Next week, teams playing in conference championship games get a little reward. Instead of stacking up 13 games and giving the vast majority of teams a "bye," the winners of the CCGs will have their worst win replaced with the CCG, and the losers, their worst loss. UCLA is an example of a team that'll get a big benefit; either their weak win over Wazzu or blowout loss to Cal disappears from their resume.
Basketball reaction from the past week is short and sweet. Is it amazing what happens when we field an actual point guard? Yes, it is amazing what happens when we field an actual point guard. Huge caveats about the level of competition (Seattle, North Texas, Lamar) apply. Lamar in particular was winless until scraping out a win over IUPUI. (Pronounced "yoo-pwee" around these parts because it's fun.)
But the scores were also exactly what you'd hope to see out of a tournament-contending ACC team when playing that sort of competition. Teven Jones got into the lineup for heavy minutes. His stat lines weren't even that great. You wouldn't know he'd made any impact. (13 points against UNT wasn't too shabby, though, but four assists against three turnovers was fairly average.) But the offense just works better. There are more assists, total. The A/T ratio is better. You can look it up; the difference is palpable. And that's just with a redshirt freshman running the joint.
Even with two CAA losses on the resume, it's reasonable to hope that if UVA puts together a bubble type of season, the committee will consider the absence of Jontel Evans as a major factor, and credit UVA accordingly. But UVA will need to either beat Wisconsin, or go on an unlikely tear through the ACC schedule. (A win over Tennessee may also help.)
Wisconsin, for their part, remains formidable competition, but has lost twice (to ranked teams, so don't get your hopes up too high) and didn't look good in either. A preview of that game will appear in this very space, not long from now.
The coaching carousel spared the ACC last offseason, but not this time: two ACC coaches are out of a job, as Boston College and NC State parted ways with Frank Spaziani and Tom O'Brien. That's probably the beginning and end of it, unless someone else (David Cutcliffe?) leaves for another open job somewhere else.
UVA's head coaching job is not going to open up this offseason, but a shuffle among the assistant staff is probably coming. In this week's ITA article (linked as soon as it's posted) I dive into that possibility somewhat; the cliffnotes are that special teams suck worse than anything the universe has ever produced, including Kim Kardashian, and that a change at O-line coach is likely due as well. O'Brien's ouster at NC State produced speculation that since Ron Mattes is now unemployed, he might be a good choice to replace Scott Wachenheim, this time as a real coach and not a GA. This comes from people who forget that Mattes is at Elon, not NC State. Might he still consider a return to Charlottesville? Possibly.
But if we're looking to the ranks of fired coaching staffs, I have another idea that piques my interest even more: Jim Bollman. If you go back a lot further than I do, you might remember the name. Bollman coached the O-line under George Welsh for four years in the early '90s, and has Ray Roberts on his resume. He ended up at Ohio State for the last 11 years before this season, has coached in the pros, and was OSU's OC for a time as well. When we were originally hiring, Bollman was too firmly entrenched at Ohio State to be even a remote possibility. Now with Spaziani fired at BC, and Bollman's ties to BC pretty tenuous to begin with, that's one phone call that ought to be made.
As for special teams, I totally forgot when I was ranting and raving in October, but guess what I wrote in the aftermath of the Peach Bowl?
Maybe I said the defense didn't completely suck because I was comparing it to the atomic fiasco that was the special teams. How many points do you suppose we gave up because of special teams? I count 22:Emphasis added this time around. Can't believe I forgot about that. Man, that was a mess. Now compare that to what I said, post-Maryland:
- 7 for the first blocked punt, which gave Auburn the ball in the red zone
- 7 for the onside kick, which gave Auburn the ball at our 41
- 3 because we couldn't execute a fake field goal
- 2 for the safety on the second blocked punt
- 3 for the field goal that came after Auburn's long return of the ensuing free kick
Anyone who comes through as unblocked as all that will block the punt. And - really? A rugby punt in the end zone? When you have one-third fewer yards to work with? Coaching failures brought on those blocked punts, and a coaching failure led the team to be unprepared for an onside kick. And the kick coverage has been trouble all year, not to mention kicking the ball out of bounds on the kickoff.
So that'll be your number one adjustment for the offseason. It's a tough situation because your special teams coach is none other than UVA legend Anthony Poindexter, whose recruiting chops are crucial to our success. But nobody else on the staff has ever been a special teams coach, either. Idea lobbed in from the back of the peanut gallery: have London take over special teams himself until eventually someone leaves the staff and someone with special-teams experience can be hired. Cause that might've been the worst game anyone in the country has played on special teams, all year long.
UVA cannot afford one more week of Anthony Poindexter's totally ineffective coaching of the special teams. ... it's still time for a staff shuffle, starting with the special teams, which should be under the purview of the head coach for the rest of the year.I retract what I said about Poindexter's other coaching abilities, because the defense has turned out such that I wouldn't change a thing about the defensive staff this offseason. But special teams? There is nothing redeemable about them. We're at the bottom of the country in every conceivable category - most notably 123rd of 124 in allowing kick return yardage - and something spectacularly awful happens every game. If I read the tea leaves right, they've attracted the attention of Craig Littlepage, which hopefully means Mike London is going to devote an hour or two this offseason to fixing them.