Thursday, October 25, 2012

hoops schedule

It's almost basketball season.  Last year I was completely not ready for that, because the football ride was too much fun.  This year?  Well, if I start expecting hoops to be as successful as last year, then baseball season won't be here fast enough.  So we're not really getting a world of relief here.  Still, the basketball squad should be better than the equivalent of 2-6, and was picked 7th of 12 in the conference by the coaches in their preseason poll, so we can hold out hope at least that disaster isn't imminent.  Which reminds me: it's time for the annual look at the out-of-conference schedule.  Full previews of the ACC come at the end of football season, which can't come soon enough.

(This by the way was going to be Wednesday night, on schedule, but it turns out several of these conferences are having their Big Media Day today, which is when the conference polls come out.  I need those.  That's my excuse, anyway.  It's the bye week, so no game preview obviously, but I do intend to come out with something on Friday.  Something different.)

George Mason

Colonial Athletic Association

Preseason conference poll: 3rd of 11

'11-'12 record: 24-9
'11-'12 postseason: None
'11-'12 Pomeroy: .6501 (5th CAA, 106th national)

Better or worse: About the same
Chance of a win: Slightly better than decent

Unlike last year, the Hoos jump right into it with a test on the road to start the season; they'll play George Mason in Mason's gym.  17-ppg forward Ryan Pearson is gone, but Mason brings back a deep lineup of guards that will provide nearly all of the Patriots' scoring punch.  Sherrod Wright is a very efficient shooter and can knock it down from three, and was a second-team all-conference preseason pick.  Bryon Allen and Vertrail Vaughns will round out a three-guard starting lineup.  Allen can score, but he's useless from three, and the whole team needs to cut down on turnovers.  As far as their matching-up with UVA, it looks promising.  Mason has only one veteran frontcourt player (Jonathan Arledge) and if he's a regular starter it'll be the first time.  He's not a big scorer.  Any other bigs on the floor will be freshmen, so Mason is unequipped to take advantage of UVA's thin frontcourt; in fact, this will one of the few games this year where we have a distinct advantage here.  Combine that and their propensity to turn the ball over (they had 20 in last year's game, one for each point that we beat them by) and UVA should find itself with a good chance to start the season off on the right foot.


Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

Preseason conference poll: N/A

'11-'12 record: 22-15
'11-'12 postseason: Lost in CIT semifinals
'11-'12 Pomeroy: .6674 (2nd MAAC, 100th national)

Better or worse: Worse
Chance of a win: Pretty good

Fairfield is our opponent in the opening round of the Preseason NIT.  It's a single elimination tournament - no fancy loser's brackets - and the first two rounds will be at the JPJA and three other hosts (Michigan, Pitt, and Kansas State.)  Advance past Fairfield and we get the winner between Delaware and Penn, which is likely to be Delaware.  Advance past that and we get to Madison Square Garden, and draw the winner of the Kansas State regional, which barring some kind of nutty miracle is Kansas State.  So yes, a rematch against Michigan requires both teams to make the championship game.

But, Fairfield.  They lose a lot from last season, and like GMU, have no bigs that aren't freshmen.  (Or sophomores that missed all of last season with an injury.)  Defense was their calling card last season.  Pomeroy gave them a sparkling D-rating of 92.9, good for 29th in the nation.  But they struggled on offense for long stretches last season, and used a late-season hot streak to get into the postseason and make it to the MAAC championship game.  Combo guard Derek Needham is the star, but beyond that there's little proven depth and a lack of offensive punch.  Maurice Barrow is a solid but somewhat undersized forward, and he represents pretty much Fairfield's only other threat. This is another team we should match up well against.


Western Athletic Conference

Preseason conference poll: 8th of 10

'11-'12 record: 12-15
'11-'12 postseason: none
'11-'12 Pomeroy: .3473 (222nd national)

Better or worse: Roughly the same
Chance of a win: Lord knows, with this team

Why we can't defend these guys is an eternal mystery.  Two years ago we actually lost.  Last year, Seattle scored more points on our defense than anyone else all year.  Even the Florida debacle saw UVA give up six fewer points; fortunately, we scored 83, the only time all season we soared to such lofty scoreboard heights, and pulled out the win.

Seattle loses do-everything scorer Aaron Broussard, which is nice because Broussard hung 29 on us last year.  But he should be ably replaced in the scoring department by Sterling Carter, who was the leading scorer in the game two years ago that never happened.  Carter's role as keep-em-honest second scorer falls to Clarence Trent, who should also be able to handle it.  Seattle will probably look a lot worse on the record books than last year, because they've up and joined a conference, but they made big strides between '10-'11 and last year, and as far as anyone in Charlottesville can tell they're coming together nicely.  And they like to push the pace as fast as damn possible, hence the scoring explosion.  That said, one of these years we'll realize we have an astronomical athletic advantage, and play accordingly.


Big Ten

Preseason conference poll: 5th of 12

'11-'12 record: 26-10
'11-'12 postseason: NCAA 4 seed; lost in Sweet 16
'11-'12 Pomeroy: .9419 (3rd B1G, 5th national)

Better or worse: Maybe slightly worse
Chance of a win: Very little

ACC/B1G Challenge, yo.  In case you haven't noticed, the Big Ten is getting to be nasty good.  These guys lost only their top scorer (Jordan Taylor), return basically everyone else of note, and the coaches picked 'em fifth in the conference.  (For some stupid reason, the media poll only goes down to #3.) Taylor, though, was a legitimately outstanding player; KenPom considered him the 6th best in the country, on the same list where Mike Scott ultimately finished 10th.  Taylor was a scoring machine.

Wisconsin's basketball team is just like their football team: comprised of big, slow-moving galoots that mercilessly overpower you.  Get ready for jokes about scoring in the 20s, because they play even slower than UVA does, along with smothering defense and very efficient offense.  UVA will have a very tough time with Wisconsin's bigs, particularly 6'10" Jared Berggren.  Berggren and Ryan Evans will provide Wisconsin's primary scoring punch.  At guard, Josh Gasser and Ben Brust keep defenses honest and prevent them from collapsing on the frontcourt, and increased opportunities for Gasser after Taylor's departure could help him really blossom.  One possible saving grace: the Badgers either be without glue guy Mike Bruesewitz, or just getting him back, after a really nasty cut in his calf that sliced all the way to the bone.  It shouldn't matter though.  Our best hope is to keep it close through the pace of the game and then strike with a couple big baskets at the end, but Wisconsin will probably suffocate their way to victory.

Green Bay

Horizon League

Preseason conference poll: 3rd of 9

'11-'12 record: 15-15
'11-'12 postseason: none
'11-'12 Pomeroy: .4379 (7th Horizon, 180th national)

Better or worse: Quite a bit better
Chance of a win: Probably less than people think

If you're looking for a danger game, this is it.  The Phoenix return all five starters, and placed two of them on their conference's preseason team.  7'1" Alec Brown was held in check in our game against Tony Bennett's alma mater last year, but he's going to be tougher without guys like, oh, you know, Mike Scott around.  On the other end of the height spectrum, 5'10" Keifer Sykes is a lightning-quick spark plug.  Kam Cerroni and Brennan Cougill can hit threes, and Cougill is an especially tough assignment because he's 6'9".  Cerroni can really hit 'em, and his "true shooting percentage" of 66.5% was eighth in the country.  I'd like to write that the Hoos should win, but you can't use last year's game as any kind of yardstick here.


Southeastern Conference

Preseason conference poll: 4th of 12

'11-'12 record: 19-15
'11-'12 postseason: NIT 1 seed; lost in 2nd round
'11-'12 Pomeroy: .7665 (5th SEC, 61st national)

Better or worse: Better
Chance of a win: Smallish

If you're holding onto March Madness dreams, circle this game on the calendar; it's the best chance we have at an OOC statement win similar to the win over Michigan last year.  The Vols visit on December 5, and they're a likely tournament team.  Only one player of any import departs, and they've got a nice inside-outside combo in scoring point guard Trae Golden and small forward Jeronne Maymon.  Maymon is complemented inside by tackle-sized forward Jarnell Stokes, who tips the scales at 270, and the Vols also get very good three-point shooting from Skylar McBee.  It's a solid all-around team that some publications consider a preseason top-25 outfit.  A win here would be a clear upset.

Mississippi Valley State

Southwestern Athletic Conference

Preseason conference poll: 10th of 10

'11-'12 record: 21-13
'11-'12 postseason: NCAA 16 seed; lost play-in
'11-'12 Pomeroy: .2683 (1st SWAC, 257th national)

Better or worse: Significantly worse
Chance of a win: Almost 100%

Last year I railed about screwing up your RPI by playing the absolute bottom of the barrel.  Perhaps this is proof that the lesson is hitting home; last year, Mississippi Valley State was exactly the kind of team you want to play to massage your RPI and tournament hopes.  Despite being a really crappy team, they dominated the piss out of their even crappier conference and finished with a 21-13 record and as the #91-ranked team in the RPI.  Tournament committees would've seen another win in the "top-100" column, and you'd've gotten a decent RPI boost from beating a really bad team that looked artificially good.

The next step will be taking into account whether or not that success will carry over to the next year.  In this case, it won't.  The SWAC coaches poll was unanimous: MVSU is dead last.  It was all done on the backs of seniors and a short rotation, and even diehard Delta Devils fans will be hard-pressed to recognize this year's lineup.  Literally nobody in the regular lineup is back from last year.  Not only that, but there's a new coach as the last one used last season as springboard for a step upwards on the ladder.  This will be an RPI-killing rout.

Morgan State

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

Preseason conference poll: ???

'11-'12 record: 9-20
'11-'12 postseason: none
'11-'12 Pomeroy: .2427 (6th MEAC, 268th national)

Better or worse: Same-ish
Chance of a win: Very high

Kind of your standard crappy team.  UVA will have to contend with 7'2", 270-pound center Ian Chiles, and Morgan State also brings back scoring small forward Dewayne Jackson.  Don't expect a threat, though.  The Bears needed a 4-1 run at the end of the regular season just to finish with nine wins, and they don't return any major contributors but those two.  It'd be hard to be much worse, but they won't be much better, either.  Fun fact: Morgan State is coached by Todd Bozeman, who spent eight years(!) under an NCAA show-cause order for straight-up giving huge wads of cash to the parents of one of his players while he was a hotshot rising star at Cal.

Old Dominion

Colonial Athletic Association

Preseason conference poll: 4th of 11

'11-'12 record: 22-14
'11-'12 postseason: Lost in CIT quarterfinal
'11-'12 Pomeroy: .6702 (4th CAA, 99th national)

Better or worse: About the same
Chance of a win: Fair to good

It's fair to be a little nervous about this, since you don't want to give anyone the idea that UVA is anything but the top hoops program in the state.  (Even though, at the moment, we're probably not.)  ODU does lose their top three scorers from last year, but will replace them with a lineup of guys who were very capable role players.  Sharpshooting sophomore Dimitri Batten has a great chance to be the leading scorer, and Nick Wright is one of those tallish swingmen who can both rebound and shoot.  And the Monarchs get some high-profile (and familiar) help in the form of NC State transfer DeShawn Painter, who will play right away and add another scoring presence.  Ultimately UVA should win, but don't write it in pen.


Southern Conference

Preseason conference poll: 8th of 12

'11-'12 record: 19-14
'11-'12 postseason: Lost in CBI 1st round
'11-'12 Pomeroy: .4001 (3rd Socon, 194th national)

Better or worse: Worse
Chance of a win: Very high

Wofford loses three of their top four scorers, and, since they had no juniors last year (that played) they're left without any on-court senior leadership.  Or junior leadership for that matter, except for forward Aerris Smith, who's little more than a role player.  With Smith being the only upperclassman on the court, and him being a guy who played less than half the available minutes last year, this is by far one of the youngest teams in the whole country.  They will have sophomore Karl Cochran to lead them in scoring; as a freshman last year he fit in well with the heavily upperclass lineup and averaged 11 points.  But this is one of the easier wins on the schedule.


You might notice that the OOC schedule is a little squeezed from last year; there were 12 profiled teams in 2011 and only ten this year.  That's a welcome development, as it's the result of the move to an 18-game conference schedule.  I like this.  It might deflate the win total a little bit, but I like it anyway; this year (and this year only since we'll have a 14- and maybe 15-team league next year) we'll play seven of our opponents twice and four of them once.  (Wake, NC State, Duke, Miami.)

The above opponents can be sorted like so:


Morgan State
Penn if we play them


George Mason
Old Dominion
Delaware if we play them


Green Bay


Any team we might happen to meet in Madison Square Garden

That's 5-6 sure wins, 2-3 almost-sure losses, and 3-4 in-betweens.  We should win more of the in-betweens than we lose, though, if we think we have a team that can compete in the ACC.  I'd guess an OOC record of about 8-4 or so should come out of this.  9 wins is the ceiling beyond which anything else means we've scored a tourney-lookin'-good upset.  Anything below 7 and it'll be time to start pining for spring.

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