Monday, February 18, 2013

weekend review

With spring season upon us, I get to have a lot more fun on Mondays with three sports to look back on instead of just one.  Let's start with the one everyone's most pissed off about.  On the face of it, I can't find much reason to be too surprised or disappointed or upset or whatever about losing on the road at North Carolina.  I mean, that's not exactly a bad team.

This being the ACC, though, you don't come away from a loss at Carolina without having something to say about the refereeing.  Which was the usual debacle.  I have three instances on the top of my head of obvious bullshit that went UNC's way:

-- Brice Johnson pulling up his dribble at the free-throw line, landing with both feet, long-jumping past a defender, landing again, and ending with an easy dunk.

-- Joe Harris deflecting a pass, running after it, being clipped at the waist by the guy he deflected it from (I think Strickland) and being called for a foul.

-- McAdoo shoving Akil Mitchell halfway out of bounds while jostling for position and somehow getting Mitchell to be called for the foul.

It wasn't caught on TV, but those at the game - and the radio guys - described Tony Bennett's heated confrontation with a ref during a TV timeout.  Like, actually heated, with voice raised and everything.  I know it's standard to complain about the reffing when playing a team from the state of North Carolina, but Tony thus far has usually limited his expression of distaste for the reffing to subtle body language cues and the occasional glare.  This is a guy who's earned the right to be taken seriously when he's pissed about the officiating.  Although frankly, Coach K is well-known for being just this side of the line between "proactive" and obnoxious in dealing with the referees; it probably wouldn't hurt if Tony moved his zebra interactions a little closer in that direction.

As usual, UNC fans will say that the gap in fouls and free throws - in this case, 11 to 21 and 30 to 11, respectively - is due to superior athleticism and other teams having to hack to keep up.  And as usual, bullshit: Akil Mitchell can match anyone in Heel blue for athleticism.  Also as usual, the pinnacle of irony is when a dissatisfied wail goes up in either Cameron or the Dean Dome when the home fans feel hard done by the refs.

As for the non-ref portions of the game, it was an odd one.  UVA hit 58.5% percent of its shots and 57.1% of three-pointers.  That's pretty awesome.  Scoring 1.17 points per possession wins you most games.  Unless your point guard turns the ball over 6 times and you give up 1.35 PPP on defense.  Both numbers are almost totally foreign to a Bennett-coached UVA team.  If UVA hadn't shot so well I'd hate to see what the score would look like, because UNC wasn't exactly cold from the floor and got a 15-point advantage from the stripe besides.  (Dammit there I go again with the reffing.)

What we're really starting to see is the effect of a thin lineup.  Many times during this game UVA was simply unequipped to play defense against a Carolina team that could not shoot wrong.  No Mike Tobey means no center, and eight minutes out of Darion Atkins isn't what we envisioned either.  (Atkins is clearly a shell of the player he was at the start of the season, so his eight minutes barely count.)  It leaves Evan Nolte to defend players he simply can't defend, especially when our lone actual post player is in foul trouble because the zebras are stupid.  (Dammit there I go again with the reffing.)

Not to fear, however.  Yes, it would've been nice to have that one to help cement a tourney bid.  However, the mainest goal this regular season is to finish no worse than third in the ACC standings and then win a game in the ACC tourney.  Our one-game lead on NC State is really a two-game lead because we beat them for the tiebreaker.  If we have to tiebreak against UNC - over whom we still have a one-game lead - it'll fall to the how-did-you-do-against-#1 rule.  UNC is 0-2 against Miami and has lost to Duke and NC State this year; we'll finish 1-0 against NC State.  That means one of the following must happen for UNC to win the tiebreaker over UVA:

-- Beat Duke and hope we lose to both Duke and Miami.
-- Hope NC State falls behind FSU and/or Maryland, then polish off a season sweep against whichever one does (they have two left against FSU and one against Maryland, whom they've already beaten) and hope we don't do the same.

In a nutshell, UNC has to work so that the tiebreaker doesn't drop to how we did against NC State because they've already lost that one.  So things look good.  UVA still has to not screw this up, but the Hoos still sit in the drivers' seat, and ohbytheway can still get in position for 2nd with a win over Duke.


The baseball team, on the other hand, also went one state south and had a much better time of it.  They're now 3-0 after two wins over East Carolina and one over St. Peter's - the latter game being a surprise bonus after Sunday's game got washed out and St. Peter's had their entire Longwood series cancelled as well.  Only Saturday's ECU game was especially close, and that partly because Nathan Kirby, brought on in relief to put a nice easy end to the contest, got bombed instead.  So he's going to be climbing out of an ERA hole for a little while.

The bats looked nice.  Nice enough that I don't think it's out of line to say we probably won't have too many worries about them this year.  Maybe here and there, but you know, when you start off the year getting two grand salamis in the same game from one player (Kenny Towns, who had no other hits all weekend) you're in good shape.

Saturday was more or less a breeze, thanks to nearly five very good innings from Brandon Waddell.  If Waddell can keep that up all season it'll be huge.  Towns gave the Hoos a 4-0 lead in the top of the first and then helped cement the win as part of an eight-run seventh.  Josh Sborz and David Rosenberger made it an all-freshman day on the mound and combined for 4 1/3 innings of solid ball.

Sunday was the only difficult game.  Scott Silverstein struggled through five innings and gave up four runs; the fifth was really the best.  Then the roof fell on ECU, and good thing too because Kirby allowing five runs in the ninth wouldn't have been conducive to heart rates in Charlottesville if he hadn't been handed a nine-run cushion.  The best part of the day though: a surprise appearance by Whit Mayberry, who ended up with the win.

It'll be interesting to see what Nick Howard does tomorrow against Bill 'n' Mary, because Trey Oest made a strong case for the regular rotation with six shutout innings against St. Peter's this afternoon.  OK, yes, St. Peter's.  But with the rotation as in flux as it's likely to be over the next month, Oest is going to be one to keep an eye on as well.


Then there's lacrosse, which almost ruined my weekend and needed about eleven seconds of overtime to rescue it.  Oh, what the heck though, I can't be mad at the lacrosse team for doing the same thing they do every year, which is play a close game against Drexel.

The main story is probably the mad-scientist experimentation we got out of Dom Starsia.  Oh, sure, he tinkers with his midfield lines as much as any coach and doesn't always have them perfectly set up by the first game.  And sure, there've been years where we have three faceoff guys, any one of whom might be sent out for the next one.  That was more desperation than experimentation, though.  As expected, Mick Parks took most faceoffs and Tanner Ottenbreit took a couple; as not expected, Tyler German and Ryan Tucker also tried their hand.

And as might have been expected, by and large the faceoffs were a wreck.  During the game I thought to myself "we're not winning any of these, and what's going to happen is I'm going to look at the box score later and be surprised by winning a hell of a lot more than you'd guess."  I think winning half counts as surprising given how bad it looked.  Keeping in mind also that three of the 14 "wins" were Drexel violations, so really our guys won 11.  And the win to start OT wouldn't have been one if Drexel's wing guy, who consistently beat ours to the play, had made the scoop like he should've.  Just as the bats at Davenport announced that we won't have a ton of hitting-related concerns this year, the faceoff guys put up a flashing neon sign that said this is going to be a problem.  Or didn't put up a new sign so much as polish up the old one that's been there every year.

The other glaring problem seems to have been defending the front of the crease.  Dan Marino made 15 saves and looked good doing it, with only one Drexel goal being one I thought he really should've had.  He wouldn't have so many goals blemishing his record if there wasn't constantly a Drexel Dragon showing up unannounced on his front porch and leaving a bag of flaming poop.  It was hard to tell the extent of this problem during the game because the guy operating the live feed was having a grand ol' time switching between camera angles and seemed to especially love the ones that provided no information at all about the play;** the highlights did a better job of showing just how often an opponent was allowed to cut to the front of the net.

As for the tinkering with the offense, really it wasn't limited to just the midfield lines, as we got a look at James Pannell at attack and Matt White got time at both attack and midfield.  And with Mark Cockerton on a 1-game suspension, we haven't seen the last of playing around with the attack.  But man I would be surprised if any particular permutation of midfielders was out there more than three, maybe four possessions tops.  Technically the starting combo was White, Rob Emery, and Chris LaPierre, playing with a knee brace.  Dom also ran like five or six other guys out there in various combinations; there was a fairly surprising amount of Greg Coholan and Pat Harbeson (who played a very solid game aside from his dipshit conduct penalty) plus plenty of Charlie Streep, Ryan Tucker, and a smattering of Matt Florence as well, whom along with Coholan I didn't even mention in the season preview.

If the rules tweaks this season do in fact lead to more transition game as the writers hope, then it will also mean less futzing around with getting your matchups perfect and more emphasis on putting fresh legs out there.  Which means interesting combinations will show up, and not by design.  I like that and I don't.  Transition is fun.  Midfielders who can play two ways, like Tucker, ought to still be relevant, if not highly important.  But I also like the idea of me getting my best guys out there and you getting your best guys out there, all fresh, and let's see who wins.  One thing I'm sure I don't like: long-sticks in transition.  I mean, OK, it's a lot of fun when a long-pole guy races down the field and nobody thinks he's a threat and suddenly he's dropping one past the goalie.  What I don't like is watching two long-poles passing to each other trying to set up an obviously doomed fast break, especially since one by definition has to be a close-in defender and should never be 70 yards from his net.  That's just wasteful.  Like if Mike Tobey got a semi-long rebound and tried to celebrate by dribbling the length of the court.

Numbers I liked from the game: Scott McWilliams and his five caused turnovers, and Nick O'Reilly and his six assists.  This latter number is amazing.  People aren't talking about this enough.  Steele Stanwick had a ton of five-assist games but only one with more than that (he had seven against Vermont last year.)  The last game O'Reilly played in was the championship game against Maryland two years ago, where he had four assists, so in his last two he's got ten.  I think I really like the idea of him quarterbacking the offense.

**Seriously dude they don't give you cinematography Oscars for this.  I know the camera guys at field level like to feel important too but those cameras are for highlights.  Just show the regular whole-field camera so I don't get vertigo trying to find the ball.  And yes I realize that I ought to feel a little bit lucky that I can even watch a game like this or the VMI game when lacrosse on TV was unheard of not that long ago.  And I do.  But I also shelled out $6.95 a month, which gives me both the privilege of watching the game and a license to occasionally criticize.


I'm going to wait til tomorrow to post up the season sim results, in conjunction with the Miami preview, instead of tonight.  I promise it'll make sense.

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