However, announcers would be using it right now to describe the state of affairs of UVA basketball, and the next time I see one (which will be the first) I'm gonna ask how they'd like to ride a train that got untracked.
Regardless, we know what they mean: things are going the way you want them to. I do not subscribe to the theory that the Boston College game "was closer than the final score." You may describe a game like that if it's close at the end and then we hit a whole bunch of free throws brought on by clock-stopping fouls. When you go on a 22-5 run to seal it up and it's five instead of three only because BC hit a meaningless jumper over our five-foot-something walk-on, it's perfectly fair to accept the final score as a proper one. Yes, the game was close three-quarters of the way. But look at it like this: if we'd started the game with a 22-5 run and then the last 30 minutes were dead even, the story would be how UVA "coasted" to an easy win that was never in doubt. Good teams blow up on bad ones, that's how things go.
That run was essentially the difference between Brick Sammy and Splash Sammy. That's the Z Factor. UVA could never have played the NC State game at the relatively frenetic early pace* and actually been in the lead at halftime without Sammy hitting threes. Likewise, the whole floor opened up against Boston College once Sammy knocked one down. Suddenly a whole galaxy of offensive options are open to us. This team is Sweet-16 capable when Sammy Zeglinski hits his jump shots, because he's the guy opponents don't game-plan for.
We're now in the middle of a stretch, starting with the BC game, where we alternate a theoretically easy game with a theoretically difficult one. So winning the difficult ones are a big deal. NC State is a difficult one, and you have to be encouraged by a game on the road where:
-- our second-biggest strength - defensive rebounding - wasn't working at all,
-- putting two and two together (the crowd not sounding frighteningly loud on TV plus Tony Bennett's description of the atmosphere as "festive") we come up with the extreme likelihood that our guys were hearing a lot of, um, interesting language from the student section,
-- an intelligent guy like Akil Mitchell calls the State players "borderline dirty" and says it in such a way that he knows he might get in trouble for saying it and doesn't care**
and yet we come out ahead. Don't care if it makes my heart bruise my ribs from the inside. Have some beer and settle down in there. It doesn't get any easier on the road, with the next two trips being to Tallahassee and Chapel Hill, so I'll take 'em where I can get 'em. Before the conference schedule began, you remember, I split the season's games up into two halves, one of mostly foregone conclusions and the other where the year would be maked or breaked. The "foregone" half has gone as assumed, and we're 2-1 in the important half. That means: go 3-2 in the rest of the important half and we're right where we want to be.
We'll finish today's basketball discussion with a little exercise. You're a basketball coach and your team is down by 1 with eight seconds to go and you have the ball. Who would you least rather be facing? Yeah, ditto.
*at one point in the first half the announcers made note of NC State playing a zone defense and suggested they were doing it "to slow Virginia down." I'll take "wacky basketball" for $400, Alex. "This school has the politest student section in the ACC." "What is Maryland?" Correct!
**and still NC State fans are whining about the refs. They let you take five steps with the ball while trying to inbound it. 99.9% of referees call that traveling, because they know what the rule book says. Then again, Roger Ayers is the same highly observant rocket scientist that let Louisiana-Lafayette put six guys on the court on the game-winning play. So.
- In a rare moment of candidness about his lineups, Brian O'Connor told Jeff White about this season's starting rotation, among other lineup revelations. It comes down to three righties (Branden Kline, Whit Mayberry, and juco addition Joel Effertz) and two lefties (Kyle Crockett and Scott Silverstein.) Kline and Crockett are locks. That's Friday-Saturday right there. If I were guessing right now I'd give Mayberry the solid edge for Sunday. BOC has talked in the past about being happy to see Mayberry taking no prisoners in attacking the plate, which is the BOC/Karl Kuhn way. Nibbling gets you banished to batting practice pitcher. Mayberry does a good job of attacking even without ideal stuff.
I would guess Effertz will land the weekday starter spot. If Silverstein starts, it leaves us without any remotely proven lefty bullpen options. (These coaches are not actually the type to obsess over lefty-righty matchups, though.) Effertz, by the way, comes from the same juco that sent us Cody Winiarski, and spent a year at Arizona before that.
By the way, I can't wait to see if Keith Werman gets any time behind the plate this year. Cue jokes about the equipment size and the idea that it's a strike if he can reach it. Humor aside, the Werm is the consummate ballplayer; really, if I told you that a random surprising position player was pulled in for some catcher duty this fall and is now listed as one on the roster, he's one of the least surprising choices. He could play first base or pitch an inning and I wouldn't bat an eye.
-- The TV schedule for the lacrosse season came out last week, and it's the same as last year with two additions: Stony Brook and Penn both on ESPN3. (Last year, Stony Brook wasn't on TV at all and Penn was on the UVA video service, which I sure hope returns this spring.) Otherwise all the usual suspects - three ACC games plus all the marquee matchups. This is what is known as a step in the right direction. I don't necessarily care for the TV-driven expansion of the ACC to 14 teams, but I can more than put up with it if it means eventually 100% of UVA lacrosse will be in front of my eyes. Add that to the seven televised baseball games (plus the ACC tournament) and you have the makings of a quality spring.
Speaking of lacrosse, on Thursday I plan to unveil a KenPom-esque math system for evaluating the college lax teams. Like KenPom's system for basketball, it is intended to be a tempo-free way of determining the quality of offense and defense each team plays. Should be fun if you're a math nerd.
-- BC Interruption had an interesting discussion on the future of the ACC basketball schedule, which will almost certainly be 18 games. The question on the table was: what to do about the permanent rotation buddies? Currently UVA plays two games every year against VT and Maryland, which is how it ought to be; you can see the rest of the pairings at BCI. The ACC will discuss going to one permanent buddy (which would certainly pair us with VT) but more likely will go to three. In BCI's world, we get Syracuse added to the rotation. I wouldn't exactly be fired up about adding that awesome of a team to the schedule as a guaranteed twice-a-year thing, but then I can understand wanting to make sure the schedule was nice and tough for maximum SOS purposes. But if you buy the north-middle-south alignment they have (which makes a lot of sense), then the only options to add are BC or the two Big East newcomers. So.
-- Did I miss something? It wouldn't be the first time. Regardless, here is Oday Aboushi on crutches. I don't know how old the picture is or what - it was tweeted a couple hours ago by Connor McCartin - or if it's an injury that'll last through the spring or anything at all really, but there it is. If running around in circles and waving your hands in the air is your thing (and let's face it we're UVA football fans so whose thing is that not?) then you are hereby licensed for twenty seconds of that.
-- In the "it's pronounced Jop" department, here is a free throw shot by the erstwhile UVA recruit. Even Mason Plumlee thinks that's shitty. The best part is he still got the customary high fives from teammates.