Yesterday I was working on a points-of-view style post, like the one from last week, which would've been, "if we win out, do we get a #1 seed?" I scrapped the idea halfway through (which is why you got nothing yesterday) because if I do more of those I want to actually have some fraction of a buy-in inside my head for both sides of a debate. I couldn't convince myself that there was any kind of argument which made a future #1 seed even remotely realistic.
Maybe it's a good thing I did. You never know - that one little post could've been the thing that tipped the karma scales the other way. Yes that's a load of crap but you can never be too careful with this stuff.
That makes two straight ugly wins on the road. Better than losing pretty, as goes the saying. Maybe even better than winning pretty. VT has logged three decent (for them) games in a row, looking much more like a viable threat to one's existence than in the past. This constitutes a trend. Blowouts are fun, but isn't it also nice to know that this team can fire bricks for 35 minutes and still end up on the right side of the score sheet?
They probably can't do that against Syracuse, but they aren't going to blast the Cuse out of the water, either; better to have that close-game experience than not to have it. A good team, one that has aspirations of doing more at the dance than showing up and taking in the atmosphere, has to have all the tools in its bag or it's going to be buzzsawed by someone that does.
Close games always are full of things you could do better - in this case, find ways to get 2-pointers against a stubborn zone, and rebound. After drop-kicking Clemson on the boards (thanks in part to their Nnoko-sized hole in the lineup) the Hoos actually got outrebounded by VT. That's not good, but it's also good: you win a game on the road in the ACC while being outrebounded and having your top two scorers combine to shoot .238, you have done something right somewhere.
And every game is important, even if you think there's a chance to make it up later. If you don't believe me, looky who now sits on top of the ACC.
-- Let's talk 2-3 zones for a second. Syracuse's is famous, of course, and VT gave us heavy, heavy doses of it. And they did a much better job than Notre Dame did. I may actually do some serious photo analysis later, but here's a summary. UVA attacked the 2-3s of ND and VT the same way: stationing Mike Tobey at the elbow and getting him the ball.
The whole idea of scoring against a zone is to force the defense to rotate in some fashion that puts them out of position. Notre Dame willfully obliged every time. Perhaps afraid of having three-point holes blown in their defense by Harris and Brogdon, they kept their guards out by the arc even with the ball at the elbow, guarding territory not normally bothered with by a 2-3. They paid for it dearly because with their center straying from the basket to guard Tobey, it was the simplest thing to find open space directly underneath the hoop.
VT got burned like this very early and never again. When Tobey got the ball at the elbow, their defenders never made drastic moves. The guard on that side dropped down to harass him from above and their center inched up so he could bother a shot (and Tobey is a rather slow jump shooter, so in the time he would've needed to gather himself for a shot, Joey van Zegeren would have been in his grill.) Meanwhile, the opposite-side forward shaded over to the rim, ensuring there would be no cutters for easy dunks.
Tobey was left with the option to either pass back up top to reset, or to skip-pass to the opposite wing or corner. The VT defenders were not so far out of position that they couldn't hustle over to defend the recipient of those passes by the time he got the ball, and there was never an open jumper from the corner. In the second half, UVA eventually stopped going for this initial entry pass to the elbow, and focused on other ways to attack the zone.
-- Amazingly, there are folks who think Brogdon's elbow never made contact with Devin Wilson's chin. Sorry, it did. Sometimes basketball blogging means admitting Karl Hess made the right call. I'm not real enamored of the idea that you can call a defensive bump foul and that elbow on the same play. It feels like when a hockey ref calls both a hook and a dive. It really ought to be one or the other. Being that close should waive your right to protection from all but the most intentional flying elbows. I wish Brogdon had turned around the other way to dribble upcourt instead of encouraging the contact, but in no way can I fault the referees for handling it the way they did.
Wilson, on the other hand, had an awfully and obnoxiously sanctimonious look on his face in the process of making his case to the ref. He reminded me of playground kids who go, poke poke poke poke poke poke poke until they get punched and then play innocent for the authorities. I think he'll be a good player for VT, but there might be just a smidge of Greivis Vasquez potential there, too.
-- There's something awfully sneaky about a UVA game-clinching run. You never realize it's happening until it's too late. I think it's because a UVA run starts on defense and doesn't always involve consecutive possessions with points, but does involve long stretches without them. A UVA run isn't a 12-0 blitz, it's a 22-5 slog. It lulls the opposition into thinking things are still under control, and it takes so long that the game is over when the run finishes.
-- The ACC sims are becoming sort of academic these days, with UVA officially clinching a double-bye and poised to grab no worse than #3 the next time they win or UNC loses, but I like them and I'm still gonna do them. But this week's won't be til Friday, because of the postponed Duke-UNC game happening late Thursday. You are pulling for the Heels in that one, by the way.