minutes-in-the-first-half role that we've seen guys fall into.  (Prime example #1: Will Regan.)  Jesperson got a total of ten minutes - his second-highest total of the season, and against Duke no less - which is good to see.

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