Wednesday, February 22, 2012

seasonal endgame

I think after a scotch and a decent night's sleep, my heart has finally returned to its resting rate.  Tony Bennett said the team was "leaking oil" at the end of the game, which is an apt description when your available bench has dwindled to six scholarship players and none of them is a real point guard and the only one that can play point is doing so on a bum ankle.  (Thanks for the injury to Malcolm Brogdon, hoops gods!  Screw you!)  This whole season is an oil leak.  This basketball team is the little demolition derby car that could.

It wasn't the curbstomping that we always hope for when playing Virginia Tech, but the score was on the side of good in the end, so it counts.  It's nice to be on the winning end of a poorly reffed game for once.  Paranoid UVA fans (a redundancy if ever I wrote one) are sure to believe that the embarrassing equipment malfunctions at Cassell were a clumsy attempt by a Hokie machine operator to ice the Hoos at the free throw line and give Seth Greenberg extra timeouts, but the play of the game relied on a malfunctioning shot clock and gave us three points courtesy of a Jontel Evans heave off the glass, so it all evens out.

(That wasn't even the fault of the referees.  Believe it or not, they called it correctly.  This is a rule-book find by TheSabre poster Rhino, so credit where credit is due.  Under "duties of the shot-clock operator, the rulebook states:
"This shot-clock horn shall not stop play unless recognized by an official’s whistle. When the shot clock indicates zeros but the shot- clock horn has not sounded, the shot-clock time has not expired."
Emphasis mine. No horn. No red light on the backboard.  At least, not in time.  They're there for a reason - if the referees have to watch the clocks, they can't properly focus on the play on the court, which is their job. If a Hokie complains at you about that play and tries to taint the win, this is your ammo.)

Other things I liked from that game:

-- Paul Jesperson playing real, honest-to-God minutes and playing them well.  His defense was solid, and his rebound and putback for our 61st point was positively crucial.

-- Darion Atkins absolutely skied to make two big blocks.  Wait'll he starts playing 20-25 minutes a game.  Dude always looks pissed off, an excellent trait for a shot-blocker.

-- Malcolm Brogdon getting the game-winning steal on an injured foot/ankle.  How about that: a freshman who's got his head into the scouting report!  That must really warm the cockles of Tony Bennett's heart.

-- The fact that Tech tried to go to Dorenzo Hudson in the first place.  Erick Green is a potential NBAer and had abused the UVA defense on the last two possessions.  Partly because Brogdon has that bum ankle.  Had he drove the lane, I'm sure our defense had been instructed DON'T FOUL UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES because the worst possible fate would've been the and-1.

So with that one thankfully behind us, it's finally appropriate to start really delving into the postseason possibilities.  Starting with the Dance.  Lunardi's S-curve has us 30th with 13 teams between us and the bubble - that is, the last four in.  That means 17 between us and Hokieland - the first four out.  Is it safe to say we're playing for seeding at this point?  About 96% safe.  That's the chances of winning at least one of the next three games, per the KenPom odds.  Lose to UNC and FSU but beat Maryland, and I think the committee will not be impressed, but neither will they go I AM VERY DISAPPOINT and punt us.  It's important to note that two of the teams wallowing in Hokieland are NC State and Miami, both of which we done beat and one of which we done beat in their building.  That's going to be on the committee's mind if it ever comes to a choice among the three of us.

But those 17 teams are a nice cushion.  A lot would have to go wrong for the NIT to be in the cards this year.  Things could go wrong, and we're all Virginia fans so it's likely we'll dwell on that for an eternity and a half, but whatever.  30th on the S-curve essentially means an 8 seed, and.... I can't argue with that.  But I don't have to like it; it means we get some damn #1 seed if we make it past a team of theoretically similar prowess.  The goal needs to be a 6-seed or higher.  And that can be accomplished one of two ways: beat someone better than us.  We have two chances to do that, plus the ACCT.

Which brings us to said conference tournament.  The other goal, accomplished purely with wins and losses, is to earn at least a four seed.  (A five seed would be close to the same thing.  It'd mean an opening-round date with probably Georgia Tech, which is terrible, and there's something to be said for momentum.  But in the era since expansion to 12 teams, the 5/12 game winner has only advanced to the semis twice.  And both times, it was the 12 seed.  And with this team, the fewer chances to get hurt, the better.  So you want that four seed.)  NC State and Miami both lost last night, which gives us a one-game lead in the standings, effectively a two-game lead because we got the tiebreaker, thhhppbbttt. 

Now for the good news: they still have to play each other.  That's not really helpful for us getting the fourth seed, because someone has to win, but it's great to help prevent us from falling below the fifth seed, because someone has to lose.  (And yes, seeds 1-3 are officially closed off to us.)  Maryland and Clemson are outside threats, but Clemson plays NC State on Saturday so someone's getting bumped a notch, and obviously we play Maryland so our destiny is in our hands with respect to the Terps.

It's highly possible, plausible, and maybe even likely that we could simply lose to the teams we're supposed to, beat the team we're supposed to, and land in the four spot neat as you please.  That might imply that there's no pressure against UNC and FSU.  I don't think so.  The problem is that a two-game losing streak will cause all the usual overreactions and turn perfectly normal people into total Chicken Littles with a side of Nostradamus, and it'll piss me off because I'll have to spend that week reading about Sammy Zeglinski has lost his confidence according to the idiots with Amateur Psychology degrees from Bullshit State, and I don't want that.  Plus it'll turn Maryland into a must-win game for postseason reasons, and we don't want that either.  Beat either FSU or UNC and a huge weight will be lifted.  Not to mention our tournament seeding.


Anonymous said...

I gotta think that a FSU/UNC win would put us close to a 6 possibility.

Still, beat Maryland, and I think we are in (although a win in the ACC tourny would probably make it safe).

Lose the final three and all bets are off. Simple as that.

Anonymous said...

I don't get why we're seen as an 8-seed. We're considered a Top 24 team, so that puts us on the 6-line, right?

If we go 1-2, as the odds would predict, then sure, we're no longer Top 25, and we're not even as high as an 8-seed anymore. But as things stand today? What's the disconnect between the Top 25 voters and the bracketologists?

Brendan said...

The disconnect is that top 25 voters are either idiots or have better things to do than deep-dive into the details. Rankings mean squat.