Tuesday, May 29, 2012

long weekend review

So did I mention I was planning to take Memorial Day off?  I don't think I did.  I took Memorial Day off.  So you know.

The long weekend didn't really produce a whole lot of extra news, though.  I wish it had, it would've meant we had a dog in the fight on Memorial Day in Foxboro, but I'll tell ya, we had a little bit of a flawed team this year and it was nice to see a non-powerhouse team win their first title.  And a deserving one, too, it's the first time since we did it in 2006 that the 1 seed won the championship.

Baseball had a good weekend, though.  We'll brush aside the 17-5 assbeating from Georgia Tech - the eventual ACC champs - and focus on the rest.  A 7-0 shutout of Florida State (who can now officially be characterized as "reeling") was the highlight of the weekend on the diamond, and the tourney draw was the highlight off of it.

The fact that it was Scott Silverstein who started the GT game and Artie Lewicki who shut out FSU has pretty much everyone figuring Lewicki is the #2 starter now.  If not in name, at least in practice.  It's really hard anymore to make an argument that's not the case; Silverstein's inability to go deep into a game is troubling and probably the #1 issue heading into the regional.

At such regional, hosted in Charlottesville for the third year in a row, we'll welcome Oklahoma, Appalachian State, and Army.  This is a tournament of familiar names: Oklahoma is the team that knocked us out of our own super-regional two years ago, and the regional across from us is South Carolina, another team to whom we owe a little payback.

That'll be for later, though.  For now, let's step back and marvel a bit.  Remember what we lost coming out of last season:

-- All of our catchers
-- Starting third baseman
-- Entire starting outfield
-- All four starting pitchers

Not to mention that a promising DH/1B candidate (Ryan Levine) left the team, and poor snakebit Reed Gragnani can't stay healthy.  And this is still one of the top 16 teams in the country.  And P.S. - without having a single player make first-team all-ACC and only three - Keith Werman, Branden Kline, and Justin Thompson - making second team.  That's Coach of the Year stuff right there.  The media gave it to Mike Martin of FSU, but it's a crying shame it didn't go to BOC because this year has been his best coaching job maybe since he got here.  Top 16 in the country.  Soak that in.  And next year is when the cavalry arrives: we got Nathan Kirby (and it's really excellent - even flattering in a way - the level of commitment he's shown to UVA), Josh Sborz - there are some big names prepped to enroll in the fall, all of which we'll profile later in June after such time as the baseball team has finished their season.

Right now the tournament is at hand, and UVA got a really good draw.  Oklahoma will be tough, of course, but there aren't many 2 seeds that roll over easy.  South Carolina - the regional across from us - is the 8 seed.  Theoretically the "worst" of the national seeds.  I know - we ought to be aiming to be a super-regional host.  Again: just being a regional host of any kind is one hell of an accomplishment for this year.  There are beatable teams in front of us.  We don't have any margin for error, and as I look out among the regional hosts I see us as maybe one of the most vulnerable regional 1 seeds.  But we also dodged some of the deadlier 2 seeds - thinking along the lines of a Kentucky, Mississippi State, or UCF.  Anyway, full preview coming on Thursday.  Maybe late Thursday, but Thursday.


-- NATIONAL CHAMPS.  A hearty congratulations to the lady rowers, who defended their national title and ensured UVA brought home a national title of some kind for the third straight year.  The Lady Hoos won the Varsity Eight race - the grand finale, so to speak - to clinch the win in New Jersey.  And by the way, Michigan took second, so that particular sport really is how all national championship contests should go.  We could even switch up the order once in a while, I'd still be happy.

-- Making the rounds on the Googleytubes today is the report that someone's figured out that there are only 11 schools to have made a bowl game, the mens' basketball tournament, and the baseball tournament this season.  The fact I'm even saying this ought to clue you in that UVA is one of 'em.  Texas didn't make the baseball tournament this year, for the first time since 1998, so they're, surprisingly, not.  (And that helps illustrate the razor-thin margin we're on, as well as perhaps ACC baseball superiority - Texas was 30-22, we are 38-17.  Five more losses and you go from hosting a regional to outski.)

Anyway, the 10 other schools.  Some are easy to guess: Florida, Florida State, UNC.  Some are hella surprising: Baylor, Vanderbilt, Purdue, Michigan State, Louisville.  (Missouri and NC State round out the list.)

So yeah: death to ACC detractors, as four of the 11 are ACC schools.  2 Big Ten, 2 SEC, 2 Big 12, 1 Big East - and 4 ACC.  Let it also be noted that only UVA and UNC also made the lacrosse tourney, and if you twist my arm I guess I'll throw in MSU on the same level, for playing in the hockey tournament.  On a related note, I continue to warm up to the idea of inviting Louisville to the ACC if we lose FSU, or end up needing a 16th to balance Notre Dame.

-- Mike Slive has come out against the idea of a plus-one playoff.  This is important.  Mike Slive is the commissioner of the SEC.  The SEC is the conference that just signed an agreement with the Big 12 to play a Rose Bowl-like bowl game, the details of which nobody really knows yet but such lack of details did not stop media know-it-alls from saying HIDE YA WIVES HIDE YA KIDS THEY RAPIN' THE ACC UP IN HERRRRR.  Friggin' Mark Schlabach trolled for hits by tolling the bell for the ACC before it was even reported that FSU was making googly-eyes at the Big 12.  A plus-one - that is, just play the bowls and pick the two best winners - would've essentially meant "whoever wins the Rose Bowl plus whoever wins the SEC-Big 12 thing, y'all two just play another game for the title."  The fact that the SEC is not in favor of that is a bonus for the ACC.  Naturally, the ACC wants conference champions to get invites and the SEC wants to just figure out who the best four teams are, figuring that three of them are likely to be SEC.  The problem is that a four-team playoff only leaves room for four conference champions, so the ACC is kind of stuffed in that case.  Myself, I liked the idea that conference champions would be autobidded if they were in the top six in the BCS standings and in the at-large pool otherwise, but I digress.

The larger point here is that these playoff talks are going to take some very, very unforeseen turns.  We are only getting information a little bit at a time.  Also, conference commissioners are sort of a mini-fraternity, and not likely to gang up on each other in these BCS talks.  The proof is in the fact that the Big East somehow clung to a BCS bowl autobid despite being the only conference without a set-in-stone bowl affiliation and the fact that every fan in the whole world knew what a damn farce it was that they still had that.  But the commissioners were too buddy-buddy to actually kick the Big East out of the money pot.  They still are, so the ACC, despite the funeral marches being played for it, will still have its seat at the table.

It's also worth noting this: the SEC is going to a 6-1-1 scheduling model, which is to say, six divisional games, one cross-division rivalry, and one rotating game.  Which means season ticket holders at, say, Georgia, will get to watch LSU at Sanford Stadium once a decade.  Season ticket holders at, say, Auburn, will get to watch Tennessee at Jordan-Hare once a decade.  Man, fuck this conference expansion crap.


Anonymous said...

Been pondering if Lewicki against Army makes some sense. That sets Kline up for the pivotal game, assuming we beat army, against Oklahoma or App. State. Of course, this puts Silverstein/Halley/Effertz and Co. on for "clinching" duty, if we get that far.

Kline, despite his command inconsistencies and a fastball that flattens out at times, is still our best arm.

Brendan said...

Either Lewicki or SS, but either way, the truth is the only thing that makes sense is to hold your ace for game 2. The 1 seed should be able to beat the 4 seed with any of its three weekend starters; if not, we're in trouble regardless of the rotation order.