Friday, December 31, 2010

the recruit: David Watford

Name: David Watford
Position: QB
Hometown: Hampton
School: Hampton
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 180

ESPN: 76; three stars; #58 QB
Rivals: 5.5; three stars; VA #19
Scout: three stars; #70 QB

Other offers: Virginia Tech, West Virginia

This was a pretty frenetic summer for recruiting. In less than forty days and forty nights - June and July - twelve high school players committed to Mike London, ballooning the class from seven to nineteen. Most of them were players on the public radar, so July was a good time for feeling awfully optimistic about London's ability to reel in his targets.

David Watford was the exclamation point: a quarterback will always set off paroxysms of excitement no matter what the fanbase, especially if said quarterback is also targeted by one's rival, especially since this is the Virginia fanbase that has a slightly-overdeveloped predilection for running quarterbacks. Watford is all of the above, and he committed on the same day that two of VT's other primary targets announced their decision for North Carolina. So July 10 was a good day for sticking it to Tech.

Watford is one of two recruits who'll enroll early, which is an undeniable benefit but one that shouldn't be taken as a yellow brick road to the two-deep, as we saw with Michael Strauss this season. This is sort of a recurring theme: Watford is a lot of things that are legitimately exciting (a terrific scholar, for one), but not exactly to a transcendental degree. He is, for example, the first Hampton Crabber to pick UVA since his cousin Marques Hagans (you might remember him a little bit) in 2001. This is unlikely to be of great import for the future; Hagans was himself the first Crabber since who knows when to choose UVA, and that didn't exactly start a pipeline either.

The offense Watford runs at Hampton is a little bit limiting. Like Anthony Harris at LC Bird, Watford passed only about 10-12 times per game, resulting in undistinguished passing stats. Harris, though, was sort of a handoff robot; Watford runs the offense like a quarterback, just, one who runs the ball himself at least as often as he throws it. To his credit, he threw no interceptions at all this year, but that's at least partly an artifact of a system that calls a pass as a surprise rather than a staple.

Despite the limitations, the ratings services are all in agreement as to Watford's talents. Therein lies the death knell of the idea that Watford can compete to start in 2011: he'd have to physically dominate Ross Metheny, Mike Rocco, and Strauss in order to get the nod, because he's a year behind in the system. If he had that kind of physical talent he wouldn't be a unanimous mid-three-star. But as a running quarterback, he's got something to separate himself from the pack. (Assuming Miles Gooch ends up not a quarterback, which, probably.) That puts him in prime position to compete, and that competition will be best understood by knowing what Watford is and what he isn't. Isn't: a threat to show up on the two-deep in 2011, and an anointed heir-apparent. There's simply too much to learn of the demands of the college game and an offense that passes more than once or twice a drive. But, Watford is: a legitimate competitor for the quarterback job once he gets his feet underneath him, and that's regardless of the incumbent.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

game preview: Iowa State

Date/Time: December 30, 8:00

TV: Comcast Sports Network

History against the Cyclones: 1-1

Last matchup: ISU 81, UVA 79; 12/6/04

Last game: Seattle 59, UVA 53 (12/23); ISU 104, Chicago State 63 (12/21)

Opposing blogs: Clone Chronicles

KenPom stats:

National rank: UVA #101; ISU #51
Offense rank: UVA #105; ISU #72
Defense rank: UVA #106; ISU #36

Yo. The basketball team, and I, return from Christmas break only to come face to face with a Cyclone. Before the season this looked like one of the likeliest wins of the BCS-team games on the schedule, but Fred Hoiberg has his team doing very well and poised to greatly exceed the last-place expectations foisted upon them. Combined with UVA's pre-break loss to Seattle, this is no longer a game in which UVA should be considered the clear favorite. The good news is that Mike Scott should be much healthier than he was against Seattle and Will Sherrill will make his return, so Tony Bennett will once again have a full frontcourt to work with.


- Find the right combination. A sizable portion of Iowa State's roster is comprised of transfers waiting their turn, so as a result they run very thin. But unlike Virginia Tech which also uses a rotation of only about seven players, all types are represented. Diante Garrett is a real playmaker who can create for himself and his teammates. Jamie Vanderbeken is a true post-up center at 6'11". Scott Christopherson is hitting on more than 50% of his 3's. Jake Anderson is a quick guard with a nose for loose balls and long rebounds. It goes on; the point is that ISU has a group of players that has every skill you'd want. But those will be the players on the court; if Christopherson is having an off-night, or if Jontel Evans proves able to harass Garrett into some turnovers, or if Melvin Ejim can't handle Sherrill's versatility, Hoiberg doesn't have other options to go to. UVA has a deeper bench - Tony Bennett's challenge tonight is to tinker and find the right combination of players to tilt the matchups in our favor.

- Hit some shots please. Please.

- Atmosphere. Unfortunately it's still winter break. But, as with Oregon, ISU is getting their first true road test of the season. They've yet to play a game outside the state of Iowa; the Cyclones' only two road games were a loss at NIU and a win over Iowa. An early lead would go a long way toward some atmosphere at the JPJA and perhaps rattle a few of ISU's younger players.

- Keep Diante Garrett outside. Garrett can hit everything consistently but three-pointers - he's a little weak there but he likes shooting them anyway. With 17.2 points and 6 assists per game, Garrett creates about 40% of ISU's offense on his own. The odds for UVA increase significantly if Garrett is forced by his defenders - who will probably be Jontel Evans and Mu Farrakhan for the most part - to take his shots and make his passes from outside the arc.


- Three-point barrage. ISU likes shooting 'em, and UVA gives 'em up. Even Vanderbeken, the 6'11" galoot, can hit them - in fact, he's something of a matchup nightmare since he's the team's second-best three-point shooter. If he and Christopherson start knocking them down it'll be a very long night.

- Individual matchups. It's likely that, one-on-one, ISU will win the matchups battle. Garrett is the best player on the court. UVA has no individual answer for Vanderbeken. And so on. If UVA allows the game to be decided by individual matchups, doesn't trap wisely on defense, and doesn't move without the ball on offense (thus forcing the man with the ball to beat his man one-on-one), it's likely to be a lost cause. If UVA is to win this game, it'll have to be with a huge assist from the Bennett's system and X's and O's.


ISU has been impressive in the early going, suffering only a couple losses, and close ones to decent teams at that. They've destroyed the teams they should destroy and they've racked up impressive stats along the way. Very metrics-friendly season so far. Despite that, they've struggled in their games against upper-level teams and their strength of schedule is piss-poor. They lost at home to California and came close to losing to Iowa and believe me when I say Iowa sucks rather fiercely. The respective seasons of the two teams so far have swung the pendulum of expectations from UVA to ISU, but playing the game on our home court and the thinness of ISU's rotation conspire to make this game a pure coin-flip. This one will come down to the brass tacks of shooting and execution, and the team that does them better will win.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

christmas wrap

It's Christmastime, the time of blessed hope and salvation and biblically exciting stuff like that, so I'll send you off into the holiday break proclaiming the good news about a few things that probably have UVA fans a little bit jittery.

- Mike Scott. "ARGH" almost turned into "ARRRRGGHGGGHGHGHHG" when it was learned about half an hour before the Oregon game tipped off that Scott had had ankle surgery and would be out of the lineup.....and then his absence nearly caused a loss to one of the nation's utter worst teams. Fortunately, the Hoos escaped with a 50-49 win over Norfolk State (after handling Oregon impressively which would have been a lot more exciting had they not just lost to Idaho last night.) Assane Sene's tip of KT Harrell's missed free throw was the difference between gnashing our collective teeth over a loss that should never happen, and shrugging our collective shoulders in a way that says, "well, we play five freshmen, what did you expect?"

Because Scott's surgery was one of those arthroscopic deals, hope remains intact that he (and possibly Will Sherrill too) can be back for the Iowa State game on New Year's Eve Eve. The wake-up call sent by Norfolk State should remind everyone that tonight's Seattle game shouldn't be taken for granted either, but there still remains a very large, shiny silver lining to these two injuries: minutes for Akil Mitchell and Will Regan that wouldn't otherwise be there. Mitchell snagged six boards in 17 minutes against Norfolk State, so things are looking up on the development front.

- Ralph Friedgen. The Fridge's firing at Maryland has a lot of media wonks wondering, "COTY fired after an 8-4 season? Why, how can this be??" Actually, it's pretty logical. Disappointing to those of us who hoped that this season would give the Maryland admin reason to allow their program to further stagnate for a couple more years, but logical nonetheless. It's not hard to look at Maryland's roster and incoming prospects and realize that 8-4 is about the peak for the program as it is now. If 8-4 and a crappy invite to the Military Bowl is the best you'll ever do under the current coach, it's time to cut bait. The Terps are totally unable to protect this house on the recruiting trail: Maryland is, pound for pound, one of the better states in the country for football talent, and these days teams all around the East Coast and Midwest just waltz in there and take what they want. Of the top 20 prospects in Maryland, the Fridge convinced just two of them to commit to the Twerps, and one of them (Jeremiah Hendy) just decommitted. UVA has five of the Rivals top 20 and could add a sixth in Darius Jennings. You can see why the Maryland brass thinks this is an unacceptable situation.

The unfortunate part of this is that Maryland is after Mike Leach, and they'll probably get him. Some folks, myself included, were hoping they'd hire Mike Locksley from New Mexico, but they're not that stupid. However. Leach is well known for being an offensive genius and for turning Texas Tech into a national title contender, if only briefly. Even so, his teams were more often of the 8-5 variety than the 11-2 type. And even in his better years, 9-win type seasons, he stumbled too frequently against the Colorados of the world to pose a major Big 12 threat. Against ACC competition that doesn't feature a Texas or an Oklahoma, Maryland fans will be thinking multiple Orange Bowls with Leach, but don't you worry: if Mike London is the right guy for our program, then he'll win his share and then some against Maryland. And if not, then it won't matter who coaches Maryland.

- Demetrious Nicholson: yessss. Consider the defensive back situation moved up a peg from "still worrisome" to "more or less addressed." UVA adds another marquee name to the '11 class, and a threat to start from Day 1. Cornerback is now officially the strength of the class, with Nicholson teaming up with Brandon Phelps (among others) to wrest the title from the defensive line.

Recruiting board is updated accordingly, as is the depth chart because it needed it. (The recruiting board also sees the departure of Travis Hughes to UNC and Blake Countess to Michigan. Both are about the best result I could hope for without them actually committing to UVA: Hughes' other choices were VT and Maryland.)

That finishes it up. Christmas break commences now. As mentioned earlier, posting resumes on either the 28th or 29th, but probably the 29th since I have a busy 28th. Unless something sufficiently awesome happens between now and then, and I feel like breaking out the laptop. Merry Christmas. Here's hoping Santa brings you everything you asked for, and with luck he'll stop by the McCue Center chimney and drop off a playmaking wide receiver.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

the recruit: Darius Lee

Name: Darius Lee
Position: OLB
Hometown: Alexandria
School: St. Stephens & St. Agnes
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 205

ESPN: 78; three stars; #65 OLB
Rivals: 5.4; two stars
Scout: two stars; #104 S

Other offers: Duke, Kansas State

Usually there's a recruit in every class that makes me go, "oh yeah, he's there too." Doesn't have anything to do with star ratings and the like; this year, it happens to be Darius Lee, largely because his recruitment was so short and his high-school team is low-profile. Lee appeared once or twice on a few radars, committed at the end of the last wave of verbals (and in among three of the state's higher-profile players at very-high-profile programs) and then played his way to a one-win season on one of the state's worst teams.

Because of the small-time team, Lee had to go to camp to get each one of his offers, but he earned one at every camp he went to. At 205 pounds he's clearly outgrown safety (at least in London's program - under Groh he probably would not have) and will be an outside linebacker. But he's going to have to pack on about 20 pounds first, because tight ends eat 205-pound linebackers alive.

Two of the services give him the ranking you'd expect for a three-offer guy from a terrible program; ESPN is unexpectedly effusive. To them he's the best linebacker in the class:

Lee may not be an immediate starter however if a red shirt year is not deemed necessary he could see early situational playing time on defense and special teams.
Earlier in the writeup they suggest that he's already big enough to play linebacker, which he's not. So a redshirt year will be deemed necessary. But the way the depth chart shakes out, that was going to happen anyway.

Thing about the depth chart is, there were ten scholarship linebackers on it this year and six were sophomores. Two of those sophomores were starters (Walcott, Reynolds) and one of them (Greer) got enough playing time that he might as well have been. Until that large clod of players moves its way through the system, which will take two more years, none of the three or four linebacker commits will see any meaningful playing time on defense. Lee, and the rest of the linebackers in his class, will be redshirt sophomores when their time comes.

When that happens, though, it'll happen in a big way. Two years is more than enough time for a group of players to develop into contributors, so Lee has an excellent chance of being a three-year starter and should be a lock for significant playing time for the duration of those three years, starter or not. Henry Coley is the only player between Lee's class and the giant sophomore cluster. Whether or not a player currently slotted as an "athlete" (such as Kevin Green) ends up at linebacker is probably immaterial to Lee's playing time. If he's as quick as advertised by ESPN, that sophomore year should remind you of the 2010 version of Laroy Reynolds.

P.S.: If I may be excused for borrowing a small piece of TheSabre's older pay content to make a point:

TheSabre: Do you know what you want to major in at UVa?

Darius Lee:
"I think I'm going to major in Kinesiology and minor Business Law."

How did you become interested in those areas?

Darius Lee: "
When I started training with Jordan Haden's dad, I started taking a liking to it. That's when it all started. Then I went down to Dallas to visit family and they knew a trainer as well. I came away liking it more. I like helping people get better, telling them what to eat and helping them out."

Unfortunately Darius won't be majoring in kinesiology because UVA doesn't offer a kinesiology major. When I said there are players who excel at football, know they're still a long long longshot for the NFL, and want to use their football skills to set them up for their post-college careers because that's what they're good at, this is what I meant. Darius Lee is a 3.3 student at an excellent Alexandria private school. He's not interested in kinesiology because he's not smart enough for a "real" major, he's interested in it because he's interested in it.

I guess you could say that UVA was able to attract this kind of player without a kinesiology major anyway so why do we need one, but how many others are we missing out on? Lee has the kind of academic profile that ought to make alums and fans alike ecstatic to have him as a student-athlete and future graduate. This is the kind of major the school needs to offer if it's serious about better academic support for its athletes.

Monday, December 20, 2010

programming note

It probably hasn't escaped your notice that Christmas is nigh upon us, so let me give you an idea of what to expect over the Christmas weekend. Tomorrow, I'll profile Darius Lee, whose lucky self is the next of UVA's commitments in the hopper. Wednesday I'll catch up on the news, update things, and then that evening I'm off to Atlanta to celebrate a family Christmas. (With family Duke fans. Wish me luck.) Regular posting resumes maybe Tuesday the 28th, but probably more like Wednesday the 29th.

season preview: Florida State

Florida State Seminoles

Media prediction: 5th

Last season:

Record: 22-10 (10-6), 3rd in ACC
Postseason: NCAA 9 seed; lost in 1st round
KenPom: 24th of 347

Returning scoring: 73.5%
Returning rebounding: 65.2%
Returning assists: 87.8%

2009-'10 All-ACC:

1st team: none
2nd team: none
3rd team: F Chris Singleton, F Solomon Alabi
Rookie: G Michael Snaer
Defensive: F Chris Singleton, F Solomon Alabi


PG: Derwin Kitchen (Sr.)
G: Michael Snaer (So.)
G: Deividas Dulkys (Jr.)
F: Chris Singleton (Jr.)
C: Xavier Gibson (Jr.)


F Bernard James (Jr.)
F Okaro White (Fr.)
G Luke Loucks (Jr.)
G Ian Miller (Fr.)

Coach: Leonard Hamilton (9th season)


Once: Boston College (H), Duke (H), Georgia Tech (A), Maryland (A), Virginia (H), Virginia Tech (A)
Twice: Clemson, Miami, North Carolina, NC State, Wake Forest

The first and last thing about Florida State these days is always defense. Leonard Hamilton has developed the Seminoles into one of the country's elite defensive teams, spearheaded (haw!) by Chris Singleton, the ACC DPOY as just a sophomore last season. Despite playing one of the faster games in the country, FSU has held every opponent but one under 70 points this year; even in their losses their opponents didn't top 60.

Everything starts with Singleton, a terrific athlete with few weaknesses in his game. Singleton has length and quicks and can by himself take eight or ten points off the board for the opposition. He's also a scorer, with the caveat that he's not a great three-point shooter.

The fact that Singleton is the best scorer FSU has is probably a little bit of a liability, though, because Singleton is an elite defensive player but merely a very good offensive one. The lack of a great scorer is what keeps this FSU team from the upper echelons of the national conversation. FSU has three-point options in Deividas Dulkys and Michael Snaer, and a quality point guard in Derwin Kitchen, but all of them are best suited to play a role, not take over a game.

One thing FSU has that most teams don't is a good scoring center. Xavier Gibson acts as something of an (I am so sorry about this) X-factor for the Noles. He's averaging seven points a game and is capable of double-digits, but he's also somewhat prone to foul trouble and turnover trouble. Still, you don't find as many 6'11" scorers as you'd like, and Gibson is also one of the team's best free-throw shooters, ensuring that FSU will win the majority of their battles in the paint. Off the bench, Okaro White and former Air Force staff sergeant Bernard James provide better frontcourt depth than most teams can boast.

Put it all together and the result is a Florida State team that should have little trouble in the ACC's nightly slog through January and February, but has a few key weaknesses that keep them from being one of the nation's best. Given a true lead scorer, preferably one who can play on the perimeter such as BC's Reggie Jackson, the Noles could be a national title darkhorse (if not outright contender) the way they play defense. Unfortunately they lack that, and they also turn the ball over far too often (nearly 25% of their possessions according to KenPom) to make a real national threat of themselves. FSU should be a tournament team and one of the toughest matchups in the ACC, but not much more than a Sweet 16 contender, if that.

Friday, December 17, 2010


Li'l buggers are hard to shoot.

season preview: Duke

Duke Blue Devils

Media prediction: 1st

Last season:

Record: 35-5 (13-3) - ACC 1st seed
Postseason: NCAA 1 seed, national champions
KenPom: 1st of 347

Returning scoring: 62.9%
Returning rebounding: 51.5%
Returning assists: 47.9%

2009-'10 All-ACC:

1st team: G Jon Scheyer, F Kyle Singler
2nd team: G Nolan Smith
3rd team: none
Rookie: none
Defensive: F Lance Thomas


PG: Andre Dawkins (So.)
SG: Nolan Smith (Sr.)
SF: Kyle Singler (Sr.)
PF: Mason Plumlee (So.)
C: Ryan Kelly (So.)


G Seth Curry (So.)
F Miles Plumlee (Jr.)

Coach: Mike Krzyzewski (30th season)


Once: Boston College (H), Clemson (H), Florida State (A), Georgia Tech (H), Virginia Tech (A), Wake Forest (A)
Twice: Maryland, Miami, North Carolina, NC State, Virginia

I'm mailing this one in and I'm not even ashamed to do it. Duke might be missing Kyrie Irving(and this preview assumes that he'll miss the season) but you don't need me to tell you they're good. The loss of Irving adjusts their expectations downward from repeat national champs to Final Four only. Boo hoo. With a somewhat watered-down ACC it will come as a complete surprise if they lose more than two games all year.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

game preview: Oregon

Date/Time: December 17; 8:00

TV: Comcast Sportsnet

History against the Ducks: 0-0

Last matchup: never

Last game: UVA 54, Radford 44 (12/7); UO 74, Jacksonville St. 56 (12/13)

Opposing blogs: Addicted to Quack

KenPom stats:

National rank: UVA #84; UO #92
Offense: UVA #61; UO #107
Defense: UVA #124; UO #83

The worst part of the UVA athletic year is almost over, but the wait should be worth it. In one of the best matchups of Friday evening and one of the best tests of the readiness of this UVA squad, Oregon visits the JPJA for the first basketball game ever between these two schools. Getting a win would be a big boost for the team and the conference.


- Win the Scott-Catron battle. Like UVA, Oregon's top player is a power forward. Joevan Catron is a more efficient scorer than Scott, but Scott is a better rebounder and two inches taller. Both are very experienced seniors. Look for Scott to try out one of his favorite moves - the fallaway jumper from the post - against Catron, and if it's successful, Oregon won't have an answer for Scott all night long.

- Crash the defensive boards hard, and ignore the offensive glass. Tony Bennett emphasizes getting back on defense over crashing the offensive boards, and this is a good game to play that strategy hard. Denying Oregon the fast break will be important. On the flip side, Oregon is a short team. One of the shortest in the country. Bennett will be tempted to go small to match up with Oregon's quickness, but there's something to be said for having a tree in the middle to clean up missed shots. Oregon will have a very hard time getting second-chance points if our taller players are clogging the lane because they're all after the rebound. If UVA proves too successful at getting defensive rebounds, Oregon will be forced to get back on defense and abandon the press, and that tilts the game just the way Bennett likes it.

- Big lead early. Those are prone to disappearing (see the Wichita State game) but less so here. Oregon is playing its first game away from friendly crowds (they did play one neutral site game - in Portland) and though the crowd will probably be a little sparse due to the end of the term, it's still Oregon's first exposure this year to some real travel. Jumping out to an early lead should help remind Oregon that they're not in the Mac anymore.

- Mark E.J. Singler. UVA has been susceptible to the three, and Singler is Oregon's only threat from deep. It might be wise to make an exception to the pack-line here; Singler's defender should stick closer to him than the pack-line allows. Limiting his ability to hit from behind the arc will essentially take the three entirely out of Oregon's arsenal.


- Miss too many three-pointers. In a game like this, hitting your jump shots is even more important than usual. Missed threes make for long rebounds, which can set up a chain reaction of badness: long rebound leads to fast break, fast break leads to easy layup, easy layup leads to a press, press leads to turnovers and the chance to build up a lot of momentum the wrong way. Three-pointers are fine if they're letting UVA shoot open ones, but if at all possible UVA should look for points in the paint first.

- Finals hangover. Typically UVA plays a supercrap opponent in this first game after final exams, and typically they struggle anyway. Last year it was NJIT, a hideous game that infuriated Tony Bennett. A couple years before that, UVA let Hampton play them point for point. In each game, the first half was played apparently in a post-exam fog, and only in the second half did the team pull away for the win. Here, a post-exam fog will probably mean a 20-point halftime deficit.

- Don't take care of the ball. Oregon is coached by Dana Altman, who brought a love of the full-court press to Oregon where it matches well with their smaller, quicker lineup. Oregon is good at creating turnovers and doesn't give up too many, either. They play a much faster-paced game than UVA prefers - not because of a frenetic offensive style, but because they turn steals into fast-break points. UVA tends to be either excellent or disastrous when it comes to taking care of the ball; the former is preferred.


Fairly well, I think, but by a slim margin. With Sammy Zeglinski back in the lineup and essentially at full-go, that's an extra veteran ballhandler in the rotation whose presence will give Bennett some options. And Joevan Catron is a good player, but in this game the Hoos have the best player on the court in Mike Scott, who's outstanding in all facets of the game.

The Ducks were very competitive in a loss to Missouri, but that was on their home court and they've also struggled in games they shouldn't, losing a surprise one to San Jose State. They're also a dead-terrible three-point shooting team. Only E.J. Singler's performance of better than 50% from behind the arc prevents them from an atrocious aggregate number. On paper, this is a game UVA should win, particularly if they can dictate the pace. Still: young team, finals hangover, empty-ish gym, etc. etc. I like the odds of a win, and this is the kind of game that if UVA can pull it off, it'll be another step toward banishment of a lot of old, bad habits.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

big-picture roster-building

Time for one final big-picture look at the recruiting class of 2011. Signing Day is in, oh, about seven weeks, and in about a month I'll debut the 2012 recruiting board. First, get up to speed by checking out the recruiting board as it stands now, and the updates:

- Re-added WR Dominique Terrell to green. Terrell was long thought to be choosing between VT and WVU, and UVA was far enough out of the picture that I long ago dropped him from the red section. He's now a name to watch.

- Re-added LB Nick Menocal to red. UVA was briefly in pursuit of Menocal before he committed to Miami in June; with Miami undergoing regime change, Menocal has opened things up just a little bit. If you ask me he'll be a Cane at the end; he appears to be simply going about things the right way and re-evaluating after a sea change. UVA will make an effort, but I don't think it'll matter. Nevertheless, he'll hang out here for a while.

- Moved LB Travis Hughes from green to yellow. Going....going.....soon to be gone. The truly unfortunate thing is, he's probably going to land at one of our three biggest rivals.

- Moved WR Darius Jennings from green to blue.

- Moved CB Jeremiah Hendy from red to green. Vanderbilt's hiring of Maryland's OC and coach-in-waiting James Franklin caused Hendy to decommit and is the catalyst for the upward moves for Hendy and Jennings.

- Moved DE Horace Arkadie from green to blue.

- Removed S Avery Walls, who committed to Cal.

At the moment there are 24 commitments, and two early enrollees are expected. One is David Watford; the other name is behind various paywalls but maybe you know who it is anyway. (Edit: it's Daquan Romero, and here's the first place I've seen the name outside of a paywall so there you go.) At any rate, for purposes of NCAA rules, the 2011 class at this point includes 22 players. Additionally, it's probable that not every single one of them will qualify, so it's clear by now the coaches will zoom past 25 verbal commitments and sign very close to that many on Signing Day. (Those who enroll in January will have no need to sign.)

London is actually in a great spot: he has the ability to be choosy with who he takes a commitment from, and is in terrific position for several of those that he would. Of the honestly realistic possibilities, here's one man's guess on how things stand:

- Demetrious Nicholson and Darius Jennings will eventually be Cavaliers. Nicholson is an excellent student, he plays a position of great need, and the fit is just too right for the choice to be anything else. UVA was in a solid second place for Jennings before Franklin left Maryland, and despite the fact that Jennings has Ohio State on his list, I think UVA will overcome that and get Jennings's commitment in January.

- Horace Arkadie, Jeremiah Hendy, and Dominique Terrell will not be Cavaliers, but it wouldn't surprise me if I were wrong. I think ultimately Arkadie will stay closer to home and play for Arkansas, and for no necessarily good reason I think Hendy will end up at Iowa. As for Terrell, my guess is the lead that VT built up on him over the summer and fall will end up winning the day. In these three cases, though, I wouldn't bat an eye if any of them did verbal to UVA. I think I'm most likely to be wrong about Hendy, followed by Terrell, and then Arkadie.

- Nobody in yellow or red will end up at UVA. As the recruiting year drags on, the "yellow" prospects slip further and further away. Way things go. Some of them are there because UVA is sort of using them as placeholders; not so much that they'd automatically commit to UVA if they could, but I think if London put the full-court press on, say, Brandon Reddish or Troy Gray, they'd commit. The full-court press is elsewhere, though.

- Demetri Knowles will commit to UVA if London misses out on both Jennings and Terrell. Knowles could probably have committed any time between June and September and London would have gone "woot woot." Once things got late, though, and the squeeze came on, and guys like Jennings started to make their inner feelings known, Knowles was given the Heisman treatment a little bit. I'd guess the ship hasn't completely sailed here, but if Jennings gets on board, which I think he will, they'll pull the lines in and hoist the sails.


Now, how to fit all these people in? As you know, the rules say you can sign 25, and you can't have more than 85 on scholarship come fall. The team breaks down like this for now:

- 13 seniors
- 22 juniors
- 18 sophomores
- 13 freshmen
- 14 redshirted freshmen

The math majors among you will note that that adds up to 80, meaning there'd be room for 18 if every player on the depth chart returned. Obviously that won't happen. This being UVA, you can figure that three or four players will be dismissed for the usual array of numbnuttery ranging from academic troubles to law-type troubles, or just quit the team or transfer. But some decisions will have to be made on fifth-year seniors.

Of the 22 juniors, five have never redshirted and thus will almost definitely (barring some strangeness or the aforementioned numbnuttery) return as seniors: those are Jared Detrick, Jimmy Howell, Cam Johnson, Rodney McLeod, and Austin Pasztor. Even if they were going to be fifth-years, only Detrick would be in any danger at all of losing his scholarship; the rest are crucial to the team.

Of the other 17 players, nearly all are also on the two-deep. Many are irreplaceable or nearly so: Max Milien, Kris Burd, Anthony Mihota, Zane Parr, Nick Jenkins, Chase Minnifield, and Corey Mosley are all starters. Some of them (the defensive backs, for example) play a position that has no depth at all. For that reason, Dom Joseph will be back; so will Matt Snyder and Matt Conrath, who do their jobs far too well to be let go.

That's 15 players, leaving seven who I do think are at some risk of not being asked back. In order from most likely to least likely to depart (again, one man's guess), they are:

- Ray Keys. He walked on during his sophomore year; his freshman year was already lost to the winds because NCAA rules don't let you just keep your eligibility the whole time you're there. I'd guess his scholarship was given him with the understanding that he was graduating after this year anyway.

- Chris Hinkebein or Robert Randolph. Two kickers on scholarship is a luxury we can't afford. I anticipate a kicking duel in spring camp. If Hinkebein can develop consistency kicking field goals, he could be the full-time 2011 kicker since he's got about 15-20 yards of kickoff distance on Randolph. But Randolph is the more dependable kicker where scoring points is involved, so he's more likely to win the job; Drew Jarrett could take over kickoffs if Randolph still can't get it past the 5-yard line.

- Terrence Fells-Danzer. UVA operated just fine this year with only two fullbacks (Ryan Cobb redshirted) and now that Cobb can take the shirt off, Milien will hang on to the job and TFD will probably be an odd man out.

- Jared Green. There's enough receiver depth to absorb the loss of Green, who's got speed but has never been able to crack the rotation full-time. Burd, Snyder, and Tim Smith make for a quality top three, and there are younger players waiting in the wings.

- Aaron Taliaferro. Now we're really getting into the contributors. Despite his Lazarus-esque rise from the dead in spring and fall camp, Taliaferro still got outplayed by Steve Greer, who's still got too much of a head for football to be left off the field. Greer should take over the MLB position full-time with Darnell Carter graduating. Taliaferro got moved to the outside midseason in an effort to find a better linebacker combination, and both starters on the outside return next year as juniors with plenty of capable backups waiting in the wings.

- Landon Bradley. Bit of a surprise, I bet you're thinking. Bradley had gotten reasonably well-established as the right tackle and was much improved over 2009. But his spate of injuries and the surgery required to recover from them will cause him to miss spring camp and maybe even part of the fall. If the scholarship situation gets extreme, Bradley could end up with a medical scholarship instead of a football one.

Note that I said "extreme." Just because these seven players are listed doesn't mean I think they'll all not return. I'd be very, very surprised if the cuts went as deep as Taliaferro and Bradley. What you see is what I think the priority looks like, with Keys being the first not to be asked back if the combination of failure to qualify and other attrition don't conspire to fit the whole recruiting class in, and then a kicker, and so on and so forth, progressing down the list.

Best guess: Two to four attrites, a failure or two by an '11 recruit to be academically qualified, and two or three fifth-years not asked back, and you end up with a tidy 85 by fall. Unlike Alabama where players are routinely shoveled off to medical-scholarship land as punishment for failing to crack the two-deep by their junior year, this is UVA: tricky challenges in making the limit of 85 always take care of themselves, often enough thanks to those pesky professors who keep assigning suboptimal grades to our players. And the best part is this: we can't ever be accused of fudging the numbers by shunting off a few backups to spend a year at PVCC because they always seem to be the players we can least afford to lose. Like, you know, our starting quarterback. Yay! Chances are the news will drop at some point in the next couple months that someone we were all really counting on won't have made the grade, and we can once again go through the whole ARGH routine. C'est la vie, but it's also the flip side of the coin of having all these exciting possibilities to finish up the 2011 recruiting class.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

the case for athletic majors

It's something that simmers up every now and then, with Jerry Ratcliffe's series of articles in the CDP the latest effort at pushing the University to consider re-evaluating its relationship between the school's academic side and its revenue sports. The usual centerpiece of the debate is the idea of adding majors that are more athletics-friendly than the ones we have now.

One caveat which is usually thrown in the debate and which is usually little more than a straw man is that "any new major must benefit the academic community at large." This distracts from the issue. A good football team is a benefit to the school. A good football team brings in publicity. Publicity brings in money. Teresa Sullivan has been at the University of Texas and the University of Michigan; two of the finest state schools in the country, and two which have benefited tremendously from having a powerhouse football team. But aside from that, it's a slap in the face to the football players and it runs counter to the notion of a student-athlete, to suggest that they are in a separate category from the rest of the students. Only here to play football, after which we're done with them. If the Maison Francaise needed renovating, it'd be ridiculous to ignore it because it benefits only those French majors that wanted an immersion program and not the "academic community at large." You wouldn't let the house disintegrate because it doesn't benefit chem majors, and the Maison Francaise is a lot smaller than the football team.

The usual major for a football player, as Ratcliffe points out, is anthropology, sociology, or psychology. It's quite the charade to pretend football players are going to be anthropologists when they graduate. The point is not to set it up so that football players can coast through. The point is to offer relevant majors, not easy majors. Usually, a football player's best skill is - get this - football. And that's true even for most of those who have no shot at the NFL. Quite a few of them will want to use that skill of theirs to earn a living, though, even if its not on the field. Why not offer a field of study that will help that out? We're not talking about "general studies" here. If a player wants to be a strength and conditioning coach, a kinesiology degree is what he needs. If he wants to go into the media, try communications. UVa offers neither of these.

Stanford offers communications, and how many of us think their academic reputation suffers for it? Michigan has a School of Kinesiology, and still manages to be a top academic school. U-M's School of Kinesiology has roughly 800 undergrads; adjusting for the relative sizes of the two universities, a similar program at UVa could attract perhaps 250-300 people when it gets up to speed. The football team isn't that large. Neither is the landscape architecture program or the Jewish Studies program, but we maintain them anyway.

Of course, the benefits of new programs could be debatable. I do think it would make UVa more attractive to potential recruits; certainly, it would help with the negative recruiting our coaches have to deal with. (Of course, coaches that use the "Why would you go where you can't graduate?" line are setting themselves up to have Mike London tell a kid, "Frank Beamer may think you're too stupid to graduate from UVA, but we don't.") But how many recruits, how many wins it'll result in, sure....that's debatable. Here's what the addition of a new major won't do:

- Cheapen existing or future degrees.
- Damage existing or future research endeavors.
- Cost the school its top professors.
- Cost the school its reputation.
- Cost the school its rankings.

You could argue that the creation of new programs will cost money and take up space that might have to be diverted from other programs. That's a consideration. But here's another one: the University has expanded admissions to the point where it's now 1,500 students larger than it was when I entered as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed first year. That's about $25 million per year in extra tuition dollars, and it'll be expanding even faster in the next decade. So, the school's cash flow is not shrinking. It can be done.

Anyone who thinks UVa should not try for excellence in football and basketball is in the wrong place. The ideals of the Ivy League are those of sacrificing sports in favor of academic.....I guess you'd call it "purity." Academic purity. However you put it, it's an attitude that academics are the only thing worth pursuing to the pinnacle. Fine for them, but I prefer a University that achieves excellence in everything it sets out to do. Even Oxford and Cambridge try like hell to beat each other in rowing. If I agreed with the Ivy League approach, I'd have applied to an Ivy League school; anyone who feels UVa should cut corners in football and basketball because it might risk what we've achieved in the academic world should have done the same. The school doesn't exist to serve football, but an investment in academics designed to improve performance on the football field is the correct acknowledgement of what football can do for the school.

Monday, December 13, 2010

season preview: Clemson

Clemson Tigers

Media prediction: 7th

Last season:

Record: 21-11 (9-7) - ACC 6th seed
Postseason: NCAA 7 seed; lost in first round
KenPom: 20th of 347

Returning scoring: 69.7%
Returning rebounding: 59.7%
Returning assists: 70.7%

2009-'10 All-ACC:

1st team: F Trevor Booker
2nd team: none
3rd team: none
Rookie: none
Defensive: F Trevor Booker


G: Andre Young (Jr.)
G: Demontez Stitt (Sr.)
G: Tanner Smith (Jr.)
PF: Jerai Grant (Sr.)
C: Devin Booker (So.)


F Milton Jennings (So.)
G Cory Stanton (Fr.)
F Bryan Narcisse (Jr.)

Coach: Brad Brownell (1st season)


Once: Boston College (H), Duke (A), Maryland (A), Virginia (A), Virginia Tech (H), Wake Forest (H)
Twice: Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, NC State

The perception has been that Brad Brownell walked into the best situation of any of the new ACC coaches of the past couple years. Clemson's a tournament team with plenty of returning tournament talent, and the coaching change wasn't because the team was underperforming, it was because Oliver Purnell up and left all of a sudden for DePaul. Nobody's really figured out the inner workings of Purnell's mind yet, but it took away one of my most foolproof rules for filling out my yearly brackets: when in doubt, never bet on Oliver Purnell.

Anyway, Brownell's job might be tougher than it appears. The flip side of walking into a good situation is that you don't want to be the guy who screws it up, and thanks to the usual growing pains when a new coach installs a new system, there will always be people who think you did.

Purnell's basic plan was to run around the court a lot, press a ton, tire out the other team, and not concern himself overmuch with nitpicky things like where were your feet on that screen. Just out-athlete the other team, run some plays to take advantage of that, and let the chips fall where they may. Brownell, like most coaches, is more of a system coach. Not much full-court pressing any more and more emphasis on being in the right place at the right time. Clemson is a veteran group that's not used to this, and they've been unimpressive so far as a result. Their depth took a slight hit, too, with the loss of forward Noel Johnson, who quit the team and will transfer at the end of the semester.

Clemson is not a big team, but they're fairly well-rounded in the scoring department, the exception to that being they have no really dependable three-point shooter. The go-to player, if there is one, is Demontez Stitt, a talented but not especially frightening player with average size. The diminutive Andre Young is the closest thing Clemson has to a point guard, and Tanner Smith is a third guard in the lineup who operates as something of a quasi-small forward. All can score; none will take over a game.

The primary frontcourt rotation is a trio of similarly-sized players in Jerai Grant, Devin Booker, and Milton Jennings, all of whom see more or less equal time on the court the same as the three guards. Again, all can score, none can dominate. Purnell's philosophy didn't leave much room for a tall, shot-blocking center, and none of these guys are proper fives. The mold calls for a bulldozing power forward, ideally a Mike Scott type. Grant is the closest they have to that, but he's little more than a facsimile, albeit one who blocks a lot more shots (he's got 1.6 per game so far this year and 1.7 last year.) If Clemson needs a really tall guy in the lineup for defensive purposes, they'll go to their bench for 7'2" Romanian center Catalin Baciu.

If this all sounds like damning with faint praise, it kind of is. The upside of Clemson's lineup is that you have to be disciplined on defense and not wander away from anyone, because most of the time, all five players on the court are a threat to score. But not a major threat to score, not if you play your assignment. There are no game-breakers in the rotation, nobody that's a real threat to explode and carry his team to victory when the rest of the team isn't up to snuff. And they're a conference bottom-dweller when it comes to three-point shooting (a major bonus for UVA when it comes time for that game.) Stitt can occasionally go off, but he's more likely to score some of the quietest 15 points you've ever seen on a basketball court. Part of this is because the new system won't let anyone go off on an athletic freak show, but in fairness to Brownell the numbers (from KenPom) didn't bear out the frenetic, run'n'gun reputation of Purnell's teams. This is a veteran team with plenty of returning talent, and as such should be competitive most nights in the conference. But a middling finish is in the cards, and (having blown their chances at any quality OOC wins unless you count a future matchup at Charleston) so is an NIT berth.

Friday, December 10, 2010

suggestion box

UVA finds itself in a catch-22 with its revenue sports. People won't pack the seats until the teams start winning more, but half-empty stadiums are a real ball-and-chain on the teams' efforts to win. We the fans can't put wins into the win column, but we can do something about filling the seats. But it's too easy to tell people they need to get their butts in gear and not so easy to get past all the obstacles to it. Money, time, convenience, and any number of other things in peoples' lives that also demand those things from fans. So until the NCAA Tournaments and bowl games start rolling our way in record numbers, the UVA athletic department needs to step up and give fans a reason to support a team that might win, rather than one that does.

It's not for lack of trying, though. They've had mixed results. The football scrimmage at ODU was a thing of genius, as was the Building of a Program show. Given those things plus the coaching change that people demanded, no doubt there's a handful of people who we have good reason to be pissed at - for demanding this stuff as a condition of their presence at games and then still not showing up. Other ideas from the department: not so much. The white-out? Too recycled. "Sabre", the horse mascot? Poor guy was doomed from the start. (Our VT blog friends had a field day with "Snuggles the Wahorse," which, actually, is way too hilarious a name to be mad at them for.)

So what should the school do to gin up more fan support? Glad you asked:

1) Bring back Seal.

One of the lesser known pieces of Wahoo lore is that, back in the day, UVA had a canine mascot. Two, actually, both friendly mutts. The first was Beta, who shared a namesake fraternity with Beta Bridge. The second, from the '40s and '50s, was Seal. Both were beloved enough by the University community that their graves can be found in the University Cemetery.

Beta and Seal were essentially strays that were adopted by the community at large, but both were brought to the sidelines of football games home and away. There's a real genuine-ness to them. For the AD to find a black mutt somewhere and declare it a new mascot would feel a bit contrived as compared to the authenticity of the Beta and Seal stories, but then, aren't most mascots? For whatever reason, the school has made several attempts to foist another mascot on us: The Hoo, Li'l Hoo (the inflatable thing), and most recently Snuggles the Wahorse (I can't help myself.) The horse was panned as childish, but then, mascots aren't exactly out there to fire up the grown-ups. So to bring back a dog would hardly be less contrived than mimicking other schools with inflatable mascots whose one party trick is to turn upside down and bounce around on his head.

The care and feeding of the new Seal would be easy; simply create a new student organization in the fine tradition of student governance and let them run the show. It's a tried-and-true model - even Texas's famed Bevo is under the watchful eye of students. So is the Ramblin' Wreck at GT, and that's a priceless and nigh-irreplaceable old car. You want a mascot that connects with kids and families, there's nothing better for that than a friendly pooch who can visit tailgaters, attend functions, and generally go where Cavman on his horse can't. It's the best way to put an end to the department's quest for another mascot and it's the perfect way to connect with a piece of history.

Lastly, why Seal and not Beta? Seal has by far the better story:

Seal's claim to fame came in 1949 during halftime of UVa-Penn football game at Franklin Field in Philadelphia. Wearing a blue blanket embossed with a large orange "V," Seal walked from the 50-yard line to the home team's sideline, where the University of Pennsylvania cheerleaders had placed their megaphones. The Cavalier Daily described what happened next: "Slowly he walked from midfield to the Quaker side. Indifferently he inspected their cheerleading appurtenances. Eighty thousand people watched with bated breath. Coolly, insolently, Seal lifted a leg -- the rest is history." Virginia went on to win its seventh straight game of the season, 26-14, and Seal later came to be known as Caninus Megaphonus Pennsylvanus.
Introduce this stuff on the video board and you can't go wrong. Having Cavman call his trusty sidekick Seal to piss on a turtle that's terrorizing the Homer statue is a foolproof way to fire up a crowd.

2) Better cross-pollination.

This year's spring football game was held on April 10. Fine - except the lacrosse team was out of town and the baseball team was playing a game at roughly the same time, and people had to divide their attention. We have phenomenal teams in sports just below the revenue level - showcase them! The following weekend had a home baseball series against VT and a home lacrosse game against Duke. Why would you not want the spring football game to be on the same day? Start it off with a 12:00 football game in whatever format the coaches want, play the baseball game at 4:00, and finish up under the lights at Klockner. Sell ticket packages at discounts, and offer packages to all three or two of your choice. What diehard Hoo wouldn't want to take in an amazing smorgasbord like this? (Especially when they can meet Seal?) At the very least, they should make every attempt to schedule lacrosse and baseball games, which typically play to full houses, so that a) people can attend both and b) leaving and entering the parking lots aren't a total nightmare for people who don't.

It doesn't have to be just in the spring, either. Why not offer discount vouchers to football games to people who go to a soccer game? Discounts on basketball to people who attend a swim meet? There's a lot of creativity to be done here. But the bottom line is this: the school is making a concerted effort for excellence in every sport. A comprehensive approach to building a quality program as a whole, rather than funneling everything toward football and having other sports only because you're required to, is wholly admirable and should be applauded. Why would you not market this?

3) Ball in U-Hall.

Sometimes you just can't help the empty seats. Playing USC-Upstart on a Monday night, it's no surprise the JPJA is half full for that one. But those games are - well, not "necessary evils", but they're necessary and not going away, either. But you probably couldn't even give away enough tickets to fill the JPJA for that one.

So, once a year, have a "retro night," and for the ultimate retro atmosphere, play the game in cozy University Hall. Pick a team to throw back to, and wear their uniforms, play music from the time, honor the players of that team, all that. The official crowd of 7,751 for the Upstart game wouldn't even fill U-Hall, but Retro Night would.

This would take some monetary investment to get U-Hall ready for basketball again. The floor would probably need to be replaced, among other things. Fire marshal inspections and the like, to ensure the building can still handle the crowds. But the positive press (not to mention the recruiting opportunities) would be worth it.

4) Neutral site basketball games.

OK, for the record, I hate neutral site football games, unless they have the word "Bowl" in the title. College football should be played on college campuses. I hate the idea of taking a home game away from the student body, for whose sake (at least in part) the game really ought to be played.

I'll make an exception in basketball. Why? Because a very large portion of the schedule is played when the students are all home for break. How do you get an ACC game against Georgia Tech to attract only 8,294 (last year's official attendance)? Play it during winter break. This can't be helped, and I don't like the idea of giving up a home ACC game to play on a neutral court somewhere. But look at the upcoming homestand. Seven games which will be played largely without the benefit of a full student section. So taking one of them on the road couldn't hurt in this regard.

There are lots of places in the Commonwealth and the DC area where UVA could host a game. One year, go to the Richmond Coliseum (just make sure they didn't play a hockey game that afternoon.) Next, go to the 757 and play at Scope or the Hampton Coliseum. Or play in DC at the Verizon Center. They could fill or almost fill most of these places, and it'd be a good way to give fans who live in these cities a convenient chance to see a basketball game that they don't have to drive two, three hours for. Go out and be visible around the state.

5) Basketball bus service.

Believe me, I know: the walk from Old Dorms and New Dorms to the arena is a pain in the butt. Especially on cold Tuesday evenings in February. The bus is no better - as someone who used to park his car right about where the JPJA colonnades now sit, I can vouch for the fact that the buses that go to the North Grounds take way too much time.

In order to get students out of their hidey-holes and into the arena, especially for the crap early-season games, it shouldn't be that hard to set up a special basketball route for the University Transit buses. Drive in a loop from Old Dorms to New Dorms to Gooch/Dillard to a pair of JPA stops (one for the off-grounds housing and one for Bice) to a 14th St./Rugby Road stop and then to the arena (sorry, Lambeth students, but you have no distance excuses) and back to Old Dorms, and it'd be five to ten quick minutes to and from the game, instead of a 20-minute hoof in the cold.


Pretty much all of these ideas cost money, and present logistical issues too. But I wouldn't suggest them if they didn't seem worth it. The larger point is, the department needs to be creative in their attempts to bring fans to the games. They've shown they can do it with things like the Building of a Program show, but much of what they've done is to put UVA logos on recycled ideas. Heck, the uniforms were even referred to as "Oregon of the East" before they came out. Even Building of a Program is a kind of a re-do of the Hard Knocks series, except it'd never been done in college so bonus points for that. Time to do some things that either nobody's thought of before, or that maybe have been thought of but that UVA can do better, rather than a cheap knockoff of. The ODU scrimmage was a great step in that direction and should be a yearly thing. But it doesn't have to be the only thing.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

the recruit: Anthony Harris

Name: Anthony Harris
Position: CB/WR (?)
Hometown: Chesterfield
School: L.C. Bird
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 185

ESPN: 72; #186 ATH
Rivals: 5.7; three stars; #50 ATH
Scout: three stars; #123 WR

Other offers: Maryland, West Virginia

Anthony Harris committed to UVA as part of the last large wave of verbals that swept over Mike London's program this summer. His was something of an anticlimactic recruitment; there were few other suitors, even fewer really serious ones, and Harris's commitment came roughly on the coincidence of a couple factors: an organized visit day at UVA, and the realization that his offer list wasn't going to grow by very much.

Like many "athlete" types who are in another league athletically from their high school teammates, Harris plays quarterback. His stats were decent as a junior but probably dropped as a senior, because Bird added a transfer player this year: Harris's main job as quarterback was handing off to junior squirtback Yahkee Johnson. Harris generally only ran or threw the ball himself 8-10 times a game.

But he also has plenty of experience on the defensive side of the ball at cornerback, and that's where he's likely ticketed. He's recruited as an "athlete", which means wide receiver is a possibility, but there's less of a learning curve in the defensive backfield, and less of a depth chart, too. If I were handicapping this I'd say 80/20 he ends up on defense. Corners and safeties tend to be pretty fluid as freshmen and redshirt freshmen, so no odds on that just yet.

If you believe ESPN, he's more of a safety. But the reliability of the prospect rating gurus is sometimes, uhm, flexible, and we're looking at quite a variance here. Rivals gives him a pretty enthusiastic thumbs-up, ESPN says, "Harris has some redeeming qualities, but we feel he may be a better fit for non-BCS level programs," and Scout is somewhere in the middle. I'll let my own excitement level fall with Scout here (though they, as usual, are the one service to rate him at the position he's least likely to play.) Harris did have offers from reputable BCS programs besides just UVA; it's not a case of London scraping the barrel just to get some numbers.

Still, Harris will have work to do to get on the field. At this point he's more of a depth recruit, more Mike Parker than Chase Minnifield. UVA already has Brandon Phelps in the fold and with any luck at all should have Demetrious Nicholson onboard soon enough. It's not that there aren't opportunities for playing time at corner, it's that London is recruiting over Harris's head, so to speak. Safety would be a quicker route to the field; there's still competition, but it's not all-star level stuff. And receiver can't be entirely ruled out. Similar to Kevin Green (if a little less definitely indefinite), we'll probably have to wait a few years to get a final answer.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

season preview: Boston College

Time for basketball season previews, and this is the first time in three tries that I'm really able to do it how I want. The first go-around, I thought I could get it done during football season and before any basketball games were played, and that was stupid. The second time, I totally meant to get busy on them and then we fired our football coach and that somehow seemed more important. Third time's the charm. Pretty good way to fill the finals week gap between hoops games. As with football, FOV readers will be the most well-informed UVA fans in existence about the rest of the ACC.

Boston College Eagles

Media prediction: 10th

Last season:

Record: 15-16 (6-10) - ACC 8th seed
Postseason: none
KenPom: 62nd of 347

Returning scoring: 78.1%
Returning rebounding: 75.6%
Returning assists: 86%

2009-'10 All-ACC:

1st team: none
2nd team: none
3rd team: F Joe Trapani
Rookie: none
Defensive: none


PG: Reggie Jackson (Jr.)
SG: Biko Paris (Sr.)
G: Danny Rubin (Fr.)
F: Joe Trapani (Sr.)
F: Cortney Dunn (Sr.)


F: Corey Raji (Sr.)
C: Josh Southern (Sr.)
G: Dallas Elmore (Jr.)
G: Gabe Moton (Fr.)

Coach: Steve Donahue (1st season)

ACC schedule:

Once: Clemson (A), Duke (A), Florida State (A), Georgia Tech (H), NC State (H), Wake Forest (H)
Twice: Maryland, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech

If you think Tony Bennett has a rebuilding job to do, then thank your lucky stars Al Skinner wasn't our last coach here at UVA. Steve Donahue stepped into the Boston College job earlier this year after Skinner was fired, and found himself entirely without either a freshman or sophomore class. The 2010 recruiting class Skinner had put together all decommitted when he was fired, and Skinner didn't even bother signing any 2009 recruits. Not one.

So the future is looking really, really rough at BC, with a 2011 class next year that rivals our '10 class in size, and eight seniors departing after this season. But this season is what we're here to talk about. And despite the media's grim prediction of 10th place, the Eagles should be one of the conference's overachievers for the year. An early loss to Yale notwithstanding, Boston Colleg does, after all, have eight seniors.

The offense is run through Reggie Jackson, who does everything for BC. Jackson averages almost 19 points, 4.5 assists, 2 steals, and he's the team's third-leading rebounder and second-leading shot-blocker. And don't foul him because he hits over 90% at the stripe. He and freshman starter Danny Rubin are the Eagles' main three-point threats (in this respect, Jackson has really improved his game from last year), but forward Joe Trapani will launch from beyond the arc too. Trapani is another do-everything type, only down low, and along with Jackson is the heart and soul of the team.

BC isn't big in the frontcourt but they are deep, with Trapani and Cortney Dunn starting and Corey Raji and Josh Southern coming off the bench. Raji could easily start, but instead he cleans up against other teams' second string; he leads BC in rebounding and FG% and did so last year, too. Southern and Dunn are non-scoring types who are depended on for defense and rebounding, and Southern is the only true center on the roster at 6'10".

They're probably going to fall off a cliff next year, but Boston College is a threat this year to make some noise in the ACC. The schedule is slightly unfavorable, but I see the Eagles landing much higher than their 10th-place predicted finish, and they could secure a postseason berth of some kind. After that? It'll be a loooooong climb back up.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

ACC roundtable, postseason

Welcome to ACC-oholics Anonymous, where we have a problem. The problem is ACC sports. We have no interest in a cure. This week's host is BC Interruption, at which a roundup can be found on Friday. P.S.: Sorry to jerk you out of basketball and back into football for a bit, but you know how addictions are.

1. Virginia Tech and Florida State seemed to acquit the ACC Championship Game well this year, turning in an entertaining 44-33 game in front of a crowd of 72,379 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. Assess the success of the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte in year one. How much of the success can be attributed to the host city, and how much can be attributed to the matchup? A little of A, a little of B?

A little of B, but a lot of A. It's time the ACC stopped trying to be something it's not and can never be: a Florida-centric conference. Some might complain of too much Tobacco Road influence by having it in Charlotte, but facts are facts: there's a geographical and population center of the league, and that's probably in North Carolina somewhere. Charlotte is a day trip for the vast majority of the conference. True story: When UVA went to what used to be called the Tire Bowl in Charlotte, against Pitt, I was visiting relatives in Atlanta. My brother and I drove to Charlotte for the game and were back in time for dinner. That's how you get people to go to your game.

2. Would you like to see Charlotte become the permanent home of the ACC Football Championship? Or would you be in favor of some alternate Championship Game format? (continuing to rotate the location, move to campus a la the Pac 12, etc.) Explain.

Charlotte. Forever. Period. No debate about this. Let's continue the discussion from above. Here is something else I will not debate because it's true and people who believe otherwise are delusional: Fans will not make multiple trips for postseason football. They're happy to make one. Beyond that you're asking too much. Why was the 2007 game in Jacksonville so embarassingly empty? Because people viewed that as basically another bowl game, which they couldn't afford to go to. It's right after Thanksgiving and before Christmas. People have already used up or otherwise budgeted their vacation time and their paychecks. Flights and motel rooms are expensive. Family demands to be seen. Gifts must be exchanged. People can't drop what they're doing and book it off to Florida - but they can convince themselves to take a day trip. Florida is a full-fledged vacation. Charlotte is doable for the vast majority of ACC fans. (Sorry, BC, you're ages from everything, but nobody held a gun to your head and made you join.)

On-campus games would solve this too, but I have my suspicions the Pac-10 (12) went this way because they couldn't come up with a suitable solution in time. They're a little more geographically spread out. Besides, the ACC is Parityville and I'd hate for a tiebreaker to determine which team gets home-field advantage, which is a big deal.

3. On to the ACC's 2010 slate of bowl games. How happy are you with your program's bowl placement? Did your team's bowl destination exceed or fall short of preseason expectations? (No, I didn't forget about you, Wake and Virginia. You can speak to general season results relative to preseason expectations here).

Gee, thanks for the consolation question. I dunno. "Preseason expectations" implies we had some kind of generally accepted win/loss number below which the season would be a failure. 4-8 doesn't register on any pass/fail metric. Some things (the offense, Miami game) were better than expected, some things (the defense, Duke game) were worse. I don't see the point in bothering to evaluate the season based on expectations. Better to ignore expectations and evaluate what happened rather than what should have happened, because there's a new coaching regime and nothing "should" have happened.

4. Looking at the conference's bowl schedule as a whole, how many games do you have the conference winning? Is this the year the conference has a breakout year come bowl season?

I don't see any games where the conference is outmatched, so that's a plus. I think we're looking at about a .500 year for the conference, because there are a lot of toss-ups (GT/AFA, Clem/USF, BC/UNR, Miami/ND, FSU/USC-East.) UNC and Maryland got very friendly draws. I don't see a breakout year, but the conference won't embarrass itself.

5. Clearly, there are many factors other than on-field performance that go into bowl selections (travel rep, ticket sales, travel distances). Pretend for a moment that the ACC placed teams in our conference's bowl games 1-9 based solely on their on-field performance this season (you can rank 1-9 anyway you see fit). Holding our bowl opponents fixed, how does your answer to question 4 change? Does the ACC then win more or less bowl games this year?
Eh, ok, let's see. That would line them up like this:

Orange: VT vs. Stanford (same)
ex-Peach: FSU vs. South Carolina (same)
ex-Tangerine: NC State vs. West Virginia (same)
Sun: Maryland vs. Notre Dame (actual: Miami)
ex-Tire: Miami vs. South Florida (actual: Clemson)
Music City: UNC vs. Tennessee (same)
Independence: BC vs. Air Force (actual: Georgia Tech)
Military: Clemson vs. ECU (actual: Maryland)
Hunger: GT vs. Nevada (actual: Boston College)

Sun: Chances go down; Maryland's record is better than Miami but I think Miami's the better team, despite UVA's results against the two.
ex-Tire: Chances up: Miami would win a rematch against USF.
Independence: Chances up: BC has a defense.
Military: Chances same: ECU isn't so hot.
Hunger: Chances down: GT would get murdered.

Two up, two down, one the same. No change for the ACC.

6. Last one. The home of the ACC Champion has been the redheaded step child of BCS bowls the past few seasons. The Orange Bowl has been awarded either the Big East champ or a BCS at-large leftover the past few seasons and the casual fan has responded with some of the lowest TV ratings in BCS bowl history. Did the Hokies/ACC dodge a bullet not drawing an 8-4 Big East champ UConn in the Orange Bowl? Or would you have rather have had the Hokies face an easier opponent to improve on the ACC's 2-10 record in BCS bowls?

Fuck that, I'd rather have the Hokies playing the New England Patriots to improve their chances of getting their asses kicked. An improved ACC record in the BCS is simply the consolation prize for a Hokies win.

blogpoll ballot, week 14

No point in even bothering with "the system" this week, since not a whole lot of teams played. I pulled a Blogpoll no-no this week (as I'm pretty sure I did last year and I'm damn sure most other voters are doing) and laddered my votes. The philosophy is that last week's results are supposed to be thrown out and not matter for this week, but when most teams have the same resume as before, why not? VT gets a bump for beating FSU, Alabama takes a little collateral damage from South Carolina's awful loss, and South Carolina gets nudged downward a spot as well for not being competitive. And UCF replaces NIU, for reasons which should be obvious.

Monday, December 6, 2010

weekend review

YeahYeah yyyyyyyeahhhhhhh.......I'd forgotten how sweet it was to beat VT in something that people pay attention to. The Radford game is tomorrow, and I this is what I wrote about it back in October: "There's the distinct possibility that this game will be needed to break a losing streak as long as six games." Instead it's likely to extend a winning streak. Coming off of two road games against theoretically better teams, how's that for a turnaround of expectations?

Expectations are what we're supposed to be keeping in check right now, but you know how hard that can be. Now there's talk of being 12-3 going into the ACC storm, starting with North Carolina. What fun, a big winning streak!

Of the teams that lie ahead, most are certainly the kind on which winning streaks are easily built. The competition gets a lot easier for the next month, but there's still three of those 50/50 type games ahead, and may I remind you we use five freshman and still rely on Mu Farrakhan's roll-of-the-dice method of shooting jumpers? I'll concede that there's the distinct possibility of seven more wins in a row, but I won't let myself expect it.

That's because if we really, really get honest with ourselves, beating VT said a lot more about VT than UVA. OK, yes, I love going into their gym and getting the job done, and Mike Scott is officially a double-double machine and an absolute rock of consistency. What we've really proven is that Tech is not a tournament team, nor are they as good as their preseason expectations. (The same can probably be said about two-thirds of the ACC, so not being part of that unfortunate group bodes very well for our chances.) Our own team is still feeling its way around the court, learning how to win. Maybe they're fast learners. Myself, I'm simply going to enjoy having something to lord over Tech again, and enjoy the ride too, without worrying too soon about where it's going.


With good news on the basketball court and good news on the recruiting trail it's been an uplifting kind of week. The recruiting board has another orange name, O-lineman Jay Whitmire. Heavily offered, that one. A big deal for Mike London. That gives us the requisite four linemen, a number you pretty much aim for in just about every class so as to build depth where it's most needed. Whitmire looks like the best of the bunch. Changes to the board, then:

- Moved OT Jay Whitmire from blue to orange.

- In response, moved OT Donovan Smith from yellow to red. It's an open secret that Smith likes Penn State mucho, and I'm sure the coaches would take his commitment if he called tomorrow, but they're likely focusing their efforts elsewhere.

- Added WR Brandon Reddish to yellow.

All three teams with UVA recruits won in the VHSL playoffs this weekend:

- Hermitage 42, Bayside 27
- Phoebus 21, Dinwiddie 13
- Stone Bridge 21, Osbourn 0

Hermitage plays Battlefield for the Division 6 title, and undefeated Phoebus goes against undefeated Stone Bridge in Division 5. Both games are at Scott Stadium, awesomely enough.

Phoebus may be playing without Caleb Taylor, who sustained a "leg injury" during the game. Taylor would almost certainly have redshirted next season anyway, but a long-term injury recovery would etch that in stone.

Poll study results are also up. Relatively strong bias number this week. Last time there was one this high was for the rankings of the week of 10/23, an eventful week with Wisconsin dropping Iowa, Missouri upsetting Oklahoma, and then-#5 Auburn beating #6 LSU. (Keep in mind that if you're used to seeing the numbers higher than this, it's because I was screwing up the whole time, and found and fixed my mistake last week. That made the final bias number higher than it should have been.) This week's poll is another one in which assumptions were heavily shaken, with Boise falling to Nevada. Hypothesis: I think it's possible this is because voters see the poll results week after week and shift their votes toward the mean a little bit (as in: "hey, maybe I'm overrating so-and-so, they don't end up as high in the poll, I'll knock them back a spot or two"), until something somewhat earthshattering happens and they're forced to think for themselves. Does this actually happen? No idea. It may be something I can test in the final analysis.