Sunday, March 31, 2013

lacrosse bracketology

This week's lax bracket is....a little interesting.  Let's go straight to it.

The results turned out a little strange because of the way autobids are handed out.  To recap:

-- Best record gets it.  3-0 is better than 2-0.

-- Tiebreaker is the LaxPower computer rankings.

Well, this week the two undefeated Big East teams (at 1-0) are also two of the three with losing records overall.  And the tiebreaker gives it to 2-6 Villanova over 4-5 Georgetown.  Villanova did beat Syracuse, so it's not as if their chances of at least making the BE tourney are wildly remote, but - 2-6, man.  (And Bryant is 2-8, but the NEC is pretty lame overall so that's not messing anything up, really.)

To add to the confusion, Drexel is 3-0, making another bid thief out of the Dragons, who would be wallowing in the "next four out" category otherwise.  Drexel is more of a lurking threat, however.  They're a very legitimate candidate for the autobid, since 3-0 is halfway through the CAA schedule.

So despite the oddness, think of this week's bracket as an illustration of how precarious the at-large situation really is.  By all rights, Ohio State and Penn State are having tourney-worthy seasons.  They should both be in.  But St. John's filched a spot by actually beating Notre Dame, and Villanova and Drexel filched the rest.  Bryant, too, or the NEC in general.  It's the case for tourney expansion right here.  Surprise bid thieves are not to be ruled out when conference tourney season rolls around, and even though this week's bracket isn't especially realistic (nobody is going to bet on Nova to win that conference) in a way it sort of is.

The NEC may not be able to maintain its autobid next year as they're losing Quinnipiac and Wagner to the MAAC (as well as Monmouth, which is starting a program of their own and could've helped them back to six teams) but the Atlantic Sun will start on up and get a bid right away, so at a minimum we keep the eight autobids.  The hour grows late for the NEC to fix itself for next season, but we can't rule out a ninth autobid just yet next year.  Tourney expansion is on the horizon.

More notes:

-- I was a little surprised that Notre Dame's loss to St. John's didn't knock them off the top.  But Denver didn't have anything too exciting going on.  ND did lose a sizable part of their cushion, though, and SJU edged OSU, PSU, and Yale - in that order - for the last spot.  It's those four teams and then a decent-sized gap.

-- The 4 and 5 seeds are razor-close, as are the 7 and 8 seeds.  They'd've been much easier to decide if the 5 seed hadn't beaten the four seed, and the 8 seed the same for the 7.

-- Hofstra sure took a dump.  Losing to Towson this week put them so far out of contention that I don't even know if beating UNC later this season can bring them back.

-- UVA is in a massive predicament.  Namely, unless the Hoos win two of the next three they won't go to the tournament.  It's an ugly spot.  You have to have at least a .500 record to get an at-large bid, and if they lose two of the next three the only way they can stay above .500 will be to win the ACC tourney.  Not bloody likely.

-- Plus, UVA's sucking has put Hopkins in a pickle too.  If the Hop loses to Maryland two weeks from now, they'll almost certainly be on the outside looking in.  If UVA had even just beaten Syracuse - or maybe Cornell, both of which were 1-goal games - both UVA and the Jays might be in this week.

The big games from last week:

-- Penn State 11, Bucknell 3.  And yet PSU still falls out of the bracket.  I think they'll be alright in the end, and this game will help.

-- North Carolina 18, Brown 12.  The Bears have dropped off the bubble entirely, and that's the last we'll see of them barring an Ivy upset.  Which will be tough given the competition in that league this year.

-- North Carolina 11, Johns Hopkins 10.  Win your faceoffs, man.  Hopkins lost six seconds into OT against the Heels, and blew a chance to shake up the bubble.  They remain in limbo, while Carolina just about punches a dance card.

-- St. John's 12, Notre Dame 10.  Discussed above.  It's possible, however, that the Johnnies have peaked.  The remainder of their schedule has a losing record, save Providence which even at 7-3 doesn't make nearly enough RPI waves to be considered for the bracket.  They basically have to win out and even then may need the autobid.

-- Princeton 15, Brown 8.  See above re: Brown.  As for Princeton, they're in decent shape but their work is not yet finished.

-- Yale 7, Penn 6.  Not enough, though, to knock Penn off a fairly strong perch, nor to boost Yale up off the bubble.  The Elis are still lacking in the strong wins department.

-- Loyola 9, Ohio State 4.  Loyola isn't the juggernaut they were last year, but they're slowly building a tourney resume.  This win will come in mighty handy should they fail to earn the ECAC autobid, and they're in fact a hair above St. John's and the other three bubble teams in the pecking order.  It's still precarious, though.

-- Maryland 9, Virginia 7.  Fuck a duck sideways.

This week's games to watch:

-- Drexel at Penn State.  The CAA needs some sorting out.  Drexel can legitimize their bid with a win here, and Penn State for their part can take care of a pesky potential bid thief.

-- North Carolina at Virginia.  My kingdom for some damn offense.

-- Syracuse at Princeton.  Cuse's case right now is pretty lame, in no small part because UVA and Hopkins (their signature wins) are even lamer.  As you might guess it's not a normal year.  A win here could take out a marginally vulnerable bubble rival and move the Orange up a few notches.  Lose and they'll have to trust their luck to beating Cornell and/or Notre Dame.

Friday, March 29, 2013

series preview: Miami

Date/Time: Fri.-Sun., March 29-31; 6:00, 1:00, 1:00

TV: Sunday on RSN, ESPN3

Record against the Canes: 18-19

Last meeting: UVA 3-0 series win, 7-3, 7-4, 7-4; 4/28-4/30/12, Coral Gables

Last game: UVA 7, Towson 1 (3/27); FAU 6, Miami 1 (3/27)

Last weekend: UVA 3-0 over NCSt. (8-2, 4-3, 6-3); Miami 2-1 over VT (11-9, 2-0, 5-8)

National rankings:

Baseball America: UVA #9, Miami unranked
Collegiate Baseball: UVA #5, Miami unranked
NCBWA: UVA #9, Miami unranked
Perfect Game: UVA #8, Miami unranked
Coaches: UVA #8, Miami unranked
Consensus: UVA #8, Miami unranked

Miami lineup:

C: Alex San Juan (.314-1-12)
1B: Chris Barr (.289-0-3)
2B: Alex Hernandez (.292-0-14)
SS: Brandon Lopez (.238-0-3)
3B: Brad Fieger (.316-0-19)
LF: Michael Broad (.279-0-10)
CF: Ricky Eusebio (.259-0-6)
RF: Chantz Mack (.284-0-16)
DH: David Thompson (.289-2-21)

Pitching probables:

Friday: LHP Brandon Waddell (2-0, 2.60, 47 K) vs. LHP Chris Diaz (3-1, 1.58, 23 K)
Saturday: LHP Scott Silverstein (4-0, 3.58, 22 K) vs. LHP Bryan Radziewski (3-0, 0.42, 36 K)
Sunday: RHP Nick Howard (3-1, 1.65, 28 K) vs. LHP Andrew Suarez (2-1, 2.73, 23 K)

With the winter season now pretty much officially wrapped up, I guess it's time to pay attention to things like baseball.  We'll put a cap on the basketball season next week, but now it's baseball time.  I haven't been devoting the UVA nine enough attention, and they've been having a very fine season.  Vintage Brian O'Connor: graduate some great players and jump right to the next wave.  UVA is now a consensus top ten team with a starting lineup that has no juniors and two seniors, and a freshman Friday starter.  Both ESPN and Baseball America have sat up and taken note.

In comes Miami this week with an uncustomary 4-5 record.  Dropping a series to UNC is understandable, as the Heels are the near-unanimous #1 team in the country.  That they won a game at all shows us a little something.  Dropping a series to Duke is another thing.  They've tweaked their rotation since, but Miami's arms are well ahead of their bats.

-- UVA at bat

Miami will send three left-handers to the hill this weekend, something of a rarity for college teams.  They've saved the best for Saturday.  Bryan Radziewski had a terrific freshman year in 2011 and then blew out his shoulder midway through last year.  This year his numbers are a little bit better than they should be, mostly from pitching on weekdays.  Mostly.  Last Saturday he tossed a complete-game, two-hit shutout against Virginia Tech, and struck out 16 Hokies.  Radziewski has allowed seven hits all season long.

The most hittable pitcher is probably Friday's, actually.  Chris Diaz allows opponents a .277 batting average, so far.  Radziewski is tougher because he changes speeds better on his fastball; Diaz has a little bit of a look of a guy who may be headed for a move further back in the weekend.  Diaz, however, is the only Miami weekend starter who's not coming off of a 2012 injury; Andrew Suarez didn't pitch hardly at all last year in his freshman season, and will be totally new to UVA.

These are good, quality starters; not overpowering, but solid all weekend.  If UVA can bounce the starters early, though, they'll find a thin Hurrican bullpen to feast on.  Thomas Woodrey - another lefty - has looked good, and can pitch in long relief, but quite a few of his innings have been of the weekday variety.  Miami also has a good, experienced senior closer in righty Eric Nedeljkovic, who hasn't allowed a run this year.  That's about it, though.  The rest of their bullpen - the regulars' section, anyway - has been hovering in the .300 range in opponents' BA, and nobody has an ERA less than 4.80.  Right-handers Eric Whaley and Frank Grandinette and lefty A.J. Salcines have been getting bombarded.  Mystifying in Whaley's case, as he spent all of last season in the weekend rotation and had a 2.68 ERA.  Now he's allowed 25 hits in 14 innings.

So the key will be to prolong innings and at-bats.  UVA has an excellent lineup and can score off of the starters, but these will be the kind of games where as long as you get to the fifth and sixth innings with the game close, you'll have a chance to blow it open late.  This was exactly the way things went against Carlos Rodon of NC State, and the blueprint can be repeated here.

-- Miami at bat

It's not often UVA comes into a series as the team with more power in the lineup.  This year it's something we may have to get used to, but to this degree, it'll be rare.  Only Maryland and Boston College have fewer home runs than Miami's five.

Mostly it's a lineup of right-handed contact hitters, with just a couple lefties sprinkled in.  Only two regulars are hitting below .279, with seven guys in the pretty tight range between .279 and .316.  What power there is, is provided largely by DH David Thompson, who has two of Miami's five homers and leads the team in RBIs.  The best hitter in general is 3B Brad Fieger, the only Miami player to appear in every one of their games last year.

One ongoing battle the Canes have is in center field, where Dale Carey typically holds court.  Carey was a respectable hitter last year but has slumped badly this year, dropping his average to .173.  He was used in the Tech series as a pinch runner, with Ricky Eusebio taking over center field.  Both are speedy base-stealing threats, along with 1B Chris Barr.

Truth is, it's a little strange seeing Miami as a slap-hitting, sac-bunting team that plays much more small-ball than rocket ball, but that's the way it is.  And they strike out a lot for a low-power team: 172 Ks, second-most in the ACC.  The Canes will send a lot of clones up to the plate.  Guys with very similar approaches and very similar statistics to show for it.  UVA's pitching should be able to handle this lineup.

-- Outlook

 This ain't your father's Miami.  This is a team with good enough starting pitching to threaten in more or less any ACC series, and a lousy enough bullpen that they'll often enough end the threat with a whimper.  Essentially they lean very, very hard on that rotation and badly need them to keep them in the game, because they can't win a shootout.  If the Hoos keep up the pace they'll take this series, and a sweep isn't at all out of the question.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

game preview: Iowa

Date/Time: Wednesday, March 27; 7:00


Record against the Hawkeyes: 0-1

Last meeting: Iowa 73, UVA 60; 3/13/97, Salt Lake City, UT; NCAA tournament 1st round

Last game: UVA 68, SJU 50 (3/24); Iowa 75, SB 63 (3/22)


UVA: 60.8 (#330)
Iowa: 67.5 (#102)

UVA: 107.3 (#69)
Iowa: 109.0 (#48)

UVA: 88.6 (#13)
Iowa: 89.4 (#20)

UVA: .8768 (#25)
Iowa: .8833 (#23)

Projected lineups:


PG: Jontel Evans (4.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 4.9 apg)
SG: Paul Jesperson (4.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 0.9 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (16.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.2 apg)
SF: Justin Anderson (7.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.3 apg)
PF: Akil Mitchell (13.3 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 1.5 apg)


PG: Mike Gesell (8.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 2.8 apg)
SG: Roy Devyn Marble (14.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.9 apg)
SF: Aaron White (13.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.4 apg)
PF: Melsahn Basabe (7.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 0.5 apg)
C: Adam Woodbury (4.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 0.6 apg)

Is this heaven?  No, it's the NIT.  And UVA is really one game away from the NIT's heaven, as it were: Madison Square Garden, which only had Delaware between it and UVA in the early season.  Iowa is a much more formidable opponent than Delaware, but UVA is better equipped and more seasoned now.  If the Hoos can get to MSG, they'll find a very familiar foe awaiting them.

-- UVA on offense

The good passing and movement that UVA displayed against St. John's will be even more vital here.  Iowa has one major weakness on defense: they get absolutely ruined by good point guards.  They've allowed two 90-point games this season, and to two of the elite PGs in the country: Trey Burke and Erick Green.

UVA doesn't have a point guard of that caliber, obviously.  They'll have to hope that Iowa is equally susceptible to good playmaking from all corners of the court, rather than elite playmaking from the primary ballhandler.  Trying otherwise to score on the Hawkeyes has been tough.  They're a long, tall squad in a similar way to UVA.  Big guards and long forwards that use that advantage to good effect.  Melsahn Basabe exemplifies it as a better post defender than his 6'7" height might suggest.  Aaron White is a 6'8" quasi-wing type who will probably draw the assignment on Justin Anderson.  And Roy Devyn Marble (who uses his middle name to distinguish himself from his father Roy Marble, an Iowa star of old) is a big, long shooting guard.

Marble's defense might be wasted on Paul Jesperson, whose shot has been poor lately.  Too flat.  Much too flat.  Marble may be able to prevent Jesperson from ever getting off a shot, and has a good chance of reaching one he's already let go.

The size that Iowa has is the likely reason why they've been the 9th-best team in the country at defending the three.  Opponents are shooting less than 30%, and UVA's three-point shooting of late has been at best adequate and at worst crippling.  They'll defend the post well, with two centers combining for about 25 minutes a game, and of course, Basabe.

Also look for plenty of press action.  St. John's even tried a token one, which had the clear mark of a team who'd practiced it specifically for UVA.... and only for UVA.  Iowa is not VCU, but they're more adept at the press than the St. John's idea of just putting some guys on the other side of halfcourt in a basic press formation and seeing what happens.  UVA isn't a disaster against the press any more, but no sure thing either.

-- UVA on defense

UVA must be careful here, mainly not to get into foul trouble.  Iowa's backcourt options are limited.  It's Roy Devyn Marble or close to nothing, especially with freshman PG Mike Gesell (you may remember him as a guy Tony Bennett recruited pretty hard) limited with a foot-bone thing very similar to what Darion Atkins has going on with his shin.  Stress reaction that's not quite a fracture, but could be if one is careless.  Gesell missed several games in early March and hasn't been the same at all since returning.

That leaves Marble, essentially the only Hawkeye who can create for himself.  This he can do quite well.  He's not a great three-point shooter (nobody on Iowa is) but he can get to the rim and draw fouls, post up smaller guards, and at times run the offense as a second point guard.  In fact that's what Iowa called on him to do against Stony Brook, and brought Gesell off the bench.

Down low, there are several options.  Aaron White draws a ton of fouls as he tends to draw shorter defenders.  He can knock down the resulting free throws, as well as the occasional face-up jumper, and he can post up too.  Melsahn Basabe has more strength than White, and crashes the offensive boards hard.  Both he and White do, actually.  And Adam Woodbury is a skilled freshman center whose minutes are somewhat limited, but he was a top recruit and flashes some of that skill from time to time.

UVA will definitely get all it can handle down low.  Marble provides the spark from the backcourt.  And Iowa, unlike UVA's previous two opponents in the NIT, can rotate in some scoring punch too.  Eric May is another big guard who can shoot some, if not create the way Marble can, and Zach McCabe is a sizable forward with some versatility.  UVA can't take any possessions off because they're not likely to be bailed out by crap shooting, as has been the case at times the past two rounds.

-- Outlook

I want to win, but I might not leave feeling cheated if I can watch Fran McCaffery completely melt down.  McCaffery has the best combination of fiery personality and not-at-all-fiery looks in all of coaching.  Bobby Knight looked like a dude who might heave a chair.  McCaffery looks like the admissions director, not the basketball coach.  Except when he does this.

Anyway, this is a proper test.  Iowa could have been dancing in a weaker conference.  They went 9-9 in the very deep Big Ten, and not just by feasting on Northwestern and Penn State.  They've beaten four tourney teams, including Iowa State.  This could go either way, truly; on paper and on the court it's a 50/50 matchup.  I have to give UVA the slight edge for playing at home.  But no result between a 25-point Iowa win and a 25-point UVA win would surprise me.

Final score: UVA 68, Iowa 66

Monday, March 25, 2013

weekend review

I have to admit, I've spent all my grand narratives regarding the St. John's game on Sunday.  UVA beat St. John's at our own place in the NIT's second round exactly 10 years to the day they lost to St. John's on the road... in the second round of the NIT.  And you knew that from reading the game preview.  I guess it's been that kind of year for that stuff, having earlier beaten a top-5-ranked team exactly 11 years to the day they last did it.  Is Wednesday some kind of anniversary of the last time we played Iowa?  Probably not, but one can hope, I suppose.

I'm really just relieved to see the offense reappear, alive and well.  At 1.06 points per possession, it wasn't exactly awe-inspiring, but it worked.  I call it pretty good for playing against a solid defensive team like St. John's.  The stat that hit me the most: 24 buckets, 19 assists.  Bruce Pearl made mention of that at halftime (I think it was 11 and 9 at that point) and he hit the mark.  That's solid ball.  The cynic would say it means we don't have anyone who can create their own bucket, and there's a grain of truth to that, too.  But it's the coach's job to figure out how to make do in that case, and the assist total is a testament to how well that's going.

UVA, by the way, has an A/FG ratio of about .6 for the season, which places them in the top 50, so Sunday wasn't an outlying phenomenon.  They've been creating each other's offense all season.  Anyone who bemoans Jontel Evans's insistence on never shooting a three ought to keep that in mind.

So, then.  Iowa.  KenPom called it "one of the best NIT quarterfinals in decades," and yes, haha that's not saying much, but I think that's kind of the point, too.  You don't usually get such interesting games in the NIT, at least, not played in locales other than Madison Square Garden.  And this year, not there either.  It's possible we could get UVA-Maryland, round 3, and while the chance to beat the Twerps thrice in a season is something each of us should cherish deeply, the world won't care much about a conference rematch.  (Yes, again, to the extent they care about the NIT haha.)  Southern Miss is another 1 seed - not exactly a school that moves the needle when Brett Favre isn't involved.  Bob Morris killed off the other actual interesting 1 seed in the tournament.

More bullets:

-- Taylor Barnette, take a bow.  I don't think he'll ever really be a full-fledged member of the rotation with guaranteed minutes every game.  He's going to have to scrap for every single one.  But if he keeps playing like that he'll be an indispensible cog.  I'm only partly talking about the shooting and partly talking about the terrific entry pass to a cutting Jontel Evans.  He may never start a game but he could very well turn out better than the reserves on 3/4ths of the teams in the league, which makes him valuable.

-- Akil Mitchell has never really been the kind of guy to start things.  But he's provokable, hence the shoulder bump on the way back to the bench that was rewarded with a shove into the scorer's table.  Even on TV it seemed like the St. John's guys were an edgy bunch who weren't far from getting T'ed up.  Although I did think the refs did the right thing by not calling anything when Justin Anderson was pushed to the ground, because he wasn't really pushed to the ground, he was just pushed.  The ground part was his own doing.  I don't really like our guys doing that - unless we're playing Duke or UNC, in which case it wouldn't bother me if they went full Italian-soccer-player out there.  Taste of your own medicine and all.


I'm not even going to waste more than a couple minutes on lacrosse.  What a humiliation.  Dom Starsia said he "thought we were too tentative in the first half" which is a mild understatement.  I would've put it more like "we didn't display the slightest fucking interest in going anywhere near the net" but I guess Dom has to be PG when microphones are present.  The fact that Rhody Heller had a career high in both saves and goals allowed should tell you all you need to know about how much interest the defense had in the game, too.  I didn't see the second half.  Apparently the team bothered to score once or twice.  I might chalk that up to Hopkins deciding 9-1 was a safe lead and letting off the gas a little, but I don't know, I switched to baseball.  So that's what we're gonna do here.

It's a much more pleasant topic.  While the lacrosse team is playing its way out of relevance, the baseball team is playing its way back in.  From unranked in most polls to a consensus top ten team in the country after a sweep of NC State, which not coincidentally or surprisingly dropped out of every top 25.  Losing the yearly series to NC State has been just as much a given as death, taxes, and playing like ass after finals break, and that was one of two ACC teams Brian O'Connor hadn't swept.  (FSU is the other.)  BOC was something like 9-18 against NC State before this weekend.

Much credit goes to Brandon Waddell for matching NC State's fearsome ace, Carlos Rodon, inning for inning until both handed off to the bullpen in the sixth inning.  And then to Austin Young for holding steady for the rest of Game 1 while the Wolfpack bullpen proceeded to melt down.  In fact, UVA's pen didn't give up a run all series until Game 3, when Kyle Crockett finally let one sneak across in the top of the ninth.  We forgive him, because he did an outstanding job preserving a one-run lead the day before.  And in fact, the only walks all weekend were a pair issued by Nick Howard in the third game.  That'll make for a happy coaching staff.

UVA's midweek game is Towson (written that way on purpose, in a form of solidarity), which has been a reliable scheduling partner for years, but this looks like the end of the road for that particular agreement, given that school's recent decision to cut baseball (and men's soccer too.)  Next season, Towson will sponsor five men's sports and eleven women's sports.  Just sayin'.


It's been a while since the last recruiting board update, during which time not one but two very, very blue-chip recruits have committed to the football program, so let's get a move-on here.  The changes you'll find:

-- Moved S Quin Blanding and OT Steven Moss from blue to orange.  Moss committed this weekend, giving UVA two Rivals top-100 commits before April.  What this class will lack in quantity it has already made up for in quality.

-- Moved DT Derrick Nnadi from green to blue.  Nnadi was once genuinely wavering between UVA and VT, and we might see some wavers back in that direction sometimes, but I think the UVA pull is going to win out in the end.  Even if it doesn't, UVA's chances look good enough to justify that move.

-- Moved RB Cortavious Givens from green to yellow.

-- Moved OT Justin Falcinelli from yellow to red.

-- Moved DB C.J. Reavis from red to yellow.

-- Removed OTs Trip McNeill and Coleman Thomas and DE Andrew Trumbetti from yellow.  Committed to Duke, Tennessee, and Notre Dame, respectively.

It sounds odd to say, but there aren't really more than 10-12 spots left in this class already.  And the four guys in blue are likely enough to occupy four of those spots.  It will be a summer sadly bereft of commitment frenzies, but a satisfying Signing Day nevertheless.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

lacrosse bracketology

Here we go again with the weekly bracketology.  To spoil the surprise, I'll tell you in advance that UVA doesn't make the field this week.  If they had, I'd have pulled them out of spite.

Let's start telling the week's story by following up on the highlighted games from last week:

-- St. John's 7, Hofstra 6.  Part one of the Hofstra Meltdown.

-- Notre Dame 9, Ohio State 4.  This and Cornell's surprise loss to Bucknell vaulted the Irish to the #1 spot.  OSU followed up with a win over Bellarmine - which isn't a bad team - to maintain a place in the bracket, but they lose hosting duties.

-- Princeton 10, Yale 9.  It was a close one but Yale's tourney hopes are close to being snuffed.

-- North Carolina 10, Maryland 8.  A huge one for Carolina, bringing Maryland down to earth and, along with Princeton solidifying their spot (UNC beat the Tigers earlier) the Heels jump into the bracket.

-- Cornell 10, Penn 5.  Helped keep Cornell in the top four after that loss to Bucknell, and turned out not to hurt Penn too badly.  Duke and Princeton remain two very useful feathers in the Quakers' cap.

-- Drexel 8, Hofstra 7.  Part two of the Hofstra Meltdown.  Unfortunately for the two teams that beat Hofstra, they both beat Hofstra.  Which kind of cancels out the effect.  Why is Hofstra still in the bracket?  More in a sec.

-- Johns Hopkins 15, Virginia 8.  ffffffffuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu-

Those last second losses to Cornell and Syracuse are starting to loom very large.

As for Hofstra.  The way it goes is that they and Syracuse are tremendously close in the system rankings, and you could make a case for either.  The tiebreaker between the two here is that Hofstra still has that win over Notre Dame, which happens to be the clear #1, while Cuse has no wins over a team currently in the bracket.  If you want to point out that my system lacks a measurement for Size Of Fanbase and Likely TV Ratings, I wouldn't argue.

The easy choice for #1 right now is ND, and the easy choice for #2 is Denver.  But the next four are a virtual dead heat in the system's ranking.  Cornell gets the #3 seed for being tops in the two metrics that matter most, and Penn is next for being next in both.  Duke beat Carolina, so they're #5.

Penn State is the current holder of the CAA autobid, but, like Hofstra last week, would have a strong enough at-large case if they needed one.  Bucknell, too, thanks to that win over Cornell.  If Bucknell blows it in the regular season by losing too many, then the Patriot will stay a 1-bid league.  But if they survive the rest of their schedule, they could be a bid thief if they lose in their conference tournament.  Guess which two teams are playing each other on Tuesday?

Last week I said I didn't shuffle the "first four out" and "next four out."  I lied.  I had to this week because UVA was above Hopkins.  That's absurd, obviously.  The reason is that UVA has the toughest SOS in the country right now, which inflates their ranking.  By kind of a lot, really.  I'm getting close to tweaking the system to avoid doing that because I have to account for that more often than I'd like to.

Here are the games to watch this week:

-- Penn State at Bucknell.  Both teams have a good case for an at-large bid right now, Penn State more so.  But they're also positioned such that the loser might be knocked out of that seat and into needing their autobid.

-- Brown at North Carolina.  This remains on the very edge of possibility, but a Brown upset here could make them a real factor in the race for the last couple at-large bids.  Teams like Cuse and Hofstra (and probably UVA, too) are going to hope UNC snuffs out the Bears.

-- Johns Hopkins at North Carolina.  Big week for the Heels, in case you haven't noticed.  The Hop still needs help - their UVA win lost some luster when most of UVA's opponents also lost.

-- St. John's at Notre Dame.  Again on the very edge of possibility, or even plausibility, but ND did have some trouble today with lowly Rutgers.  St. John's clings to the edges of the race and will receive a boost merely by playing the Irish.

-- Brown at Princeton.  One of Brown's best chances to nose into the conversation; a win at Princeton would be a double whammy with a boost to their chances at the expense of a close competitor.

-- Yale at Penn.  Could either make a mess or clean things up some by burying the Elis once and for all.

-- Loyola at Ohio State.  Loyola's resume is such that if they didn't have the autobid this week, they'd be in the mishmash with Cuse and Hofstra and probably come in third in that group.  So they need this one; otherwise they'll probably cede the autobid next week to Denver and open up a spot for another at-large.  On the other hand, if they win they could join PSU in good-enough-either-way territory.

-- Maryland at Virginia.  Just win one.  Please.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

game preview: St. John's

Date/Time: Sunday, March 24; 11:00 AM


Record against the Johnnies: 0-7

Last meeting: SJU 73, UVA 63; 3/24/03, Queens, NY

Last game: UVA 67, NSU 56 (3/19); SJU 63, St. Joe's 61 (3/19)


UVA: 60.8 (#333)
SJU: 67.6 (#99)

UVA: 106.9 (#75)
SJU: 98.2 (#208)

UVA: 88.8 (#16)
SJU: 92.0 (#37)

UVA: .8700 (#31)
SJU: .6623 (#101)

Projected lineups:


PG: Jontel Evans (4.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 4.9 apg)
SG: Paul Jesperson (4.9 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 0.9 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (16.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.2 apg)
SF: Justin Anderson (6.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.3 apg)
PF: Akil Mitchell (13.3 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 1.5 apg)

St. John's:

PG: Phil Greene (9.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.6 apg)
SG: Jamal Branch (6.4 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 2.8 apg)
SF: Sir'Dominic Pointer (7.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.8 apg)
PF: JaKarr Sampson (14.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.1 apg)
C: Chris Obekpa (3.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.1 apg)

Sunday's second-round game brings us the kind of matchup we ought to be getting more of outside postseason tournaments.  More east-coast home-and-homes and fewer SWAC snacks?  It might help the RPI, you know?

Anyway, we don't see much of St. John's, but there's a little history lesson here anyway.  The game will be exactly 10 years to the day UVA last played St. John's - and in the second round of the NIT, no less.  UVA lost that one, but it was on the road to a team that would eventually win the entire tournament.  (And then vacate it a couple years later when it was found they were playing with an ineligible player who was ineligible because they were paying him under the table.)

Awaiting the winner of this one is Iowa, the bracket's 3 seed and the only Big Ten team in the Little Dance.  KenPom-wise, UVA and Iowa are the two best teams in the whole field of 32, so it's no surprise they advanced to the Eliteish Eight.  It'd be nice to set up what would clearly be the marquee game of the third round.

-- UVA on offense

Looking (very deep) below the surface of the ugliness of the Norfolk State game, you find a UVA team that's dragging itself out of a shooting slump.  It probably wasn't evident with all the turnovers, but UVA did shoot a respectable 5-of-13 from three and shot better than 50% from the field in the second half.  The problems they had - the turnovers and free-throw shooting - should be more or less correctable, especially if they've had some decent practices this week.

The obvious #1 concern for UVA on Sunday will be the Johnnies' shot-blocking fiend, freshman Chris Obekpa.  Obekpa stands 6'9", which isn't extraordinary by any means (on a basketball court) so guys are lulled into trying to shoot over him.  Then he unwinds his 7'5" wingspan.  Obekpa has 131 blocks this year, more than four per game, and blocks 16% of all opponents' shots when he's on the floor.  That kind of prowess can really alter your offense, and guys like Akil Mitchell and Justin Anderson in particular should be aware of where he is and not put themselves in a position where they realize it too late.

The Storm also have Sir'Dominic Pointer, an athletic wing who can be very disruptive when he's in the right place.  But Pointer doesn't have the game-altering skills that Obekpa has, and Anderson should be able to match his athleticism.

St. John's is a little bit like a better Norfolk State; very good defense, not much offense.  Even in losing efforts they've held some quality tournament teams below a point a possession.  They don't do it with turnovers as much; it's Obekpa and good interior defense that keeps teams out of the paint.  Since UVA is reluctant to force the ball down low, and often content to pass the ball around the perimeter for half the shot clock, a lot will depend on the shooting.  More so than usual, I think.  If UVA drops some threes early, they could blow the Storm out of the building.  Otherwise they're going to end up in a grindfest that, as with Norfolk State, relies partly on the opponents' offensive ineptitude to keep them in it.

-- UVA on defense

St. John's is an interesting proposition here.  They're the worst offensive team in the Big East, and would be in the ACC too, and most of those numbers are with leading scorer D'Angelo Harrison.  Sadly for St. John's, Harrison is suspended for the duration of the season.  That leaves them with...not much.

Sir'Dominic Pointer was the hero of the St. Joseph's game on Tuesday; Pointer hit a fadeaway jumper as time ran out to break the tie and give his team the win.  He and Jakarr Sampson qualify as the Johnnies' top offensive threats.  Only a freshman, Sampson is a skilled player but not yet strong enough to be a huge factor close to the rim, and he's no three-point shooter.

Come to think of it, basically nobody is.  Harrison was the second-best long-range shooter on the team, percentage-wise.  And he only shot .315.  Pointer is at .360, but only occasionally shoots, with 25 attempts all season.  Point guard Phil Greene is at .231, and bench guard Marco Bourgault is at .301 with only 73 attempts this year.  (And 75 total; a three-point specialist who can barely shoot threes.)  That is basically the full list of distance threats on St. John's.  Compared to most teams, they rarely shoot it, which makes them uniquely poorly positioned to take advantage of the pack-line defense.

In fact, basketball has generally evolved to emphasize shots at the rim and three-pointers, and eschew the low-percentage, low-reward two-point jumper.  St. John's plays the opposite.  Largely out of necessity, because they have neither a dominant post player nor anyone who can shoot threes.  And as a result, they don't shoot a lot of free throws, which might be good because they're horrible at that too.  As dominant as Chris Obekpa is on defense, he isn't a major factor on offense.

So once again we're looking at a low-scoring game.  St. John's will be much better than Norfolk State when allowed to shoot open looks, but not from too far away.  And they don't really have a playmaking point guard, so they struggle to find those open looks.

-- Outlook

I have a tough time with this one.  In a vacuum, UVA ought to be the superior team and win nine out of ten games played against St. John's.  But everything's been a struggle lately.  If UVA plays like they did against Norfolk State, they'll lose, and I feel like I owe it to you as a blogger to do more than just regurgitate the paper.  And yet....that paper does show a pretty handy UVA win.  Let's cut down the middle and go with a narrow victory.  Just cause.

Final score: UVA 57, SJU 54

game preview: Johns Hopkins

Date/Time: Saturday, March 23; 4:30


Record against the Blue Jays: 28-56

Last meeting: JHU 11, UVA 10; 3/24/12, Charlottesville

Last game: OSU 11, UVA 10 (3/16); Cuse 13, JHU 8 (3/16)

Rankings: UVA #13/#14. JHU #11/#10

Efficiency stats:

UVA: 54.1% (#16)
JHU: 68.8 (#1)

Clearing (offense):
UVA: 93.9% (#1)
JHU: 84.9% (#42)

Clearing (defense):
UVA: 80.5% (#9)
JHU: 79.7% (#7)

Scoring % (offense):
UVA: 34.3 (#22)
JHU: 34.5 (#20)

Scoring % (defense):
UVA: 31.1% (#25)
JHU: 31.1% (#24)

UVA: 16.28 (#23)
JHU: 16.23 (#24)

UVA: 12.70 (#11)
JHU: 11.88 (#7)

(Ratings are my KenPom-esque measures of efficiency for lacrosse. Numbers are schedule-adjusted. National average is about 15.1.)

And those ratings would seem to augur a pretty even rivalry game.  The stakes are even too: both UVA and Hopkins find themselves in need of a win to help build a tourney resume, as neither has beaten anyone likely to be in the tourney themselves.  It's technically a neutral-site game, but you're gonna have a hard time convincing me of that when the game's about five miles from the opposing campus.  It's not any great injustice, really, since the game was at Klockner last year, but the large stage and obvious prestige of the opponents will draw plenty of attention to both the winner and the loser.

-- UVA on offense

Frankly, it's likely only a matter of time before Hopkins gets the win(s) they need to climb into the tourney, and their defense will be the reason.  Expected to have a strong one before the season, they haven't disappointed, and goalie Pierce Bassett has more or less rebounded from a 2012 sophomore slump.

It wouldn't be a stretch to suggest that Hopkins has the best set of defensemen in the country.  Tucker Durkin was last year's top defender nationwide.  Chris Lightner and Jack Reilly also have a ton of experience.  Even so, UVA has proven capable of scoring against man-to-man defenses.  Hopkins doesn't play cautious, but they're not extra-aggressive either.  They put a lot of faith in Bassett and their defensemen to keep the ball in front of them.

Even so, sooner or later Hopkins will almost certainly break out a zone.  Dave Pietramala would be stupid not to, after the way the latest few games have gone.  UVA has not properly solved a zone defense all year.  We're really not that far from the same territory we were in with basketball a few years ago when the shooters couldn't buy a bucket in a million years.  There was no point in analyzing things because nothing was going to matter unless a few shots started falling.  It's getting there now with this offense and the zone defense.

Also, someone's percentages are getting semi-ruined here, because UVA is the best clearing team in the country and Hopkins's ride is resulting in better than 20% failed clears.  I forget which broadcast I was watching, but the announcer pointed out that no team in NCAA stats-keeping history had ever been better than 90% on clears for three years in a row until UVA did it from 2010-2012.  The general idea was, hmmm, three years of 90% clearing, three years of Chris LaPierre - coincidence?  But UVA is at nearly 94% even with Shocker having missed five of eight games and now being shut down for the season.  This is going to be a no-margin-for-error game, so the clearing game will be vital.

-- UVA on defense

Even more vital: clamping down on defense.  UVA hasn't been bad at all, but this is a game that will demand near-perfection.  Hopkins is absolutely dominant on faceoffs this year, with primary FOGO Mike Poppleton winning at a ridiculous 71% clip.  Put that up against UVA's struggles this year - I don't care what the stats say, we've been bad - and it's gonna be make-it-take-it out there.  For Hopkins only.

Steele Stanwick used to terrorize Johns Hopkins - he had more than one 7-point game against them in his career.  I guess it's our turn to be on the receiving end of that stuff, as Steele's brother Wells Stanwick is the ringleader of the Hopkins offense.  He's got the Stanwick deadeye shot, too; a shooting percentage of .577 and a SOG percentage of .769 are on the books for him.  He leads his team in assists with 12 and is second in goals with 15.

Brandon Benn is the recipient of his generosity, scoring 19 goals for Hopkins this year, with a shot that's not much less accurate than Stanwick's.  Both are attackmen, and Zach Palmer rounds out the attack with 8 goals and 11 assists.  Hopkins also gives plenty of time at attack to Ryan Brown, so out of their top five scorers, four are attackmen.  That could help UVA a little bit, as easily the strongest defensive play this year has come from the long-stick guys, and yes that's accounting for the fact that they're supposed to.  The biggest weakness on defense has been when midfielders break down our short-stick defenders, which happens a little more frequently than it should.

The biggest advantage UVA will have in this game, mathematically anyway, is on the ride, where Hopkins's clear is surprisingly poor at 85%.  It's not horrible, but it's clearly in the bottom half of the country, and it's not a function of playing a bunch of great teams because they were fine against Princeton and not that bad against Syracuse, the only two contenders they've played.

-- Outlook

Is not so good.  Start with the faceoffs, where I've got very little doubt we'll get crushed.  Mick Parks will have his hands full.  Even though he's 2-for-8, I'd like to see Tanner Ottenbreit get a few more shots with his long stick, just to throw Poppleton off his game a little.  I never get my way with the Matt White thing, though, so I'm not getting my hopes up.

Hopkins's defense is a problem too.  Especially if we let things get too settled.  I think UVA's best chance in this game is turn it into a raggedy transition affair.  So much the better if UVA can make Hopkins's clearing attempts miserable; I like our chances better in a protracted ground ball fight than a long possession - regardless of whose possession it is.  If the Hoos can force turnovers, either on the ride or on settled defense, and turn those into quick-strike points, they'll at least keep it close.  If not, Hopkins's faceoff dominance is going to settle this one.  Unfortunately, I think the latter is more likely.

Final score: JHU 14, UVA 7


I haven't had the time nor the wherewithal to make the time to create a baseball preview for the weekend series against NC State, but you're reminded that it's a doubleheader on Saturday followed by a Monday night TV game on ESPNU.  A rare opportunity to see them on your big lightning box.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

a song of ice and fire

Don't go getting the idea that whatever that was last night was anything poetic (or prosaic given the title inspiration), or worthy of any songs.  Anyway, there won't be any danger of that if you saw the game.  It was really nice of the players to stage an impromptu Fan Appreciation Night by firing souvenir after souvenir into the stands, but you don't win games that way.  Tony Bennett won't be including "share the basketball" in his pregame speeches any more, because it's being taken far too literally these days.

But playing shit basketball is no excuse for losing.  Not to Norfolk State.  And good basketball teams are not immune to bad basketball, but they are expected to find ways to win games no matter how many times they oopsed the ball to the other team.  And they can't just do it by playing basketball because that's how they got in that predicament in the first place.  You've got to, in the words of the great Roman poet Cliche, "up your game."  It takes a little fire and a little ice.

That's where Akil Mitchell and Justin Anderson came in.  Their stat lines, other than their team-leading 15 points and Akil's double-double, don't exactly say "carried the team."  Akil shot 5-for-11 from both the field and the line.  He had five turnovers.  Anderson had three.  In fact, the five starters accounted for every single one of UVA's 16 TOs.

But when Norfolk State's press got even tougher than it had been and the Hoos looked like they might be on the cusp of a collapse, Akil Mitchell turned on the fire with a couple thunderous dunks.  Anderson brought his too.  Anderson put on his playmaking hat and the words "Akil Mitchell made dunk.  Assisted by Justin Anderson." started showing up in the play by play.  Athletic forwards who run the floor are poison to a press, and Mitchell and Anderson realized they were athletic forwards not a moment too soon.

Getting too amped up, though, is also poison; it sends all your shots bouncing everywhere but inside the hoop.  Veterans have a little ice too.  Mitchell had been clanging free throws all night, so when Jontel Evans went down hard and had to leave the game after earning an and-1, NSU naturally chose Mitchell to take the free throw.  They were repaid with some sweet string music.  When NSU hit a late-ish three to stay within threatening distance, their hack-an-Ak game was repaid the same way.  Anderson drilled four in a row not two minutes earlier.  If I was impressed with anything it was clutch free throws with Norfolk State playing rough and UVA firing up in response.  To switch the calm on and off shows a real degree of mental maturity.  Ice and fire.


-- I'm not gonna go so far as to label Norfolk State "thuggish" but they danced on the edge of the rulebook a few times.  The rules are inadequate to handle a situation in which a defender wraps up a ballhandler in a bear hug in order to prevent him from passing to an open teammate downcourt; either that or the refs were too gutless to call it as it should've been.  A provision for a clear path foul exists when you foul a dribbler who has nothing between him and the basket, but a passer - it doesn't exist.  And yes, when your hand flies upward and smacks your opponent (in this case, Evan Nolte) in the face, and you didn't get anywhere near the basketball, a flagrant foul needs to be called.

-- There've been occasional calls lately to get rid of the charging foul because of exactly the situation that Jontel Evans faced: a too-late defender attempting to take a charge without actually defending and undercutting the ballcarrier in the air.  Obviously getting rid of the charging foul is stupid.  I shouldn't need to explain that.  But perhaps they should rewrite things so that a flagrant, instead of a cheesy blocking foul, is assigned to a defender for undercutting an airborne shooter.  After all, there's no attempt to play the ball whatsoever.  It might make guys think twice about diving in for a charge when it's too late; the risk-reward balance isn't very high the way things are now.

-- Teven Jones played 11 of the most efficient and underrated minutes we've seen out of a player all year.

-- Nice win and all, kinda, but play like that against a decent team - even one that suspended its leading scorer - and the season will be over at halftime. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

game preview: Norfolk State

Date/Time: Tuesday, March 19; 9:00


Record against the Spartans: 1-0

Last meeting: UVA 50, NSU 49; 12/20/10, Charlottesville

Last game: NCSt. 75, UVA 56 (3/15); BCU 70, NSU 68 (3/13)


UVA: 60.5 (#338)
NSU: 68.6 (#56)

UVA: 107.5 (#67)
NSU: 93.0 (#289)

UVA: 88.9 (#18)
NSU: 98.8 (#130)

UVA: .8759 (#27)
NSU: .3498 (#224)

Projected lineups:


PG: Jontel Evans (4.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 5.0 apg)
SG: Paul Jesperson (5.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 0.9 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (16.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.2 apg)
SF: Justin Anderson (6.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.2 apg)
PF: Akil Mitchell (13.3 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.5 apg)

Norfolk State:

PG: Jamel Fuentes (5.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 5.0 apg)
SG: Malcolm Hawkins (11.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.2 apg)
SG: Pendarvis Williams (14.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.7 apg)
PF: Rob Johnson (9.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.8 apg)
C: Brandon Goode (7.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 0.2 apg)

Postseason here we go.  UVA will only play home games from here on out, thanks to being one of the NIT's marquee teams, unless they make it to Madison Square Garden, where they couldn't get to in November.  Regardless of only being asked to the junior prom and not the senior one, you have to admit that a season in which UVA swept Maryland and VT and beat all three Triangle teams is a pretty successful one.  The Hoos should be able to carry it forward for at least one more game, with instate opponent Norfolk State coming to town tonight.  UVA has only ever played Norfolk State once and needed a last-second tip-in to win it, but that was a much less talented team back in 2010-11.

-- UVA on offense

One thing that stands out on the KenPom scouting report for NSU is their 3-point defense, which is 9th in the country.  This makes sense for two reasons.  One is that NSU plays in the MEAC, which is not likely to be a place where awesome three-point shooters congregate.  Even the really bad defensive teams in that conference have better 3-point defenses than most of the rest of their metrics.  Two, NSU has a couple long and tall shooting guards-slash-wings, who would naturally be pretty good at contesting three pointers.

Fortunately, we nullify that some by having all our three-point shooters also be pretty tall.  That kind of defender has been giving our shooters some fits lately, but half of the problem is still just hitting the open ones, which hasn't been easy.

When UVA pounds it inside, seven-foot center Brandon Goode is there to defend for NSU.  Goode is a solid shot-blocker with two per game and nearly a 10% block rate.  However, Goode only plays about half of NSU's minutes, so UVA will otherwise find room to work inside.  Goode fouls a lot, too, a likely reason for his minutes limitations.  On the perimeter, the Hoos should watch for point guard Jamal Fuentes, who is so like Jontel Evans its scary.  More on that in a bit, but Fuentes is a good on-ball defender who gets his share of steals. 

NSU has overall done a great job on defense this year - albeit in a crap conference.  The thing dragging their ranking down, other than SOS adjustment, is their horrible rebounding.  Even Goode isn't a particularly great rebounder.  There should be chances for some putback buckets, all the more reason to work it inside.

-- UVA on defense

For all their success on defense, and the Spartans have had some this year, they're pretty poor on offense.  Stop me if you've heard this description of a point guard: never shoots threes, can get to the rim at times, high assist rate, good on-ball defense.  It's Jontel Evans, but it's also the Spartan PG Jamal Fuentes, who other than being four inches taller than Evans, could be a long-lost twin.  Fuentes is content to work the offense through his fellow guards, Pendarvis Williams and Malcolm Hawkins.

Williams is the most deadly of the bunch, and not just relative to the rest of them.  He's an excellent shooter from any area on the court, inside or outside the arc, and an 80% free-throw shooter too.  Williams is the lone starting-lineup holdover from last year's team that upset Missouri in the NCAA's.  He'll be a tough assignment for anyone.

Hawkins, on the other hand is a volume scorer, and volume scorers don't do well against UVA because we take away the volume.  Brandon Goode is a respectable force inside, but should be able to be limited if UVA uses the low-post double and forces him to pass, which is a weak point of his game.  Power forward Rob Johnson is another volume scorer, and probably less skilled than sixth-man Rashid Gaston, who comes off the bench to form a three-man rotation down low.

NSU is actually a little thin off the bench; there are back-end players they use but only seven in the main rotation.  The other is Kris Brown, a shooting guard of limited usage.  Fuentes is sometimes spelled by Marese Phelps, who isn't really a threat, but sometimes NSU just goes without for a few minutes.

-- Outlook

Expect a low-scoring game here.  Norfolk State is respectable on defense and not so hot on offense, and other than the NC State game, UVA's struggles have been almost exclusively on the offensive end.  Plus the Spartans will come out fired up; they'll have those memories of last year's big game on their minds as well as the added motivation of beating the big instate team in their own house.  What they fortunately won't have is Kyle O'Quinn (a Reggie Cleveland All-Star if ever there was one) tearing it up the way he did to Mizzou.  UVA's been kind of crummy lately but I can't bring myself to believe they can't at least get past an 8-seeded MEAC team at home.  If we lose this one, I'm glad it's the end of the season because I wouldn't want to watch anything else after that.

-- Final score: UVA 66, NSU 51

Monday, March 18, 2013

weekend review

So you may already have heard, but it's the NIT for us.  The Not Important Tournament.  Not Invited Tournament.  Nobody's Interested Tournament.  Blah blah.  I have to admit I'm not especially interested in hearing or talking about how we got snubbed wah wah mid majors with no resumes wah wah.  Don't wanna hear it and I'm not interested in joining the righteous-anger fest.  You knew this was gonna happen and if you couldn't see it coming a mile away then the orange glasses are blinding your eyes.  UVA played like ass down the stretch.  Losing by twenty when the whole world is looking at you to see if you're worthy of the bid is a surefire way to advertise you don't deserve one.

The lesson is not "avoid bad losses" - if it were, VT would've had a few trips to the Dance under Greenberg.  The lesson is to play well down the stretch and don't have so many bad losses that you collapse under their weight.  Everything UVA wanted was there for the taking, and they rolled over and didn't bother.  If you must direct righteous anger somewhere, direct it inward.

Anyway, things aren't so bad.  The Hoos have a whole new (if consolationary) set of opportunities in front of them.  It's like, OK, you screwed that up, but here's another chance at things.  Ironically enough it's even a second crack at getting to the same place they couldn't get to in the preseason.  It's the last one, of course, but at least everything until the big show (if we get that far) will be played at home.  UVA's #1 seed in the NIT ensures that.  And since the JPJA is the one place where they don't seem to screw things up usually, I feel a lot better about the impending clash with Norfolk State.  Seriously, if that game were in Richmond, though, or some other neutral venue, I'd be worried.

What really gnaws is not so much missing out on the big tournament - it's missing out on a tremendous opportunity in the ACC.  That's a 4 seed, a 7 seed, and an 8 seed joining the conference next year, and this year's #1 overall seed the year after that.  And it's not like UNC, Duke, or NC State are going to get worse in the near future.  Miami is about the only currently successful team poised for a drop.  It doesn't get any easier to win the ACC going forward.  UVA should have a better team next year than they do this year, but will the conference leave them behind anyway?  It's gonna be a tough sled in 2014.


And all that unpleasantness aside, it pains me even more to talk about losing to Ohio State in anything, yet that's exactly what the lacrosse team went and did.  The problem they're having is lit up in a bright neon sign by now.  Vermont exposed it and Ohio State took advantage: Play a zone defense and UVA won't score on you.

The first quarter was nice and easy.  (Except for the last second of it.  I've mentioned already this season the seeming inability to defend in the last 30 seconds of a quarter and it bit us in the butt again.)  The offense clicked because OSU couldn't defend Nick O'Reilly behind the net.  Then they switched to a packed-down zone and stationed a defender on either side of the net, daring him to make a move to the front.  Maddeningly, UVA's apparent response was to put another player behind the net, which was a useless move.

From then on UVA only ever scored when OSU abandoned the zone or didn't have time to set it up.  Maddening stuff.  You saw yesterday's bracketology, I'm sure, and UVA's position is better than I thought it would be, but only five games remain in the season, six (or seven) counting the ACC tourney.  (Lacrosse season is awfully damn short, isn't it?  Can you imagine if football season were just September and October and then the postseason began?)   UVA has to win somewhere if they want the season to extend past the ACC tourney, and I don't mean against Bellarmine.  (Which really worries me right now.  Bellarmine's defense is starting to look fairly legit.)

Oh, while I'm at it: can we settle on a goalie?  Or, can maybe one of the goalies do something about winning the starting job?  The announcers pointed out that Rhody Heller's start against Vermont was a disciplinary thing in re: Marino, but that his OSU start was more of a performance thing.  I didn't think Marino was playing all that bad, but his .450 save percentage says otherwise.  Heller's isn't much better.  A couple extra saves here and there just might make a difference.  Would it be rude of me to point out that Austin Geisler has a .554 save percentage for High Point at the moment?


At least there's baseball.  Between one thing and another I didn't watch a single baseball game all weekend.  For this I feel shame.  But I'm duly impressed by the clutch batsman-work from Mike Papi on Friday.  Since I didn't see the games I don't have any in-depth stuff here.  But I'll say this.  UVA has settled nicely into a spot where we can go into each season, and the minimum expectation in February is a 50/50 chance at hosting a regional.  Any worse and the previous season must've been pretty poor, but it hasn't been that way for a while.  That 50/50 shot is what we had this year.  After two weeks into the ACC season, UVA's done a workmanlike job in winning a series against a much-improved Maryland team (I miss dropping 20 runs on them, but oh well, Maryland baseball is headed for obscurity and oblivion soon enough) and a road series against Clemson.  None too shabby.  I'd like to see how we do against our nemesis NC State next week, which always seems to beat us in the series no matter how much of a roll we're on, but at least, I think we can nudge the odds of a Charlottesville regional just a little more in our favor.  Maybe only to 55/45, but this team is doing a marvelous job of spinning potential into gold.

Last thing for tonight: TheSabre has a marvelous photo gallery of the indoor practice facility, which looks fantastic.  The speed with which that thing went up, from conception to reality, is remarkable.  It wasn't that long ago the thing caught fire and we were like "well, at least it's hardly even started so there's not much to set back."

Sunday, March 17, 2013

lacrosse bracketology

So I guess basketball's Selection Sunday is a good time to unveil the first lacrosse bracketology of 2013.  Actually it's because we're about at the halfway point of the lacrosse season, but you know.  I get it if you're not in a good mood over bracketology right now, but then, you should've been emotionally preparing for the "snub" (if you can call it that) for at least a week now.

Anyway, I don't toot my own horn much, but this is one small area where I'll play that trumpet fortissimo.  In three years of doing this I've only missed two teams - both in 2010 when the system was in its infancy, and one of those misses was because I had to publish the thing before the last conference tournaments were finished up, and Mount St. Mary's upset Siena in the MAAC tourney at the last minute.  Two years in a row I've been 16-for-16.  The teams don't always go in the right places, but that's to be expected; nothing's perfect.  But then again, sometimes they do.  I was also 8-for-8 on seeded teams last year, and perfectly nailed two of the eight matchups.  I'll put this system up against anything you see anywhere else, be it on LaxPower or IL or what have you.

Some of the things to keep in mind as you read:

-- This isn't a prediction; as always, it's "how do things stand right now."  That's much more useful than a prediction, of course: it gives you an idea of what a team has to do to hang on to their spot, how safe they are, or how far they have to climb.  A prediction would just be me foghorning about my opinion.  Which would be far less likely to be accurate.

-- Conference autobids are, for now and until they're actually earned, handed out to the team currently leading the conference.  2-0 is better than 1-0.  Ties have to be broken somehow, so I use the LaxPower computer rankings, since those are semi-predictive of future success and make it less likely that I'll have to change it week-to-week.

-- One more autobid this year, so the field is now split evenly between autobids and at-larges at eight apiece.

-- Technically, the tournament committee seeds only the top eight teams, and then scatters the other eight based on travel considerations alone.  We all know that's not really the case; the #1 and #2 seeds generally always get the really low autobids, like from the MAAC or something.  I make an effort to take travel into consideration, but not a very strong effort at this point in the year.  Right now it's more about where teams are in the pecking order, so the nonseeded teams hew a little closer to a seeding order than they might when its actually go time.

-- I have a numerical system that spits out a ranking of teams from 1 to whatever, which I then fudge because the system doesn't know things like who beat who.  Like if Team A and Team B are pretty close, and Team B beat Team A, you know the committee cares about that.  So the ranking is not gospel.  However, for the first four and next four out - the bottom side of the bubble - I don't bother fudging, I just put the teams in the order I was given them.  Because why spend the time?  Plus then you know who's closest and who's furthest.

Enough talk.  Here it is.

Time to get into your head and figure out what issues you have with me before you say them:

-- You're such a damn homer.  How is UVA in this thing?  Don't blame me, blame the RPI.  I don't care what screeds you have against the RPI, the committee uses it (a lot) and as it happens UVA is 11th in the RPI and does well in the other metrics, which are also based off the RPI.

-- Wait a minute, we just played OSU.  Well, yes, and we also played #7 Syracuse and will have played #6 Duke, too.  The committee isn't totally averse to rematches and I think shipping an at-large to Denver when there are a lot of crappy autobid teams who could go is the sort of thing that makes them bend on rematches.  They're more concerned in not having conference-mates play each other (and remember, we've seen that they don't consider the ACC a conference, so Duke in fact would be a possibility.)

-- What the shit happened to Hopkins?  They haven't beaten anyone.  At all.  The teams they've beaten are so bad they're killing the Hop's metrics.  Like UVA, they'll have chances to rectify this.  Unlike UVA, at this point they don't even have a Drexel or a Stony Brook to prop them up.

-- Duke is 5-4, why are they even in, let alone seeded?  Their four losses are four of the top five seeds and they've beaten Loyola and Carolina.

Some other notes:

-- Hofstra is strong enough right now to have an at-large bid if they needed it.  If they get through their season without too many trip-ups they can potentially insulate themselves from a loss in the CAA tourney.

-- Quinnipiac is the better team, in my opinion, in the NEC, over RMU.  But rules are rules and RMU has just the tiniest sliver of a margin over Quinnipiac in those computer rankings.

-- Marist is quite a little surprise, but - and this is rare for a MAAC team - they would actually be in the "next four out" column, under Hopkins, if they didn't have the autobid.  It probably means nothing in the grand scheme because they don't have the schedule necessary to pull off an at-large if they falter in their conference.  I just find it interesting that someone other than Siena is the class of the MAAC right now.

Here are the games to watch this coming week from a bracketology standpoint:

-- Hofstra at St. John's.  St. John's is lurking, and having Hofstra at home (not that it's a real long trip for the Flying Dutchmen Pride) is a chance to vault upwards a little.  Hofstra, on the other hand, this is what I mean by them having plenty of chance to solidify their spot.

-- Notre Dame at Ohio State.  Notre Dame only stands to lose seeding, but if OSU could get a win here, they'd set it up so they'd have to do a major choke job down the stretch in order to miss the tourney.

-- Yale at Princeton.  These two teams are like right next to each other on the bubble.  The loser will have a major uphill climb to the tourney.

-- North Carolina at Maryland.  UNC has work to do, but this is going to be a toughy for them.

-- Penn at Cornell.  The Quakers already have a pretty strong resume with wins over Princeton and Duke, but this would really be a kicker for them.  Could even vault them to #1, depending on the rest of the week's action.

-- Drexel at Hofstra.  Big CAA matchup, one of the conference's biggest of the year.

-- Virginia at Johns Hopkins.  No need to tell you about the stakes.

Friday, March 15, 2013

game preview: Ohio State

Date/Time: Saturday, March 16; 3:00

TV: Cavaliers Live

Record against the Buckeyes: 6-0

Last meeting: UVA 11, OSU 9; 3/17/12, Columbus

Last game: Cornell 12, UVA 11 (3/9); DU 10, OSU 9 (3/9)

Rankings: UVA #11/#9, OSU #12/#12

Efficiency stats:

UVA: 54.7% (#11)
OSU: 58.3% (#17)

Clearing (offense):
UVA: 93.2% (#3)
OSU: 91.8% (#7)

Clearing (defense):
UVA: 79.5% (#8)
OSU: 90.5% (#57)

Scoring % (offense):
UVA: 34.8% (#23)
OSU: 35.5% (#19)

Scoring % (defense):
UVA: 30.1% (#21)
OSU: 28.5% (#12)

UVA: 16.20 (#20)
OSU: 15.97 (#21)

UVA: 12.84 (#14)
OSU: 13.01 (#15)

(Ratings are my KenPom-esque measures of efficiency for lacrosse.  Numbers are schedule-adjusted.  National average is about 15.1.)

With one bubble team now having fallen very ingloriously off the bubble for good (I think a close loss to NC State would've at least kept us on the horse, but losing by twenty is the likely coup de grace), it's time to turn our attention to another bubble team: the lacrosse one.

This blog's yearly lacrosse bracketology will make its 2013 debut this Sunday, and already I fully expect the Hoos to be starting from a lower position than we're used to.  With very narrow losses to Syracuse and Cornell, each week now brings more or less a must-win game in order to stake a tourney claim.  Remember, the autobids expanded by one, which leaves even less margin for error for UVA in the weeks ahead.  The Hoos must find a feather for their cap somewhere.  Ohio State isn't it, but without one, we really can't afford a loss, either.

-- UVA on offense

If truth be told, I would point to the offense as the reason the Hoos couldn't quite get past Syracuse or Cornell, and had trouble with Vermont besides.  UVA is scoring at a slightly lower rate than they did in 2011 and 2012, and that's with the schedule still mostly composed of cupcakes and lacking Hopkins and the ACC.  And, come to think of it, Ohio State's not-shabby defense.

Actually, the Buckeyes are a little less of a wall than they've been in the past.  They're playing faster, too; in the past, they've had the reputation of being the UVA of the lacrosse world, but they're more or less mid-pack in terms of possessions per game now.  Both should help UVA.  Goalie Greg Dutton hasn't been on top of his game, with a save percentage south of .500 after posting a .575 last season.

OSU also brings a revamped defense, with only Dominic Imbordino returning from last year.  Partly as a result (I would imagine) OSU is way near the bottom of the NCAA charts in caused turnovers.  Their results this year have been a mixed bag.  Allowing only 10 goals to Denver, even in a loss, is pretty good - that's a season-low for the Pioneers.  Allowing 8 goals to Detroit, one of the worst offensive teams in the country, is bad.  That would be Detroit's second-highest total of the year, and Dutton was frankly outplayed by Detroit's goalie in that game.

On the good-guy side, Dom is slowly settling down the lineups, but not completely.  Nick O'Reilly has become a fixture, and oftentimes the offense lives or dies with his quarterbacking, which he's doing a nice job of with 15 assists already this year.  I still want to see Matt White play closer to the net and end this midfield experiment, but I've resigned myself to not getting my way.  Otherwise, there isn't so much a first and second line of midfielders as there is a first and second group that gets shuffled up at times.  We're getting there, though.

Faceoffs continue to scare me, even with Mick Parks winning at a .567 clip.  The reason is that our wing play, if I may be so blunt, stinks.  Chris LaPierre has been missing a ton of time and it shows.  Our wings are always last to the play, it seems.  I'd like to maybe solve that by putting the speedy Pat Harbeson on the wing, but Harbeson's no defender at all and only marginally skilled on offense.  Besides, there's no guarantee he'd take any better an angle to the ball or be any better anticipating its motion than anyone else.  Can't be much worse, though.

Still, as long as we can get some possession I'd like to think we can score on Ohio State.  Maybe not, like, VMI-style, but UVA was doing well against a very stingy Cornell defense for a while.  Continuing to gel should help, and the game is at home.

-- UVA on defense

It was probably fair to say that OSU was a one-man show last year.  Attackman Logan Schuss had twice as many points as the next guy.  It's much more diversified this year.  Freshman Carter Brown has joined Schuss at the attack and played well.  Along with top midfielder Jesse King, OSU finds itself with a much more efficient offense than they had last year.  King and Brown are both scoring on 40% or more of their shots.

The battle between Schuss and Scott McWilliams should be a good one.  McWilliams already has 20 caused turnovers, and while he's a little bit of a risk-taker and prone to getting beat, Schuss is one notch below the country's elite.  Which McWilliams has now had his crack it in guarding Rob Pannell.

If there's an X-factor it might be midget midfielder Turner Evans, who missed the Buckeyes' first couple games.  Evans is judicious with his shots, but he's been a sniper when he gets open for one, scoring six times on nine shots.  As he's not very big, he has a tough time getting open on his own, but he'll probably have a short stick on him more often than not and that defender can't be caught out of place.

-- Outlook

A tough matchup awaits.  Ohio State has tourney aspirations and this is one of their best chances to play their way in.  And this is a year in which UVA is going to struggle to play at the level we're accustomed to seeing.  Last year OSU jumped out to like a 6-1 lead before UVA got back into the game and eventually won.  So don't be exactly blown away if we lose.  That said, I'll be damned if I predict a loss to these bastards.

Final score: UVA 10, OSU 8

game preview: NC State

Date/Time: Friday, March 15; 2:00


Record against the Pack: 59-81

Last meeting: UVA 58, NCSt. 55; 1/29/13, Charlottesville

Last game: UVA 61, Md. 58 (3/10); FSU 71, NCSt. 67 (3/9)


UVA: 60.3 (#339)
NCSt.: 67.9 (#84)

UVA: 108.9 (#53)
NCSt.: 116.2 (#11)

UVA: 88.5 (#17)
NCSt.: 98.1 (#121)

UVA: .8934 (#20)
NCSt.: .8491 (#40)

Projected lineups:


PG: Jontel Evans (4.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 4.9 apg)
SG: Paul Jesperson (5.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.0 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (17.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.1 apg)
SF: Justin Anderson (6.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.2 apg)
PF: Akil Mitchell (13.1 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.5 apg)

North Carolina State:

PG: Lorenzo Brown (12.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 7.4 apg)
SG: Scott Wood (12.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.1 apg)
F: Richard Howell (13.3 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 1.8 apg)
F: C.J. Leslie (14.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.4 apg)
F: T.J. Warren (12.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 0.8 apg)

I won't bore you with a manifesto about the stakes here.  It's a tournament.  Which is our litmus test for another bigger tournament.  If you haven't figured out yet what's on the line here then you're in the wrong place.

-- UVA on offense

NC State's defensive iffiness is well-documented these days.  With a thin rotation, they can't afford foul trouble, and while they're actually very good at staying out of it, they don't play aggressively.  Lacking a center, the Pack struggle to rebound on the defensive end.  If Richard Howell isn't grabbing a rebound, nobody else is either.

It could be interesting to see how that goes, because the last time UVA played a team that doesn't rebound well defensively, they absolutely punished on the offensive glass.  That would be the FSU game, where Akil Mitchell grabbed six offensive boards and Mike Tobey five.  Tobey also had a nice game the last time out against NC State with three offensive rebounds.  It's not the Tony Bennett way, but if UVA is getting its points near the rim, it's much easier to steal a few offensive boards here and there.

That is if we get points at all.  The offense has hit a brick wall lately.  Production from Evan Nolte has dried up; the last time he hit two baskets in a game was February 19 at Miami, and his last three-bucket game was nine days before that.  Joe Harris's shooting has been awful the past three games: 2-for-7, 4-for-9 (but 1-for-6 from three), and 2-for-11.  That's basically your key to the game right there.  That kind of shooting from your first-team all-ACC guy is good enough to scrape out an ugly win over Maryland at home, but in the ACC tourney?  Gonna get you killed.

And truthfully, NC State's defense isn't good enough to dictate terms.  UVA has a better-than-even chance if Harris's jump shot is falling, or if Harris can get by his defender consistently.  Otherwise NC State will hang back in a straight-up man defense, watch Harris struggle, and dare someone else to pick up the slack.

-- UVA on defense

You'll probably hear more than you care to about the very limited play of Lorenzo Brown in the last game, after he twisted his ankle.  The other thing you don't want to hear is that it probably did have an effect.  NC State relies very, very heavily on Brown to facilitate what they do, and doesn't have much else in the way of point guards.  The little hobbit kid, Tyler Lewis, is about it, and the Pack don't use him much.

Besides running Brown and occasionally Lewis at the point, NC State works with a thin lineup, using six players for the other four spots.  Four players (Brown, Leslie, Howell, and Wood) get 30+ minutes per game.  Shooting guard Scott Wood (he's listed as a forward but I don't care, his role is 2-guard all the way) sits for barely six minutes a game.  Wood is a fearsome and voluminous three-point shooter.  It was really against Wood that Paul Jesperson opened some eyes to his defense; Jesperson harried Wood into a subpar shooting night and some uncharacteristic turnovers.  His ability or lack thereof to do so again will swing a big part of this game.

Most of the rest of NC State's scoring comes from a trio of forwards: C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell, and the underused T.J. Warren.  Leslie is lanky and athletic; Justin Anderson will likely draw that assignment, and Anderson gives up three inches.  Howell is powerfully built and a strong interior scorer.  Warren is a little bit of both, and shoots a very occasional three.  NC State might be better off if it were more than occasional, because he's 13-for-24 on the season.  Putting all three on the floor at once represents a matchup challenge, because Joe Harris gives up a lot athletically to Warren, who he'd likely have to guard.

Bottom line here: this team can beat you in a lot of ways.  It's cliched, but it really took a 40-minute defensive effort to stop the Pack last time.  It's gonna take the same again.  UVA enjoys one major matchup advantage in Mike Tobey; the only time NC State trots out a center is when they give Jordan Vandenberg a few minutes here and there to spell their scoring forwards.  But NC State is still accustomed to having their way in the paint due to their athleticism, and Brown is very adept at getting them the ball in the right place.

-- Outlook

History, as I've probably overmentioned, is not on our side here.  And though NC State is seen as something of an underachiever, all their losses but one (and that to Miami) have been away from home.  Technically this game will also be away from home, but not in practice.  I fear I have no choice here but to play the pessimist; UVA hasn't been playing well of late and there is a grain of truth to the notion that NC State missed Brown badly during our last game.

Final score: NCSt. 66, UVA 59

Thursday, March 14, 2013

the acc next year

Apologies for the slight AWOL period.  I got hit with a wave of homework and a cold that could go either way at this point.  I think we'll know more tomorrow.  I will tell you what, man, there is absolutely no worse cold symptom than a sore throat.  I hate it.  If you have a fever with your cold it's a great thing.  It's your body going, OK you bastards, let's crank up the heat in here and see how you like it.  But a sore throat ruins everything.  I suck down Halls cough drops like the fat kid at the donut buffet.  That stuff is a ridiculously underrated modern miracle.  Candy with medicinal value.  It's like if Reese's Pieces were a hangover cure. 

Enough of my bitching.  I thought we'd take a look at the state of the ACC next year now that it's going to have one more semi-surprise member.  And let's be clear one more time: Adding Notre Dame is a great thing for the ACC, all things considered.  Adding them sooner is a bonus.  I'll stipulate to the following:

-- That things were much better in the good old days when we could count on playing basketball against everyone twice and conference realignment wasn't a thing

-- That South Bend, Indiana is nowhere near the Atlantic Coast

-- That the Domers can be awfully snooty

-- That not being all-the-way football members is a compromise of principles on the ACC's part.  (But five football games a year ain't to be sneezed at either.)

I don't care; the ACC is doing what it has to here, and it's a clear boost to the ACC's value.  What I want to do for now, though, is to take a look at what the ACC might look like next year.  I'd like it if the ACC were to come out with some comprehensive announcement, even if it takes til May, that lays it all out sport by sport.  But I doubt they will, which gives me a little window to try my hand yet again at the art of procrastination.  I mean prognostication.


I know, Notre Dame isn't technically a football member.  Neither will the five-games-a-year deal begin this fall; it's too late for that and is in the interest of nobody involved to try and make that happen.  So wait til 2014.  The question then becomes: Is UVA one of the teams that will get Notre Dame on its schedule then, or do we wait?  Let's remember that with 14 football-playing teams, it's roughly once every three years that we'll see Notre Dame, assuming they rotate it evenly.  UVA's OOC agenda for 2014 includes home games against UCLA, Kent State, and Richmond, and a trip to BYU.  I would guess unless UVA is willing to buy out Kent State or Richmond, Notre Dame ain't happening that year.  Openings remain in both 2015 and 2016.

Interestingly, UVA has a 2017 game scheduled against William & Mary, and not only that, the date is set.  2017 is full.  The official site just recently added the 2016-2017 UConn series, even though I don't remember ever seeing an official announcement.  (It's been on my future schedules page, though.)  But the 2015 date with the Tribe is TBA.  Perhaps because UVA has been told to be flexible?  Shall we take these tea leaves to mean that the ACC has told UVA to go ahead and schedule stuff for 2014 and 2017 and keep 2015 open?  I think we shall.  Let's place our bets on 2015 being the first year of UVA's involvement in the Notre Dame series.


OK, now we can talk about what the ACC will look like next year.  Which is to say, a 15-team league playing 18 games apiece.  That means you can play four teams twice and everyone else once.  Two of your four home-and-home teams are your permanent schedule buddies.  ND gets BC and GT.  (A nod to the Rudy game?  An enticement to help retain GT's loyalty over persistent Big Ten speculation?  Possibilities abound.)  Ours don't change - we're one of four teams who keep the same schedule buddies from this year to next.  The others are NC State, Clemson, and FSU.  Since ours are VT and Maryland, obviously that arrangement is temporary.  I am highly in favor, by the way, of the 18-game road schedule for Maryland that was proposed on Twitter.  The chances of this remain low, but one can dream.

The basketball tourney is likely to be an interesting matter.  The ACC long ago made sure to have it known that the tournament would continue to include everyone.  But what's the bracket gonna look like?  They haven't said anything except for this announcement from last October, when Notre Dame first became a thing: "The Tournament will begin with three games on Wednesday, followed by four games on Thursday and Friday, two semifinals on Saturday and the championship game on Sunday. The top four seeds will continue to receive byes into Friday's quarterfinal round."

What that basically is, is the old Big East format, minus one game.  Picture the current 12-team bracket.  There are four first-round games.  Now attach one game to each one of those, so that the bottom 8 teams have to play for the right to play the 5-8 seeds.  9-16, 10-15, 11-14, and 12-13.  The top four seeds, then, have a double-round bye, and the next four have a single-round bye.  It's a fun tourney style, really.  That's what I'd bet on for the ACC, except without the 9-16 game.  Four games a day until the semifinals (ok, three the first day), so it's very TV-friendly (and venue-friendly), and you get to start on Wednesday for five full days of tourney action.

As for next season's ACC/B1G Challenge (which is even what the ACC official release is calling it - I must say, I didn't like the new Big Ten logo but it was awfully nice of them to finally give us a three-character abbreviation) it will leave out Clemson, VT, and Wake, for being outside the conference's RPI top 12.


Adding Notre Dame solved a potential very big scheduling problem: namely, what to do with an odd number of teams since Syracuse doesn't have one.  Notre Dame simply makes the ACC a 14-team baseball league.  And interestingly, the ACC has managed to poach three of the Big East's four best baseball teams.  Pittsburgh isn't completely horrible, Notre Dame's decent for a northern team, and of course Louisville has had a legit tourney team for a while now.  (St. John's used to be good, too, and was assigned to the Charlottesville regional a few times, but has started this year 3-11.)

I digress.  What will the ACC look like next year?  Louisville won't be part of the equation yet, so even with the Big East's higher-level squads, the conference is a bit watered-down.  This would be a great chance to dispense with the idea of divisions, which are stupid and useless for baseball, but they're not that smart.  So with Syracuse in football's Atlantic Division, it's not hard to imagine that Notre Dame will simply take their place in baseball.

As for the tournament, that's been decided too: "Beginning with the 2014 season, the ACC Baseball Championship will feature 10 teams in a six-day event. A double-elimination format will be used Tuesday through Friday followed by two single-elimination games on Saturday and the Championship Game on Sunday."  The "two single-elimination games on Saturday" scream "semifinals" pulled from the winners of two separate pods of five.  How they plan to do that, I can't figure.  It will tax the shit out of a pitching staff, though.

From a competition standpoint, ND will probably slide into the middle of the Atlantic, below FSU, Clemson, and NC State but somewhat above Maryland and a decent ways above Wake and BC.  They'll drop in the pecking order when Louisville replaces the Terps.  Pitt may have less success than they're used to, because the Coastal is tougher.  UVA, UNC, GT, and Miami should all be better than the Panthers; VT may even surprise and finish above them too.


This will be so much fun that it'll be a shame to lose Maryland.  The ACC will have six teams, all of which play outstanding lacrosse, and for one year it'll be an autobid conference.  You can guess the tourney format with your eyes closed, of course: 1 and 2 get byes while the rest play.  I don't picture the ACC leaving anyone out.  The point is to have ourselves a big ol' RPI-fest and inflate the shit out of that statistic.

This is the one sport where UVA's schedule will be affected more than any other.  Adding Syracuse wasn't going to change anything except for maybe the timing of the game.  (UVA tends to prefer to play all its ACC games last, and Syracuse has, for a recent little while, been the first marquee OOC opponent.)  Adding Notre Dame will force someone off the schedule.  The likely candidate is Ohio State, whom we started playing in 2011.  I guess I could see it being Cornell, but then again I really can't.  And as mentioned, the timing of the games will probably shuffle a little.

If you'll let me step outside the next-year theme, by the way, even by losing Maryland the ACC has a chance to keep the autobid in 2015 and beyond: by bringing in Johns Hopkins, which has decided to "formally" explore conference affiliation.  They will, of course, get to pick and choose their conference and join on their terms, as they'll have several suitors.  I've been mildly pushing for the ACC to invite Hopkins as an associate member for a little while now; I think it's time to basically make "add Hopkins" an official platform plank of this blog, right next to "ban corporate names on bowl games."  If the decision were about lacrosse only, the ACC would basically be Hopkins's only natural choice; add research dollars and academia into the equation, though, and the Big Ten and their CIC research arm become awfully inviting.