Friday, March 30, 2012

game preview: Maryland


Date/Time: Saturday, 3/31; 12:00

TV: ESPNUVA

Record against the Terps: 42-45

Last matchup: UVA 9, Md. 7; 5/30/11; Baltimore, MD - NCAA championship game

Last game: JHU 11, UVA 10 (3/24); UNC 11, Md. 10 (3/24)

Opposing blogs: none for lacrosse

Efficiency breakdown:

Faceoff %:
UVA: 57.4 %
Md.: 47.7%

Clearing %:
UVA: 90.0% off., 85.3% def.
Md.: 91.8% off., 82.1% def.

Scoring %:
UVA: 39.5% off., 29.1% def.
Md.: 38.1% off., 28.3% def.

O-rating:
UVA: 20.00 (4th of 61)
Md.: 17.88 (7th of 61)

D-rating:
UVA: 13.14 (20th of 61)
Md.: 12.31 (11th of 61)

(Stats explanation: Faceoff and clearing percentage: self-explanatory. Scoring %: percentage of offensive possessions (faceoff wins + successful clears + opp. failed clears) that result in goals. O-rating and D-rating are my own special sauce based on the above numbers. D-I average for each is currently about 14.70.  Ratings ARE adjusted for strength of competition.)
It's time for the ACC season.  Or at least, our part of it.  As tends to happen, everyone else has completed their portion of the ACC schedule except for the part where they play Virginia, and the three other teams have engaged in a triangle of doom that I always hate when I'm trying to do things like bracketology or the Blogpoll.  Maryland beat Duke which beat UNC which beat Maryland.  Therefore, it's up to us to disentangle the mess.

I'd rather not though; I'd rather just beat them all and let them all be 1-2 instead of 1-1.  Last year it was us going 1-2 and we were like a couple seconds away from going 0-3, as the UNC game was an ugly mess that we tried our best to give away.  It was all good, though.  There's such a thing as winning when it counts.

-- UVA on offense

Last year, Maryland was the only team to hold UVA to single-digit goals, and they did it twice.  That's the bad news.  The good news is that most of the players who did so are gone.  Maryland is breaking in an entirely new close-in defense consisting of two sophomores and a freshman.  The bad news again is that they're not bad; Maryland has a very respectable D-rating of 12.30.  Part of that is because Maryland, like Hopkins, has an outstanding goalie who's good enough to narrow any gap in talent between his defense and opposing offenses.  The diminutive Niko Amato, just a sophomore yet, has a .615 save percentage.

Then there's the good news to trump it all: Johns Hopkins has the second-best defense in the country, and UVA scored 10 goals on them.  In fact, despite my bellyaching about lost opportunities, UVA scored on 30% of opportunities, against a defense that's otherwise allowing only a 22% conversion rate.

Maryland has often been stout on defense this year; their best performance is probably limiting Duke to seven goals.  But they've also had their collapses, as young teams are occasionally wont to do.  The UMBC loss was the result of a five-goal run in the fourth quarter by the Retrievers.  Faceoffs and defense broke down simultaneously; UMBC is a 50/50 faceoff team but won 15 of 19 against the Terps.

The way the Maryland defense is set up might cause some untraditional matchups.  The best defender the Terps have is LSM Jesse Bernhardt, a junior captain.  Might Bernhardt end up behind the cage defending Tewaaraton winner Steele Stanwick?  Very possible, I think.  That would shuffle the usual matchups, and also ensure Maryland's young defenders are guarding veteran attackmen like Chris Bocklet.  Hopkins got caught ball-watching once or twice last week, and catching you ball-watching is Stanwick's favorite move.  If even Hopkins is prone to it, Maryland's inexperienced defenders will certainly end up with that problem too.

This is not to disparage Maryland's defense and suggest we should have an easy time scoring; it's a pretty good defense overall.  But Amato is probably the biggest factor.  UVA is multi-dimensional and thrives on the doorstep shot.  As long as UVA is patient and doesn't try to win the game in the first quarter (where Maryland, by the way, is outscoring opponents 25-8) the chances will be there.

-- UVA on defense

The biggest story, I suppose, is that Maryland's second-line midfielder Kevin Cooper will miss the game, his NCAA-mandated punishment for going to town with his fists on a UNC ballcarrier.  I don't think much of it.  Cooper only has three goals and six assists this season, and Maryland's offense has plenty of balance; there will not be a time on Saturday when we say, "man, they really miss Kevin Cooper."

Like UVA, Maryland gets offense from every corner of the starting lineup, and second-line middie Michael Shakespeare is dangerous too.  The Terps are a little less explosive, but also a little slower-paced and deliberate.  There's little divide between "playmakers" and "scorers" - Shakespeare and doorstep attackman Jay Carlson (also not a starter) are the only ones who can be called finishers only.  Leading scorer Joe Cummings isn't lighting the world on fire with his numbers (12 G, 7 A) but he does put 65% of his shots on net.  Overall, it's a veteran, patient unit.

Dare I say it, however - UVA might actually have an advantage on faceoffs, helping to keep the ball on the right side of the field.  FOGO Curtis Holmes won 63% of faceoffs - last year.  This year, he's a shade under .500.  And it's not due to the competition; most of Maryland's opponents are .500ish teams at the X.  So that's maybe a little puzzling, but Ryan Benincasa is winning at a .607 pace, and if he can take advantage of Holmes's sudden mediocrity, it should bode well.

-- Outlook

Never say never with Maryland.  The game is on the road, and it's supposed to rain overnight in Maryland, meaning the field - if the past is any guide - will be a disgusting slop.  And to a certain extent, you always throw out the records with these teams.  That said - UVA is the better team.  Nothing happened last week to convince me UVA can't contend with and beat the best teams in the country, which is as it should be.  I think Maryland's individual scoring numbers, which are fairly low, could lull us as fans into a false sense of security, but I also think as long as patience rules the day, UVA will break down the Terp defense.

-- Final score: UVA 12, Md. 9

Thursday, March 29, 2012

series preview: NC State


Date/Time: Fri-Sun, 3/30 - 4/1/12; 6:30, 6:30, 1:00

TV: ESPN3

Record against the Pack: 68-120-1

Last matchup: UVA won 2-1 (12-1, 2-6, 3-1); 4/23-4/24/11; Charlottesville

Last game: UVA 19, Towson 5 (3/28); NCSt. 4, ECU 3 (3/28)

Last weekend: UVA 3-0 over Clemson; UNC 2-1 over NCSt.

National rankings:

Baseball America: UVA unranked; NC State #20
Collegiate Baseball: UVA unranked; NC State #9
NCBWA: UVA #26, NC State #27
Perfect Game: UVA #47; NC State #19
Coaches: UVA unranked; NC State #22
Composite: UVA unranked; NC State #18

Opposing blogs: none really where you'll find any baseball info

NC State lineup:

C: Brett Austin (.318-0-16)
1B: Andrew Ciencin (.238-4-18)
2B: Matt Bergquist (.222-0-10)
3B: Trea Turner (.292-1-14)
SS: Chris Diaz (.372-1-26)
LF: Tarran Senay (.310-0-10)
CF: Jake Fincher (.236-0-9)
RF: Ryan Mathews (.329-4-16)
DH: Danny Canela (.282-1-12)

Pitching probables:

Friday: LHP Scott Silverstein (2-2, 2.10, 31 Ks) vs. RHP Ethan Ogburn (2-1, 1.73, 26 Ks)
Saturday: RHP Branden Kline (4-2, 3.10, 35 Ks) vs. LHP Carlos Rodon (4-0, 1.30, 47 Ks)
Sunday: RHP Artie Lewicki (1-1, 4.50, 21 Ks) vs. RHP Logan Jernigan (3-1, 4.03, 28 Ks)

We're pretty sure that teams like FSU, UNC, and Miami will finish ahead of the Hoos in the ACC standings.  And we're pretty sure that teams like Wake Forest and Clemson, and maybe even GT, will finish behind.  NC State is another story.  There are better teams in the conference, but there aren't any bigger series than this one; the Wolfpack, fueled by a stellar recruiting class, are no longer a pest hovering in the bottom ranges of the ACC tournament.  They were once capable of delivering the occasional surprise and little more; now they're a legit threat to win the whole thing.  There is nothing better that UVA can do for its ACC tournament positioning than to go down to Raleigh and steal a series.

-- UVA at the plate

In the season preview I suggested (OK, more than suggested - outright averred) that NC State didn't have the pitching to be a threat in the ACC.  Whoops.  The Pack have an excellent Friday-Saturday combo in Ethan Ogburn - whose hurling is leaps and bounds ahead of previous years - and superfrosh Carlos Rodon.  Rodon was a 16th-round pick last summer and would've gone higher but for signability issues, as he was well set on college.  He was the prize of NC State's freshman class, and could very well be the staff ace by the end of the year; Rodon is allowing a .216 BA and striking out more than 10 per nine innings.

Ogburn's been no slouch either this year; his 1.73 ERA is almost four runs better than it was last year.  There's a question about Sunday, where Logan Jernigan will get the ball, but doesn't have a strong grip on the job.  Jernigan was knocked around last week by the Tar Heels and pulled in the 3rd inning.  That said, Jernigan's allowed all of seven hits this year, in 22 1/3 innings, for an opponents' BA of .092.  It's his walks - 18 of them - that have gotten him in trouble.

State's bullpen is pretty much outstanding too; it's very deep, and altogether, this staff leads the conference in a few pitching categories, notably opponents' BA, which is .213 overall.  Are you gathering a theme here?  That it's kind of tough to get a hit off these guys?  They give up fewer than seven per game.

So it's the top-hitting team in the conference (UVA is hitting .324) vs. the stingiest pitching staff.  In particular, Derek Fisher and Keith Werman have been on a tear lately.  UVA will also have Reed Gragnani back after he missed last weekend with a minor leg injury, but Mitchell Shifflett is hitting well enough that Gragnani may have to fight Colin Harrington for a left field gig.  (Not to mention, having Shifflett's wheels in the 8th spot ahead of Werman in the 9 hole makes for some interesting possibilities to make a defense sweat.)  Gragnani, as a switch-hitter, might also end up in a super-sub role going forward.  Guess we'll see.

At any rate, this is a weekend where we'll have to make every opportunity count.  If UVA can string a few hits together in one inning, things might look good; NC State, however, is equally likely to scatter them and leave us with not much to work with.  Could be interesting.

-- UVA in the field

Whit Mayberry didn't pitch at all against Towson this week, so I'm guessing he won't be available, even out of the pen, this weekend.  Artie Lewicki is listed as the Sunday starter, of course.  I don't expect Mayberry to be available on any weekend until he gets a little test drive in on a Tuesday or Wednesday.

So that thins out the pen a little, again.  It'll be the same order as last weekend.  They'll go against a respectable, if not quite fearsome, Wolfpack lineup.  NC State starts three freshmen, beginning with leadoff hitter Trea Turner, a speed demon who's a perfect 25-for-25 on stolen base attempts.  In other words, if he gets to first base, chances are about 2 in 3 that he'll get to second on his own.  (It wouldn't surprise me if the only reason he doesn't go for second is because it's occupied.  It's basically safe to assume that he will steal.)

So you've really got to keep Turner off the basepaths.  The guaranteed steal puts a lot of pressure on the defense.  NC State used to be something of a swing-for-the-fences kind of team, but they don't hit a lot of homers these days, and neither do they walk or strike out much.  They'll make your fielders work, though they're not all that big on sacrifice bunting - at least not at Brian O'Connor levels.

There isn't a one-man-show in the lineup that hits for power and average, but they do have hitters.  Chris Diaz is batting .372, generally from fifth in the order; Diaz only has one homer but does have good doubles power.  If they could get Andrew Ciencin to hit better than .238, they might have a monster on their hands, but Ciencin - who hits from the three-hole thanks to his home-run power - has never been a guy to hit for average.  Ryan Mathews is a solid all-around hitter, but almost never walks.  Freshman catcher Brett Austin is the lineup's only switch-hitter.  The bottom of the order will generally not be frightening, as Jake Fincher and Matt Bergquist are in for their defense.  (Fincher, though, is the second-best base-stealing threat, on the rare occasion that he does get on base.)

Let's get back to base-stealing for a second.  Turner is 25-for-25, but the rest of the team, minus his efforts, is also excellent.  NC State minus Turner is 22-for-28, still a better percentage than UVA's 42-for-59 as a team.  This will be a real test for Nate Irving, especially on Friday because Scott Silverstein has the worst lefty pickoff move ever.

Ultimately this is a good, not great, team at the plate.  NC State doesn't have championship-level hitting, but they're solid.  Keep Trea Turner the hell off the basepaths and you've taken the most important step.  I don't worry too much about the bottom of the lineup, and the fact that they insist on batting a .238 hitter in the three spot is a bonus for opposing pitchers (and a waste of Turner's talents.)  But by and large there aren't many slouches either, so the UVA pitching staff needs to pitch well, and it'd be impressive to limit the Pack the way they did Clemson last weekend.

-- Outlook

This is a huge series.  So I wish I were more confident for it.  If we can pull off a series win here it would be huge for the rest of the season, because the Pack are probably going to play right at our level or better all spring.  Being on the road sucks, though, and State's pitching staff worries me.  A sweep by either team would be a big surprise, but it would be the only surprise.  A 2-1 series either way is almost guaranteed here, the teams are so closely matched.  If you held a gun to my head, I'd pick NC State to take two, but I wouldn't have any confidence in the pick, either.  I expect all three games to hinge on just a couple plays here and there and be almighty close.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

double-barreled recruiting update

That's right, there's recruiting and then there's recruiting.  Let's do the regular stuff first with an update of the recruiting board:

-- Removed OL Mike McGlinchey from green.  Committed to Notre Dame.  Rats.  I can definitely see McGlinchey ending up on the February list of misses that mean something.

-- Removed RB Ryan Green from red.  No longer seems worth my time to track his recruitment, as UVA doesn't look to be in the picture.

-- Moved ATH Michael Parker from blue to red.  Parker more or less committed to Maryland yesterday.  Kind of.  Maryland types are acting like they definitely got him.  Mike Farrell says otherwise.  Someone tweetered at Farrell that Parker had tweetered about being a Terp and Farrell's response was, "I am aware of that."  This is a messed-up recruitment and I probably shouldn't drop every detail about it because most of it goes on behind paywalls, but let's just say the details involve something that rhymes with "wackademicks."  And they must be really off-kilter because UVA typically has no problem taking a kid even if they know he'll fall short of NCAA requirements, because 90% of those can be fixed with a FUMA-shirt.  We're just gonna drop this one down to red and not get everyone's hopes up.

-- Added WR Paul Harris, ATH Myles Nash, and LB Larenz Bryant to yellow.

So, double-barreled.  There's more than one way to fill a roster, and Tony Bennett is looking to raid other peoples' to make it happen, since ours is so shorthanded.  Here's the list of possibilities.

OK, not everyone on that list is a possibility.  Bennett did, however, host former Duquesne point guard T.J. McConnell today, a player who would (in my exceedingly humble opinion) fit perfectly with our point guard needs.  We could use a big, too, but ideally we could get one that would play next year, like UConn's Alex Oriakhi who everyone wants and therefore isn't coming here.  A point guard, on the other hand - we're in a real sweet-spot position to take one, especially one who's a sophomore like McConnell.  We have Jontel Evans and Teven Jones for next year, and then Evans graduates.  It would be far, far better to have another experienced point guard than to turn it all over to Jones and some freshman in 2013.  Then, UVA is an appealing destination for a 2014 point guard (cough DevonHall cough cough) because our hypothetical transfer would hypothetically be a senior in 2014, meaning any freshman would spend a year learning and then jump right into the lineup in 2015, either behind or in front of Jones who'll be a senior that year.

It's also interesting to note what ACC teams got transfer-slammed besides us.  Too bad our transfers decided not to be arsed with the courtesy of sticking out the year (a little British lingo there), but oh well.  Now we are seeing a few other players leave too, especially from Wake Forest, which loses starting PG Tony Chennault (Wake fans will probably call this addition by subtraction), center Carson Desrosiers, and freshman guard Anthony Fields.  VT and GT are losing a couple guys who hardly ever played, excepting Glen Rice, Jr. who isn't transferring of his own accord; GT kicked him off the team.

And no, by the way, I'm not sure it's healthy for the transfer list to be that damn long.  Like it's a big surprise, when kids are recruited as freshmen and pressured to commit during their junior year or earlier.  That represents about 5% of the total players in the country, and that's actually too small a number because obviously seniors can't transfer.  It's really more like 7 or 8%.  One day I'll write a highly enlightening piece about how the rules for transferring need to be tightened, as soon as I form a coherent opinion about it.

To wrap this up, I leave you with a piece of advice: throwing errors from third base hurt your team, yes, but you should not punish your hand for the error by breaking it on a wall, as North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran did this weekend.  Moran is leading the Heels with a .389 batting average (more than 60 points ahead of the next guy) and 24 RBIs, so this isn't a small deal.  He'll be out 3-4 weeks, which makes it very likely he won't be available for the UVA series.  All together now: bummer.  I understand Heels fans are mad at the umpires for not calling a foul on the wall.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

fear not

OK, so do you remember the early, nonconference portion of the baseball schedule, when we lost to Seton Hall and Wright State and Liberty(!) and we were all like shitshitshit yo?  Like, how we gonna make the tournament now?

Admittedly, there's a ton of precedent for the tournament committee to penalize us way strongly for that really awful showing, which also included a loss to ACC subbasement dweller Boston College.  Most of that precedent is infamously filed under "2009," when the committee, headed by the brilliant and charming Tim Weiser, placed UVA in the Regional of Death, forced the Hoos as a #2 seed to travel further than any team in the entire tournament, and cited UVA's "less than stellar" OOC schedule.  And that time we actually beat most of the teams in that schedule.  So there's no doubt UVA has done some damage to its tournament hopes.  That said, all is not lost.  In fact, things look pretty good.

Amazingly enough, the top 20 of the RPI - an NCAA tournament committee's favoritest-ever selection tool - is dominated by the ACC.  Six of the top 20 teams are ACC teams; even the SEC can only claim four.  And #21 is Maryland.  (That probably won't last, but still.)  UVA sits at #20 (without yet taking into account tonight's win over Towson, which could send us a slot or two in either direction) and stands to improve on the season simply by playing all those teams in front of us.  There're five of them, and we've played only FSU; the rest are NC State, Miami, UNC, and, get this, Wake Forest.  Maryland is also in our future, as is #39 Virginia Tech.

Second point in our favor: Liberty happens to be 23-5.  Chances are pretty good that they'll burn through their Big South competition and end up with 40-some wins; we really shouldn't lose to any instate opponent, ever, but probability says that if you play enough games against them, eventually you will, and this one probably won't be held against us.

Keep in mind also that in 2009, UVA was only the 6th seed in the conference tournament with a pedestrianish 16-11-1 record, which might've been a contributing factor.

So as the schedule moves on, we see the RPI get puffed up by virtue of adding a bunch of good teams to the resume, yes?  Part two, of course, is the responsibility to win against that competition every so often.  If you don't, people tend to get the impression that you suck.  Weird, I know.  UVA controls its destiny in this respect, of course, but it'll be a slog, and against some teams that look tougher than originally advertised.  NC State and Wake, in particular.  Maryland even made their way to a poll ranking earlier in the year, so maybe they'll end up with more than five ACC wins this year.

At any rate, here's the prescription, and it's so amazingly doable it's not even funny: Win the series against NC State, Wake, Duke, underachieving GT, and sweep Maryland.  That adds up to 11 wins, which would bring our record to 16-8 before we've even taken into account what happens against UNC and Miami.  Can we even just take one game each against those two?  Si, se puede.

That gets us to 18-12, which tends to get you comfortably into the ACC tourney even if only as a five seed, and since 18-19 wins is what I predicted at the beginning of the year, it would make winning the series against UNC and/or Miami a bonus bit of cake icing, if all other business is properly taken care of.

If you're feeling like this is a tall order, don't.  UVA leads the conference in BA, OBP, OPS, strikes out less than any other team, and is generally the best-hitting team in the conference right now.  The Hoos are also in the top half of the league in pitching stats.  We don't lead in any, but to be where we are - 6th in ERA, 5th in Opp.BA, 6th in K/9, 3rd in BB/9, etc. -  after losing Danny Hultzen, Tyler Wilson, Will Roberts, and Cody Winiarski, that's remarkable.  The problem has not generally been pitching, and it's definitely not hitting - it's fielding, the most easily fixed of the three.  UVA leads the league, or is last if you prefer, in unearned runs, but I bet you we don't end the season that way.

So fulfilling the prescription is not only possible, it ought to be the expectation.  Which means you shouldn't have to worry about making the tournament.  I wish I could say there'll be a Charlottesville Regional yet again, but I think it'd take an unlikely (though not implausible) set of circumstances to make that happen.  But.  If you think that's an insurmountable obstacle, then you didn't pay attention in 2009 after all.  If you've got any fears over not making the tournament, I say drop 'em, and reset your expectations.  Performing as I think they should during the ACC schedule will earn this team a solid two-seed in a regional hosted by a non-nationally-seeded team (that is, someone "seeded" between 9 and 16.)  Anything less means either we underperformed, or we're in for a refreshing reminder why Tim Weiser is a numbskull.

Monday, March 26, 2012

weekend review

Which do you want first, the good news or the bad news?  Bad news it is, and that means lacrosse.  UVA surrendered its #1 ranking this weekend by surrendering an overtime goal to Johns Hopkins.  As was only fitting with the direction of that game, it happened with five seconds to go.

The final sequence of the game was laced with some of the finest examples of traded attempts to give away a game that I have ever seen.  Hopkins, with a golden opportunity to win the game in regulation, was called for offsides and followed it up with a too-many-men penalty.  UVA, for its part, decided to wait out the penalty in order to guarantee first possession of overtime (a strategy I disagreed with) and then watched as Rob Emery allowed a routine pass to sail over his stick, handing possession right back.  Hopkins didn't actually want it, but another too-many-men penalty - this one on UVA - forced them to actually try and take a shot to win.  And so it went until John Ranagan of Hopkins said to hell with it and potted the game-winner just to spare the crowd the agony of watching another overtime play out like that.

What will give the Hoos confidence should there be a tournament rematch is this: Hopkins hardly ever scored in settled situations.  Rob Fortunato's brilliance in net may have had something to do with it.  Hopkins scored 11 goals, and I count at least seven in "special" situations; three man-up goals, two directly off faceoffs, and at least two fast breaks that I can remember.  Six-on-six, offense vs. defense, the UVA defense was outstanding.

The offense, yes and no.  Some nice plays, but I think the story of the game ultimately is the UVA failure to capitalize on chances.  10 goals in 32 chances - that's a good number against the Hop defense but a bad one for the UVA offense, and you can't pile on mistakes and expect a team like Hopkins not to take advantage.  The one that sticks out most prominently is a pass to someone all alone in front of the goal (Bocklet?  Briggs?  Can't remember exactly) from behind the net in semi-transition.  The pass was in the dirt, and was scooped by Hopkins and instead of a two-goal lead, it was tied five seconds later.

At any rate, the #1 seed is now out of the picture, and fine whatever, We Don't Want That Bullseye Anyway and all that.  The ACC season is upon us, with some opportunities to do some major damage.  It is now Hit A Terp With A Stick Week, which is my way of saying it's time to play Maryland, and you know how it is here at Maryland: we don't lose to Virginia.  So they have that going for them, especially in things like football and baseball and basketball and whatnot.  Maryland will go in slightly shorthanded after this little altercation that forced us to miss the first five minutes of our game while the refs decided who exactly should be ejected.  Maryland's #41 in that video - the guy who delivered the cross-check, and shortly thereafter several punches, to a Tar Heel's head - is second-line midfielder Kevin Cooper, who'll miss the UVA game by NCAA statute that requires a one-game suspension for players ejected for fighting.  This isn't exactly Cornell minus Rob Pannell, but they did seem to think enough of Cooper to have him out there for the game's crucial furious-rally moments.  I don't care enough to get involved in the debate between There's No Place For That In Lacrosse and He's A Classy Kid Who Got Caught Up In The Moment - I simply enjoy watching players from our next opponent, regardless of who it is, remove themselves from our game with them.

Ultimately, though, the impact of Cooper's suspension on the UVA game is likely to be so negligible as to be not worth analyzing.  Unless for some reason the NCAA suspends both Carolina's and Maryland's entire team - except for the guys currently on the field - for leaving the bench.  That'd be fun if it happened, which it won't.

*************************************************

Fortunately, the baseball weekend went a lot better, with a sweep over now 3-6 Clemson.  I fear I may have overrated the Tigers in my season preview; they have no hitting, and in my humble estimation the wrong pitchers are in the starting rotation.  The bottom of the order is terrible, and the bottom starts at like #5.  The one guy who should have been bashing - third baseman Richie Shaffer - went zero-for-three-games with four strikeouts.

The stories of each of the three games were, in order, Jared King, Branden Kline, and Jason Stolz's absolutely terrible bunt.  (This is why Brian O'Connor's philosophy is you don't play if you can't bunt.)  Said bunt was representative of UVA's fielding cutting down Clemson's chances and limiting them to one run in the innings they did score, when they could've had more.  UVA turned, on Sunday, some unorthodox double plays, including 3-6-3, 1-6-3, and most notably, 1-6; the latter was Stolz's popped-up bunt to Austin Young, who then doubled off the baserunner at second that had no business not already diving the hell back to the bag when that bunt went upwards in the first place.

The starting pitching was outstanding all weekend, especially Saturday's starter, Kline.  To start the game, Kline allowed a triple and a sac fly, and then nine innings of zeroes save for one scratch single.  That's how you earn ACC Pitcher of the Week.  (That article notes that UVA leads all teams with 23 Pitcher of the Week awards in the last nine years.  If I were less lazy I would find out how many of them are Danny Hultzen.  I bet the answer lies somewhere between "several" and "many.")

It's also how you earn the confidence of every observer, including the ones that matter and make the decisions.  Artie Lewicki was also strong on Sunday, and if that kind of thing continues and Whit Mayberry comes back strong from his elbow issues, the Hoos will have four solid starters, a prerequisite for serious contention in postseason play.  I don't think there'll ever be a group that holds a candle to what we had last year - for crying out loud the third-best guy was the one who threw the perfect game - but this group of four, if pitching up to their actual reachable potential, is the kind of group that launches you to postseason overachievement.

UVA has two games against Towson this week, and then a very tough weekend matchup looms against NC State.  The Wolfpack always seem to have our number, and the games are on the road, and that's a tough team this year that took two of three from Georgia Tech, swept the halfway-decent Wake Forest, and threatens tonight to also take a series from North Carolina.

*************************************************

The latest hilarious googletubes rumor is the idea of Seth Greenberg going to SMU - remember they will be in the Biggish Eastish next year as part of that conference's master plan to to dilute the everloving piss out of their basketball product - to replace the lately fired Matt Doherty. (As the guy who led North Carolina all the way to the NIT and took the SMU program from 11th place in a 12-team conference to 11th place in a 12-team conference, Doherty's skills will no doubt be in high demand.  In, like, Estonia.)  I don't put any stock in the idea really; unless there's a huge pay raise involved or Greenberg just loves Dallas, that job would be a huge step down.  Even from VT.  Still, the idea is sobering.  The day Greenberg is no longer in charge in Blacksburg will be a sad one at the FOV offices.  Greenberg's style is enjoyable if you're rooting against the Hokies; his teams are undisciplined and just this side of unwatchable most of the time, and he's always good for some quotes when the tournament committee once again deems VT the 39th-best at-large team in the country, out of 37 actual tourney entrants.  That said, he's an excellent recruiter.  Unless they're paying lottery jackpot money, I'm very skeptical of the Hokies' ability to find a coach, when the time comes, that can match Greenberg's success.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

lacrosse bracketology

Welcome friends to the second week of bracketology.  Let's get the show on the road:


As usual, remember that this is "if the season ended today" - maybe in the future I'll just shorten that to ITSET since I am into the whole brevity thing.  Autobids are therefore handed out to the team currently leading the conference, with ties broken by LaxPower's computer for convenience.  That's the kind of tiebreaker that prevents me from autobidding 2-0 (but 4-5) Drexel over 1-0 (but 7-0) UMass, so it's a good thing.

First and most importantly, UVA does not drop in the seeding despite the loss.  Nothing in the world, whether it's a tournament committee or a system like this one, will penalize you for losing in OT to the #1 seed.  UVA's RPI and SOS go up, a couple other factors go down, and the result is we stay right where we were.  The #1 seed is out of reach unless Hopkins gives it up, which they won't, but pick up a couple wins in ACC play and 2 or 3 are there for the taking.

Told you it wouldn't be long before UNC and Cornell showed up.  Cornell I'll get to in a bit.  UNC.... they're a little too high, but they did beat Maryland and since Maryland is who they're now very close to in terms of the metrics, they get that edge.  These teams' return is helped by some losses - Syracuse, RMU, and most surprisingly Colgate all lost, and for each of them it was enough to boot them from the bracket this week.  We've probably seen the last of RMU - they now head into their NEC schedule which will weaken their numbers even if they win out.

But no Syracuse?  How can you run a tourney without Syracuse? you ask.  For now, easy; they've got three losses and the teams they've beaten all suck, with a combined 10-20 record.  It's not hard to find a whole bunch of teams with better resumes than Syracuse, and they've got a three-game stretch coming up - Duke, Princeton, Cornell - that could either launch them into the bracket or lock them out for good.

As for the bubble, Villanova and Lehigh are semi-securely in at this point, and then you've got five teams fighting for the last two spots, and those five teams are incredibly close.  You might as well throw a five-sided die.  Each one is better than the others in a different metric.  Penn State has mostly the best wins.  Cornell's RPI is highest of the five.  Syracuse has the best SOS.  Fairfield's win-loss record is tops.  Denver is the most well-rounded.  I threw out Cuse first because SOS is meaningless if you don't get some wins against them.  Then I threw up my hands.  Cornell beat Denver which beat PSU, so there's a little bit of a pecking order, but otherwise, sheesh.  Just know that PSU and Fairfield are banging on the door and might get in at any time.  (But then, why is Lehigh playing the 4 seed and not a slightly better matchup, if they're clearly above that fray?  Travel.)

Here's what happened in last week's big important games:

Cornell 9, Denver 8: Cornell climbs back into the picture.  If they ever really left.

Lehigh 9, Penn State 5: A big reason why Lehigh made the jump into the bracket, and PSU didn't.

Bucknell 17, Robert Morris 10: Bucknell serves notice that they're not going to go away in the Patriot League, and probably - nay, almost certainly - ends RMU's tourney chances.

Notre Dame 8, Ohio State 7: The Buckeyes are done except for the chance to be a spoiler or a decent win for the rest of their schedule.

Loyola 11, Georgetown 6
Duke 13, Georgetown 11: G'town can't quite make the leap, earning wins in neither of their big chances to do so.

North Carolina 11, Maryland 10: Knocked the Terps down a few notches and gave UNC the boost they needed to get back in the picture.  And while they were at it, thinned out Maryland's depth chart a smidge for our game next week.

Johns Hopkins 11, Virginia 10: Boo.

Loyola 13, UMBC 5: Battle of the Baltimore Dogs.  UMBC has phenomenal numbers (for a 2-4 team) thanks to their win over Maryland and the fact that they've only played awesome teams so far.  But even though they've got that win over Maryland, now they'll probably need to win their conference in order to get in.

Villanova 11, Syracuse 10: Oops.  The Cuse stumbles in the Dome, giving them an uphill climb.

Now for the games to watch this week:

Bucknell at Penn State: An interesting Pennsylvania-only matchup that could do wonders for the winner's ability to hang on to a tourney spot.

Lehigh at Navy: The Middies tripped up Colgate; Lehigh can't afford to make the same mistake.  A win for Navy would clinch a Patriot tourney spot and put the league on notice to watch out.

Virginia at Maryland: Seeding battle as far as the tourney is concerned.

Villanova at Penn State: The Nittany Lions' second instate opponent of the week, and both are winnable games that could get them in next week's bracket.  Oh, and both are at home.

Syracuse vs. Duke: It'll be interesting to see what happens to the Cuse from here on out.

North Carolina vs. Johns Hopkins: I already said the winner of UVA-Hop would end up with the #1 seed; a win here for JHU could help cement that regardless of whether or not Loyola beats them.

Friday, March 23, 2012

game preview: Johns Hopkins


Date/Time: Saturday, March 24; 2:00

TV: ESPNUVA

Record against the Blue Jays: 28-53-1

Last matchup: JHU 12, UVA 11; 3/26/11; Baltimore

Last game: UVA 11, OSU 9 (3/17); JHU 11, Cuse 7 (3/17)

Opposing blogs: none

Efficiency breakdown:

Faceoff %:
UVA: 57.8%
JHU: 59.3%

Clearing %:
UVA: 88.6% off., 83.2% def.
JHU: 89.9% off., 72.8% def.

Scoring %:
UVA: 40.7% off., 28.0% def.
JHU: 28.7% off., 22.2% def.

O-rating:
UVA: 19.27 (#4 nat'l)
JHU: 15.21 (#22 nat'l)

D-rating:
UVA: 12.70 (#14 nat'l)
JHU: 9.17 (#2 nat'l)

(Stats explanation: Faceoff and clearing percentage: self-explanatory. Scoring %: percentage of offensive possessions (faceoff wins + successful clears + opp. failed clears) that result in goals. O-rating and D-rating are my own special sauce based on the above numbers. D-I average for each is currently about 14.60. Unlike last time you saw this, ratings ARE adjusted for strength of competition.)

Syracuse is in an obvious rebuilding year.  Duke and North Carolina have three losses each.  Maryland lost to UMBC.  Of the four undefeated teams remaining, two are midmajors.  Fortunately, for the sake of sanity in lacrosse, there's Virginia and Johns Hopkins.

We're used to this kind of thing by now, but yes: it's #1 vs. #2, and in a game which I think will determine the tournament's #1 seed.  (Yes, season's only half-over, anything can happen, blah blah blah whatever - these teams are both good enough that neither one is even remotely likely to collapse outright in the second half of the season, and therefore whoever wins is going to have the prettiest feather around in their cap.)

Not only is it #1 vs. #2, but it's a unanimous #1 (in the coaches' poll, anyway) vs. a near-unanimous #2 - there is one voter who put Hopkins #3.  You could hardly find a more ringing endorsement that these are the two best teams in lacrosse.  Time to make things happen.

-- UVA on offense

If you can score on Hopkins this year, you can score on anyone.  Goalie Pierce Bassett has an outstanding .606 save percentage, and Hopkins boasts a starting three on defense - Gavin Crisafulli, Tucker Durkin, and Chris Lightner - that's nothing but veteran upperclassmen.  Durkin is the star; as a sophomore last year, he was a second-team all-American.  This is a big, tall defense - one that will probably give 5'8" Owen Van Arsdale fits.  The only exception is LSM Michael Pellegrino at 5'9"; even so, expect more of a regular role for Matt White (who is big enough to not let the size of Hopkins's defense bother him) than we've seen so far this year.

Part of Hopkins's resume includes a rare shutout of Manhattan.  Manhattan has actually been shut out twice this year, which is probably unprecedented, but regardless of how bad a team is offensively, a shutout is a notable accomplishment.  Nobody has scored more than eight goals on them.  Hopkins's raw, unadjusted D-rating is the best in the country, better even than the vaunted Notre Dame defense, and it starts as soon as you get the ball.  The Blue Jay ride is the best in the country, with a successful ride on 40 of 147 chances (27.8%.)  And then once opponents do get the ball in the zone, they score on just 22.2% of those chances, the second-best rate in the country.  The national average is slightly over 32%, and UVA scores at a clip better than 40%, so something's got to give.

So it's one of the deepest, most powerful offenses in the country against one of - maybe the - toughest defenses.  UVA has not failed to score in double digits since shaking off the offseason rust against Drexel, and nobody has even come close to scoring in double digits against Hopkins.

-- UVA on defense

The above might be the glamor matchup, but this is where the game needs to be won.  Of the four offense/defense units in this game, the least impressive is Hopkins's O.  Midfielder John Ranagan was the only sophomore first-team AA in the country last year, but his play has dramatically fallen off; his shooting percentage is a paltry .156 and he's missing the net more often than not.

In the absence of Chris Boland (shoulder injury) and of Ranagan's shot, Zach Palmer has stepped up as Hopkins's most dangerous player.  He and fellow attackman Brandon Benn (both Canaijins) are the go-to combo this year for the Jays.  Palmer and Benn are the two stalwarts at attack; rotating around them are John Kaestner and Steele Stanwick's baby brother Wells.  Neither are primary pieces of the offense, but they'll hurt you if you forget about them.  Kaestner only has six shots this season, but four goals.

The starting midfield of Ranagan, Rob Guida, and John Greeley has been productive this season only by volume.  Ranagan and Guida are 1-2 on the team in shots taken, and both have miserable sub-.200 shooting percentages.  You wonder if Hopkins would be better off with the much more efficient Lee Coppersmith in the starting lineup; Coppersmith is known mainly for his speed but is Hopkins's third-leading goal scorer despite being on the second midfield unit.

Hopkins is an excellent clearing team with only 14 failed clears all season, and FOGO man Mike Poppleton is winning 65% of his faceoffs; these stats are two of the three that go into the O-rating, and they're both outstanding numbers.  Why then is Hopkins so relatively pedestrian in that department?  Scoring percentage; they're well below average at 28.7%.  As noted, their weakness is at midfield; UVA's strength on defense is their defensive midfield with Chris LaPierre leading the way, and also Dom Starsia's increasing fascination with the zone defense and willingness to mix up the look, especially in the second half with a lead.  These factors play right into our hands.  As long as Hopkins isn't given a disproportionate number of chances by dominating faceoffs, the Hoos should be able to at least control the JHU offense.

-- Outlook

Both sides are extremely confident.  Hopkins has done enough this season so far to earn the #1 seed in last week's inaugural bracketology and has a suffocating, physical defense.  But their offense hasn't played at a championship level, and UVA's is one of the best in the business.  A fast-paced, high-scoring game would be right in our favor, but I don't see the Hop allowing us to do that.  Nevertheless, I like our chances.  A lot.

-- Final score: UVA 8, JHU 6

Thursday, March 22, 2012

series preview: Clemson


Date/Time: Fri-Sun, March 23-25, 6:00, 1:00, 1:00

TV: None

History against the Tigers: 45-101

Last matchup: UVA series sweep (5-0, 8-7, 7-6); 3/11-3/13/11; Clemson

Last game: UVA 12, VMI 3 (3/21); Clemson 4, Elon 2 (3/21)

Last weekend: FSU 3-0 over UVA; Clemson 3-0 over BC

National rankings:

Baseball America: UVA unranked; Clemson unranked
Collegiate Baseball: UVA unranked; Clemson unranked
NCBWA: UVA #30; Clemson #23
Perfect Game: UVA unranked; Clemson #37
Coaches: UVA unranked; Clemson unranked
Composite: UVA unranked; Clemson unranked

Opposing blogs: Shakin' the Southland

Clemson lineup:

C: Spencer Kieboom (.232-1-9)
1B: Jon McGibbon (.208-1-8)
2B: Steve Wilkerson (.394-0-11)
3B: Richie Shaffer (.358-4-16)
SS: Jason Stolz (.299-1-6)
LF: Dominic Attanasio (.179-0-6)
CF: Thomas Brittle (.259-0-5)
RF: Brad Felder (.208-3-9)
DH: Phil Pohl (.324-3-21)

Pitching probables:

Friday: Scott Silverstein (1-2, 2.22, 28 Ks) vs. Kevin Brady (1-1, 2.89, 31 Ks)
Saturday: Branden Kline (3-2, 3.69, 29 Ks) vs. Dominic Leone (3-1, 5.09, 16 Ks)
Sunday: Artie Lewicki (0-1, 4.95, 17 Ks) vs. Kevin Pohle (3-0, 1.09, 19 Ks)

Before we begin, lemme just get this off my chest: this series always screws with my head because "Tigers baseball" is something I've been a fan of since I was four.  Just not the Clemson version.  Anyway.

I don't like to use the word "reeling," specifically because sportswriters do like it, and it's thus heavily overused.  It'd probably be fair to use it, though, if the Hoos fail to take two of three this weekend.  After blowing two leads in Tallahassee (three, really, but Saturday was so ugly you can't really count it) and going from a chance to take two of three from FSU to getting swept, it'd put a major crimp in this season's plans if we can't get a series win here.  Remember that only the top 8 make the ACC tournament.

-- UVA at the plate

Believe it or not, the Hoos actually lead the conference in batting average.  Hitting was not really the problem last weekend, although despite the ACC-leading numbers, the bats aren't quite what we're used to.  Production has been solid, but not spectacular.

Clemson has an extreme dearth of left-handed pitching; there are just two southpaws on the roster, one of whom hasn't pitched at all and the other having thrown just 1.1 innings.  The full diet of right-handed throwers means we may not see much of Mitchell Shifflett; the outfield is where the lineup has the most flexibility, and you should expect mostly to see the switch-hitting Reed Gragnani and lefty Mike Papi.  (Shifflett is batting .400, so will he sit the whole weekend?  Uh, no.  But still.)

Friday's starter Kevin Brady is a real flamethrower; his fastball sits in the mid 90s, easy, and reaches 96.  A tough assignment for college hitters.  On Saturday, the Hoos will face Dominic Leone, whose ERA for the season sat at 6.61 before he was able to work that down a bit against Boston College's anemic lineup.  (Why why why can't we play BC this year?  On second thought - we lost to them once, so forget it.  Ugh.)  Leone's K/BB ratio is a fingernail's width above 1, not a good sign for his future.  Sunday, there's Kevin Pohle, whose 1.09 ERA looks gaudy, but is bound to rise; he's allowing a .263 opponent's BA and by himself has given up one-fourth of the extra-base hits allowed by Clemson pitching.

Overall, the UVA bats should be able to find success, particularly on Saturday and Sunday.  Fireballers like Brady can be unpredictable, but Brady is probably the best pitcher on either squad.  If UVA can get past him and get a Friday win, we can start feeling very good about the weekend at large.

-- UVA in the field

Surprisingly, Whit Mayberry will not get a start this weekend; I can only guess that's the result of the arm trouble that shut him down early last Monday.  Ugh ugh ugh.  After a sparkling outing last Sunday, Branden Kline gets the same spot in the rotation this week, and Artie Lewicki will take Mayberry's place in the rotation.

Clemson's lineup is alternately frightening and laughable.  You've got to be extra careful pitching to Richie Shaffer, who has four homers already and is hitting .358, and has 21 walks too.  In other words he's like Clemson's version of St. James Ramsey, only without the ability to cure cancer.  (Probably.)  Leadoff hitter Steve Wilkerson is hitting .394, and if he walked a little more he'd approach a .500 OBP.  Phil Pohl is also a worthy hitter.

However, it drops off pretty quick, and pretty steeply.  Clemson hasn't been able to settle on a left fielder, because neither Dominic Attanasio nor Tyler Slaton can get themselves to the Mendoza Line.  At first base, which ought to be a position of production, Jon McGibbon is hitting .208.  So is RF Brad Felder, but at least he's like a miniature Rob Deer with a little pop to go with his terrible batting average.

At least there's lefty-righty balance; the whole outfield bats left-handed, as does McGibbon, and Wilkerson is a switch-hitter.  Still, the key is getting past the top four hitters.  There might not be a more disparate lineup in the conference.  The top of it is why anyone thinks Clemson is any good.  Five through nine is why they might not make the NCAA tourney.

-- Outlook

Must get the series win here.  Taking only one game would drop us to 3-6 and give us a tremendous uphill climb, and the tourney committee will not look kindly upon the Wright State/Seton Hall debacle.  We have to make up for our OOC screwups with a strong showing in the conference, and we're not gonna have a strong showing in-conference if we can't beat flawed teams like Clemson.  The Tigers, too, are fighting for their tournament lives, and probably saying the same thing.  It's only March and we already face must-win scenarios?  Sadly, yes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

recruiting board update

Just to be all honest and stuff up front, there aren't a ton of changes to this week's edition of the recruiting board.  There are some, but the main thing is all the star ratings that've been updated.  The services are getting this done noticeably earlier this year.  Normally I don't start recruit profiles til June, but I may get a head start this time.

This will also be a good excuse for me to post the updated football depth chart.  Don't panic about all the red; it's just guys who're out for the spring.  There's a lot of 'em, though.

Here are the board updates:

-- Added OT Sadiq Olanrewaju to orange.  Yay?  Yay!  Olanrewaju is a high three-star to Rivals who got his first offer - from UVA - last week, and that was immediately followed by a host of others.  Dude is a very solid start to the OL class, which doesn't need to be very big.  Three is the bare minimum for any O-line class, and we can get away with that.  If we get Mike McGlinchey I'd be a happy camper and we could take Bozo the Clown as the third guy for all I care.  Or.....

-- Added OL Braxton Pfaff and LB Oren Burks to green. .......we could just gobble up all the instate guys like Pfaff and Parker Osterloh.  Why would this be fun?  Because VT is at Code Red status on O-linemen.  Their 2010 class was pretty good in that regard, but they've taken four total between 2011 and 2012, and two of them were lightly-regarded two-star types.  The Hokies NEED linemen, and they know it.  Pfaff and Osterloh, along with Donta Wilkins, are among the better instate linemen in another down year for that position in the state, so just to be dicks we should take them all.

-- Moved OT Marcell Lazard and WR Zach Bradshaw from red to yellow.

-- Removed ATH David Prince from red.  Prince was a Hokie all the way, so much so that his Rivals picture was taken on the sideline at Lane Stadium.  Hence why he was in the red section.  No biggie.

One last thing: Everything I know about this is behind paywalls, so I can't get all specific on you, BUT....Tony Bennett did allude, this week, to "acquisitions" via the transfer route.  The way things look now, what with us being way, way under the scholarship limit and it not being very wise to take enormous recruiting classses to fix that (because two-thirds of them then transfer out, leaving you in the same place you were before) I would call it just shy of a guarantee that we get us a transfer player in the next month.  It could be a point guard or it could be a big man, but it's almost certain we'll go that route.  No, I don't know who exactly it might be, and neither does anyone else really, it's just that all signs point that way.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

spring camp

OMG OMG it's football season u guyz!!  Not really, obviously, but they're playing a little bit of it anyway down at the practice fields, where spring camp is underway.  It'll be a little bit broken up and disjointed; you're allowed 15 practices and a spring game, but the festivities will last almost a month, meaning practices won't be on consecutive days for the most part.  The roadshow continues, too, with three on-the-road practices this year, one in each of the state's three major metro areas.  This is apparently quite a success; so much so, in fact, that people are starting to copy the idea.  Imitation, flattery, etc.

This will be my favorite spring practice in a few years.  Here's why: NO QUARTERBACK DRAMA.  Blissful peace and quiet on the quarterback front.  With Ross Metheny transferring, only three quarterbacks are in camp, and there's a definite pecking order.  In fact, true position battles will be few and far between.  I'm going to break it down by position anyway.

QUARTERBACK

Mike Rocco is #1.  David Watford is #2.  Greyson Lambert is #3.  Period.  That's how I like it.  Moving on.

RUNNING BACK/FULLBACK

The order is pretty well set here, too, with senior captain Perry Jones taking the #1 spot, Kevin Parks in the #2 role, and Clifton Richardson as #3.  This is LoVante' Battle's first real look at fullback, so it'll be interesting to see how he and Zach Swanson share the load.  Swanson is probably the starter.  With only two scholarship fullbacks and one of them recently converted from defense, also expect walk-on Billy Skrobacz to compete for a spot in the two-deep, and expect that competition to be extended to the fall, too.  In fact, Skrobacz is listed second on the depth chart.

WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END

There aren't that many scholarship receivers in this version of the camp.  Kevin Royal is off the team and Bobby Smith will miss the camp, leaving just five scholarship guys.  Tim Smith is gonna have to be the man this year, but he's probably proven all he can in camp; the same is partly true for Darius Jennings.  It's a big spring for Miles Gooch and E.J. Scott; both are going into their third year in the program, and Scott has spent all of them at receiver.  This is the time to prove they can start putting it together.

At tight end, Colter Phillips is also missing the spring camp (this is a bad year for springtime injuries) and the guy getting the first-team reps will be Paul Freedman.  With Jeremiah Mathis probably also not getting on the field, the second-team guy will be Jake McGee.

OFFENSIVE LINE

This is where the squad has been brutalized with injuries.  Sean Cascarano is the likely heir to Austin Pasztor's left guard spot, but he'll miss the camp, as will Oday Aboushi and RG Luke Bowanko.  That means second-team guards Conner Davis and Cody Wallace (who moves from center) will get some much-needed reps, as will Aboushi's backup, Kelby Johnson.

The spotlight will be on at center, though.  It's fair to theorize that Wallace wasn't up to the chore, or he wouldn't have been switched with Matt Mihalik, a career backup at guard.  Mihalik is now nominally the starting center, with redshirt freshman Ross Burbank backing up, and this is probably the one true position battle on the offensive side of the ball.  And don't think for a minute that another guard won't get moved over if neither of them prove ready. 

DEFENSIVE LINE

With so many departures from last year, plus the broken leg on Billy Schautz, the first team on the D-line is going to look a lot different this spring.  Jake Snyder and Brent Urban are the top two candidates at end, but at tackle, there isn't likely to be a pecking order at all.  Only Will Hill has extensive game experience.

Look for a spirited battle, then, between veterans like Chris Brathwaite and Justin Renfrow, and a couple newcomers like David Dean and Vincent Croce.  DT is a relatively healthy unit, with only Marco Jones on the sideline, so the competition will be heated.  The coaches will be looking for two players to join Hill in a three-man rotation, and one more to be the "fourth wheel," so to speak.  Renfrow filled that role last year, but Dean will give him a lot of push, and I still have high hopes for Brathwaite.

The other interesting question: Where does Ausar Walcott fit in after moving down from linebacker?  If he flashes some pass-rushing moves, he'll make a real push for playing time.

LINEBACKER

With Steve Greer out (are you picking up a pattern here?) Henry Coley will get first-team reps at MLB; an important step in his development, because there was an unfortunately obvious drop-off in play last year between Greer and Coley.  Linebacker is fairly well set; Greer will get his job back when he returns.  Laroy Reynolds is a senior (hard to believe) and he's got an iron grip on the weak side.  With Walcott moving to DE, the strong side is inherited by Daquan Romero, who is hopefully beginning a three-year run there as a starter.  Romero was in camp last year as an early enrollee, so the coaches will look for a lot of growth from him.

DEFENSIVE BACK

Right now it's Demetrious Nicholson and three position battles.  Nicholson owns one corner spot; the other looks like a battle royale between Drequan Hoskey and Brandon Phelps, and Hoskey has the edge right now.  Even so, Phelps will play a big role; even if he loses to Hoskey, the third cornerback is practically a starter anyway.

At safety, just throw everything up for grabs.  Rijo Walker is the likely starter at free safety, but he's got competition from Pablo Alvarez and Kameron Mack.  Anthony Harris is in the inside lane for strong safety, but with a push from Mason Thomas and Kyrrel Latimer.  The smart money says Walker and Harris will emerge as the starters, but right now that's written in very light pencil.

KICKER/PUNTER

All three specialist jobs - placekicker, punter, and kickoff guy - are up for grabs.  Drew Jarrett is back after a year's absence, and he's listed as second-string at both kicker and punter.  Alec Vozenilek is listed as the starting punter and Ian Frye the starting kicked, but don't expect any of that to be permanent without a lengthy competition.

Monday, March 19, 2012

weekend review

I was thinking of just posting a big picture of a fart, and that would've summed up my feelings about the weekend very nicely thank you, but maybe that would've been a cop out.  If we're going to puff out our chests like we usually get to do on spring weekends, we gotta face the music when things go badly.

I don't need to break down the basketball, though.  It's obvious to anyone what happened there: the basketball gods decided it wasn't going to happen, and that was that, and that decision was probably made back in February.  There's no other way to explain the freak series of injuries that hit this team; I don't know who suffered more broken bones, UVA or the rest of the country, but either way it's close.  The fates were not aligned for UVA this month, in everything from the actual on-floor competition to the race for accolades.  It is not our month when Bernard James kicks Joe Harris ON HIS BROKEN HAND and James is the one who garners media sympathy.

(This is the section you should only read if you like throwing up in your mouth and having your screw-you-o-meter pegged, but Carolina fans are amusingly broken up over Kendall Marshall's injury.  As if North Carolina is the team getting all the rotten luck this year.  I hope it's a year's worth of rotten luck that's just beginning.  Kendall Marshall doesn't specifically deserve to get hurt, but Carolina fans deserve to watch it happen, and if Creighton was going after John Henson, so much the better; Henson is a douchecanoe.  I hope some Ohio Bobcat comes out next weekend with a sledgehammer painted with the words "John Henson's Wrist."  Then maybe he'll learn the difference between a foul and a "foul."  If Creighton was hammering the Tar Heel players all game, it's probably because they assumed they'd be called for a foul whether they did or not, like certain other Carolina opponents, so they might as well get their money's worth.  What, me still bitter over that game at the JPJ?  Noooooo.)

I'd like to offer some kind of appraisal as to what the team will look like next year and how it will fare, but I just have no idea.  Here's what we lose:

- Mike Scott
- Sammy Zeglinski
- Mike Scott
- the ghost of Assane Sene
- Mike Scott

And here's the arriving cavalry:

- Teven Jones
- Evan Nolte
- Justin Anderson
- Mike Tobey
- Malcolm Brogdon's foot
- Joe Harris's left hand

A nominal starting lineup would be Evans, Brogdon, Harris, Mitchell, and Tobey.  Maybe.  It'll be a weirdly put-together team.  A lot of tweener types, and quite a few who fit the mold of a 3 and not enough that fit the mold of a 2 or a 4.  No bigs whatsoever besides Tobey, so it's sink or swim with him - hope his defense is up to Tony Bennett's standards or we'll never put anyone out there taller than 6'8".  Defending opposing bigs will be a question of hoping Akil Mitchell and Darion Atkins are up to the task, or else relying on a freshman who needs to become best friends with the weight room.

********************************************************

Baseball isn't having a great weekend either, and it ain't over yet.  Two losses to Florida State mean that tonight is the last chance to salvage anything from the series.  It was the world's first chance to get a glimpse of UVA baseball without buying a ticket to Davenport Field, and what they saw didn't impress.

Saturday's and Sunday's games were full of the kind of mistakes that set coaches' blood on fire.  Mainly Saturday.  The games were lost because of 1) the mistakes and 2) FSU pouncing ruthlessly on the opportunities because they're a top-ten team and that's what top-ten teams do.  Sunday's story was a fantastic outing by Branden Kline - who returned to the starting rotation after a weekend off it - wasted by one bad inning of walks and HBPs.  And pitching coach Karl Kuhn was probably already blowing a stack after the four HBPs (and seven walks) issued on Saturday.  The next poor pitcher that plunks a Seminole batter probably rides the plane back to Charlottesville tied to a wing.

Pile that on top of the bad fielding effort and poor approach at the plate (FSU reliever Hunter Scantling threw about forty sliders and yet our batters continually looked surprised to see the slider....though it is a little strange to see a huge, hulking pitcher big enough to play defensive end for the Raiders pitching like Jamie Moyer.)  Nate Irving probably also came in for a little slice of the coaches' wrath for two lazy efforts resulting in passed balls.  Freshman catcher : baseball :: freshman point guard : basketball.  He'll learn.

Perhaps most troubling: a commenter's suggestion that Chris Taylor might need to be moved off of shortstop.  Taylor is a veteran player and the Hero of Irvine, but.... man, eight errors is kind of hard to argue with.  He's also 2-for-19 in ACC play.  (.253 on the season, but he's been padding his stats against JMU and Marist.)  Might it be a better lineup to have Stephen Bruno at short and Reed Gragnani at third, with Colin Harrington and Mitchell Shifflett in the outfield?  Maybe, but if that's even on Brian O'Connor's mind, it won't happen for a couple more weeks.  A possible shorter-term solution: move Taylor to second and Keith Werman to short.

Still, O'Connor is not a knee-jerk type.  Patience is a hallmark of his, if you've earned it.  (Which Taylor has.)  He's not stubborn either, but he'll probably always be much slower to make a move than fans will be to suggest it.  Will Roberts tossed a perfect game last year and it still took two more weekends before he was moved to Sundays.

Tonight, Whit Mayberry takes the mound, and we'll see if the Hoos can put together nine innings and salvage a game in Tallahassee.  Heck, I'd settle for innings that don't take five minutes to get through our half and twenty to get through theirs.

********************************************************

Thank God for lacrosse, and we almost weren't even able to say that, as the team fell behind 6-1 to Ohio State after the first quarter.  Fortunately, the next three quarters were 10-3, Good Guys.  Ohio State is in the rearview mirror, hopefully permanently; the Buckeyes play the kind of stalloriffic brand of lacrosse that makes people think a shot clock is a good idea.  It's fairly hideous.  According to people who were there (the only way to see the game otherwise was to fork money over to Ohio State, which I wasn't going to do) OSU went into stall mode in the second quarter, hoping to milk their five-lead for three-fourths of the game.  They did this to Denver, too, causing notorious stallmaster Bill Tierney to whine about stalling.

There's no need to play teams like that, honestly.  Buckeye fans are getting a little tired of a coach that hasn't been able to get OSU over the hump, so maybe that particular brand of lacrosse isn't long for Columbus, Ohio, but if UVA is going to make trips out to the Midwest, how about making Ann Arbor the next destination?  Or, replace the OSU home-and-home we just finished up with one with, say, Georgetown - a much more local destination and, to my mind, a more interesting game.

Next week is a game that I think will determine the #1 seed in the tournament: Johns Hopkins.  My favorite rivalry game in any sport not involving an ACC team.  (I still think that once Syracuse becomes the ACC's fifth team, the conference should make an exception to its all-or-nothing policy and see if perhaps Hopkins is interested in making it six, for lax only.  They probably wouldn't be, but it'd be worth a try.)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

lacrosse bracketology

Rest assured, I'll have a very depressing weekend review tomorrow, and then we can all commiserate about this lousy weekend.  St. Patrick's weekend, too.  Pfeh.  For now, it's Sunday and we're halfway through the lacrosse season, so it's time to fire up the bracketology engine.  Without any further ado, here is the tourney bracket as I see it now:


Do keep in mind that this isn't a projection; like the ones done by the pros, it measures things as they stand now.  So, some methodology points:

-- Conference autobids are given to the team currently leading the conference; again, not who I think will eventually win it.  In the event of a tie, which is the case in most conferences right now since it's so early, I gave the autobid to the team with the highest LaxPower computer ranking; it's the fastest way to ensure the best team is in.  (Hopefully.)

-- Last-four-in and first-four-out are listed in order.  That may not be reflected on the bracket, however, because of how the committee fudges for travel.  For example, Fairfield ranks ahead of Robert Morris, but it makes more geographical sense to send Robert Morris to Notre Dame.

And now, the part where I explain myself and what the hell I'm thinking:

-- There must be some mistake, really.  Syracuse isn't hosting, and Cornell and UNC are out entirely.  What gives?  Well, Cornell is the easiest to explain: right now they've got four wins over crappy teams and a loss to UVA.  They'll have some chances to put some stars on their poster, and I expect that they will.  Don't look for them to be in Hokieland, just outside the bracket, as the season goes on.

As for UNC, they literally are the first team out with Villanova the last team in, and it's really close.  I decided that, for now, Nova's 2-1 record against their common opponents trumps UNC's 1-2, and UNC has more fluff on the resume than Nova.  Syracuse is in what we sports fans call a "rebuilding year," and has a resume similar to Cornell's only a little better.  In fact they're too high at the 10 seed right now; that's for travel purposes since Colgate is a short bus ride away.  I might not even have them in there, but the numbers all but demand it, and they're the same numbers the NCAA uses (RPI and whatnot) so there they are.  Like Cornell, they too will have a chance to boost themselves, but unlike Cornell, I'm less confident in their ability to do so.  I would be surprised, but not completely shocked, if their best win on the season ends up being Villanova (which they play next Sunday.)

-- A lot of "fan darlings" in the bracket, notably the rather impressive Loyola, plus UMass, Colgate, RMU, and Fairfield.  What are their chances of making it to the final bracket?  Variable.  RMU comes from a conference without an autobid (wait til next year) and has yet to add that mostly terrible conference to their RPI, so they're probably on the most precarious ledge.  It may be that they have to win out, and then create a conundrum for the committee: take 12-2 RMU, or an underachieving high-major?

One "fan darling" team is missing: Lehigh.  Even though they're 7-1 with that win over UNC, most of the rest of that record is full of wins over miserable teams: Manhattan, VMI, Penn (which is 1-4), and the like.  The numbers just don't allow it; their SOS and RPI are way too low.  We'll see how the Patriot League schedule treats them.  They've got a good defense and may have staying power if they can knock off Colgate later on.

-- I don't like having the UMBC/Maryland rematch in the #2/#15 game, but Siena's profile so obviously screams #16 that it's impossible to put them anywhere else.  The MAAC is less MAAC-y this year, but there's still work to do.  (Although if it hadn't been for UMBC's win over Maryland, the MAAC would leapfrog the A-East in the tourney hierarchy here.  With Stony Brook coming back to earth, the A-East is basically terrible this year, UMBC being the lone exception so far.)

-- And finally, UVA at #4; that's pretty good considering the best parts of our SOS are yet to come.   Unless we do a whole bunch of losing, #4 may be the lowest seed you'll see.  The #1 seed may well be in the future.

Here are the games this week to watch; the ones that'll have an effect on bracketology going forward:

-- Cornell vs. Denver: DU's spot isn't exactly rock-solid, and of course Cornell has work to do.  This is a really, really big one for both teams.

-- Lehigh at Penn State: The Mountain Hawks get a chance to leapfrog a few teams here and get closer to at-large consideration.

-- Robert Morris at Bucknell: Bucknell is not bad, not great....and the best team left on RMU's schedule.  Morris needs this one to stay in any kind of tourney contention, because the NEC doesn't have an autobid til 2013, and their next five games are against losing teams.

-- Notre Dame at Ohio State: OSU is on the very outer fringes of tourney contention, and needs a lot to go right to get in the game.  Lose this and we'll probably never speak their name again.

-- Georgetown at Loyola: Georgetown can earn a signature win here.

-- Duke at Georgetown: Or here.

-- Maryland at North Carolina: UNC needs this one more than Maryland does; they'll fall to 0-2 in the ACC with a loss.

-- Johns Hopkins at Virginia: Believe it or not, this could be the game that wraps up the #1 seed for the winner.  Both have challenges that lie afterwards, but this will be #1 vs. #2 and there aren't many better teams in the country than either.

-- Loyola at UMBC: Is UMBC for really real?  They did beat Maryland, and their three losses are to tournament teams.  Let's give them another test here and see what happens.

-- Villanova at Syracuse: "Bubble" is a funny word to use where Syracuse is concerned, but that's where they'll find themselves if they lose this one.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

game preview: Florida


Date/Time: Friday, March 16; 2:10

TV: TNT

Record against the Gators: 1-0

Last matchup: UVA 62, UF 56; 3/30/92; New York City (1992 NIT semifinals)

Last game: NCSt. 67, UVA 64 (3/9); UK 74, UF 71 (3/10)

Opposing blogs: Alligator Army

KenPom breakdown:

Tempo:
UVA: 60.4 (#339)
UF: 64.9 (#234)

Offense:
UVA: 104.8 (#104)
UF: 120.8 (#2)

Defense:
UVA: 87.0 (#5)
UF: 98.5 (#121)

Pythag:
UVA: .8706 (#26)
UF: .8898 (#19)

Projected starting lineups:

Virginia:

PG: Jontel Evans (7.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 3.8 apg)
SG: Sammy Zeglinski (8.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.6 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (11.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.8 apg)
PF: Mike Scott (18.1 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.2 apg)
F: Akil Mitchell (4.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 0.8 apg)

Florida:

PG: Erving Walker (12.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 4.7 apg)
SG: Kenny Boynton (16.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.5 apg)
SF: Bradley Beal (14.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.2 apg)
PF: Erik Murphy (10.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 0.9 apg)
C: Patric Young (10.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.2 apg)

This is the part where normally I rattle on about What This Means, but it's the NCAA tournament - and the first tournament game in the history of this blog - so you already know most of it.  Do we really, in our heart of hearts, expect to make a tournament run to the Final Four?  No.  Injuries and other forms of attrition have ravaged this team to the point where its competitiveness has been sapped to exhaustion.  The fact that anyone even gives them a chance against this, one of the elite offensive teams in the country, is a testament to their resilience.

Getting a win here wouldn't necessarily make this team any more likely to win the whole shebang.  Mathematically, sure; realistically, no.  But it would leave a very positive taste in everyone's mouth.  Lose here and the season's legacy is a massive, galactical what-could've-been.  But a win would give these guys the signature victory they could never quite achieve in ACC play, and allow a warm, fuzzy glow to settle on the offseason.

-- UVA on offense

For a couple different reasons, this game could be quite a bit higher-scoring than we're used to.  One of them is that Florida will probably let us get away with it.  According to KenPom, Florida is a worse defensive team than Georgia Tech, one of only two ACC games in which we scored 70+ points.

Florida is also undersized.  Their guards don't come any bigger than 6'3", and point guard Erving Walker is only 5'8".  Nobody is taller than 6'10", and that player, Erik Murphy, is not an inside banger at the four.  Patric Young, at center, is a beefy 6'9", and will probably be Mike Scott's primary defender.  Nobody on Florida is going to be that long, athletic type that can give the Hoos problems on the perimeter; this is how teams like UNC and FSU limited our offense.

Open shots should be available; the question is making them.  Joe Harris will likely be guarded by Bradley Beal, who is worlds more athletic than Harris, but three inches shorter.  Sammy Zeglinski should also be able to find room against the unaggressive Kenny Boynton.  With Will Yeguete out, the Gators are missing likely their best defensive weapon.

When it comes to fouls, only Young is especially prone to them, unless you count bit player Casey Prather, who will foul when he's in the game, which is rarely.  Mike Scott's veteran wiles may very well find a way to relegate Young to the bench early.  If that happens, maybe we see more of Prather who in turn will also foul more creating a vicious cycle etc. etc.  Best-case scenario.  Florida's guards, however, foul very rarely, so it's only in the frontcourt where free-throw opportunities can reliably be found.

Ultimately, I expect the Hoos to find room to work, a luxury they haven't had against the better teams in the ACC.  They must knock down shots.  A shooting duel will inevitably turn out badly, because the Gators will knock down shots, so the Hoos have got to hit the available ones.

-- UVA on defense

This is the real strength-on-strength matchup: KenPom's #2 offensive team vs. his #5 defensive one.  People tend to assume Florida likes to play an up-tempo, fast-paced game, but that's not the case; they're just really, really efficient.

Their two frontcourt starters are probably underused in this regard.  Erik Murphy is a stretch-the-floor four, and I expect Akil Mitchell to guard him; Mitchell's athleticism will be an asset in chasing him around the court.  Murphy is an excellent three-point shooter.  Patric Young is a big, beefy guy, excellent on the interior, and better than a 60% shooter.

Florida has excellent scoring balance.  There's no one player you can key on.  Point guard Erving Walker has a minimal hand in running the offense, relative to the typical point guard; he does lead the team in assists, but shutting him down doesn't necessarily mean shutting down the offense.  Bradley Beal and Kenny Boynton are just as adept at getting the ball to teammates.

Even so, hopefully Jontel Evans can handle Walker.  He's managed to lay a smackdown on diminutive point guards before, but they still sometimes get the better of him.  Sammy Z's underrated defensive skills will be desperately needed on Boynton, a deadeye shot from three who doesn't turn the ball over.

The real matchup, though, is system vs. system.  It's the pack-line vs. Florida's three-bombing.  If the defenders can close out on shooters and still deny the interior, Florida will have a long day.  If not, it'll rain up in heah.  This just isn't the kind of team you can allow to shoot and cross your fingers, because if one guy goes cold, the next guy won't.

-- Outlook
In 1992, the Hoos were NIT champions.  Florida was the semifinal opponent before Bryant Stith, Junior Burrough, Cory Alexander, and company moved on to defeat Notre Dame and claim a banner.  The Gators had something called a "Svein Dyrkolbotn" on the roster.

That was almost 20 years ago; these two teams haven't met since.  The tables are turned now; the deeper, more talented roster belongs to Florida.  Let's hope the outcome isn't the same.  A lot of focus has been on UVA's uninspiring results down the stretch (it's not like we've played worse - obnoxiously, no nod is ever given to the fact that the team is a walking ICU) but the truth is that, given space to work on offense, UVA has responded.  That'll be the case here.  Win or lose, expect a big game from Mike Scott, who surely will be feeling the mortality of his college career breathing down his neck.  I think, with some trepidation but I think, that the Hoos will live to play another day.

-- Final score: UVA 68, UF 64

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

recruiting board update

If they gave out an award to the animal that least gave a shit about anything except grass, the llama would be the runaway champion.

UVA scored its first commitment today, as was somewhat expected, so today is the recruiting board update that I'd otherwise have dropped on Monday.  The commitment?  The classy-named Brendan Marshall, quarterback from Good Counsel.  Two of the big three quarterbacks from the state decided to leave the state, so Marshall is a little bit of a consolation prize; that said, he comes from a powerhouse program that's in the middle of a mini-golden age, and of course he's a pretty-OK quarterback in his own right.  Marshall had an offer from Cal and was probably gonna get one from Boston College; all the schools that were interested in him are of the academic upper crust.  Some people considered it hugely important to get one of the big three instate quarterbacks (Burns, Hackenberg, or Hodges) but the truth is Good Counsel may as well be instate; it's just as important as any school that happens to be within the Commonwealth's borders.

Marshall is a three-star, as compared to the Virginia four-stars, but is there a major need for maximum stars?  No, not with two quarterbacks showing up this year and now one in 2013. 

Here are the formal updates to the board:

-- Moved QB Brendan Marshall from blue to orange.

-- Moved WR Andre Levrone from green to blue.  Levrone is from Good Counsel as well; getting his quarterback is worth a one-level bump.

-- Moved ATH Michael Parker from yellow to blue.  Rivals' Mike Farrell tweeted some interesting stuff about him.  We shall see.  Parker seems like the type that you take and unfuck his grades later, if they need it.

-- Moved LB Micah Kiser from yellow to green.  Don't ask me why exactly, but I have good feelings about Kiser and NJ LB Buddy Brown, and I bet UVA picks up at least one or the other.

-- Moved QB Bucky Hodges and DE Naim Mustafaa from yellow to red.  Mustafaa will probably stay in the deep south.  Hodges, well, we just got a quarterback and with space in the class the way it is, I'll venture to say we don't get two.  I've been out on that limb before and seen it break right under my feet, so Hodges stays on the board, but you have to figure the door is closed here now.

-- Removed TE Adam Breneman from green.  Penn State commit.

-- Removed QB Ryan Burns (Stanford) and QB Christian Hackenberg (Penn State) from yellow.  Suspect the loss of two of the three VA quarterbacks helped convince the staff to crank up the dial on Marshall some.

-- Added LB Alex Anzalone to yellow.  Because why not.

The early 17th-century Peruvian saint, San Juan Macias, is always depicted with a basket.  This is his basket.

A request there was to see the inner workings of my tournament bracket. OK then.  First you should know that I didn't exactly spend a bazillion hours on it.  I find that there is zero correlation between time spent filling it out and success.  So there are no special secrets to share.  I'm not going to post the whole thing and you probably don't care what I think of the 8/9 matchup in the West or whatever, but here are the major incidentals:

-- The champion is Kentucky over Kansas.  Kind of distasteful, but I simply take solace in the likelihood that, UK being coached by John Calipari, the banner will be in the same dusty storage room where Michigan keeps its Fab Five banners by 2016.

-- The Final Four is Kentucky (over Baylor), Missouri (over Michigan State), Florida State (over Syracuse and yes this was chosen before Fab Melo's ineligibility was announced), and Kansas (over North Carolina.)

-- The 5/12 upsets, of which you must always pick at least one, are Cal/USF over Temple and Harvard over Vanderbilt.  Only two other upsets exist: NC State over San Diego State and Texas over Cincy.  It is not a very ballsy bracket and has no double-digit seeds in the Sweet 16.  Obviously what I've done is given St. Bonaventure the go-ahead for a Cinderella run.

-- UVA beats Florida but loses to Mizzou.

-- There is also a homer bracket.  You must always have a homer bracket if your team is in.  In this case, UVA advances to the Elite Eight (by beating Florida, Mizzou, and Murray State) where we are eliminated by Michigan State.  This bracket also has Michigan in the Final Four and the mighty Detroit Titans knocking off Kansas thanks to about a thousand points from Ray McCallum and a thousand more from three-point specialist Jason Calliste.  Gotta hit your threes if you're gonna pull off the upset.  In reality UDM doesn't play near enough defense to stop Kansas and is a little too enamored with the alley-oop and I expect them to lose 95-75 or so.  I love Eli Holman's confidence in talking about the matchup with Thomas Robinson, but, uh....well, hopefully he's right for the sake of my homer bracket.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

chomping at the bit

It must be a law that all Peruvian cities have a square named Plaza de Armas; every town we visited had one.  Here is Lima's, the location of the founding of the city.


So, Florida.  It so happens that this weekend's opponent on the diamond is Florida State, so don't be surprised if Gators fans and Noles fans are both telling you "hey, good luck on Friday in that other sport."

This is our bowl game, essentially.  We don't get three weeks to prepare like for the one in football, so today is your prep day as we learn about each of the Florida Gators, one by one.  They're listed, more or less, in order from most to least dangerous:

#1 - Kenny Boynton - Shooting guard

Size: 6'2, 189
Year: Junior

Statistics: 16.3 ppg, 2.5 apg, 2.4 rpg
Shooting %: .448
3-point %: .427
FT %: .750

O-rating: 124.0

Best game: Rider, 12/9: 26 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 0 turnovers, 0 fouls, 9-13 shooting, 5-9 threes
Best game (SEC only): South Carolina, 2/2: 24 points, 3 rebounds, 6-13 shooting, 4-8 threes
Worst game: Kentucky, 3/10: 2 points, 4 assists, 1-9 shooting, 0-4 threes

Boynton is a legitimate star.  He's always been a bomber from three - never has shot fewer than 242 of them in a season - but this year, he's hitting.  A lot.  He's become a much more efficient player this year as a junior, scoring more points in fewer shots than in years past, and he also takes very good care of the ball, at barely over one turnover per game and an 11.3% rate, good for 62nd in the country.  On defense, he simply doesn't foul; at 1.3 fouls per 40 minutes, he's the 12th best in the country at that.  On the other hand, he also doesn't get a lot of steals; his stats have the profile of a guy who prefers not to take many risks and simply to sit back and deny the driver.  That should be OK by our offense, as Sammy Zeglinski, his likely assignment, isn't exactly a slasher.  Boynton's size won't give Sammy much trouble either.

That said, on the other end, you have to game plan to stop Boynton.  His teammates are good scorers too, so you must strike a balance between what you commit to Boynton and what you commit to everyone else, but come clutch time, this is the guy they're looking for.  A true, efficient threat.

#23 - Bradley Beal - Shooting guard

Size: 6'3", 207
Year: Freshman

Statistics: 14.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.2 apg
Shooting %: .428
3-point %: .329
Free throw %: .775

O-rating: 110.4

Best game: Stetson, 11/28: 22 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks, 7-13 shooting, 5-9 threes
Best game (SEC only): Arkansas, 2/18: 21 points, 9 rebounds, 6-8 shooting
Worst game: Kentucky, 3/4: 5 points, 7 rebounds, 1-10 shooting

Beal is a potential one-and-done player; ESPN's Chad Ford lists him as the sixth-best NBA prospect in the upcoming draft.  He's got some length that belies his height, and of course has a ton of athleticism.  Beal shoots only a little less often than Boynton does, but he doesn't hit his threes with anywhere near as much regularity.  His specialty is getting to the rim; Beal shoots better than 50% from inside the arc.

On defense, he will indeed block a couple shots.  He generally plays the three for Billy Donovan, and is a little undersized for it, but makes up for it with that athleticism.  And in that role, he does a lot of rebounding; in fact, he led the team in that department.  He'll probably be assigned Joe Harris on defense, and could surprise Harris with his athleticism.

#4 - Patric Young - Center

Size: 6'9", 247
Year: Sophomore
Statistics: 10.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.2 apg
Shooting %: .608
3-point %: N/A
Free throw %: .605
O-rating: 115.8
Best game: Arizona, 12/7: 25 points, 10 rebounds, 0 turnovers, 12-15 shooting
Best game (SEC only): Kentucky, 3/4: 21 points, 9 rebounds, 0 turnovers, 10-15 shooting
Worst game: Vanderbilt, 2/4: 2 points, 4 rebounds, 3 turnovers, 4 fouls

Young is an extremely efficient shooter, with that .600+ shooting percentage, and a large body that may give UVA's skinny frontcourt a tough time.  His minutes, however, have been limited somewhat by a nagging ankle issue that held him out of the starting lineup at times (though he never missed a game) and by some foul trouble; Young fouled out of three games and got into foul trouble in eight more.

I think he'll need help on defense against Mike Scott.  Either that or he'll be the help; either way, Scott is the better player on that end.  We'll see about when Florida is on offense; Young's a good shooter, and has a chance to be the kind of guy that could get our bigs in foul trouble.  It'd be best if we could turn that around, because Young is sometimes prone to it.

#11 - Erving Walker - Point guard

Size: 5'8", 177
Year: Senior
Statistics: 12.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 4.7 apg
Shooting %: .399
3-point %: .371
Free throw %: .813
O-rating: 115.7
Best game: Arkansas, 2/18: 31 points, 5 assists, 0 turnovers, 9-12 shooting, 5-6 threes
Best game (SEC only): same
Worst game: Kentucky, 2/7: 0 points, 1 assist, 2 turnovers, 0-7 shooting

Walker is the Gators' point guard, but the team is balanced enough on offense that it doesn't necessarily always run through him.  He's a fairly efficient distributor, but a volume scorer with a shooting percentage a shade under .400.  He's also teeny-tiny.

The best comparison to someone we've seen this season is Clemson's Andre Young, and unfortunately, it's an inconclusive one.  Young had a terrible game in our first meeting and a pretty good one the second time out.  Also unfortunately, I don't think the Jontel Evans matchup with Walker is necessarily the crucial one, since Walker isn't necessarily the king of the offense all the time.  If Evans is shutting him down, Florida has other weapons.  That said, Evans is quick enough and big enough to be able to cause problems for Walker on our offensive end.  Walker doesn't foul a lot, but like Kenny Boynton he's not an aggressive defender.

#33 - Erik Murphy - Power forward

Size: 6'10", 230
Year: Junior
Statistics: 10.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 0.9 apg
Shooting %: .498
3-point %: .442
Free throw %: .795
O-rating: 119.8
Best game: Kentucky, 3/10: 24 points, 9-12 shooting, 4-4 threes
Best game (SEC only): same
Worst game: Georgia, 2/25: 2 points, 2 rebounds, 1-6 shooting

Like Young, Murphy dealt with a few injury deals this year, missing three games with a bone bruise in his knee and a slightly torn meniscus.  It hasn't slowed him down lately, though.  Murphy is a scoring four who probably is underutilized.  He's got a great shooting touch for a 6'10" big guy, is a legitimate threat from three-point land, and can shoot free throws, too.  Murphy presents the kind of matchup troubles that coaches dream of.

However, his defense is average at best for his size.  Not a fearsome shot-blocker, and he leaves a lot of the rebounding to others as well.  It'll be interesting to see how the UVA coaches defend Murphy, probably with Akil Mitchell, but when we're on offense, he's not likely to be much more than a big body.

The Andes are so steep that the terrace farms of the Incas cannot support the same type of crops at the top of the hills as they do at the bottom.  The different microclimates don't allow it.


#15 - Will Yeguete - Forward

Size: 6'7", 222
Year: Sophomore
Statistics: 4.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.0 apg
Shooting %: .581
3-point %: N/A
Free throw %: .359
O-rating: 116.6
Best game: South Carolina, 1/14: 14 points, 8 rebounds, 6-6 shooting, 0 turnovers
Best game (SEC only): same
Worst game: Tennessee, 1/7: 0 points, 5 rebounds, 4 fouls

I put this entry here only to let you know what Florida's missing; namely, their best defender.  Yeguete went down with a foot injury last month against Auburn and is out for the season.  Essentially, he was the Gators' sixth man, and an excellent rebounder.  His services will not be available on Friday; my heart bleeds for Gators fans.

#3 - Mike Rosario - Guard

Size: 6'3", 191
Year: RS Junior
Statistics: 6.8 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 1.0 apg
Shooting %: .417
3-point %: .348
Free throw %: .759
O-rating: 105.5
Best game: Jackson State, 11/11: 19 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 5-8 threes
Best game (SEC only): Vanderbilt, 2/4: 10 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists
Worst game: Kentucky, 2/7: 3 points, 3 turnovers, 1-4 shooting

Rosario's effectiveness this season has been whittled down by a series of various injuries, the latest a hip pointer that cost him three games in February.  Since then, he's been nothing more than a body off the bench; the only time he was called on for significant minutes, he delivered a 1-6 shooting night.  Before the injuries he was a decent scoring option off the bench, but it hasn't been there of late.

#5 - Scottie Wilbekin - Guard

Size: 6'2", 178
Year: Sophomore
Statistics: 2.5 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 1.7 apg
Shooting %: .418
3-point %: .450
Free throw %: .714
O-rating: 120.8
Best game: Alabama, 3/9: 6 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2-2 threes, 0 fouls
Best game (SEC only): same
Worst game: South Carolina, 2/2: 0 points, 3 fouls

Wilbekin's role has increased somewhat as Rosario's has decreased; essentially, he's there to not suck off the bench and provide a little rest for the starters.  He does have a pretty good three-point shot.

#24 - Casey Prather - Forward

Size: 6'6", 212
Year: Sophomore
Statistics: 1.5 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 0.3 apg
Shooting %: .289
3-point %: .500
Free throw %: .417
O-rating: 71.4
Best game: Jacksonville, 11/25: 6 points, 3 rebounds, 2/3 shooting
Best game (SEC only): Auburn, 2/21: 2 points, 2 rebounds
Worst game: Tennessee, 2/11: 1 point, 5 fouls, 2 turnovers

Truth is, Prather's probably done more harm than good this year.  Dude fouls a lot - he's managed to foul out of a game (the abovementioned Tennessee one) in just 11 minutes.  7.1 fouls per 40 minutes is his astounding average.  He won't see much time; his on-court role increased a little in the wake of Yeguete's injury, but unless he hacks someone (likely) you might not even notice him.

#34 - Cody Larson - Forward

Size: 6'9", 231
Year: Freshman
Statistics: 0.5 ppg, 0.9 rpg, 0.0 apg
Shooting %: .455
3-point %: .000
Free throw %: .400
O-rating: N/A
Best game: Jackson State, 11/11: 4 points, 3 rebounds
Best game (SEC only): Georgia, 1/10: 1 rebound
Worst game: Arkansas, 2/18: 4 fouls

May or may not play.  Won't matter either way.

So there's your primer on the Florida roster.  Full game preview will come Thursday, and as a reminder I'm not posting on Friday because that's go time for all three teams that I'm interested in.