Tuesday, April 3, 2012

death to the fates

You've heard of WhatIfSports.com.  They let you simulate all kinds of games between anybody.  It's an appropriate name for a simulation website like that.  When they came up with the idea of asking "what if...." I don't know if they envisioned anyone finishing the question with "....the basketball gods weren't a bunch of assholes?" but that is exactly what I've done here.  What if two players didn't quit the team around Christmastime, two more didn't blow their wheels, and another didn't break his hand?

In order to find out, I've reset the season.  Back to Christmastime, which is when attrition first reared its evil head.  The Hoos were 10-1, having already beaten Michigan, Oregon, and Drexel, and suffered their only nonconference loss, to TCU.  The first game after the departures of KT Harrell and James Johnson was a Tuesday night home game against UMES, and that is where the wayback machine takes us.  We'll use the WhatIfSports simulator to simulate a season without any departures or injuries, and go all the way to the end of the year.

I've set the UVA lineup as follows:

PG: Jontel Evans 32 minutes, Sammy Zeglinski 8 minutes
SG: Sammy Zeglinski 22 minutes, Malcolm Brogdon 18 minutes
SF: Joe Harris 30 minutes, KT Harrell 10 minutes
PF: Mike Scott 35 minutes, Akil Mitchell 3 minutes, Darion Atkins 2 minutes
C: Assane Sene 22 minutes, Akil Mitchell 13 minutes, James Johnson 5 minutes

The simulator doesn't give you exactly those every time, but those are its targets.  Away we go then, back to a more innocent time and place:

December 27: Virginia 70, UMES 52
Record: 11-1

Ugly start as UMES leaps out to a surprising 21-10 lead midway through the first half, but UVA's trademark defense kicks in and the Hoos go on a 29-6 run to finish the half, and cruise the rest of the game.  Mike Scott leads the way with 17 and 12, and we have a Doug Browman sighting.

December 30: Virgina 71, Towson 52
Record: 12-1

Towson refuses to go away in the first half, but UVA pulls away after halftime for another easyish win.  The Hoos cause 16 Towson turnovers.

January 2: Virginia 70, LSU 60
Record: 13-1

UVA has a big first half and leads by 19 at the break, and fends off an LSU comeback attempt to win its 13th of the year.  UVA overcomes a poor shooting night by Mike Scott with a career night from Akil Mitchell, and 12 and 13 points from Evans and Harris, respectively.

January 7: Miami 65, Virginia 63
Record: 13-2 (0-1)

A heartbreaking season opener for the Hoos.  UVA stages a comeback after being down 6 at halftime, and with six seconds to go, Jontel Evans drives the rim and hits the game-tying layup.  Unfortunately, UVA can't stop Miami's Reggie Johnson from hitting the game-winner with a second left; they are two of Johnson's four points on the day.  You might recall we actually won this game - but by one point.  You might also be thinking, "our defense would be good enough to stop that shot 9 out of 10 times."  You're right, but then again, when UVA loses basketball games they always end up being in the worst way possible.  So by now I'm pretty convinced the simulator knows UVA.

January 12: Virginia 75, Duke 65
Record: 14-2 (1-1)

Aaaaaand the Miami game is erased from memory.  Hoos everywhere - nay, basketball fans everywhere - rejoice as Duke is taken down in their own gym.  UVA is down six at the half, erases that deficit in less than three minutes, and pulls away late to score the upset in Cameron.  Double-doubles are provided by Scott and Evans (10 assists for the latter) and a big scoring night comes from Joe Harris.  Duke is limited to 38% shooting, and Austin Rivers has a particularly bad night at 3 for 14.

January 19: Virginia 57, Georgia Tech 54
Record: 15-2 (2-1)

The feared hangover from the previous week's game rears its ugly head, but the Hoos manage a nailbiter in Atlanta.  GT's Jason Morris hits a three-pointer with 2 minutes left to give the Jackets a four-point lead, but that would be their last score of the evening as UVA's defense comes through in the clutch.

January 22: Virginia Tech 57, Virginia 52
Record: 15-3 (2-2)

Feh....this looks suspiciously like real life.  Dorenzo Hudson hits a jumper as time expires in the first half, and the momentum carries through the second half as UVA plays from behind the rest of the game.  2-for-17 three-point shooting is fingered as the primary reason for the loss, with Sammy going 0-for-8 and Harris hitting just 1-of-6.

January 26: Boston College 57, Virginia 56
Record: 15-4 (2-3)

Shooting problems again; Joe Harris's 19 points can't stop the rest of the team from going cold.  The Duke game is a distant memory.

January 28: Virginia 75, NC State 72
Record: 16-4 (3-3)

This is UVA alright.  Fans throw up their hands in confusion as UVA earns a badly-needed road win, and Sammy breaks out of his slump to lead the team in scoring with 18.

January 31: Clemson 66, Virginia 55
Record: 16-5 (3-4)

A frustrating season continues as Clemson comes into the JPJ and takes an easy one.  Mike Scott scores 23 points but needs 22 shots to do it and gets no help from his teammates, and Clemson hits on 7-for-12 3-pointers.

February 4: Florida State 72, Virginia 71 (OT)
Record: 16-6 (3-5)

Overtime isn't kind to the Hoos.  Deividas Dulkys misses the second half of a one-and-one, giving the Hoos a window, which they take advantage of as Akil Mitchell hits a 10-foot jumper to send the game to OT.  It looks like Jontel Evans will be the overtime hero, hitting a go-ahead layup with 15 seconds to go, but Dulkys atones for his mistake by scoring on a buzzer-beater to give the Hoos an uphill climb in the second half of the season.

February 8: Virginia 62, Wake Forest 56
Record: 17-6 (4-5)

During the first half, UVA fans are starting to price out NIT tickets, and UVA is down by 9 at the break.  The season is saved - for now, anyway - when Wake is held to just 18 points in the second half, and UVA pulls away with the win.

February 11: North Carolina 79, Virginia 67
Record: 17-7 (4-6)

John Henson scores 22 and rips down 14 rebounds, Harrison Barnes adds 13 points of his own, Kendall Marshall has 13 assists, and it's just not really even a game in Chapel Hill.

February 14: Clemson 70, Virginia 61
Record: 17-8 (4-7)

It's starting to look like those NIT tickets are a worthy investment after all.

February 18: Virginia 65, Maryland 62
Record: 18-8 (5-7)

Ballhog as he might, Terrell Stoglin's 24 points aren't enough to launch Maryland to the win.  The Terps commit 23 fouls and UVA makes them pay at the free-throw line, making up for a poor 19-for-52 shooting night.

February 21: Virginia 64, Virginia Tech 62
Record: 19-8 (6-7)

Just as in real life, it's revenge in Blacksburg.  The undisciplined Hokies try a hack-a-Mike strategy, and it burns them as Scott is a perfect 8-for-8 at the stripe.  Scott earns another double-double with 20-and-11, and Assane Sene adds two blocks.

February 25: Virginia 82, North Carolina 78
Record: 20-8 (7-7)

One thing that's nice about computer simulations?  The refs aren't a bunch of no-talent blowjobs!  Harrison Barnes shoots 3-for-15 and fouls out, and moving screens are actually called on both teams.  The pace is to the liking of UNC, but Mike Scott matches Tyler Zeller point for point and board for board, and gets just enough help from his teammates to pull off the upset and have UVA fans thinking about the Dance once again.

March 1: Virginia 72, Florida State 63
Record: 21-8 (8-7)

The revenge tour continues as UVA pulls away late in the second half to get the win over the Seminoles; no overtime necessary.  Harris and Zeglinski combine to go 6-for-7 from three-point range, and Harris in particular hits two consecutive threes during the run that puts the game away.  Dance tickets are punched.

March 4: Virginia 61, Maryland 45
Record: 22-8 (9-7)

The Hoos close out the regular season on fire in a laugher in College Park.  Maryland shoots 28.8% from the floor and scores just 14 points in the second half, in a return to the stifling defense that has become the Cavalier trademark.  With the win, UVA finishes on a five-game win streak and, though the route was a little different, earns the same record as in real life.

March 9: Virginia 67, NC State 58
Record: 23-8 (9-7)

Because we had the same record, we end up with the same opponent in the ACC tourney, and with a full, healthy roster, the result is quite different.  Four Hoos score in double digits and UVA advances to the tourney semifinals in Atlanta.

March 10: Virginia 82, North Carolina 79
Record: 24-8 (9-7)

UVA fans are on the brink of ecstasy with a second win over UNC.  The Hoos take a six-point lead into the locker room and hold on for dear life in the second half.  Mike Scott makes his case for POY with 28 points and 12 rebounds; eat your heart out, Tyler Zeller.

March 11: Florida State 84, Virginia 80 (2OT)
Record: 24-9 (9-7)

If there were a game that perfectly captured the soul and essence of being a UVA fan, this would be it.  Mike Scott hits a buzzer-beater in regulation to tie the game and send it to OT; Sammy Zeglinski follows up with a game-tying three with nine seconds left in the first overtime and the defense forces an FSU turnover to extend the game another five minutes.  But the offense goes cold in the second OT and the Hoos can only manage six points, handing the ACC title to Florida State.

With a fantastic showing in the ACC tourney, a strong finish to the season, a healthy team, and also a road win over Duke, UVA is looked much more kindly upon in the committee room, and on Selection Sunday, UVA is given the last 6-seed, instead of what theoretically - going strictly by the S-curve - would've been the top 10-seed.  We move UVA up accordingly and bump each other team down, and find that the Hoos' first-round opponent is Colorado.

March 15: Virginia 69, Colorado 45
Record: 25-9 (9-7)

This one is no contest, as the Pac-12's Buffaloes are totally unprepared for UVA's suffocating pack-line defense.  Joe Harris registers 20 points, and Colorado goes 18-for-49 from the floor; additionally, UVA has a huge advantage at the free-throw line, where Colorado only gets nine attempts.

March 17: Baylor 63, Virginia 52
Record: 25-10 (9-7)

Perhaps blinded by the walking highlighters, UVA's season comes to an end just shy of the Sweet 16.  The Hoos score just 16 points in the first half and turn the ball over 14 times during the game.  The season is over, but it's missing one major feature: that sense of emptiness and anger directed at the evil fates.

So there is your fantasy season.  Every time you get angsty and depressed over what could've been, and you wonder what kind of season was taken away from us by cruel, malicious Fortuna, you can come back here and let it be just a little more real.

(A note on the methodology, for disclosure's sake: each game was only ever simulated once, for the sake of realism.  Except for one.  I really wanted to make a crack about refereeing for the UNC game, so I replayed that one over and over until I got a lopsided fouls result.  I didn't even look at the score, until I'd looked at the fouls.  I would've taken a lopsided result in either team's favor, just for the sake of the humor, and it so happened it went in UVA's favor.  It turns out the refs really do call the game evenly in the sim.  Imagine that.  If they wanted realism, of course, that's not how it would go; James Johnson would've been forced into 28 minutes because Assane Sene would've gotten 10.  P.S. - it also turns out that UVA wins against UNC about one in four games, at least at home.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Huh, interesting. I feel a little less bitter about the year.
1.) The sim season gave the regular season result, but with more angst about making the tourney. I'll pass on that.
2.) Yeah, postseason wins are great, but losing a heartbreaker in the ACC finals would've been just as terrible (worse?) as losing in the quarters.
3.) For the NCAAs, winning two games and getting a week of afterglow is what counts as far as I'm concerned.
So I guess I'm glad the sim season didn't turn out better. I can move on in peace.
Thanks for the legwork.