Monday, May 12, 2014

weekend review

Welp.  That's that; another lacrosse season is in the books too early, after a mostly uninspiring performance on Sunday.  It looked so promising to start, with the Hoos giving up faceoff wins but then quickly making Hopkins look like a disjointed JV squad.  And then....

I mean, just... look, I've always considered that rationality is one of my writing strengths, and I know there was like 45+ minutes worth of reasons why we lost, but I just keep on going back to the bad clear that led to Hop's first goal, essentially an empty-netter.  UVA has a reputation as an outstanding clearing team and totally failed to live up to that this year; in some cases they've just completely lost sight of the 30-second time limit, and that's what killed them here.

Matt Barrett was the visible scapegoat because it was his pass that was intercepted, but, feeling compelled to go back to the Tivo for a closer look, I found out exactly how much time he had to clear the ball when he threw that pass: four seconds.  Even if he had channeled Adam Ghitelman and run it there himself, he'd never have made it.  26 seconds had elapsed already thanks mainly to sheer unadulterated laziness, and the real culprit on that clear is Scott McWilliams.  McWilliams floated around the field for nine seconds before tossing the ball (backwards) to Tanner Scales.  Scales returned the ball a few seconds later.... and "half-assed" would be far too generous a term for McWilliams's attempt at catching it.  That's why Barrett had the ball in the first place; he had to retrieve it as it rolled the wrong way.

If some people are saying there's a senior leadership problem on the team, well, that's why.  And this is by no means to pin the loss on McWilliams, whose play these four years has been unequivocally an asset.  You don't lose by six without everyone pitching in.  But there's still the irrational fan in me that wonders how that game might've gone if the Hoos hadn't offered a sportsmanlike hand back to the already punch-drunk Jays.

As a season, it certainly wasn't a total loss.  You expect Virginia lacrosse to accomplish certain things, and beating Syracuse, Hopkins, and UNC (1 outta 2 in the latter instances, anyway) do qualify.  However, after a stretch of four consecutive Final Fours, and missing only two from 2002 to 2011, the natives are rightfully getting restless now that we've missed three in a row.  Folks are talking succession plans.  If Dom Starsia weren't the winningest D-I coach ever, the words being used might be a little more forceful.

As it is, UVA stands in about the same delicate spot that Florida State football did in about 2008 or so.  (And that Penn State managed to botch pretty spectacularly.)  FSU succeeded in dislodging Bobby Bowden after the boosters got antsy and it became clear that 1) they weren't going to get much farther with him and 2) he had no plans to leave.  They had a couple factors helping that process: the academics scandal greased his skids out of town, and they didn't have his son on staff.  FSU is how you want the replacing-a-legend process to go; Penn State is not.  And Tennessee exists as the antithesis of Penn State - the fans managed to get Phil Fulmer replaced and the Vols promptly entered the crapper, from which they have yet to emerge.

I doubt there's any talk of succession in the UVA offices, but it's something that should be quietly going through the heads of the decision makers - not because immediate action is needed, but they still have to be working on a contingency plan.  And that plan can't just be Joe Starsia.  This is too much of a signature program to allow to go stale.  If we're playing for a national title next year - hey, cancel the war.  If we miss out on the quarters again, let alone Memorial Day, well.... it certainly won't stop people wondering how Mike Pressler or Charley Toomey might look on the Klockner sidelines.  Me, I'm nowhere near officially adding my voice to the (still quite small) chorus calling for a change.  I don't want to be Penn State but I definitely don't want to be Tennessee.**  Just considering it something to keep an eye on. 

**A statement made, with that particular emphasis, with consideration only for the on-field aspect of PSU's football succession.

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-- Lots of other UVA teams are still running around scooping up Director's Cup points, though:

* Men's and women's tennis are both in the round of 16, about to face Notre Dame and Baylor, respectively.

* Ladies' golf was top-8 at their regional, earning one of 24 spots at the national championship tournament in Tulsa.

* Women's lax faces 3-seeded UNC in the quarterfinals after knocking off Princeton.

This is to say nothing of crew, which still has an ACC title to earn before heading to nationals.

-- Maryland transfer Seth Allen was really digging on UVA, until he took a trip to Blacksburg and found playing time in abundance.  That Buzz Williams is apparently a hell of a recruiter.  Say what you will but he's definitely injected some talent into a moribund program.  Enough to be a real factor in the ACC race?  No, not yet, but they seem to be working hard at leaving the laughingstock label behind.

Williams probably made the case to Allen that UVA wanted him but VT needed him, which is pretty much exactly how things stood.  Allen would've been a luxury, albeit one that would've helped smooth out the roster makeup.  There are plenty of worthy backcourt options already on the roster, though.  Any addition this offseason who would hit the roster this fall is icing on the icing.

-- The ACC is having its annual junketeering trip serious meeting week on Fancy Tropical Resort Island, Florida, during which they usually produce something worth talking about.  This year it's the fact that they'll stick with an eight-game football schedule and follow the SEC's lead in requiring every team to play at least one OOC Power Five conference team, starting in 2017.  That should make the "schedule for success" crowd happy, by which I mean not happy.**  Cue the calls for an annual rivalry game with Indiana from now til forever.

The eight-game schedule vote was surprisingly close, with an 8-6 tally as the margin in favor of staying at eight games instead of nine.  This is acceptable if they also abolish divisions, as will reportedly be discussed.  (It's also reasonable in light of having Notre Dame sorta-kinda on the schedule all the time.)

It's this last point which should be making all the waves.  The fact that the ACC is even bothering to discuss this is a giant flag, pointing in the direction of the August autonomy conference.  (At which the NCAA is widely expected to hand over various powers to the ACC, SEC, B1G, Big 12, and Pac-12 that they didn't have before.)  John Swofford publically lobbied for more flexibility in scheduling; that is, not having to have two divisions in order to play a CCG.  If the ACC is discussing the abolition of divisions, it's likely they have the advance go-ahead from the NCAA to do so and will get it formally in August.  For this reason, they may not necessarily announce anything coming out of Amelia Island, but there's hope yet.

I've already put forth my preferred scheduling model for a 14-team, 8-game league: three protected games and five rotating ones.  You would play teams A, B, C, D, and E in year one and F, G, H, I, and J in year two.  The pitfall, which UVA would have to lobby heavily to avoid, would be the temptation to make all the NC teams each others' protected games - we have to have UNC every year.

**I can't remember whether I've ever expressly made my feelings known on these pages about the "schedule for success" theory, which I despise as both wimpy and totally unworkable, but I'm sure it's worth a full post somewhere along the line.

1 comment:

Carlton Rogers said...

So would abolishing the divisions get rid of the CCG? If it won't, how would you pick who goes to the CG?