Wednesday, October 31, 2012

hoops preview, part 1

Yup, next week.  Bastyball is only a week and change away, which means our focus slowly shifts that direction.  Today and next week, we have player previews for your perusal and entertainment.  They come with one sizable caveat: there are three scholarship upperclassmen on this team, and younger players are that much harder to figure.  Especially the freshmen.  Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.

Twelve scholarship players mean we can split it neatly up into six today and six next week.  Not a lot to say about the walkons.  There is this: with point guard being so ridiculously thin at the moment, Doug Browman could be called on to chip in.  Recruited walk-on Justin Miller is also a possibility, but Miller hasn't played competitive basketball in years and the learning curve will be steep.  Otherwise, don't expect a major role.

On with the show:

#1 - Jontel Evans - Sr. PG

Fortunately, we start with an easy one to get me in the groove here.  Evans is the only scholarship senior, and you know by now what he brings.  As the senior point guard, this is basically his team now.  Which he'll have to watch from the sideline for at least the first game of the season, as he recovers from a surgically repaired broken foot.

When he returns, the show is his.  He'll be a 32-minute player, more in big games.  He plays that aggressive and highly effective on-ball defense, and he's become a very physically strong player.  He's a better shooter now than he's been given credit for; a .479 percentage on two-pointers is not bad.  Mostly that comes from going to the rim; the jump shot is streaky and he doesn't fire from three.  Not doing that, and not being a great free throw shooter, prevent him from being a top-flight point guard.  A .621 FT% mean that with the game close late, having the ball in his hands can be dicey, but UVA will have no other choice.

The Hoos won't need Evans to be a go-to scorer, though.  His 7.3 ppg from last year are good enough; if he tries to press and do too much in that area, it'll detract from the offense.  He's a good facilitator and knows where to find open teammates.  What they really need most, though, is his veteran presence and a steady hand on the court.  Like Mike Scott did, Evans needs to channel his emotions positively, and it'll translate to team success.

#2 - Paul Jesperson - So. SG

The plan was for Jesperson to redshirt last year, and when the transfers got too heavy and Tony had to take the wraps off, you could see why.  Very few of the minutes Jesperson played last year were good ones.  He had his moments, including and especially a big-league white-boy-can-jump slam dunk against Duke, in Cameron.  That was cool.

Most of the time, though, he was a fish out of water, and it was obvious.  And it affected his shot, which was supposed to be his calling card and looked more like a brick machine.  The result was an astoundingly bad KenPom O-rating of 68.8.  Anything in the 80s and you're talking about an obvious offensive liability; the 60s are, like, incomprehensible.

That makes this a very, very important season for Jesperson.  One thing UVA has in long supply is swingmen.  Jesperson has a leg up in that he's seen plenty of minutes, but he needs to put that experience to good use this year.  Guys like Evan Nolte and Justin Anderson will eat into his minutes, hard, and eventually push him out of the rotation, if he doesn't at least knock down jump shots, which is what he was recruited to do.  The rotation is probably not too settled right now, which gives Jesperson a window of opportunity.  If he takes advantage, UVA will have a guy who can keep defenses honest off the bench, open up space down below with his shot, and chip in some rebounding.  There were some encouraging results in this regard during the August trip to Europe, so we'll see.

#4 - Taylor Barnette - Fr. G

Commitment post

Barnette was a late addition to the 2012 recruiting class; Tony Bennett went looking for depth after watching the magical disappearing depth chart of 2012, and found it in a guy who is guaranteed to have his name confused with that of his coach fairly often.  Barnette had asked out of a Central Florida commitment, on account of upcoming NCAA banhammer.  Anyway, Barnette could play the point some, a possibility being somewhat extensively brought up what with the point guard crunch we have going now.  In fact, with Evans and Malcolm Brogdon both very likely to miss the GMU game, and Teven Jones suspended for it, Barnette looks like one of the primary options.

In a perfect world, though - that is, one with point guard options at our disposal - Barnette is a two guard.  He's not real likely to make a big splash this season, unless he opens up a surprise can of whoopass on George Mason and sticks at point guard.  More likely he takes fringe rotation minutes at most, while the coaches evaluate how best to use him.  You can never discount any incoming freshman entirely, but Barnette was toward the back of the rotation in Europe, which is a likely preview of the regular season.

#5 - Teven Jones - Fr. PG

Commitment post

One great way to blow your chance at playing your way into the rotation is to get yourself suspended for the one game where your team is desperate for your services.  NOT SMART

Mini-rant out of the way, Jones is of course squarely in the mix for point guard minutes, and it's not like he's blown his whole career since this entire year is an audition for the post-Bub Evans era.  Of the candidates, Jones is expected to be one of the better defenders of the bunch, and of course half a year of practice with the team will hopefully prove invaluable when it comes to learning Tony's demanding system.

As far as playing the point, that is probably going to be his biggest hurdle, as he was mainly a two-guard in high school, and didn't play much of a season for Fishburne post-grad.  He's a well-rounded offensive player with a solid shot, handle, etc., generally a well-balanced, physical player who sounds awfully like Jontel Evans, Jr. if he lives up to his potential.

#10 - Mike Tobey - Fr. C

Commitment post

I wrote that post almost two years ago.  That is why I hate basketball recruiting.  Anyway.  One theme with a lot of the freshmen like Jones, Barnette, Evan Nolte, etc., is that we can guess and wonder all we want and nobody really knows how many minutes they'll get this season.  Not even the coaches, I bet.  Not so with Tobey.  He's the only guy bigger than 6'8" on the roster.  He gonna play.

And the fun truth is that he just oozes potential.  He's added almost 20 pounds since we checked in on him with that commitment post, and about five years to his face.  He was sixteen at the time and didn't look old enough for a learner's permit.  Now he's a legit big man and should open some eyes this season with a scoring touch.  Not to overdo the exciteyness, but the big thing for the coaches will be to manage his minutes so he doesn't burn out by mid-February.  If he's as good as advertised, the temptation will be to lean on him for 30 a night, because when he comes out the lineup suddenly gets really small inside.  Too much of that and you can watch his production spiral down the drain late in the season.  Asking a freshman to bang around the middle with the ACC's best big men night in and night out for entire games is asking for it.

Better that he go for about 20 minutes on average.  If all goes well, this guy is one of our biggest building blocks.  (Yes, literally and figuratively, smart guy.)  But not only that, he's one of the most important pieces this season; he's the only center we've got, and there basically is no interior game otherwise since Mike Scott isn't walking through that door.  Keep him healthy.

#11 - Evan Nolte - Fr. SF

Commitment post

One of the big-timest recruits Bennett has brought into the program.  Period.  Nolte comes to us from the hoops hotbed of Atlanta and had offers from some pretty damn good basketball programs.  He's one of the tallest players on the team, but he's not a power forward type that you can expect to see banging on the block with post moves.  What he is, is a tall scorer.  One of the kind of guys that, if he realizes his potential, makes opposing coaches curse the unfairness of it all for making them come up with ways to try and defend him.  Nolte brings a shooter's reputation and will just loft it over shorter players' heads.

In Europe this August, though, he displayed the inconsistency you expect out of freshmen.  Double digit points one day and a disappearing act the next.  He doesn't have a fully-developed arsenal of moves; that will come with time.  I think you can expect the Europe trip to be a microcosm of the season; I fully expect a 15-18 point game out of him at some point, as well as a 1-for-9 night sometime in the depths of January.  But he'll get every chance to prove himself, because he's the kind of player who can just make a mess of someone's game plan.

Next week: our best player, our ghost, our versatility, our pirated loot, and our X-factors.

the recruit: Brad Henson

Name: Brad Henson
Position: OL
Hometown: Surf City, NJ
School: Monsignor Donovan
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 275

24/7: 87, three stars; #26 OG, NJ #19
ESPN: 75, three stars; #65 OG, NJ #31, Atl. #131
Rivals: 5.7, three stars; #22 OG, NJ #12
Scout: three stars; #17 OG

Other offers: Miami, North Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin, South Carolina, NC State, West Virginia, Rutgers, Maryland, Syracuse, Boston College, Connecticut, various others

If you liked the Jack McDonald commitment, you loved the Brad Henson one, since it came one day later.  Everyone loves when that happens.  It had the makings of the guy who watches the doors closing and decides to hop on before the train leaves.

Henson is a tough one to peg.  The scouting services have him as a highish three star, except ESPN where you can just see the meh oozing out of the screen.  Yet his offer list is four-star all the way; solid interest from the SEC, about half the ACC, and that quasi-holy-grail of O-lineman offers, Wisconsin.  And then you have his position.  ESPN says guard all the way.  Rivals says, "Henson has the length and frame to be a prototypical left tackle."  And where will the coaches use him when he gets here?  Center.

It's a good fit, I think.  Henson played center his junior year, and he has experience on the inside as he's also played a significant amount of OG.  He's your basic smart-head-on-his-shoulders kid that UVA would take every time if they could, and for another thing, he does well with the concept of leverage.  Whereas the dominant theme in, say, Morgan Moses's highlight tapes was him trucking some hapless defender thirty yards straight downfield whether or not the play required it, Henson is more adept at scooting the defender in a direction unsuitable to making a tackle.  A center needs to do this all the time.  You don't want the guy downfield, you want him out of the way.  Michigan's David Molk was way undersized and not remarkably strong and won the Rimington Trophy because he was absolutely perfect at adeptly pointing defensive tackles in the wrong direction.

The scouting services do agree, however, that Henson needs to get stronger.  I mean, that's dazzlingly obvious for any offensive lineman, but they say it so often and so consistently (and Henson looks kinda doughy in some of his pictures) that they probably really mean it.  It's also been mentioned a couple times, however, that he's already bigger than the listed 275 and is probably pushing 285-290.  And they all make a point to speak well of his physicality, always an asset.

I wouldn't worry much about ESPN's lukewarm evaluation; as you know it's generally better to assume that a dozen coaching staffs with a scarcity of scholarships to offer out have a better idea of talent when they see it than one analyst who has a job whether or not he's right.  Henson is the leading member of an offensive line class big on quality, if not quantity.  UVA whiffed on every instate lineman worth anything and still came away with a better O-line class than Tech did, and Henson is a big reason.  Assuming he sticks it out at center, and assuming the succession plan at center stays the same, Henson will fall in line behind Ross Burbank and serve a lengthy apprenticeship before getting the job in his junior year.  Center is tricky, and not everyone can handle it, but Henson is as well-equipped as anyone for it.

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Senior Seasons, yo.  This is the last week in which everyone will play; four seasons are complete and awaiting their playoffs.  Speaking of which, the GP South Blue Devils ended theirs in the first round by taking a fully-expected beating at the hands of Cass Tech.  Cass Tech routinely sends players to Division I.  South does not.  (And when they do, said player shows exceedingly poor judgment.)

Salisbury 47, Brunswick 35: Sadiq Olanrewaju got into the backfield on defense and helped rack up three sacks.  Salisbury is 6-0.

Good Counsel 30, Bishop O'Connell 0: Brendan Marshall was 10 of 16 and scored a touchdown on a keeper, but the more exciting news is that Andre Levrone is back on the field.  Levrone caught three passes for 34 yards in his return.  OLGC is 8-1.

Concord 21, A.L. Brown 14: Levrone isn't the only receiver back on the field.  Keeon Johnson is back too, and caught a couple of big passes to set up a Kannapolis touchdown.  Brown is 8-3.

South Iredell 30, East Burke 0: LaChaston Smith chipped in on the scoring with a 2-yard touchdown run.  South Iredell is 9-2.

Oscar Smith 27, Grassfield 0: Zack Jones caught a touchdown pass, and Oscar Smith secured the district title.  Oscar Smith is 7-2.

Ocean Lakes 41, Landstown 0: Three more touchdown passes for Turtle Cutler.  Ocean Lakes is 9-0.

Gilman 48, McDonogh 12 (Micah Kiser) - Gilman is 7-2.
Damascus 14, Seneca Valley 13 (Zach Bradshaw) - Damascus is 9-0.
Potomac 27, C.D. Hylton 21 (Donta Wilkins) - Potomac is 6-3.
BC High 44, Malden Catholic 0 (Jack McDonald) - BC High is 3-4.
Monsignor Donovan 36, Central Regional 0 (Brad Henson) - Donovan is 5-2.
Houston Westside 49, Houston MS&T 7 (Hipolito Corporan) - Westside is 5-3.
Bayside 34, Cox 27 (Taquan Mizzell) - Bayside is 8-2.
Fork Union 39, Benedictine 30 (Malcolm Cook) - FUMA is 8-2.
Varina 44, Glen Allen 0 (Tim Harris) - Varina is 7-1.
Woodberry Forest 13, St. Christopher's 6 (Jack English) - St. Chris is 5-4.

Two of those wins - Damascus's and Potomac's - qualify as decent-sized upsets.  Hylton is a very good team and has a top-flight junior athlete named Travon McMillian who'll definitely show up on the 2014 recruiting board in some fashion.

Four regular seasons are over.  Bayside will wait a bit before learning their playoff fate.  They're in, they just need an opponent.  Gilman secured the #1 seed and a bye week in their six-team conference tourney, and will play one of two teams they crushed earlier.  They don't do state playoffs.  The two North Carolina squads are both in and heavily favored in their first round matchups, though Keeon Johnson and A.L. Brown will have an awfully difficult time in the second round.  (Then again, Brown is a team that would've dominated the earth if they hadn't been completely slammed with injuries, so perhaps it's them that is the nightmare second-round game that nobody wanted.)  The vast majority of the rest of the regular seasons wrap up next weekend.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

weekend review

Let's make with the news items first.

-- Suspensions are fun!  Both Mike London and Tony Bennett announced 'em this week, with three on the football side and Teven Jones on the hoops end of things.  Tomorrow's ITA piece will address the point guard situation in more depth, so I'll hold off on that.  Football-wise, LoVante' Battle and Jeremiah Mathis won't be missed too badly.  Battle hardly ever plays and Mathis's snaps are easily absorbed by the other three tight ends (mainly Freedman and Phillips since McGee is halfway a wide receiver.)  The third is Henry Coley, and London implied that might not just be a one-week deal.  It really does make you shake your head when a guy has a good thing going and screws it up, but what this means now is that Daquan Romero will start and Demeitre Brim will back him up.  And if you want to know the truth, it's a painful loss; Coley is well ahead of Romero in terms of knowing the defense.

-- This is a bit of a fluff piece which basically boils down to "transfers made it so Tony Bennett had to re-recruit a whole new team and they're really young) but there's some quality refreshing honesty out of Joe Harris to be found.  One key quote: "'Part of the problem with my class is we didn't really do anything,' Harris said. 'We kind of kept to ourselves. (Now) I make a point of going and meeting up with the freshmen, trying to take them out to eat and stuff. If somebody's had a rough practice I try to meet with them on the side.'"  This must be why Tony likes having veteran leaders.

-- Here's one of those things that I saw, totally meant to mention, and then forgot.  So Richmond hiring a head coach for their lacrosse team (a Loyola assistant) is the perfect opportunity to mention that they, uh, will have a lacrosse team.  It's disappointing the way they went about doing it - rather than add women's lax as well to keep up with the Title IX Joneses, they cut other men's sports, notably soccer.  But it'll at least keep things interesting in the lacrosse world, since what it means for us is a third team in the state of Virginia, starting 2014.  Does that mean we play VMI less?  I guess we'll see.

-- I just like that Jeff White called Justin Anderson "irrepressible."  I think that word doesn't get used enough.  But I also think this sort of thing, besides the fact that Anderson's an athletic freak, is one thing that's going to get him a decent amount of playing time.

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SB Nation BlogPoll Top 25 College Football Rankings

From Old Virginia Ballot - Week 9

Rank Team Delta
1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish Arrow_up 2
2 Alabama Crimson Tide --
3 Kansas St. Wildcats Arrow_up 1
4 Florida Gators Arrow_down -3
5 Oregon Ducks --
6 Florida St. Seminoles Arrow_up 2
7 Texas A&M Aggies Arrow_up 4
8 Ohio St. Buckeyes Arrow_up 5
9 Oregon St. Beavers --
10 Stanford Cardinal Arrow_down -4
11 Arizona Wildcats --
12 Texas Tech Red Raiders Arrow_down -5
13 South Carolina Gamecocks Arrow_down -1
14 Nebraska Cornhuskers Arrow_up 8
15 LSU Tigers Arrow_down -5
16 USC Trojans Arrow_up 3
17 North Carolina Tar Heels Arrow_down -1
18 Georgia Bulldogs --
19 UCLA Bruins --
20 Clemson Tigers Arrow_up 4
21 Iowa St. Cyclones --
22 Northwestern Wildcats --
23 Oklahoma Sooners Arrow_down -9
24 Texas Longhorns Arrow_down -7
25 Penn St. Nittany Lions Arrow_down -10
Dropouts: Mississippi St. Bulldogs, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Michigan Wolverines, Wisconsin Badgers, West Virginia Mountaineers
SB Nation BlogPoll College Football Top 25 Rankings »
That is a Blogpoll ballot. Notes thereon:

-- The difference between #4 and #5 is sizable.  Notre Dame is #1 by a decent margin considering the sizes of margins in that part of the ballot, but right now I think you could toss Notre Dame, KSU, and Alabama up in the air and whichever two come down first, I'm OK with.  Florida isn't far behind.  Oregon is.  The fact that the computers are the reason Oregon is #4 in the BCS standings and all the human polls put the Ducks #2 is a big strike in favor of turning this stuff over to the computers.  Notre Dame's second-worst win is over 5-4 BYU.  There ain't a single weak point on their resume, unless you think a three-point win over Purdue is a weak point, to which I counter that that game is going up against a whole bunch of losses and wins over teams like Tennessee Tech in my comparisons.

-- Two instances of placing a team below a team they beat jump out at me.  One is in the SEC, where four of the top six teams are a jumbly mess, and A&M ended up ahead of three of them.  (There may be a need to apply a slight correction, but I left it for now.)  In that case I just don't worry about the head-to-heads, and let the rest of the resume do the talking.  LSU, in this case, has two huge anchors on their resume in a two-point win over Auburn and an ugly one over Towson.  That's hurting them, because they're a in a cluster of really close teams.  (And part of the reason I justified leaving A&M above LSU, even though A&M lost that game, is that A&M did to Auburn what you're supposed to do to a 1-7 team.)

Also, I'm well aware that Oklahoma handled Texas Tech, but Oklahoma has a slight problem in that their third-best win is over Kansas (which is to say the full body of work still isn't strong) and also they're being punished for having two byes.

-- Oregon State didn't drop despite losing a bad one because Arizona went from being kind of OK to completely awesome.  And yes, 11th seems like a weird place for Arizona to debut, but the top end of their resume is crazy good.  (I look with perhaps more favor than others do on their win over 8-1 Toledo.)  If Zona hadn't blown leads to Oregon State and Stanford - two ranked teams that'd still be ranked if they'd lost to the Wildcats - they'd be comfortably in the top ten with a lot of margin for error.

This week's pool of eligible teams swelled to 40 with the appearances of Arizona, Northern Illinois, Oklahoma State, and the re-emergence of Iowa State.  However, 6-4 (or 5-4) won't be good enough for next week's inclusion, which puts four top-25 and six more eligible teams at risk of dropping out, at least temporarily.

It's also worth a mention that Penn State's loss to UVA is costing them about two or three spots here, possibly more.  As it is, however, our struggles have helped drag PSU in an earthwards direction; in fact, when I racked and stacked the games this week, Penn State's 17-16 loss to the 2-6 Hoos is the second-worst game of all 360 (minus however many byes) that were considered.  Only UCLA's blowout loss to 3-6 California is worse.

Yes, I'm shoveling Senior Seasons off til tomorrow again.  This week has brought forth a particularly obnoxious grad school assignment and it's sort of time-consuming.

Friday, October 26, 2012

the other football

One regret I've constantly had in writing this blog is that I don't get enough of a chance to write about the men's soccer team.  It's a fall sport, see, and it's sort of not really the biggest thing going on, and it basically just gets massively overshadowed by football.  With the bye this week though, we get a chance to check in....

....on a team playing nowhere near its historical expectations.  Only Indiana and St. Louis have won more NCAA titles than UVA (and SLU hasn't won since 1973) so much is expected of the Hoos.  Unfortunately, the team's streak of consecutive NCAA tournament appearances is in serious jeopardy.  They sit at 8-6-1 and just 2-4-1 in ACC play, with their only wins over Duke and Virginia Tech, and the latter required a spirited comeback from a two-goal deficit.  UVa will find itself most likely with a 6 or 7 seed in the ACC tourney, requiring them to play either UNC or Wake Forest, the latter of which the Hoos lost to 4-1 in the regular season.  (That said, UVA has had a way, in the past several years, of crushing Wake's postseason dreams almost literally every time we face them.)

So what has gone wrong for the Hoos this season?  Let's examine, paper-tiger style, some of the reasons for the disappointing results.

-- Youth.  Exactly one senior exists on the roster.  It's a semi-normal condition to have a bunch of freshmen and sophomores, since college soccer is forever being pilfered by the professionals.  No system whatsoever exists such as the NBA's age limit to keep pro teams from signing up all the good players, since most of those teams exist in Europe.  That said, it's still a bad situation this year for UVA.  The only senior on the roster is Will Bates, most of the juniors aren't starters (or even regular players), and the situation only got worse in September when midfielder Ari Dimas, a huge part of the team these past few seasons, was ruled ineligible by the NCAA.  Apparently club soccer - which Dimas played as a freshman - counts toward your eligibility clock.  Yeah.

That robbed UVA of a huge veteran presence and a guy who was a big spark plug for the offense.  If it weren't for Bates, the whole starting lineup would be underclassmen.  Defender Sean Murnane is really the only junior that gets a lot of playing time.

-- Injuries.  Something that's really plagued UVA the past couple years.  (Though one might be a blessing in disguise: if Bates wasn't so damn good at getting hurt, he might have been signed already.)  Murnane spent some time on the injured list, as have forwards Darius Madison and Ryan Zinkhan.  Zinkhan was a big piece of last year's team, scoring four goals and three assists, and Madison has played in every game this year that he hasn't missed with injury.  Murnane got Wally Pipped a little; he's been coming off the bench since his return.

-- Goaltending.  Whoo boy do we miss Diego Restrepo.  Sophomore Spencer LaCivita is in net for his second year as a starter.  All the usual chicken-or-the-egg caveats apply about whether poor defense causes poor goaltending or vice versa, as does the fact I haven't seen a single game live, but there's no getting around the fact that LaCivita's save percentage is at the very bottom of the NCAA pecking order.  Restrepo always hung out in the .800s; LaCivita, before tonight's game at Boston College (which was a 0-0 tie) was at .754, which put him at 94th of 103 qualifed goalies.  Tonights result should get him into the low 80s, but still.

So can the Hoos get into the tournament?  I venture a "yes" but with no guarantees.  In their favor: wins over likely tournament teams Cal, High Point, and on the road at VCU, another probable tourney team.  They've also been highly competitive in OT losses to Georgetown and UCLA (currently ranked #6 and #7, respectively) and a 1-0 loss on the road to unanimous #1 Maryland.  A tie against #12 (and unbeaten) Xavier should also work in their favor.  A home loss to 5-8-3 Clemson and the blowout home loss to Wake will weigh them down, as does a record that's barely over .500 and a conference record guaranteed to finish below that.  Fortunately, all this youth means better times ahead; this year's freshman class was rated #2 by Top Drawer Soccer (though it took the usual pros-related hits) and is already a major contributor.  Partly by necessity, yes, but still.  The future for UVA soccer looks bright, we just have to put up with the present for now.  (And where have you heard that before?)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

hoops schedule

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

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

George Mason

Colonial Athletic Association

Preseason conference poll: 3rd of 11

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

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

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

Fairfield

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

Preseason conference poll: N/A

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

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

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

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

Seattle

Western Athletic Conference

Preseason conference poll: 8th of 10

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

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

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

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

Wisconsin

Big Ten

Preseason conference poll: 5th of 12

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

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

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

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

Green Bay

Horizon League

Preseason conference poll: 3rd of 9

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

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

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

Tennessee

Southeastern Conference

Preseason conference poll: 4th of 12

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

Better or worse: Better
Chance of a win: Smallish

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



Mississippi Valley State

Southwestern Athletic Conference

Preseason conference poll: 10th of 10

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

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

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

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


Morgan State

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

Preseason conference poll: ???

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

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

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



Old Dominion

Colonial Athletic Association

Preseason conference poll: 4th of 11

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

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

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

Wofford

Southern Conference

Preseason conference poll: 8th of 12

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

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

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

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

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

The above opponents can be sorted like so:

CANNON FODDER

Fairfield
Seattle
MVSU
Morgan State
Wofford
Penn if we play them

WINS IF WE'RE HALFWAY DECENT

George Mason
Old Dominion
Delaware if we play them

LOOK OUT

Green Bay

WE'RE THE CUPCAKE

Wisconsin
Tennessee
Any team we might happen to meet in Madison Square Garden

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

the recruit: Jack McDonald

Name: Jack McDonald
Position: OG
Hometown: Dorchester, MA
School: Boston College High
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 275

24/7: 85, three stars; #35 OG, MA #5
ESPN: 76, three stars; #60 OG, MA #4, Atl. #122
Rivals: 5.6, three stars; #40 OG, MA #4
Scout: three stars; #48 OT

Other offers: North Carolina, Boston College, Miami, Maryland, UConn, Duke, UMass

Donta Wilkins and Kirk Garner committed at the beginning of one of the better weekends (we are defining "weekend" fairly loosely here) in UVA recruiting history; on the other end of it, Mike London nailed down the offensive line portion of it.  Jack McDonald actually spent that weekend in Chapel Hill, and loved it so much he committed to UVA on Monday.

McDonald is one part of a troika of Massachusetts prospects that UVA pursued heavily.  One, Maurice Hurst, is one of the closer near-misses we've had in a while, and is one of the reasons I never wanted to see UVA in the Big Ten: Michigan crushes us head-to-head.  If you believe in miracles, there's a chance Hurst could still flip to UVA, but Michigan is 5-2 and UVA is 2-6 so don't get too excited.  The other is Tevin Montgomery, still deciding between UVA, Vanderbilt, and BC.  If McDonald had his way all three would head to UVA; they go to different schools but are very tight.  They're also 2-3-4 in the state of Massachusetts according to recruiting consensus, usually ordered Hurst, Montgomery, McDonald.

The fact that McDonald is actually the lowest-rated lineman in the class is a testament to the quality we've got, since literally half the ACC wanted him.  Looking at his highlight tape (something I frequently do for these but rarely use, since the tapes are designed to make everyone look like all-world players) I see a guy who doesn't have an overpowering initial push out of his stance but locks on strong and slowly grinds his assignment into the dust.  McDonald plays right tackle for his high school team (at least, he did as a junior) which is a small, tiny strike against his pass-blocking since the best O-line prospects typically play left tackle the way the best baseball prospects play shortstop.  Whether he's moved to left tackle in his senior year, I couldn't tell you.

In college he's a guy who could play either tackle or guard, but with a lean toward guard as we're probably going to be deep enough at tackle.  He's got the height for tackle at 6'5", but he's closer to 6'4" than 6'6" so he's really just barely in range.  At 275 pounds he's got some major growing to do, which makes him a rock-solid lock for a redshirt year.  Another point in favor of guard: he gets up the field very well, with a basketball background that gives him some running ability.  A guard often needs to be able to get a quick hat on a lineman, then release to a linebacker, or else, of course, pull to the other side and club whoever is in the hole where the running back is supposed to go.  McDonald looks well-equipped to handle that.

As mentioned, the redshirt year is a guarantee.  UVA is currently using a combination of Sean Cascarano, Conner Davis, and Cody Wallace at guard.  It hasn't been an especially inspiring group, but it's going through a painful growth process and is hopefully gelling as it goes.  All three will still be around next year, and then Cascarano graduates as McDonald enters his redshirt freshman year in 2014.  As it stands now Ryan Doull is the next up on the conveyor belt, and McDonald, assuming he does end up at guard, will fall in line behind him.  I do expect extra competition coming from behind; guard is not a deep group and the coaches will be looking to make it deeper, and one example there is 2014 O-line prospect Steven Moss, who is very much a future college guard.  Assuming he develops as he should, though, there's little reason McDonald shouldn't be a regular in the rotation - if not a starter - by his third year in the program.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

weekend review

Nothing too fancy here, just a Blogpoll ballot and Senior Seasons.  In that order.


So I made a few tweaks when the ballot algorithm didn't spit out what it should've.  Oregon deserves to be above Stanford due to common opponents.  LSU goes above Texas A&M on account of beating them.  In both instances I only had to flipflop them in the order.  Also, I had a three-way tie for #25, and by my tiebreaking rule the spot should've gone to NC State over West Virginia.  But come on.  NC State's resume is basically a semi-lucky knockoff of Florida State and a bunch of shit.  I let them have the utterly meaningless honor of being the first team off.

This week the pool of eligible teams lost Iowa, Maryland, and Iowa State, all for dropping to a 4-3 record, and added Toledo.  Technically Toledo's not eligible at 7-1 with no wins over Big Five teams, but they just beat Cincinnati and that was last week's #26 team, so I figured what the hell.  They took next-to-last, so they may stay.  There are two 7-1 teams outside the pool of eligibility and if/when they get to 8-1, I'll add them, but they probably won't appear in the top 25.  (They are Tulsa and Northern Illinois.)  5-3 is only eligible on a grandfather basis, so UNC's in but nobody else who might end up with that record.

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

Best of luck to the GP South Blue Devils in the state playoffs.  They finished with an 8-1 record, which is the best I've ever seen and might just be the best in school history, but they'll need every ounce of luck as they drew Cass Tech in the first round - a magnet school in Detroit that attracts a ton of football talent and sends 'em all to Michigan the way Bayside sends 'em to UVA.  And so happens to be the defending state champs.  Le sigh.

Oh well.  On with the show.

Damascus 41, Whitman 24 - Somebody finally kept Zach Bradshaw from returning any punts to the end zone, but he did haul in two long passes that got there instead.  Damascus is 8-0.

A.L. Brown 49, Northwest Cabarrus 20 - Keeon Johnson still isn't back on the field, and it's "unclear" if he ever will be this season.  Brown is 8-2.

Ocean Lakes 65, Kempsville 0 - Corwin Cutler threw five touchdowns in a laugher.  Ocean Lakes is 8-0.

Bayside 42, Princess Anne 0 - And Taquan Mizzell had four rushing TDs of his own in another laugher.  Bayside is 7-2.

Oscar Smith 58, Deep Creek 0 - Zack Jones caught four passes for 55 yards and a TD.  Oscar Smith is 6-2.

Fork Union 32, Collegiate 14 - Malcolm Cook returned an INT 77 yards for a pick-six.  FUMA is 7-2.

Salisbury 21, Kent 14 (Sadiq Olanrewaju) - Salisbury is 5-0.
Gilman 24, Calvert Hall 14 (Micah Kiser) - Gilman is 6-2.
Good Counsel 41, St. John's 17 (Brendan Marshall, Andre Levrone, Kirk Garner) - OLGC is 7-1.
Everett 28, BC High 7 (Jack McDonald) - BC High is 2-4.
Rumson 31, Monsignor Donovan 0 (Brad Henson) - Donovan is 4-2.
Newton-Conover 31, South Iredell 21 (LaChaston Smith) - South Iredell is 8-2.
Potomac 48, Gar-Field 13 (Donta Wilkins) - Potomac is 5-3.
Varina 66, Henrico 24 (Tim Harris) - Varina is 6-1.
St. Christopher's 41, Episcopal 8 (Jack English) - St. Chris is 5-3.

A couple links to finish off the weekend: a very solid overview of Why We Suck from Michael Phillips at the RTD.  Michael Strauss got his first start for Richmond this week after John Laub went down with a broken ankle, and led the Spiders to a win.  Ross Metheny has also been starting at South Alabama, and earned the school's first win over a I-A team this week.  (It was Florida Atlantic, so, you know, for the precise technical definition of I-A.)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

the virginia lions

You know how the saying goes.  Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.  Fool me like four or five times in a row into thinking improvement is just around the corner, and I am a Lions fan.  If you've ever wondered what it's like to be a fan of the Honolulu blue and silver, this is pretty much how it goes.  You just have to let the wishful side of you do all the thinking.  Just invent reasons why your football team isn't as bad as everyone thinks it is and then show up on the weekend, or the beginning of the season, with an optimistic smile on your face all set for its violent removal by another wasted day of watching them bumblefuck their way around the field.

At some point you'll show up on Sundays (Saturdays, whatever) with the understanding that instead of expecting anything fruitful, you'll just have yourself a nice cathartic couple of hours complaining about everything.  It's a new kind of fun, albeit somewhat more acceptable when the players are professionals.

No matter.  The only thing I'm disappointed in myself about is not realizing it sooner.  It's not like I haven't had like twenty years of practice - the signs should've been much more obvious.  Undisciplined shit doesn't just fix itself next week, especially when the coaches don't care about it.  The quarterback doesn't suddenly know the offense that he couldn't figure out last week.  During the game I tweeted that a great test of accountability would be whether or not Kyle McCartin played at all after picking up an extremely costly personal foul on our first kickoff.  Guess who played the very next kickoff?  Mike London claimed he should have been benched and it was his (London's) fault that McCartin went out there.  It's too late for that.

This isn't about Kyle McCartin, although that's not to exempt a senior from blame for taking a freshman penalty.  I don't care if it was an oversight on London's part and he meant to bench McCartin.  He didn't.  Meaning he had other things on his mind than fixing the team's most glaring and costly issue.  And apparently so did the guy to whom London has delegated special teams responsibility.  This is why I said we can't afford another week of Anthony Poindexter on special teams duty.  His unit just directly cost his team three points and he didn't give enough of a fuck to hold accountable the guy responsible.  It shouldn't have to be London's call to sit someone down.  Ultimately I think that is London shielding Dex from blame, which is at least more admirable than wringing your assistant out to dry.

So I see no reason why we should ever expect anything but more of the same.  You just got visual confirmation that it's all talk, all bluster and no action.  Week after week it's the same mistakes.  No lane responsibility.  No discipline.  The list of special teams disasters includes at least two penalties, two muffed punts, one 60-yard punt return given up, and one instance of taking the ball out of the end zone again only to trip over the 10-yard line.  The casualty: yet another check mark in the loss column, directly attributable to special teams.  And every week Poindexter is coaching the unit will be another week in which the best you can hope for out of the special teams will be that the margin of loss is so big that their undisciplined bullshit didn't matter.

Further reactions in brief:

-- It feels really good to see my faith in Chris Brathwaite paying off.  Nine tackles, two for loss, is a phenomenal game out of a defensive tackle.  Just a monster game.

-- Actually the defense in general is exempt from the rage machine this week.  Four PBUs for Drequan Hoskey, and 10 for the defense overall, plus Brathwaite's day, and 14 tackles out of Steve Greer; I don't have anything bad to say about the defense.  Obvious caveats about the level of competition apply, but the D played well.  It's a safe bet Wake would never have seen the end zone if they hadn't been set up on our own 16 yard line by you-know-what.

-- Does anyone still believe in the stupidity that is the godawful mistaken belief that whether or not Phillip Sims actually completes his downfield bombs, just the fact that he chucks them will loosen up defenses enough for us to run on them?  For one thing, Wake clearly had no respect for the passing game because they were shooting linebackers and safeties through the gaps all day long and stuffing the run game.  For another, Sims's play-fakes suck, so it's not like there's any good reason to respect the pass regardless.  It is bad for the offense when the quarterback arm-punts.  I feel like I should not have to say that, but then I feel like there are people who still need it said to them.

-- Something that doesn't usually make a blip on any radars but something that I liked: Jeremiah Mathis catches a pass from Sims about 12, 13 yards downfield, and immediately lunges forward.  Almost as immediately he's tackled, but the result of the play is 16 yards.  Watching receivers juke and shuffle immediately after a catch to try and get past a tackler is infuriating because it works maybe once in twenty times.  I watched Perry Jones (maybe it was Parks but I think it was Jones) catch a ball over the middle and immediately stop, with the idea that he was going to juke his defender out of his shorts.  Naturally he got tackled from behind.  Duh, there are other defenders back there and they're chasing you.  Run away from them, which is forward for more yardage.

-- Yes, we got horse-screwed on that fourth-down spot.

-- How do you know your year is going badly?  When the loudest cheer of the second half is for not carrying the ball out of the end zone.  That ought to sting the coaches a little.  On second thought, I bet the first time NC State kicks the ball over the goal line, our returner brings it out.  Things are not being taught.

On to the predictions:

-- Five yards a carry for Kevin Parks.  Uh, or half that.  Either way.

-- Parks both catches the most passes, and has the most carries, of any UVA back.  I should've stuck with most carries, as he had 10 to Jones's 7, but Jones caught five passes.

-- Tim Smith, in his welcome-back party, does not catch many passes (three at most) but one is a big one.  I'm giving myself this one even though he caught four, which is one more than three.  A 56-yarder on one of Sims's best throws of the day certainly counts.  (I continue to beat the drum that there's no such thing as a big YAC play without a very nice throw, and Sims hit him perfectly.)

-- Tanner Price completes fewer than 50% of his passes.  Price (or his receivers) was as bad as I expected, going 7-for-19.  How do you lose when your opposing quarterback goes 7-for-19?  Oh, right.

-- Brandon Terry, not Terence Davis, is Wake's leading receiver.  Terry caught just one pass, but it was for 41 yards and nobody else on Wake, except for one player (Lovell Jackson) caught more than one.  Do I give myself this one?  Yes - the point was that Davis was not a threat to the Hoos, but Terry was, and his big 41-yard catch was the one right after McCartin's PF penalty that set up Wake's first field goal.  People were way down on our safeties for that, but Terry is six-foot-bloody-five, and that play was unlikely to be stopped.

3-for-5 is not bad; it puts me at 16-for-39 for the season, which is 41%.  But my now-dead optimism stupidity has me at 4-4 on the game prediction season and 0-6-2 ATS.  I promise you I will never again pick the Hoos to win another game this season.  You can hold me to that.  They haven't played so as to deserve it.

Note: I've decided to shake things up a tad; for the rest of the season, except for the bye next week, I'll have my game reactions up on Sunday, and then Monday will be more of an everything-else day, including Blogpoll ballots and Senior Seasons.  It used to be more that way anyway, and kind of evolved out of it, and I think it works better this way.

Friday, October 19, 2012

game preview: Wake Forest


Date/Time: Saturday, October 20; 12:30

TV: ACC Net., ESPN3

Record against the Deacons: 34-13

Last meeting: Wake 28, UVA 17; 11/8/08**, Winston-Salem

(**I never miss an opportunity to remind you that this is stupid and the fact that the ACC is doing nothing but exacerbating the situation is stupider.  My last football season as a student was 2003.  If you had told me that I would graduate, and then UVA would play Wake Forest twice between then and 2012, which is exactly what has happened, my jaw would've hit the floor.  Are we in the same conference or what?)

Last weekend: Md. 27, UVA 20; Wake Forest bye

Line: UVA by 3.5

Opposing blog: Blogger So Dear

Injury report:

Virginia -

OUT FOR SEASON
S Pablo Alvarez, DT Marco Jones, WR Mario Nixon

OUT
DE Billy Schautz

DOUBTFUL
None

QUESTIONABLE
OT Morgan Moses

PROBABLE
DT Justin Renfrow, WR Tim Smith

Wake Forest -

(pending)

Such is my appreciation for you readers that I just spent the afternoon watching the Tigers sweep the Yankees and win their 11th American League pennant, and I have put off getting shitty drunk and dancing naked in the streets just so I could write you this post semi-on-time.  (This is not to say that this is a sober post, mind you.  A number of posts over the years have been brought to you by the juice of the barley or some other fine liquid intoxicant.  This is one of them.)  Anyway, the Hoos host Wake Forest in the final game before a badly-needed bye week.  Silly me, I thought I could spend this bye week examining bowl possibilities.

-- UVA run offense vs. Wake run defense

Top backs:
Kevin Parks: 93 carries, 475 yards, 5.1 avg., 3 TDs
Perry Jones: 86 carries, 318 yards, 3.7 avg., 2 TDs

UVA offense:
139.57 yards/game, 4.04 yards/attempt
82nd of 124 (national), 7th of 12 (ACC)

Wake defense:
206.33 yards/game, 4.49 yards/attempt
84th of 124 (national), 9th of 12 (ACC)

I'm no coach, but it sure looks like Kevin Parks is taking over - if he hasn't taken over - the primary tailback role here.  The way things have gone at tailback this season, that's a good thing; Perry Jones has been weirdly inconsistent and indecisive, not at all what you'd expect after seeing him play last year.  Parks, on the other hand, has seized the opportunity.  He's been looking like the guy who changed the North Carolina high school record book to one page that just says KEVIN PARKS.  To top it off, lately he even looks like a better pass-catcher than Perry has.

Wake suspended a host of players for the Maryland game two weeks ago, but it looks like they'll be back, with the exception of a couple more dunderheads who were suspended this week.  By and large it won't affect anything, however.  Wake isn't really good at defending the run regardless.  They play a 3-4, but instead of asking their nose tackle (Nikita Whitlock) to gum up a bunch of space, they want him to use his excellent quickness to get into the backfield and force running backs outside, where the linebackers will theoretically go find them.  The problem this year is that Whitlock has been slowed by a bum ankle.  Normally his job is to line up right over the center and make the center guess which way he's going, but with that ankle, even if the center guesses wrong he can still recover and get a block on Whitlock.  This has turned Wake's run defense problematic.

It even offers a slight glimmer of hope that UVA's biggest issue can be fixed: that of suddenly turning incompetent inside the 20 and being utterly unable to gain one yard when one yard is needed.  Maybe, just maybe, if Whitlock's ankle is causing him problems, he can be blown off the ball, along with the rest of Wakes line - they use a very undersized group, especially for the 3-4.

Expect UVA to be able to at least move the ball.  That hasn't been the problem; you're well aware of how we've infamously outgained basically everyone we've played and still gotten our asses beat.  Another five yards a carry from Parks is a strong likelihood; the only I-A team that hasn't gashed Wake is Maryland, and Maryland is bringing a loaf of bread to a gunfight in this respect.  The real question is whether or not we'll once again be a living embodiment of Zeno's paradox, and get halfway to the end zone on every play.

-- UVA pass offense vs. Wake pass defense

Quarterback:
Phillip Sims: 62/116, 53.4%; 747 yards, 6 TDs, 3 INTs; 6.44 yards/attempt

Top receivers:
Darius Jennings: 26 rec., 370 yards, 1 TD
Perry Jones: 23 rec., 228 yards, 0 TDs

UVA offense:
283.6 yards/game, 7.1 yards/attempt
76th of 124 (national), 11th of 12 (ACC)

Wake defense:
216.0 yards/game, 7.2 yards/attempt
77th of 124 (national), 9th of 12 (ACC)

Ayyy.  If we're not already at the territory where if you have two quarterbacks you have none, we're moving rapidly toward it.  It was probably a gracious and merciful God that caused Khalek Shepherd to be just slightly late in looking for that first-down pass from Mike Rocco last week, because if he'd caught it he'd probably have scored.  And if he'd scored we might have won, and if Rocco had coolly and calmly driven UVA to a win after Phillip Sims spent most of the day floundering, the resulting quarterback controversy would have melted everyone's head.

This is the one area where a suspension might affect things; starting safety Duran Lowe is out.  However, he's replaced by Kenny Okoro, who's well-experienced in his own right, although he's managed to watch his playing time steadily decrease since his freshman year.

It looks as though Tim Smith will finally get back on the field.  Will it much matter?  I kind of doubt it, as I expect Smith to be eased back into it.  Unlike last week, Darius Jennings doesn't appear on the injury list, and should be at full speed, and E.J. Scott has of course been impressive.  So I don't think there'll be a big rush to toss Smith right back into the fire, but I do expect him to be targeted a little bit early just to get him back into the groove.

However, Sims must have a good day against a highly unremarkable pass defense.  Wake can be carved up by dinking down the field, which of course is Rocco's specialty and which Duke did almost perfectly to the Deacs.  Sims is less consistently accurate and doesn't have the timing down right.  He's proven a fast learner in certain areas - after obvious missed opportunities against Duke, he scrambled for a few yards against Maryland and at least one first down.  As Sims goes this weekend, so goes the offense.

-- Wake run offense vs. UVA run defense

Top backs:
Josh Harris: 88 carries, 377 yards, 4.3 avg, 3 TDs
Deandre Martin: 57 carries, 279 yards, 4.9 avg., 5 TDs

Wake offense:
123.17 yards/game, 3.54 yards/attempt
99th of 124 (national), 9th of 12 (ACC)

UVA defense:
154.43 yards/game, 4.36 yards/attempt
74th of 124 (national), 7th of 12 (ACC)

Last week's game finally freed me, for the most part, from having to always caveat the Georgia Tech game in an effort to point out why the run defense doesn't actually suck.  The stats are now a lot more normal-looking and better reflective of the actual effort being put forth here.

Wake's Josh Harris continues to be a boom-or-bust kind of back, though he's done a better job of smoothing out his production spikes this season and being more consistent.  The Deacs have also found a solid change of pace in redshirt freshman Deandre Martin, a big bruiser who's been used as a short-yardage back but is very capable of a workhorse role and is very hard to bring down in the open field.

Wake's offensive line is slowly coming together.  In the preseason I called it one of the biggest disaster units in the whole conference.  It's better than that, but it's still working toward respectability.  In later games it's been improving after having been completely throttled by Florida State (no surprise there.)

However, I think you have to at least nod your head appreciatively at the work done by the UVA defensive line.  It has missed Billy Schautz, but it's learned to cope without him, and Ausar Walcott and Eli Harold have been improving each game in his absence.  Wake will absolutely need a running game, as we'll see in the next segment, so this could well be the deciding factor.  If their backs can generate some life, and they've been able to do so in Wake's most recent games, they'll have an offense.  If our front seven can get another inspired game from guys like Laroy Reynolds (who played very well against Maryland despite the nonsense with the PF penalty) and the front four can continue to do some quality unsung work, Wake will struggle mightily.

-- Wake pass offense vs. UVA pass defense

Quarterback:
Tanner Price: 98/188, 52.1%; 1225 yards, 7 TDs, 4 INTs; 6.52 yards/attempt

Top receivers:
Michael Campanaro: 38 rec., 429 yards, 3 TDs
Terence Davis: 18 rec., 280 yards, 1 TD

Wake offense:
210.2 yards/game, 6.6 yards/attempt
91st of 124 (national), 12 of 12 (ACC)

UVA defense:
223.0 yards/game, 6.9 yards/attempt
58th of 124 (national), 5th of 12 (ACC)

The first thing, and probably second through seventh things, that you need to know is this: no Campanaro.  Wake's leading (and only good) receiver has a broken hand and won't be playing.

That alters things immensely.  Campanaro had potential to be a nightmare.  Our safeties generally don't do well when assigned to do tricky things like help out the cornerbacks on one particular receiver.  (I'm not being sarcastic.  They're inexperienced, and get confused easily when their assignment is deep help on a Stefon Diggs type but the route patterns make it look like they should be doing something else.  That's why Diggs was so damn wide open that one time Hills threw him a wobbly can of corn to escape big-time trouble.  Our safety was playing it safe and hanging back, which given the circumstances I prefer that to the alternative.  Anyway, the point is that "keep an eye on this side of the field and defend the deepest route" is a simple assignment; "keep an eye on this side of the field, help out your corner on this really dangerous receiver but also don't let anything go behind you" is trickier than it sounds.)

Without Campanaro, there is nobody at all that will strike fear in anyone.  Starting TE Spencer Bishop has caught two passes all year.  They don't use him.  Campanaro has almost as many rushing attempts as their running backs have pass catches.  They don't use them much.  Tanner Price's completion percentage is so low partly because his receivers have a bad case of the dropsies.  Demetrious Nicholson is still a work in progress, but you can damn sure bet he's good enough to cover Terence Davis.  He and Brandon Terry comprise the biggest threats; Terry could sometimes be a problem because he's 6'5" and we got short DBs, but ultimately there's no need to overanalyze this: no Campanaro, no problem.

-- Outlook

I did promise on Monday that I would predict a loss regardless of what I wrote in the game preview.  Call me stupid, or a homer, or a Lions fan (nobody is better than a Lions fan at rationalizing why our crappy football team will be good) but I can't do that.  If the game is close, it could be a problem given the shattered wasteland that is our special teams.  And Wake is coming off a bye week, probably with a whole bunch of tricks up their sleeve.  But I'm going to hang my hat on the hopes that our run defense is as good as I think it is; that the Wake passing offense is as bad as it looks without their one legitimate receiving star; and that we'll finally be able to run the ball on every yard line between the goal lines, and not just from 20 to 20.  If we lose this one I swear every game prediction from here on out will be for a loss of a billion to three.

Also, I'm always forgetting to mention this, but I'll be using the Tweeta during the game to spit out random stuff.  Follow @MaizeNBlueWahoo for 140-character reactions to the game.

-- Prediction summary:

-- Five yards a carry for Kevin Parks.
-- Parks both catches the most passes, and has the most carries, of any UVA back.  (Made easier, of course, if Perry Jones's concussion turns out to be a problem, but he wasn't on the injury report.)
-- Tim Smith, in his welcome-back party, does not catch many passes (three at most) but one is a big one.
-- Tanner Price completes fewer than 50% of his passes.
-- Brandon Terry, not Terence Davis, is Wake's leading receiver.

Final score: UVA 21, Wake 14

-- Rest of the ACC:

Virginia Tech @ Clemson, 12:00 - Somebody's division hopes are going to take a major hit.

Boston College @ Georgia Tech, 3:00 - The natives are restless in Atlanta; they'll go ballistic if they lose this one.

NC State @ Maryland, 3:30 - You'd've been slapped in the face if you suggested before the season that Maryland would lead their division and control their destiny in October.

North Carolina @ Duke, 7:00 - UNC has lost this game once since 1989, which is the last time it meant anything.  Now it's for Duke's bowl eligibility - yikes.

Florida State @ Miami, 8:00 - Wouldn't be surprised to see this one overrun with Noles fans.