Monday, May 7, 2012

weekend review, which is mostly tourney talk

UVA's lacrosse team didn't play any games this weekend, but they won anyway - on Sunday night when the bracket selection was revealed.  Oh, we could've had a better seed by winning some of these close games (or not so close ones) but this is a bracket that shakes out about as good as you could have ever hoped.

Princeton is the opponent, and they're no slouch of a team.  I'd still rather face them than Syracuse, which finally woke up in the Big East tournament and obliterated its opposition.  Princeton struggled to put away Brown and then was totally outclassed by Yale(!).  They're headed in the opposite direction.  And perhaps I'm being too optimistic in thinking of Notre Dame and their nation-best defense as a potential second-round opponent - it may be that I just feel better about our chances of beating a team that hasn't beaten us yet.

But it's the opposite side of the bracket that's loaded.  We could've been handed Colgate, you know.  Instead, the other side of the bracket has the following:

-- Duke playing a red-hot Syracuse.

-- UMass's Will Manny and Colgate's Peter Baum in the same game.  Exciting game for the neutral observer, but you can hear the whining out of Massachusetts from here.**  The effect on UVA is that one of Steele Stanwick's two major challengers to the Tewaaraton crown will be booted in the first round, probably sinking that particular bid.

-- Lehigh and Maryland, two more dangerous contenders, in the first round.

To win the national title, we'd have to eventually play (most likely) either Duke or Hopkins, but not both, and that is a plus.  Loyola is the biggest roadblock on this side.  But if we get that far, we wouldn't have to face them until the Final Four in Foxboro.  You know if you get that far you're playing someone damn good, but I'd much rather take my chances with a team that's never been on that stage before.

Now, if I might be allowed to toot my own horn for a minute.  Actually it's less of a "toot" and more of a blast from the mountaintops.  I don't do it often so deal with it.  If you read yesterday's final lax bracketology, and then compared it to the NCAA's bracket, you might've noticed two things:

1) I was 16 for 16 in picking the teams in the tournament.
2) I was 8 for 8 in picking the first round hosts.

I pretty heftily underrated Hopkins and overrated UMass - I didn't think the committee would let UMass slide all the way to 6th with that RPI.  I did hit three seeds on the nose (although Loyola was way too easy to take any credit for) and called two exact matchups (Loyola caveat again.)  Probably nobody will ever predict all eight games exactly, but 16 for 16 and 8 for 8 is better than last year - and nobody else can make both claims.

This might not be the right year to be boasting of accuracy, as the tourney selections are being widely panned.  One common criticism is that the committee applied different metrics at different times: SOS was used to drop UMass to the 6th seed and to justify Denver's inclusion, while RPI is what put Princeton in.  One example.  My answer: of course they did.  If they just only used one criterion to rank the teams, there wouldn't be a point to having the others, plus everyone would hate that.  It's not like RPI is a perfect top-to-bottom ranking of the teams.

Anyway, the committee's thinking is like this: yes, they used SOS to justify Denver's bid, but only because Denver had a good enough RPI.  (And because they beat Duke.  Beating a seeded team always helps.)  The committee likes those extremes, which is why they couldn't leave out Princeton.  And they didn't exactly leapfrog Denver over a lot of teams in the RPI - their RPI is just one point lower than Fairfield's and Cornell's.  When I'm comparing bubble teams like Denver, Ohio State, Fairfield, etc. one of the first things I do is look for those extremes and, usually, drop teams with extremes on the wrong end (like OSU's low RPI) and keep the ones with extremes on the high end (like Princeton's RPI.)

This is why it doesn't surprise me one bit to see Denver and Princeton over Cornell and Penn State, the two teams most often considered snubbed.  The committee didn't selectively apply criteria because if they had, Ohio State would be in based on SOS as well - theirs is one-ten-thousandth lower than Denver's.  .5848 to .5847.

**Ah, UMass.  They're now fully convinced there's a massive anti-them conspiracy organized by the "lax mafia" (that's the ACC plus Cuse and Hopkins) to keep the upstarts and little guys out of contention wherever possible.  This obviously is how Loyola got the #1 seed.  (Except they're in Maryland, therefore, in on the conspiracy.)  The case goes like this: Hopkins lost to a team the caliber of Navy, and UMass never did, therefore they should be the #2 seed instead.  This is stupid because it presumes that losing to Navy should cancel out wins over Loyola, UVA, and Princeton.

Because, see, the next game UMass plays will be the first against any of the other 15 teams in the tournament.  When it gets down to brass tacks, nobody really cares about one loss if you've proven you can beat tournament-quality teams.  In order to win the tournament, after all, you have to beat at least three and usually four really good, tournament-quality teams.  It's hardly unfair of the committee to want to see you do that before you deserve a real shot at the crown.


-- Speaking of all that lacrosse, don't forget to also watch the UVA documentary, tomorrow and Wednesday at 6:30 on "this is why I call it" ESPNUVA.  It's got a pretty sweet trailer, too.  The documentary is called "There and Back" so if you're a giant dork like me you automatically want to call it "There and Back Again: A Wahoo's Holiday."

-- Just so nobody thinks I'm glossing over this kind of stuff, here is the article detailing the lawsuit filed by the parents of Yeardley Love against Dom Starsia and the UVA lacrosse coaches, Craig Littlepage, and the state of Virginia.  It's separate from the one that was filed against the actual killer, George Huguely.  Out of respect for the dead I'm not going to editorialize much, but let's just say that Starsia's character and off-the-field coaching abilities have only ever been previously called into question by the uneducated.  The lawsuit claims that Huguely was a star on the team and therefore got special treatment which led to the killing, which would be the first time George Huguely has ever been described as one of the team's stars.

-- Tony Bennett pretty much wrapped up recruiting of transfers and anything more imminent than the 2013 recruiting class by signing shooting guard Taylor Barnette, a (very) late addition to the 2012 class.  As usual I have a great deal to say about this and will say it tomorrow.

-- Alex Anzalone, former recruiting board denizen and also former Ohio State commit, just became the strangest decommitment story ever.  People make jokes about the creepy double entendres of football recruiting, and coaches sometimes don't help with their comments (you should've seen what the OSU coaches said in our local community paper about the recruit they pulled out of the local high school, or more specifically, that recruit's body) but this has got to be the first time an actual child molester has ever been publically involved and identified.  So Anzalone's back on the market because he was unsurprisingly weirded out by a sex offender who drove up from Kentucky to see him and the other 17-year-old recruits.  No, he's not going back on the recruiting board, that ship is good and sailed.

-- David Teel has an excellent take on Old Dominion's conundrum: stay in the CAA or make the jump to I-A football and Conference USA?  My guess is it depends on whether VCU and George Mason stay in the CAA or head to the Atlantic-10 along with Butler.  The effect on UVA is this: it would be incrementally more difficult to recruit the 757 with a third FBS team in the state and it sitting right in the center of the happy hunting ground.  But as long as we don't have any more William & Mary disasters it won't be a thing.  If ODU does make the jump, they'll still want to be more of a recruiting rival of ours - no more practices at their stadium - and my initial thought is we should offer them a road game at their place in exchange for two at ours, play that road game in their first year of I-A ball, and fill their stadium with orange.  This is from the same section of my brain that says we should take our spring ball roadshow next year across the Potomac to DeMatha or Good Counsel, just to cheese off the Terps.


Anonymous said...

I don't think we're allowed to practice in Maryland for football. I read somewhere it can be anywhere in the state or within a 100 miles of grounds. I could be wrong though

Anonymous said...

^ is correct about the out of state, within 100 miles rule.

I'm looking forward to seeing your season preview segments on our opponents this year in football. I think our schedule is relatively difficult this season out of conference and in conference. Georgia Tech, NC State, Miami, UNC and VT...yeesh.