I guess Christmas is the Season of Can't Have Nice Things around the UVA basketball program, what with last year's dual transfers and this year's loss to a terrible Old Dominion team. I'd like to look at the ODU roster and the awful CAA lineup and say ODU is in prime position to rebound from their lousy start, but they went and dropped a home game to Fairfield as their encore to the UVA game. So that one won't do anything but make the selection committee barf.
The ODU game also sort of illustrates the dangers of over-reliance on KenPom's numbers, something that I'm guilty of from time to time, or more often. UVA was KenPom's 33rd team in the country going into the two games they played while I was on hiatus, and is now 25th. If anyone really thinks UVA improved its standing by losing to a (now) 2-11 team and crushing Wofford, they're nuts. Would anyone ever say there are only 24 teams in the country that should be favored to beat the Hoos on a neutral court? Shit no, man. I believe you'd get your ass kicked for saying something like that. UVA has a very high RPI hill to climb.
To cope, I suggest you remind yourself that the NCAA tournament this season, though apparently well within reach after wins over Wisconsin and Tennessee, was always a little bit of a bonus, and the NIT is not necessarily the worst thing that can happen - this year. Nor is the NCAA tournament dream destroyed, either. The ACC season is ahead, and it offers some excellent opportunities to put a patch on the resume, starting with UNC on Sunday. Keeping in mind also the caveat to every prediction I'll ever make about this team - the one that I mentioned in discussing the Tennessee game.
In the footbally sport, rumors continue to mount that UVA will hire Jon Tenuta to coach the defense. We'll find out soon, as Tenuta is finishing up his contract with NC State, coaching them in the Music City Bowl today. A certain segment of the UVA fanbase would be thrilled with that hire; that is the group that barely cares how well the defense performs as long as it blitzes a lot on the way. I don't know when the last time was that I saw a safety blitz from UVA's defense; I saw at least one today from NC State. (For what it's worth, the blitz was picked up perfectly and Vanderbilt got a longish completion out of it.) I'd be happy with a Tenuta hire mainly because if we're going to fire a reasonably successful DC who was a big asset on the recruiting trail, it might as well be for a guy who has a well-established quality reputation, and to boot doesn't want to be a head coach. If London lasts a long time, Tenuta will too. And while it's said Tenuta doesn't enjoy recruiting, he at least is a recruiting chip in and of himself.
The final important thing from the hiatus is the discovery of an O-line replacement for the duplicitous Brad Henson, in the form of Eric Smith from Georgia. I suspect there's an element of cause-and-effect here; Smith's other main suitor was UNC, and it's very possible they might have slowed down on Smith (or pulled their offer entirely) after flipping Henson. Nevertheless, Smith is a solid replacement. UVA might well add one more O-lineman after this as well, but the main thing is to get to the big official visit weekend in January without any more decommitments.
Coming up this week: a profile on Smith, a preview of the UNC game (obviously) and a review of sorts of the year 2012 that was.