UVA's cagers are back home for a full week after playing three of their first four games on the road. It's the first of two three-game homestands, each lasting a week; you play nine at home, so these are two-thirds of the home schedule right here. This one, though, presents unique challenges.
One is that, obviously, if home games are clustered like this, so are road games. Following this homestand, UVA is on the road for five of the next seven, a period of time of about three weeks. It's a grind and a half, so you gotta get your kicks in at home when you can.
Obstacles abound, though:
-- It's another week of having a game on Monday, a schedule dictated by TV and the second of three times we'll appear on TV Monday night. These Monday games leave very little prep and rest time since you play on Saturday, to say nothing of my ability to get in a preview of the game.
-- Florida State is the first opponent. "But we already beat them once, and at their place," you say. Yes, which is exactly what makes them dangerous. That loss affected them the same way Tennessee did us, and they've steamrolled three opponents since, two on the road. And, all else being equal, the team that lost the first game has the advantage in the second - they have more adjustments they can make to level the playing field.
-- And UNC is the second opponent. I don't believe for a minute that their 0-3 league record means they're not going to be trouble. They're still talented and until I see a long string of well-refereed games involving them I still have to believe they're going to get the special handjob.
-- And VT is the third opponent. OK, well, come to think of it, they're pretty bad.
-- Besides the three weeks of mostly road games, the two immediate games after the homestand are at Notre Dame and Pitt. ND is a total enigma at this point - maybe the best explanation is that beating Duke was something of a fluke, but after three losses in a row for them I'm not sure what to make of the Irish. Pitt is one of the top teams in the league.
All this adds up to a real need to go 2-1, at the barest minimum, over the next three. Go 1-2 and you run the real risk of frittering away the 3-0 start into a sub-.500 record at the halfway point. Very, very bad for tournament aspirations. (So is losing two at home, come to think of it.) Go 2-1 at least and we'll see some momentum to carry into the road games. Go 3-0 and, jeez, I get lightheaded just thinking about potentially being 6-1. Then we're really talking about serious potential. But, you know, one game at a time and all that. Give 110%, credit to my teammates, etc.
Anyway, the next game is always the most important until the one after it, so in another month we'll probably be talking about how season-changingly important this next stretch of games is. But I know this much: if we mess it up and go into the next three-game homestand at like 8-6 and in Lunardi's "first four out" we'll all look back at this week and talk about what a missed opportunity.