Friday, January 29, 2010

the recruit: Jake McGee

Two things first:

One: fahhhhhkkkkk. Do not use Yahoo's gametracker to follow games, ever. Last night's game turned out bad enough, but it wasn't on TV around these parts so I did what I normally do in such situations: follow along on a gametracker. Yahoo somehow forgot to record VT's 65th point, so after Sammy hit his three-pointer with no time left, the screen said 65-64, final. Yay! No, actually, boo - and then, dammit. It makes losing, like, twice the fun. As for the game itself, choking away a lead (more than once) makes for a pretty good lesson in closing out an opponent, but couldn't we have learned that same lesson against NC State? Hopefully we get ours back in a couple weeks.

Two. It's a common complaint among UVA fans that recruits who verbal our way, especially early, get the "UVA discount" in their star ratings. Oh, you picked Virginia over Penn State? I guess you really don't need that fourth star. It does work both ways, though, and that brings us to Miles Gooch, whose ESPN evaluation magically showed up a day or two after his verbal here. Suddenly, Gooch is our highest rated recruit for 2010. It says some interesting things, too, like: "Gooch is a very intriguing quarterback and athlete that is comparable to another QB in this class, Devin Gardner." (!!) Well hell, Rivals thinks Gardner is the best QB in the country this year. Athleticism is definitely a trait they have in common, but the other similarity would be their delivery - Gardner's is weird and ESPN goes on to call Gooch's "almost indescribable." That's not a good thing. But his arm strength is, as is his athleticism, and the ringing endorsement from one of the scouting services bumps up the intrigue on Gooch a notch.

Now for yet another quarterback-playin' dude that might or might not do that in college.

Name: Jake McGee
Position: QB (? TE?)
Hometown: Richmond
School: Collegiate
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 210

ESPN: no ranking
Rivals: 5.2, two stars
Scout: isn't aware of his existence

McGee has managed to be something of a catalyst in dividing the UVA fanbase in their evaluation of Mike London's recruiting efforts thus far. One school of thought says, "Great, we're competing with ODU and Richmond for recruits now. Nice to see London has turned us into a I-AA program." On the other hand, there's: "Heath Miller was a lightly-recruited quarterback who we turned into a tight end and that worked out pretty well, and besides, Groh ignored the last quarterback to come out of Collegiate and NC State got the spoils." (That would be Russell Wilson.)

Both of you, stop it, you're being retarded.

Obviously, Heath Miller was on the far right end of the bell curve. And just because Collegiate turned out a pretty damn good quarterback last time doesn't mean they will this time. I never want to hear this argument again. And on the other hand, anyone who bellyaches about the ratings and profiles of the recruits we're getting doesn't have a handle on reality; from which part of the thin air would you like London to pull a few four-stars at this stage of the recruiting game?

That said, I would have to lean a little toward the side that has to wonder if McGee really will be a contributor. His stats are impresivo, no question, as with all D-I quarterbacks. And his performance in the state championship game was nothing short of mindblowing. Seven touchdowns - four throwing and three rushing. Almost 400 yards of offense generated by himself, divided between the passing and rushing. And he plays safety, too, and picked off a pass to stop an enemy drive to the end zone. This is small-school stuff, the private-school championship, so take it for what you will, but clearly McGee had no peer on the field that day.

But when it came down to brass tacks, his only offers were from Richmond and Princeton. And this isn't because nobody knew where to look for him. Like I said, Collegiate turned out Russell Wilson, so ACC schools know about the place, and at least five of them poked their noses around the place looking for tapes and stuff on McGee, UVA included. It didn't result in a single I-A offer. Football programs ranging the spectrum from Northwestern to Florida recruited him a bit but didn't offer. At Richmond he was probably one of the prize recruits in the class - like, QB of the future type - but at UVA, he's honestly going to have a hard time squeezing into the mix, especially as he's the third recruit in this class alone to be listed by the services as a quarterback. The likelihood of his remaining there remains slim, as Strauss was the first guy the new regime offered and Gooch is the Devin Gardner-like athlete with the rocket arm and weird-ass delivery.

So what'll it be for McGee? The height screams tight end. One negative of the short-lived Gregg Brandon experiment was that it drove off half the tight ends and we spent the summer and fall not really recruiting any, so there's definitely an opening or two. If we don't gain any tight ends by trade between now and Signing Day, you can probably write it in pen for McGee. Even if we do, the mix at quarterback is getting crowded and I don't see McGee breaking into it. It's not a stretch to imagine him on defense, either. He's actually a little tall for a college safety and a little light (right now) for linebacker, but if he can put on enough weight for tight end he can play linebacker too. All speculation at this point, some of it the result of my overactive imagination. Sign him now, figure out where to put him later. That's kind of the way it tends to be with guys like McGee, who played quarterback in high school because for a lot of schools that's just where you put your best athlete. And McGee plays basketball well enough to have gained some interest from a few D-I schools there, too - athleticism is not in question. Redshirt year seems guaranteed while the coaching staff figures this question out, and we'll check in two years down the road to see about how much he'll see the field once we know where he settles in.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

fire the "la-ser"

Haha, no, I'm not calling for the head of the new offensive coordinator the very day his hiring is announced. It's just that, I don't know or care at the moment whether he pronounces his name "LAY-zer" or "luh-ZORR" or "LAZZ-er", you're just going to have to get used to at least a couple years' worth of puns on the name, and plenty of this:

We're certainly going to have an "explosive" offense. I hope he teaches the quarterbacks to really "fire" the ball downfield. Especially if they have a "laser arm." It's definitely time to "light up" the scoreboard. I slay me, and I'll tell you what - this more than makes up for not having a guy named Rip Scherer coaching the offense.

The list of big-name coaches endorsing Bill Lazor here is certainly impressive, but I'm actually equally impressed by Bill Musgrave's recommendation. Holmgren and Gibbs and them no doubt want to see a protege and colleague of theirs succeed, but Musgrave has the added motivation of having worked with London and probably having at least a passing interest in seeing London succeed too. So I see his recommendation as carrying as much weight as the coaching heavyweights who spoke on Lazor's behalf.

I admit to not knowing a whole lot about Lazor, but that was going to be true for just about any potential OC hire other than Musgrave. He's a quarterbacks coach by trade (this was going to be the case with pretty much any hire) and has done a little bit of OC'ing before, both traits I was hoping to see in the hire, and he hasn't done so much OC'ing that you wonder why he is still doing it. Also a plus.

Now that the coordinators are in place, the dominoes are ready to fall and the whole staff should probably be ready to shake out in the next few days. (The defensive staff is already pretty much all set, but I think most of the information as to who goes where is still behind the paywall, so I'll just wait for the official release.) We still need to officially hire a few more offensive coaches, but once all that happens and the pegs fall into place, I'll whip up a couple of posts on the cadre of assistants we have. One for the coordinators and one for the positional assistants. For now I just wanted to riff a bit on the OC, since that's all nicely ready to go after a six-week wait. I also owe you posts on Tuesday's verbal commits Jake McGee and Stephen Lawe. And finally, National Signing Day is next Wednesday, so look for a post next week breaking down the 2010 recruiting class once the faxes are in and the verbals become signees.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

game preview: Virginia Tech

Oh, you want a preview? Lemme see, I got one in my pocket,, yeah, there's your f**kin' preview.

Tomorrow is the all-important Virginia Tech game, sometimes also known as Just-Wait-Til-Basketball-Season Week. Well, basketball season is upon us, and I will tell you what: for really the first time this year, except for maybe the NJIT game or something, I am feeling juuust a bit cocky about our chances here. Just like old times.

See, back when I was a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed first year and still learning the ways, Virginia Tech basketball was explained to me thusly: "Tsch. Patsies - they don't count." The notion was reaffirmed when the team played a truly lackluster game and won by 16 anyway, and the game wasn't even that close. Ever since then it's been kind of imprinted on me that Poly is a team we should be kicking the snot out of just about every time we play them, even though they've improved pretty dramatically thanks to having that ACC magic rub off on them.

So why do I feel like that now? Why so frisky about our chances tomorrow night? Let me bulletize the ways:

- Much like UAB, VT is the kind of team we're so well geared to stop. Nobody on that team is a consistent three-point threat - Malcolm Delaney can usually be counted on to knock a few down but he hoists up so damn many that he basically can't help but that a few go in. They don't get a lot of scoring from the post either. VT is a drive-to-the-basket team, the kind that the pack-line defense loves to snarf up.

- We're at home.

- Delaney is playing on a bum ankle. He sprained it against Longwood, missed a game, and ever since then he's been shooting .367, well below what he was doing before. To take advantage gameplan-wise, we can't control who he guards, but we can control how many screens he has to run through.

- Jeff Allen is....well, to put it kindly, inconsistent. In the words of esteemed Hokie blog Gobbler Country, "we don't know from game to game what kind of effort we're going to get from Jeff Allen." More accurately perhaps, they don't know from half to half what kind of effort they'll get. Allen's been known to have a monster first half and then decide he's put in enough sweat for the evening and pack it in, leading GC to also observe that Hokies can't tell if he's "injured or just useless." Allen also happens to be their only real post scoring threat, so if he's decided not to care, Tech is left with something of a donut team. Allen, by the way, also fouls a ridiculous 3.4 times per game.

- Seth Greenberg thinks those guys sitting on the bench are there for moral support only. In the absence of a team's star player, most coaches opt to spread the minutes around a bit more, spread the ball around, try to make it more of a team effort. Against Seton Hall without Delaney, Greenberg just shoved Erick Green in for 32 basically unproductive minutes, during which Green fouled out and committed three turnovers. Meanwhile, Dorenzo Hudson snarfed all the shots and scored 41 points. In the Boston College game, the starters all played 30+ minutes and three other players got in the game - for 9, 2, and 16 minutes. That's a rotation?

- This leads directly to the Hokies' gameplan: stand around and watch one of the big three try and score. Kind of a risky system when scorer #1 is hobbling and scorer #3 doesn't always want to.

So what is there to watch out for from Virginia Tech? After all that you'd think they hadn't a prayer. Well:

- Hudson is actually quite a dangerous #2 scoring threat and perfectly capable of being a #1, too. His only problems are that he and Delaney are too similar and don't complement too well, and Hudson also can't shoot a three to save his life. But then again, he's also not a turnover machine like Delaney is prone to being.

- Allen does have a way of being a pest on defense when he wants to be. He has 33 steals this season, which isn't out of the ordinary for him. Two-ish steals a game would be notable for a guard; it's pretty darn good for a forward.

- UVA is the best team in the league at allowing the fewest opponents' offensive rebounds, but VT is also right up there, and also like us, they take good care of the ball. These are two major advantages we tend to have, but we won't have them in spades against VT.

So, having thrown the Hokies a bone there, yup: I still think we'll win this game. I hope it's not close, too, because it has a chance not to be. We stumbled a bit there against Wake Forest, but there's no shame in that, and we stand in good position to take two of the next three. A win tomorrow night will put us right back on track to keep chugging toward a postseason invite of some kind, and it would also match our ACC win total from last season.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

just a quick update tonight

I'm watching Michigan-Michigan State tonight, and Jake McGee only just committed today so I haven't had time to go out and dig up the dirt, which means just a quick recruiting board update tonight. At least I got both 2010 and 2011 going on here. The 2010 updates:

- added Miles Gooch and Jake McGee to orange. As if I didn't mention it last night with Gooch, McGee's presence pretty much guarantees that all these guys labeled "quarterback" on the recruiting sites aren't going to be that at UVA.

- moved LB Ralph Williams and RB Dejor Simmons to red.

- moved CB Louis Young to yellow.

- removed OT Dan Foose (dropped us), LB Jeremiah Attaochu (committed to GT), QB David Olson (door is pretty much closed on quarterbacks.)

- added DT Rashad Winston to yellow and re-added WR Justin Hunter to red. Hunter is probably the longest of longshots but we can always hope.

You'll notice the lack, once again, of a blue section. That means that I basically wouldn't be surprised if Jake McGee was the last verbal of the year. These last two put us over 85, but they can be taken care of by clearing out a few would-be fifth-years. With Keith Payne maybe coming back, any more verbals will probably mean starting to dip into the useful fifth-years or waiting for attrition. Naturally, London will have a handle on what academic attrition might be likely, and he'll take verbals accordingly, but I also wouldn't be surprised if we went into fall camp next year with fewer than the 85 limit.

The 2011 board gets a little less attention, but a couple more offers went out, so LB Caleb Taylor and S Ronny Vandyke are added. Looking forward to the efforts on 2011 ramping up and having this get a bit more fun to follow, because 2010 has long since ceased to be. At this point we're just pirating other people's (mostly Richmond's) recruits - there aren't any undecided blue-chips left that we're waiting on pins and needles for.

Monday, January 25, 2010

the recruit: Miles Gooch

Name: Miles Gooch
Position: QB
Hometown: Decatur, GA
School: Towers
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 215

ESPN: 40
Rivals: 5.5, three stars
Scout: two stars

This is the kind of recruiting we were pretty much destined to do once Al Groh was officially shown the door; it is uncharitably known as "picking up the scraps" though I believe the preferred nomenclature is "looking for sleepers." Well, Miles Gooch is a bit of a sleeper.

There's no story to tell about his recruitment. Well, hardly any. Playing in a mid-level division out on the edge of the Atlanta burbs for a school that had a crap football team in 2008 contributes pretty heavily to the lack of attention paid to Gooch during this past season. He got offers from an assortment of local I-AA schools, plus Toledo and Western Kentucky. Last week he picked Toledo, but after receiving his offer from UVA, correctly deduced that UVA is the superior school in most if not all aspects and promptly switched. Up until today (because I checked yesterday while the news of his commitment was still behind a paywall) Gooch was unrated by Rivals and probably received three stars of the oh-look-you-committed-somewhere-where-people-will-pay-attention variety.

Gooch's stats are the usual high-level stuff you see from someone who's headed for D-I football, but not eye-popping, and the completion percentage is low. Arm strength is usually what people mention when they talk about Gooch. Honorable mention in the state of Georgia for his division; the quarterback who beat him out is going to South Carolina, though, so, no shame really in losing out. Also has the requisite BEST QUARTERBACK EVER (or at least, in the state right now) endorsement from coaches who've had to game-plan against him, so that's one vote.

Plain truth is, Gooch probably wouldn't have gotten a sniff if he were a pocket passer. Big guy, fast (runs track), strong arm, tough to tackle, but not the world's most polished quarterback. You could do a lot worse than having a linebacker-sized guy with receiver speed on your team, even if he's not still a quarterback by the time he sees the field.

Speaking of his future prospects on the team: I shouldn't need to tell you that he's not going to play a down at quarterback in 2010. If he does, which he won't, we really will be in major-league trouble, which we won't be, because he's going to settle himself into the fourth or fifth spot on the depth chart and develop. He also will not play quarterback in 2011, and probably not in 2012 either. In fact, by this time, his transition to some other position may already have begun, as it has with Riko Smalls, especially if the coaching staff has been bringing in quarterbacks in future recruiting classes. After all, "athletic backup quarterback" is often just another way of saying "future wide receiver." Smalls, in fact, is probably a perfectly apt comparison: Gooch isn't polished enough to definitely project as a college quarterback and athletic enough that UVA fans will (mostly sight unseen other than some exciting highlights tapes) ignore his position on the depth chart and loudly call for him to take snaps after getting fed up with the incumbent quarterback. In any case, it'll be a couple years before we learn what the story will be; regardless of position, though, if he's coachable and picks up what he has to, a player with the raw athleticism he has won't stay off the field for four years.

Oh, small blog-related note: recruiting board(s) will get their updates tomorrow.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

new video, new quiz

It hasn't been an idle weekend for me. Busy busy busy. (This is also why I didn't post anything Thursday.) The videos page now links up to the highlights from the soccer team's semifinal win over Wake Forest, and there's a new quiz too. Now you can take your stab at finding out how much you know about UVA's history in bowl games.

Friday, January 22, 2010

game preview: Wake Forest

One of the best things about sucking for a little bit and then snapping out of it and winning some games you maybe weren't supposed to is that people start to pay attention. And then you get some of that sweet sweet coverage you've been dying for all this time, and neat stuff to read about your team. It started last weekend and hasn't stopped. There's a fairly formulaic "everyone's surprised but us" kind of article over at Yahoo, which also has some interesting stat comparisons between this year and last. I've been tempted to write up just such a stat comparison, but purposely avoided it because it's too soon - the easy part of our schedule is out of the way and the hard part is mostly yet to come, so the lessons you can learn are limited.

You also get some Sylven Landesberg fluff from, but actually some really worthwhile fluff, better than usual. Recommended reading. And Jay Bilas sends a little love for the way the Hoos have taken care of the ball. Winning the turnover battle: definitely a plus.

Fortunately, you know Tony Bennett won't be letting his team bask in the accolades, because nobody's gonna remember that you led the conference in January. Toughest game of the ACC season so far is tomorrow. One of the toughest all season, in fact.

I've long thought Wake is a highly legit contender for the tournament, because they're very well rounded. Aminu can destroy you from inside, Ish Smith can destroy you off the dribble, and C.J. Harris and Ari Stewart will destroy you with long-range artillery. This isn't Georgia Tech, where they think they can shoot three-balls and can't. Nor is it VT, where seven guys sit around for 40 minutes waiting for three guys to score. They're also extraordinarily solid on defense, ranked 19th in KenPom's adjusted defense rankings. We might look like we're doing a great job of holding down the opponent's scoring, but when you take tempo out of the equation as KenPom does, Wake is way better on a per-possession basis - 19th in the country, in fact. (We're 104th.) Tough.

You might remember, back when Tony Bennett was hired, that some notes were made that another team in the ACC had been picking his brain (and his dad's) for pointers on how to run that pack-line of his. That's these guys here, and it's been a big success. Dino Gaudio likes KenPom too, by the way, and likes even more the massive improvement his team has made using the pack-line. Should be interesting, as both teams will have that seen-it-in-practice-like-every-fricking-day advantage when they bring the ball up the court. Wake's been using the system longer than we have, but they've been learning it from the apprentice, not the master. Bennett goes bonkers in practice when someone gives up a baseline drive, because it ruins what the defense is trying to do - bet you anything one of our guys tries to go baseline sometime early, just to see what happens.

Not that Wake is a complete machine. Dino Gaudio might have brought in Tony Bennett's pack-line defense, but not his insistence that you take care of the ball. Wake has an absolutely brutal A/T ratio - .81 and 241st in the country (we're 14th, which is nice) and their turnover margin is equally sucky. Ish can dish for sure, but he also can be a little crazy with the ball sometimes, and you can bet he won't spend a minute on the court not being hounded by Jontel Evans or Mustapha Farrakhan, both of whom have a special way with annoying other people's point guards.

All in all, though, it's hard to predict a win here. Honestly, this is the first real road test of the ACC season - students were on break at NC State and it was like a mausoleum. For a Saturday afternoon game against a team just coming off a demolition of UNC, I expect a madhouse. A loss here will probably make the pundits go, "yup, that sounds about right," and they'll go back to following Kentucky and wondering if the Pac-10 can somehow squeeze a second team into the NCAA tournament. Find a way to somehow win, and we really will be legit.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

ACC expansion revisited

It's the football offseason. 2010 recruiting efforts are winding down, and 2011 recruiting efforts are still pretty much in preliminary mode. Basketball doesn't play til Saturday. Baseball and lacrosse seasons are a month away. So it's a good time to go off the reservation just a tad and play a little what-if.

The ACC shook the earth about five years by pirating three of the Big East's best football teams in a move designed to do one thing and one thing only: divert more of that sweet sweet football moolah to the ACC. The merits of this move are debatable and depend almost entirely on how much value you place on said football moolah, because one of the unintended consequences was to create a monster that gave the ACC a rival in basketball supremacy where previously there was none.

We're not here to discuss that, though. The question on the docket today is: What if Syracuse had come to the ACC in that expansion as originally intended, instead of Virginia Poly?

It's no secret that the original invitees were Boston College, Miami, and then Syracuse instead of VT. This was so serious that the other five Big East schools, VT being one of them, filed a lawsuit and didn't include Cuse only because they felt Cuse was the one they had the least grounds to force to stay. It's also no secret that the conference's hopes for a quick smash-and-grab were derailed when the powers that be in Richmond pressured Casteen to push for Virginia Tech's inclusion, and Casteen dutifully complied. Duke and UNC, not wanting to lose the basketball hegemony they had going, were totally not in favor of this stuff, so Casteen's vote was needed as it took seven of nine in favor to approve the expansion. A 13-team league was considered, but scrapped, and with Miami being the whole point of the expansion in the first place and Boston College being in a huge TV market, Cuse was the odd team out.

But what if Mark Warner had never shoved his nose into the process? Or if Casteen had told him to go piss up a rope and leave the governing of the university to him? Or if Duke and UNC hadn't been Nay votes? Let's take a hypothetical look at what the ACC's, and UVA's, fortunes might have been with Syracuse and without Virginia Tech.


Syracuse was chosen for three main reasons: 1, they're academically sound; 2, they didn't suck at football; 3, they were pretty damn good at basketball. Reason #2 ceased very rapidly to be the case in 2004, the first year of the expansion and when they would otherwise themselves have been in the ACC. They cratered spectacularly to a 1-10 record in 2005 under the disastrous tenure of Greg Robinson, a fall that would have been horribly exacerbated and bumped forward a year in the ACC. A 6-5 regular season record was good enough to make them Big East co-champs in 2004: yay Big East football. Their bowl game was a miserable 51-14 loss to Georgia Tech and they didn't fare much better against UVA that season either - we beat them 31-10. Had they been forced to play an ACC schedule and not the crapitude that was the Big East - which still included Temple and Bad Rutgers instead of Good Rutgers, it would have gone very poorly for them. Which it eventually did anyway.

As for the ACC, it's reasonable to guess they'd have been slotted right here in the Coastal instead of VT, and had BC as their permanent cross-division rival the way VT does. Our own schedule obviously would still have had VT on it, assuming the acrimony from being left behind didn't carry over and cause VT to cancel the series in a hissy fit. Very unlikely, but you never know. Anyway, VT would just have continued to be a non-conference opponent and Syracuse would have been a second Duke in the division for basically all this time. The impact would be one fewer non-conference, non-VT opponent on the schedule, except for 2004-2005 when the Syracuse series would have been absorbed into the conference schedule and we'd have had to find some other patsy so there actually would have been one extra, not one fewer.

But in 2006....well. That year all our OOC games were one end of a home-and-home - we began a Pittsburgh series as well as one with Wyoming and East Carolina, and finished up one with Western Michigan. Let's assume WMU would have been on the schedule anyway, since we were at the end, not the beginning, of that one. But one other of those - two of which were losses - wouldn't have been scheduled, and they'd have been replaced with a likely win over Cuse. We were 5-7 that year. Might have been nice to switch out a loss to Pitt or ECU with a likely win over Cuse, yes? And go to a bowl, yes?

2008 is a similar story. Replace one of our OOC opponents (against which we were 2-2 with wins over Richmond and ECU and losses to USC and UConn) with 3-9 Syracuse, and there you have a coin flip as to whether we go to a bowl or not.

But if you didn't like that, you'll hate 2007. Remember how the game against VT was for all the division marbles? What if it wasn't? What if by that time, we already had the division wrapped up because we'd smoked 2-10 Syracuse? Even assuming we still lose to VT and the MTSU game is off the schedule, you replace a conference loss with a conference win and wrap up a trip to the ACCCG, where we'd have played the same BC team that VT smoked in that game. Could very well have been an ACC championship year.

In 2009, you can't swap out any one game and make that a redeemable year, but you certainly could also imagine that the improved recruiting we'd have been able to do all this time might have prevented that year from happening the way it did in the first place.

The verdict here: Big boon for the ACC, which got the marquee powerhouse that Miami failed to be upon joining. Hate to say it, but Poly might just be keeping the ACC in its BCS berth - Syracuse would've been a major drag. Not exactly a reason for us UVA fans to celebrate, though. It's not a stretch to say the switch deprived of us of two extra bowl trips and an ACC championship, as well as any number of better recruits we may or may not have lost out on. See, it's not all Al Groh's fault - thanks a lot, Mark Warner.


A little while I ago I posited that expansion had been good for ACC basketball and good for UVA. We've won more games against expansion teams than the teams they replaced on the schedule. Since the expansion, we're 5-5 against Tech, which is.....shameful, especially by the standards of the pre-expansion days. But a hell of a lot better than we'd have done against Syracuse, against whom we are 0-2 since 2004 because we blow halftime leads against that team like it's our job. Playing them twice a year, when they've gone to three NCAA tournaments since then and we've been losing to Bradley in the CBI, would very likely have cost us some games and even some postseasons.

Verdict: The ACC sure would have loved it. Duke, UNC, Syracuse in the same conference? Syracuse is not only a good team every year but they have cachet. Panache. The move to the ACC has improved VT's fortunes in basketball but they have zero history and zero cachet whatsoever. But a big part of the reason the expansion has helped us in hoops is because even in our down years, VT's usually good for a win. Cuse, twice a year? Do not want.


No story here. Syracuse is a northern school in a snowy environment and doesn't even play. Poly plays, but badly. The only impact to the ACC here is that with VT, we get a full 12. Sort of: Tech has never even been to the damn conference tournament, except for 2005 when the format was different and they lost the play-in.


Not much impact here either. Both teams are horrible lately, particularly Cuse. VT made a little bit of a nice NCAA tournament run a couple years ago but has totally fallen off the map since. Big East soccer is no joke, but it's no ACC either, and Syracuse doesn't do all that well there - they'd be chewed up and spit out in the ACC. Tech, at best, holds their own. This is a sport where the ACC is a bit stronger for the selection of VT, but not emphatically. Tech's just depth, not a flag-carrier. And it really makes no difference to us - Tech has occasionally been a thorn in our side but we do our thing for the most part.


Oh sweet mother of mercy in heaven. Lacrosse is basically a revenue sport at Syracuse. Poly doesn't even bother. The ACC only has four men's lacrosse teams and therefore no autobid to the tournament, but they all go anyway. That certainly wouldn't change by adding Syracuse. Neither would our schedule, we play them every year anyway.

No, the real missed opportunity, besides having a super-awesome five-team league instead of a super-awesome four-team league, is the tempting possibility of expanding to six and therefore securing an autobid. Tell me the teams in the ACC wouldn't start banging for that. And - totally just speaking hypothetically here - if Syracuse had joined the ACC to make it five, wouldn't you think there'd have been a big clamor, at least from the fans, to reach out to Hopkins? Someone would have brought this up, I guarantee it. That'd have put every NCAA lacrosse champion of all-time but the two Ivies, Cornell and Princeton, in the same conference. Even without Hopkins it'd have been cooler than cool, but still. Not having Syracuse in the ACC is a huge missed chance as far as lacrosse is concerned. Like I said, for UVA it'd have made no difference because we always play them anyway, but for the ACC, it's a blown opportunity to cement the conference's unchallenged elite status in this sport.


There's plenty of evidence for the theory that we screwed our football team over by caving to the demands of the legislature and the governor to include Virginia Tech in the expansion. The ripples of time and fickleness of fortune and whatnot mean that the simplified approach I took up there probably isn't the end-all, be-all of the process. But it still doesn't take a lot of philosophizing to get the idea that Syracuse really sucks at football right now, Tech is really good, and because of that, our own ACC fortunes took a major hit. One that's not outweighed by the benefit of not having to play Cuse all the time in basketball.

Academically, Syracuse would clearly have been the better fit; geographically, Tech makes much more sense. (And I sort of like to think geographically. I want to smack the Big East, for example, for inviting South Florida.) And the plain fact of the matter is, we have a choice: we can bellyache all we want about giving up our major recruiting advantage over VT, or we can do something about it and kick their ass in stuff. Which we do, for the most part, because we have this crazy idea that an athletics department should support all its athletics and not treat them like football's red-headed stepchild. We just need to get the football team right, and Tech is not an immovable obstacle if we take care of our own house.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

not what i wanted to see

We got two things in that category today. One, I didn't want to see our basketball team down by four with three minutes to play against UNC-Wilmington. Could definitely have done without that. Fortunately, it ended up in the win column after all, and that's really what this team needs. Never mind what it does or doesn't do to our tournament chances, when you're recovering from a 10-18 season you need wins dammit.

What else didn't I want to see? Al Groh at Georgia Tech, that's what. I'm happy enough to see Al land on his feet, but I was sorta hoping it'd be in the pros or something, not in our very own division where we get to go up against him every year.

GT will see an improvement on defense, no question. They had the playmakers to have a good pass defense and a decent defense overall, and it didn't happen; under Dave Wommack this year, they gave up 6.1 yards per play. The run defense was particularly heinous. The plus-up in linebacker play that Groh will bring to Atlanta, that alone will be worth half a yard of improvement, even if his 3-4 is a better pass defense than run defense.

But this is a Virginia blog, so the question isn't what will happen to Georgia Tech's defense. We'll let someone else figure that out, and anyway, the answer is "improve" in no uncertain terms. Groh might have had his ups and downs as a head coach but damn if he didn't know how to coach a defense. The question really is, who's going to have the advantage when we meet up in 2010? Us or them?

Actually, the way the coaching carousel shook out gives UVA the upper hand here. Groh's going to run that 3-4 no matter what. But when he left, the 3-4 left with him. Groh might be able to give Paul Johnson all kinds of great tips on how to attack the 3-4** but we're not using it any more. The downside is that Paul Johnson really prefers to run his offense against a 4-3 because a 3-4 is much better suited to stop that triple-option thing they do, so we've gone from uniquely suited to match up well against it to just being like every other team. But there's no inside intelligence that Groh can bring to GT about UVA because the defense will be different, and so will the offense, as soon as we can find a coordinator for it. Whatever offense we run, Groh will have to attack it the same way he attacks everyone else's, without any special foreknowledge of our tendencies.

On the flip side, you might recall who used to be Groh's defensive coordinator and who had to run that 3-4 defense for a few years. Mike London knows a little something about its strengths and weaknesses, one might safely presume. You and I both know Groh is stubborn enough that he's not going to make any drastic changes to it. He'll coach what he knows.

Whatever intel Groh brings Paul Johnson about UVA is probably limited to the tendencies of our players. Things like, "It's stupid to throw the ball at Ras-I Dowling," or, "Marc Verica occasionally likes to mix things up and throw the ball at someone in the other color jersey," only less obvious and more coachy. London and Groh have coached with and against each other, so if there's anything to be learned from each other's coaching tendencies, it's a two-way street and cancels each other out.

I don't like the idea of going up against Groh's defenses for the next five years, but the reality of the situation is it probably doesn't matter a whole lot. GT really only had a crappy defense for one year, and it's not like our crap offense actually took advantage of it. The advantages GT will gain on us are slim and way overshadowed by the talent gap between our teams anyway. Until our offense stops making every defense look like the Steel Curtain, we won't notice the difference.

By the way, Al isn't the only Groh with a new gig: Mike's been hired to coach quarterbacks at Louisville. Another good hire - anyone who can take a short, unpolished athlete without much of a position and turn him into a better-than-competent quarterback is a worthy coach. Mike Groh rose to his level of incompetence as an OC but I'd have him back coaching QBs in a heartbeat.

**You have to figure this is a huge reason why Johnson would be interested in Groh as a DC. The 3-4 gave him fits. Yes, we got blown out this year but that's because the offense managed to possess the ball for all of 17 minutes out of 60. The defense kept us in it for three quarters. And it won the game for us last year when it held GT's offense to a measly 259 yards, one lousy field goal after the first quarter, and actually managed to handily win the time of possession battle against a team that's designed to never lose that statistic. The 3-4 matches up nicely against that offense because more linebackers = more playmakers to defend the option. Having Groh on staff lets Johnson pick his brain for ways to attack the one scheme that really slows him down.

Monday, January 18, 2010

no cure for the madness

Apparently there is no cure for dizziness. Last week I said that the NCAA tournament talk was fun and all, but let's not go crazy til at least maybe we've beaten Miami and then Wake Forest on the road. We UVA fans are an excitable bunch, after all. It's too late now to stop the train, though: ESPN's resident bracketologist Joe Lunardi - never one in the past to cast a favorable eye on UVA's tournament chances - has beaten us to the punch and joined the dizzy dance. Now we're a 13th seed in this week's projection, and not only that but in the bracket as the ACC autobid. And for a further touch of tournament dizziness, we're actually a 12 seed in his mind, but bumped to a 13th seed for procedural reason (i.e., two other ACC teams are 5 seeds.)

Well, fine. I was going to sow the seeds of caution one more time here and await the results of next week's Wake Forest game before I started getting all tournament-dizzy, but what fun is it being a UVA fan anyway, if I can't get overexcited about this stuff? Besides, Lunardi wrote it, so it must be true, and anyway, we're also "ranked" 30th in the AP poll, so let's enjoy this while it lasts, and hope it lasts til March.

Obviously, we have to maintain this pace or no Madness for us. Andy Katz throws us a second bone in less than a week, and at the same time cautions, quite rightly, that we could still lose any one of these remaining games. The ESPNU broadcasters hit the nail on the head the other day when they said we can't just hand the ball to anyone and let them make a play and win the one-on-one battles. Playing the system is what wins the games right now, and that's absolutely right and what it means is that the margin for error remains slim. This isn't a team that can make mistakes and survive them. The ACC can bite you in the ass - hard - and before you know it you've gone two weeks without winning a game and you're wondering if the NIT folks remember who you are. Remember also that we have the world's lamest nonconference slate and didn't do so hot against it and we really have to take the ACC by storm if we want to play on the big dance floor.

Before this Miami game gets too far out of our memory banks, though, let's take a quick look back at it. Had we merely inched past Miami, we might be getting a lot of the same love from the national types, but I wouldn't be feeling it nearly as much. I don't need to tell you what a major-league woodshedding that was. Miami wasn't in that game from tip to horn. I always thought the Canes were a bit overrated, but we weren't supposed to be able to do that to anyone. Especially Miami: they have several players with the ability to make it rain three-pointers, which has been our toughest matchup all year as the players try and learn the pack-line defense. Given the choice between cheating out to contest three-pointers before their man actually has the ball, and staying true to the principles of the defense (which demands the players pack the floor in tight inside an invisible line about three feet inside the three-point line so as not to get yelled at), the players have chosen not getting yelled at every time. It's showed in our three-point defense, as the team has struggled to get out quickly enough to get a hand in the shooter's face when he gets the ball behind the arc. It's a tricky thing to learn, but Miami was 4-for-19 from threeland, and I can't recall them shooting too many open ones without someone being in their grill. This is the kind of steady improvement that's got me ready to join the dizziness.

P.S. - Winning always generates nice fluff pieces in the local press about your team, so here are a couple from the Washington Post and Roanoke Times. If you love you some Tony Bennett, and what orange-blooded Hoo doesn't right now, then you also like reading about how awesome he is, and these provide just such an opportunity.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sporcle quizzes

You know what's fun? Sporcle, that's what. If you've never been to Sporcle, and you think that God gave us way too many hours in the day and don't intend to spend them productively, this is the place to burn them off. If you have been to Sporcle, then surely you've said to yourself at some point, "Gee whillikers, this place is great, but the one thing that would make it perfect would be more quizzes about UVA." The Sporcle folks can thank me later, but you'll be thanking yourself for clicking on this page and finding out that just such quizzes now exist.

As a public service toward the goal of killing as much otherwise-productive time as possible, I've now set foot into the world of making UVA Sporcle quizzes, and you can find links to them here, always and forevermore. There are two to start with, and I'll add more at random when-I-feel-like-it intervals. That is, when I'm not busy trying to memorize the countries of the world in alphabetical order or remember all the quarterbacks drafted in the first round since 1980. Now you can get smart on aspects of UVA trivia with the following quizzes:

Quarterbacks to start a game in the '00s
Football coaches, all-time
Bowl opponents
Draft picks of the '00s

Got some ideas for another quiz? By all means, let me know. This page will go on the side to be permanently displayed with all the other fun stuff so you can always find it.

I won't make you pledge your quiz, but as always, we are on the Honor System, so NO CHEATING on the quizzes!

2011 recruiting board

2011 recruiting board exists here.

Latest update:

- Finalized. Moved WRs Darius Jennings and Dominique Terrell to orange and removed everyone else (CB Jeremiah Hendy, LBs Curtis Grant and Troy Gray, WRs Max Mason and Timmy Keith, RB Nyjee Fleming) but the decommitments.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

getting dizzy here

Well now we've gone and done it. The second ranked team of the season has come into the JPJA and left on the losing end of a score. This time, though, it was a fellow ACC team, which sort of makes people pay attention. Problem is, now nobody can figure out what the hell. A couple media-types have some very different takes on this whole thing:

- Jason King at Yahoo still thinks we're the 10th-best team in the league and duly places us so in his power rankings. (Not to totally discredit him or anything, but, well, the guy was in idiot mode when he wrote this sentence: "RISING: Virginia – The former last-place team in the league has won six in a row following Wednesday’s upset of Georgia Tech." It's cool that we're "rising" and all, but we did manage to stay out of the cellar last year and haven't finished in last place for quite some time. Thanks for the shout and all.)

- Andy Katz at ESPN is much nicer. The piece's opener is a grabber:

The national picture is shaping up like this:

Tier 1 is Texas, Kentucky and Kansas. Tier 2 likely includes Villanova, Syracuse, Michigan State, Duke, Purdue and possibly a few others at your discretion. Tier 3 includes a list that continues for roughly 30 spots or more.

And guess which team is in the last collection? Virginia.
Like.....whoa. When you're talking "national picture," you're basically talking tournament, especially since Katz's numbers don't add all the way up to 65. I realize we just beat a ranked ACC team, but......whoa. This is heavy. It could get heavier if we beat Miami on Saturday: I promise you that will result in votes in the AP rankings. Maybe not an actual top-25 ranking, but....whoa. You might recall that we are less than one full year from completing a 10-18 season. I'm getting a little dizzy with this "national picture" stuff, I might need to sit down.

I'm not the only dizzy one, though. The boards are full of people wondering how many wins it'll take to get us in the tournament, fretting over the RPI, and rooting for UAB to tear C-USA to shreds. In other words, exactly the way you act when your team is square on the bubble. We're mercifully still not at the stage where we speculate about our seed, but still. It's like an illness (but a really fun one, like if the flu made magicians and clowns come to your house), and nobody's immune: last night, I found myself pondering our schedule and thinking, you know, if we can beat Georgia Tech, why can't we beat Miami? Why not Wake? Why not VT and Maryland and BC? How does 9-7 sound? 10-6? 11-5? There's that dizziness again. I did predict a win yesterday, but I totally failed to think about the repercussions of it.

The truth is, I predicted a win not because I thought we were in fact a national contender and should be ranked, but because I think Georgia Tech should not be, and won't be when it all plays out. Tony Bennett had his team ready to play two outstanding games and he and the team should get all the credit in the world for it, but the flip side of that coin is that when the bad games come - and they will come, it's too long a season and we have to go to too many hostile arenas - we are just not talented enough to overcome a poorly played game. Nobody is going to shoot 3-for-11 from the free throw line against us for the rest of the season - I mean, that's just pathetic. GT fans may be excused for thinking if they could have shot free throws like a normal team, they'd have won that game.

The plain truth is, it is way, way too early to even pretend the NCAA tournament is even an option here - we have no OOC resume whatsoever, outside of a home win against UAB. KenPom ranks our OOC strength of schedule as 303rd in the country - and we still lost four games in that stretch! In order to impress the committee, we have to go absolutely batshit on the other poor saps in our conference and also make a run in the ACC tournament. If you think they'll ignore the OOC because the ACC is so badass, I have some 2009 Charlottesville Regional baseball tickets to sell you - they'll be a nice escape from your swampland estate.

If we can beat a Miami team that I don't think we match up especially well against and then go into Winston-Salem and knock off Wake Forest after pulverizing UNC-Wilmington, then I will bend on this stance, but for now, it's best you don't get too excited about Selection Sunday just yet.

All is not Debbie Downer, of course. Just because it's a bad idea yet to readjust expectations too high doesn't mean it's a bad idea to readjust expectations. No longer is the CBI a goal; it's now the bare minimum, and the NIT is in play once again. It was a complete surprise to learn that we haven't been 2-0 in ACC play since 1995. It'd be a shame to waste that kind of a start with a wholesale collapse, and believe me, that is not totally off the table just yet - though it's looking less and less likely by the day and you have to believe Tony Bennett's way too good a coach to allow it. The best advice I can give fellow Virginia fans is the same thing I said when I first guaranteed an improvement over last year's 11th place finish and four wins: buckle up and enjoy the process of finding out how far that improvement takes us.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

you know what's awesome?

Well, yes, Mr. T wearing a Viking costume and wielding a battle axe would be pretty awesome. No question about that. But still a couple notches below THIS on the awesomenesschart:

q&a with From The Rumble Seat

As is often tradition before Big Games, we (that is, I) have once again exchanged a Q&A session with the enemy. Today we have a longtime partner in Q&A crime, GT blog From The Rumble Seat. For those unfamiliar with the format, my questions and their answers are below, so you can learn yourself up on the Jackets; my answers to their questions will appear not long from now on their site - I'll link when that happens. That would be now - go check it out for more of my always-brilliant insights.

1. Last year GT was 2-14 and then lost two of its top three scorers. So what happened this year? Are Favors and Udofia just really that good, or is there more to it?

Well, both freshmen are really good freshmen. But like freshmen, they make a lot of mistakes. I wouldn't put them at Javaris Crittenton or Thaddeus Young level but they both have made our team significantly better as defenses can't key on one scorer (Lewis Clinch) or low post threat (Gani Lawal) anymore. Defenses this season have to deal with multiple threats to score.

The hype behinds Favors hasn't necessarily been unfounded but he just hasn't shown the true star power that ESPN has hyped him up to be. The star of this team is Gani. Udofia makes some circus shots and is a great scorer but Iman Shumpert and D'Andre Bell are the crazy glue for this team. Udofia and Favors have bright futures but they're not the guys UVA should focus on if they're scheming to stop Hewitt's squad.

2. Is it tournament or bust for Paul Hewitt this year, or can he stick around with an NIT run?

NCAA's or bust. Hewitt needs a helluva good finish to this season to stick around for the long term. Tech fans kinda feel like he's gonna lose Favors and Lawal no matter what and next year may be another rebuilding year for Tech hoops. If he can't do anything with the loaded front court and the current depth in the back court, we think Tech fans have written off the following season as well.

The depth is allowing Hewitt to run his full court press and transition-heavy offense. The big guys are allowing us to run some semblance of a half court offense (aka spread the floor with shooters and dish to the big man). Tech fans have kinda grown tired of the "wait 'til next year" mantra of the Hewitt regime. This is the year or else...just kidding.

Hewitt has a 7 million dollar buyout. He's with us for a while. Tech fans kinda went over the top in locking up Paul Johnson for the long term and totally forgot about Hewitt's MEGA CONTRACT. It would be illogical for us to run Hewitt out of town. He puts players in the pros and will eventually line the stars up again for another run, I think...I hope....maybe.

3. Next year could look even better for GT, with only two seniors graduating. But do you expect any early losses to the NBA?

Favors will leave even though he really needs to work on his footwork. Gani is one of the most refined players we've ever watched at Tech in the low post. Both will probably be our early departures. We don't predict any other early departures but we also thought Javaris leaving came out of left field. Sadly at Tech, you never know until that early declaration deadline ends.

4. What are your realistic best and worst case scenarios for this season?

Best case scenario is #3 seed in ACCT with just above 0.500 ACC record. We get a 5 to 7 seed in the NCAA's and win a couple games. And no one declares for the NBA Draft because they want to make a run through the NCAA's! WOOHOO!

Worst case scenario is a repeat of the past couple seasons (only 4-5 ACC wins). No NCAA berth and little to no ripple made in the ACCT. And for the final punch in the nuts, our top three scorers (Gani + Derrick + a guard) declare early entry into the NBA Draft only to settle for mediocre careers (Ra'Sean Dickey) and/or weapons charges (Javaris).

5. Your turn for a game prediction here.

Al Groh becomes Tech's DC and UVA football goes on a 20 year losing streak in ATL until Groh's retirement at 85.

Oh, you meant basketball...I'm not sure if this team with the inexperience at guard can handle a hostile environment (Hell, Hewitt's teams hardly ever handle hostile environments). I want to believe that UVA is better than Georgie. We couldn't handle the Lady Dogs at their house in early January so I'm gonna say Tech loses a close one in Charlottesville. (Ed. note: Whoa. Didn't expect that.) If we win, I'll be pleasantly surprised but if we lose, I can blame it on our youth at guard. Look for a lot of Tech turnovers but the defense has been solid all season, which'll keep the game close.


As for this being a Big Game - yes. Yes it is. This is a real benchmark game for our Hoos. I think Tech is overrated by being in the rankings, and yes I know, they just went out and beat Duke, which is just the kind of thing the committee needs to see if GT wants to be in the tournament. I haven't pegged them as a tournament team all year, but I do think they have more talent than we do and we don't match up very well in the frontcourt at all. The Jackets will absolutely crush us on the boards in this game. A rebounding margin of minus-10 or 12 wouldn't surprise at all.

However. We may be facing a severe mismatch down low, but a properly executed pack-line defense can help cover up that kind of deficiency. It won't help the rebounding numbers, but it may be just the thing to deny the entry pass into the post and provide help when the ball does arrive down low. If GT had a three-point threat, we'd be caught between a rock and a hard place and our chances at this game would be terribly slim. But they don't, meaning they can't take advantage of the pack-line's biggest weakness. Not only that, but GT is a very turnover-prone team, even for a team whose offense goes through the big men.

But the big thing is this: More than any other conference, the ACC will swallow your tournament hopes up with let-down games. You see it every single year: A team wins a big game, usually against Duke or UNC, and then goes on the road against a team equal or lesser to themselves and falls flat on their face. GT is primed for this. Ripe. A young team, high off a win over Duke, going on the road to one of the more underrated home-court advantages in the conference. If they're still dwelling on the Duke game from last weekend and their UNC game this weekend, it plays right into our hands. Bottom line: I think we will win. We can scrape out an improved season over last year by victimizing the NC States and BCs and Miamis of the world, but this is the kind of game we have to take if we want to overachieve and make a little noise.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Just bullets today, and some linkage:

- As soon as we ever figure out who the offensive coordinator is going to be, I want to try and do up a little something something for him and DC Jim Reid, but man is this OC hire taking forever. Doug Doughty tosses out two names: Craig Johnson and Kevin Rogers, quarterback coaches for the Titans and Vikings, respectively. I don't know who this is going to end up being, but I think I know who I'd rather it not be: the already-on-staff Mike Faragalli. Nothing against Faragalli specifically, it's just that if Mike London is willing to drag this OC search on forever and ever with Faragalli waiting in the wings as backup, Faragalli must not be that attractive an option.

- You might have noticed yesterday that the new university president has been identified as one Dr. Teresa Sullivan, currently the provost at Michigan. If you're like me, you never heard of her til yesterday. So I asked for a little input from those who might know better. It's just message board chatter, so take it for what it's worth to you, but it is at least a step in the right direction.

Me, I ask only a few things of our school president. One is to uphold the principles of student self-governance. I can only hope Sullivan can match Casteen here - this was one of Casteen's strongest points. Another would be to understand that a world-class university needs to be world-class in everything it does - and that includes athletics. Pointy-headed academicians - the type that will scream at you if you park at 4:58 in a parking lot that's reserved until 5:00 - do not get this. Sullivan spent decades at the University of Texas and several years at the University of Michigan, and has this to say about athletics:

Her long-held belief that athletics are an important component of university life should do the same, she said, with the athletic community, as well as with students, faculty and alumni. "There are great advantages to having athletics on college campuses," she said. "Games are a wonderful opportunity to bring the community together and to connect in special ways, particularly with alumni, parents and friends of the University."
I don't have the slightest clue about how respected she is in her chosen field of sociology, nor how good a job she's done as an administrative underling, though I expect the answer is "very" if she's been selected as the president of a university such as ours. I have to say I'm at least mildly encouraged here at the beginning, though. She is talking the talk, at least.

- Aaron Corp is going to Richmond, which is just great because now we get to play against him right off the bat. But speaking of next year's opponents....

- the house coming down at USC or what? The timeline here looks very roughly and not to scale like this:

  1. Basketball coach resigns because hammer is coming, claims it has nothing to do with said hammer.
  2. School self-hammers basketball program. Hard.
  3. NCAA rejects self-hammer, says "we'll take care of this thank you very much." Self-hammer apparently not hammery enough.
  4. Football coach resigns because hammer is coming, claims it has nothing to do with said hammer.
  5. Investigation wraps up.
  6. ????
The death penalty would be very surprising here. Anything short of that would not. Pete Carroll claims he had "given up" on a return to the pros and the Seattle job just opened up like the Red Sea. Horseshit: Carroll is a national championship coach. How many NFL jobs have opened up since then? One phone call would have gotten him an interview with any of them. Carroll saw the writing on the wall at USC and decided to leave that stuff to some other poor schnook.

The question is this: Will the coming sanctions be heavy enough that the NCAA opens up the transfer door and allows players to leave without sitting out a year, as they did at Alabama earlier this decade? I think there's a strong possibility of that, and in that case it'll be interesting to see who jumps ship. It could be a very, very different Coliseum that our own team walks into in September. Will Mike London have us in the right shape to take advantage of a USC team that might be in a state of terrible disarray? It'll be interesting to find out.

- And speaking of disarray, did this offseason turn into an earthquake in the coaching circles or what? It sure looked like a quiet one back in November: UVA, Louisville, maybe Colorado (didn't happen.) Yawn. Sure, Al Groh looked like a goner after the first week of November, but who could have predicted back then that Notre Dame, Florida, USC, Cincinnati, Texas Tech, Kansas, and South Florida would all coached by someone different in 2010? That's half a ton of coaches at two of those schools alone, and if Maryland had any money in their athletic budget, it'd have been the trifecta of fired fattys. Three coaches dismissed for being dicks to their players, even with the exact magnitude of said dickery in question. One resignation because of an impending NCAA doomhammer and another that may or may not be a resignation or a sabbatical or even an extended weekend for all we know. That's a long list of schools in need of a coach, and rather surprisingly, only one of those fired their coach for losing football games.

- Seriously, there is a lot of VT love going on among the pundits. Kirk Herbstreit had them in his early top five for 2010. Rivals has them 11th (not totally out of whack) and the early favorite for the division title next year (also not totally out of whack) but also has this to say: "The presence of RBs Ryan Williams and Darren Evans and QB Tyrod Taylor in the backfield should give the Hokies one of the nation's most fearsome rushing attacks." Rivals' Steve Megargee notes: "Virginia Tech returns most of its skill-position players on offense and should boast the nation's best running-back tandem next season in Ryan Williams and Darren Evans."

Fortunately for delicious irony, that last phrase is right next to a large, full-color picture of C.J. Spiller. I'm reminded strongly of 2008, when Clemson was anointed The Team To Beat on account of their deadly running tandem of Spiller and James Davis as well as their array of skill players. This is something the media loves to do, because it's easy and requires only a quick look at a stat sheet and a roster: whichever team has the best returning skill players is the team to beat.

The media, of course, glossed over the fact that Clemson had a young and terrible offensive line and not a whole lot going on for them on defense. A 12-7 loss to Wake Forest later, Clemson had a new coach to go along with the rest of that inexperience. I'm obviously not going to suggest that Frank Beamer will follow Tommy Bowden into forced retirement, but, consider their defense. By my count, eight regular or semi-regular starters on Poly's defense will have to be replaced: Jason Worilds, Nekos Brown, Kam Chancellor, Cordarrow Thompson, Cody Grimm, Dorian Porch, Stephan Virgil, and Demetrius Taylor all graduate, or in the case of Worilds, leave early for the NFL. And don't forget three of their best blockers: Greg Boone, Ed Wang, and Sergio Render.

That is a lot of defensive talent that has to be replaced somehow. You can't just gloss that over. You especially can't claim Georgia Tech is out of the running just for losing two top juniors and gloss over the seven regular starters Poly is losing, as Megargee did. If you're despairing because we're in a rebuilding year in 2010 and everyone thinks VT is going to roll the conference, don't. I'll tell you right now, Poly will fall short of these expectations.

- Tomorrow is the GT game, and the game preview will, at least in part, take the form of a Q&A session with esteemed GT blog From The Rumble Seat. These are always a lot of fun to do and FTRS knows their GT stuff, so there's much to look forward to.

Monday, January 11, 2010

roundballtable roundup

I guess four responses plus mine is enough. The blogs that took the plunge on last week's ACC roundtable:

Testudo Times
BC Interruption
On the B-Rink
ACC Sports Journal
little ol' me

Time to see what the bloggers think as the season kicks off:

1. The ACC failed to win the ACC/Big Ten Challenge for the first time ever. Let’s panic a bit: Why did this happen?

The bloggers have been reading the Hitchhiker's Guide, because the general theme is "Don't Panic." Jim Young at the ACC Sports Journal was the only one of any of us to rightly point out that part of the problem is that Georgia Tech, which is also known as "20th-ranked Georgia Tech" didn't play.

2. The obvious question that needs to be asked: Who is your Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, and Freshman of the Year?
POTY: It's all about Tobacco Road. Three votes for Jon Scheyer and one for his teammate Nolan Smith. I had to be different and go with Ed Davis.

COTY: We're all over the map here. Two for Leonard Hamilton, one for Coach K, and one halfhearted vote for Uncle Fester and another half-prediction for Paul Hewitt.

FOTY: Derrick Favors running away, but the ACCSJ goes against the tide and picks C.J. Harris, and further points out that Harris has four FOTW awards already so it's not that crazy.

3. The other obvious question: What are your expectations for your own team?

Only three team-specific blogs here, and I'm one of them, and none of them are especially optimistic. Testudo Times has Maryland going 8-8 and to the NIT, which actually just about echoes most of the other bloggy opinions. I'm thinking lofty with the CBI for UVA, and BC Interruption doesn't even expect to be able to watch their Eagles after the ACC tournament is over.

4. The other other obvious question: Which teams are going dancing?

Apparently having a crappy team makes you more pessimistic about the ACC in general. The team-specific blogs are in general not as high on the ACC's chances as the ACC-overall bloggers are: B-Rink and ACCSJ each think it'll be a record year for the ACC with eight, or possibly nine, bids. Eight or nine - whew. It's generally against roundtable protocol to editorialize on other folks' answers, but man, it's hard to argue that expansion has hurt or diluted the ACC if that many teams are going dancing.

Here's how the teams shake out, in the bloggers' estimations:

Duh: UNC and Duke

Pretty safe: FSU and Clemson

Probably, but no guarantees: GT and Wake

Bubblicious: Miami, VT, Maryland

No: UVA, NC State, BC

5. The decade in basketball isn’t quite over yet, at least not the way I reckon it. But it’s still not too early for reminiscing. What was your team’s Game of the Decade? And what one game would you like to have a do-over for?

Blog by blog here:

Testudo Times:
Loves: National championship win over Indiana
Wants back: That one time when Duke beat them after being down 10 with a minute to go.

BC Interruption:
Loves: 85-78 win over #1 UNC, last year
Wants back: 60-59 loss to Villanova in the Sweet Sixteen

On the B-Rink, who is not, despite these selections, a Clemson fan:
Loves: Clemson's 78-74 win over Duke in the '08 ACC tournament
Wants back: That one time the wonderful Dookie timekeepers gave the Blue Devils a little home cooking and "forgot" to start the clock as Clemson hit a game-tying bucket, giving Duke a couple extra seconds to hit the winning layup that shouldn't have happened.

Loves: Duke-Maryland Final Four game in 2001
Wants back: Clemson's choke job from this year's ACC/Big Ten Challenge

Loves: Sean Singletary
Wants back: Gonzaga, and the ice rink game

6. Is your team, and the ACC in general, better or worse off because of the expansion from the Big East? Basketball perspective only, never mind football’s championship game or any of that division stuff. Old-guard teams, what do you think of the difference between pre- and post-expansion ACC? Ex-Big-Easters, the Big East is still a pretty beefy hoops conference and (almost) rivals the ACC for hoops supremacy; is your basketball team better off here or are you having some buyers’ remorse?

The vote is 3-2 in favor of expansion. BCI is happy not to be lost in the Big East shuffle that happened when that conference ballooned to sixteen teams. OTBR figures the expansion teams have been just as competitive, if not more so, than the old guard, and I think the result has been to increase the number of tournament bids the ACC gets.

On the other hand, JY at the ACC SJ doesn't like the loss of the round-robin and the expanded ACC tournament, and TT goes harrumph harrumph get off my lawn, but accepts that kids these days just like playing on other people's lawns and acknowledges it really doesn't affect his weekly checkers game on the porch.

7. The SEC divides its conference into the same divisions in basketball as it does in football. Should the ACC do the same?

Nobody likes this idea, let's just pretend it never came up.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

NC State video up

The first video of the decade is officially here. Yesterday's win over NC State is posted to the videos page. Happy reminiscing.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Final Blogpoll ballot

Here it is, the year's last Blogpoll ballot. I am supposed to have this up more or less today with the final due Monday, so you have the weekend to help fix it. No sciency stuff was applied, just gut feelings mostly, and I attempted to make sure that nobody is below someone they beat. The regular polls are rife with silly mistakes like that - for example, Mississippi is below LSU for some reason. If I missed anything along those lines, definitely jump all over it.

2Florida 5
3Texas 1
4Boise State 1
5TCU 2
6Ohio State 3
7Iowa 3
8Cincinnati 4
9Georgia Tech 1
10Penn State 1
11Oregon 5
12Virginia Tech
13Nebraska 5
14Wisconsin 3
15Pittsburgh 1
16Miami (Florida) 3
18Brigham Young 5
19LSU 1
21Central Michigan 1
22Oklahoma State 3
24Clemson 1
25West Virginia 4
Last week's ballot

Dropped Out: Arizona (#15), Oregon State (#16), Stanford (#24).

Couple thoughts:

- I don't like to give the SEC the satisfaction, and I like Texas quite a bit, but there's no real reason to keep Texas above Florida. Just because they were in the BCS CG? Look at it like this: Both were decisively beaten by Alabama, so look at their most recent non-Bama games. UT squeeeezed past Nebraska and needed a little friendliness from the clock operator to do it; Florida crapped on a previously unbeaten team.

- Anyone, media members who whine about wanting a playoff especially, who 1) complain that a playoff is unfair to undefeated teams like Boise State, and 2) ranked Boise State anywhere below third, is a raging hypocrite, and disingenuous at that. If Boise State really is this year's poster child for Screwed-Over Teams That Deserved A Playoff, why would you rank them so low? Probably because complaining that Florida got screwed over doesn't resonate with the gimme-playoff masses that want that little mid-major hero to rally around. That they were fourth - not even third the way Auburn was in '04 - in the rankings is evidence enough to me that they weren't actually screwed over; after all, a fourth-place ranking means there were plenty of voters who must have ranked them even lower.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

ACC roundballtable

A couple ACC games have already been played, but the unofficial official kickoff to the conference season is this weekend, as all 12 teams have a game to get things started. To celebrate, some idiot decided it would be a good idea to host the first basketball-themed roundtable of the season, so, below are the questions. Also below are the knights of the ACC roundtable who have already spit out their answers; go see what the rest of the ACC has to say.

Testudo Times
On the B-Rink
BC Interruption

1. The ACC failed to win the ACC/Big Ten Challenge for the first time ever. Let's panic a bit: Why did this happen?

As I've postulated as a prerequisite to the notion that UVA will be improved in conference play this year, the ACC is, on the whole, less talented than it was last year. It is a bit of a down year. And the Big Ten, on the other hand, is looking better than it has in the past. It was bound to happen eventually; it still took a down year for the ACC and an up year for the Big Ten for the Big Ten to even squeak out a 6-5 win in the Challenge. And even then, a couple of the ACC's losses could have swung the other way with just a little bit of luck. Just one of them things - statisticians will tell you the law of averages is bunk, but at the same time you can't expect this thing to go on forever and the ACC not to drop one here and there. Besides, this is a fun event, and how much longer would the Big Ten have wanted to play ball if they didn't get a win once in a while?

2. The obvious question that needs to be asked: Who is your Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, and Freshman of the Year?

Up to this point, Jon Scheyer is the only player in the ACC's top five in both points and assists and plays for the league's highest-ranked team; he seems a natural choice. Forget it. The one player I'd rather have on my team above any other right now is UNC's Ed Davis. He and Wake's Al-Farouq Aminu are both averaging a double-double, but Aminu is shooting under .500 while Davis's shooting percentage is a whopping .631. Amazing even for a forward. Davis also contributes three blocks a game. Think about it: that's six points a game the other team doesn't get. And 63% shooting! He's not a liability from the line, either, so you can't just hack him. Keep going on that pace and Scheyer might eventually be named POTY anyway, but he won't deserve it.

With GT's Derrick Favors averaging 12 and 9, there's really not much of a race for Freshman of the Year. Just so he has some competition to beat, C.J. Harris of Wake, Jordan Williams of Maryland, and Michael Snaer of Florida State are making some solid contributions. There aren't any John Wall types in the ACC this year - perhaps a big reason why it's a bit of a down year - but Favors stands well above the competition and barring injury has this thing on lockdown.

Too early to name a coach just yet, but I'll tell you right now it'll be GT's Paul Hewitt if the media's prediction of 4th place comes even remotely close to true, after that 2-14 season last year.

3. The other obvious question: What are your expectations for your own team?

I've gone over this pretty extensively, of course: Make the postseason. Even if it's the CBI. And improve over 11th place and 4 wins.

4. The other other obvious question: Which teams are going dancing?

This looks like a slow year for the ACC, Madness-wise. Duke and UNC are the locks. I'll also put Wake, FSU, and Clemson in. Maryland, bubble team, but they're going to have to make a major showing and probably knock someone else out. That's....pretty much it. Five teams. Six, if all the pieces fall into place, but here's thinking they won't. Four would not surprise either: Clemson and FSU in particular do not inspire the kind of confidence I'd need to give any kind of guarantee.

5. The decade in basketball isn't quite over yet, at least not the way I reckon it. But it's still not too early for reminiscing. What was your team's Game of the Decade? And what one game would you like to have a do-over for?

Best game of the decade?


As for the do-over, it's my question so I get to answer twice. I'm doing this because really these two games are brothers, in that some dipshit whose job it was to arrange and schedule these games made a major-league mistake. And they were both in 2001.

First is the 2001 tournament game against Gonzaga - an opponent we never should have been set up with. Gonzaga had already made an Elite Eight run and then a Sweet Sixteen run as a 10 seed twice, meaning they had knocked off two 7s, two 2s, and a 6, two years running. Did anyone on the committee stop to think it might be a good idea to seed them higher instead of lower? Noooooooo. At least, not til the year after they'd beaten us. Instead of excitement as should be the case entering the tourney as a nice high seed, I remember a distinct feeling of dread over the Grounds: not only were we stuck with giant-killing Gonzaga, we were the cursed 5 seed playing a 12 seed. Doom. And hell, we came that damn close to winning it anyway. 13th-seeded Indiana State would have awaited us, meaning a likely Sweet Sixteen date with Michigan State. But we got our crack at the Spartans the next season in the ACC-Big Ten Challeng.....

.....and then had it taken away because some dipshit decided to put the game in the larger Richmond Coliseum on the same day as a later hockey game. With the ice prepared and ready to go, the rink was simply covered up and the floor placed over top. Predictably, the day was warm and humid, the ice melted, and the floor was sopping wet from condensation. It wasn't basketball. Pete Gillen called it Bambi on ice. The players couldn't run - at best they jogged, flatfooted so as not to stick their heel out and slip. Nobody leaped for a rebound, lest they slam to the ground upon landing. The fan in me wanted to keep going, because our team was doing a better job of figuring out how to score under the insane conditions. The decent human being in me, who I keep trying to strangle, knew they should have called that game three minutes after it started. I want that game back, on a basketball court this time. And I want it in U-Hall where we'd have enjoyed a proper home court advantage.

6. Is your team, and the ACC in general, better or worse off because of the expansion from the Big East? Basketball perspective only, never mind football's championship game or any of that division stuff. Old-guard teams, what do you think of the difference between pre- and post-expansion ACC? Ex-Big-Easters, the Big East is still a pretty beefy hoops conference and (almost) rivals the ACC for hoops supremacy; is your basketball team better off here or are you having some buyers' remorse?

From the selfish perspective, here's how it looks: We're 11-11 against the expansion teams. But more important is this stat: 8-13. That's our record in games against old-guard teams that we only played once in the seasons since expansion. In other words, the teams we would have played twice but didn't, because those games were replaced with ones against expansion teams. Clearly, it's been a help.

Even more importantly, we're 2-1 in the ACC tournament against the expansion teams. One of those wins was in the 2006 tournament, where we played 10th seeded VT as the 7th seed. No expansion means we would have gone straight to playing UNC, where we lost. Instead, we got an extra win, which was probably the difference between the low-seed NIT invite we got, and staying home.

But has the expansion diluted ACC basketball as everyone feared?

No. It's made the ACC stronger. In the five years before expansion, the ACC earned 23 tournament bids. In 2001, there were just three teams repping the conference. In the five years since, the ACC has 27 bids, including two years with seven teams invited. I don't think that ever happened before expansion. Five of those bids have been earned by expansion teams, and they all have at least one. That's their fair share.

But this is the biggest benefit of expansion, at least from a competition standpoint: the ACC now plays three extra tournament games. And the best part is they're being played by bubble teams. The fifth and sixth seeded teams used to be placed in first-round games they were likely to lose; now they're in games they're likely to win. Those are exactly the teams that might need that little extra oomph to get into the tournament.

7. The SEC divides its conference into the same divisions in basketball as it does in football. Should the ACC do the same?

I threw this question in at the end because it popped into my head just before I hit "send" to the other bloggers and I decided I was actually curious to hear the answers. Myself I want no part of it; it would just increase the inequities of scheduling since we'd all have to play the same division teams every year, and it sucks to get into a situation where one division is consistently way stronger than the other.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

wednesday linkpile

Time to deal with a bunch of that stuff that piles up while I'm off plowing through projects that I just have to put out there. First up is that tired-looking recruiting board, and the updates to it:

- Removed a bunch of names that we hadn't heard from or about since before the regime change. Said regime change means it's not likely we're bothering.

- Removed S Ed Reynolds, probably once and for all, who committed to Stanford, and DT Johnathon Hankins, who committed to Ohio State.

- Added LB Ralph Williams to blue. Might be able to snake-oil this guy away from Tennessee. He is Michael Strauss's high school teammate.

- Added OT Dan Foose and RB Dejor Simmons to yellow.

- Recategorized Strauss as an early enrollee. Technically he isn't enrolled right at this moment, but he'll be at spring practice, sure enough to the point where it'd be news now if he wasn't. This is awesome, by the way. Early enrollers always get a nice little boost from being at spring practice, but for quarterbacks the benefit is immeasurable compared to just about any other position.

Frankly, this 2010 board is getting very boring. I'm guessing three, maaaybe four more commits. Total of about 15-17. Not quite the furious finish we had to last year's class. In the near future, therefore, the 2011 board will have its debut. Won't that be fun. My too-early projection for that class size is about 18-22, so the commitments should be at a bit of a faster pace than they have been this year.

Before I forget, the "other" football team spit out some disappointing news today: Tony Tchani is leaving school for the pros. Eh, it's probably time: he's got a championship and he's plenty talented enough to make the jump. We weren't going to lose any major, major pieces of the championship team to graduation, so Tchani leaves the one real hole in the lineup. Which can be filled just fine, thank you: for one thing, we'll actually get to use Brian Ownby for the whole season, and Jimmy Simpson should be able to find his way to the field more often. Simpson, you might recall, had a pretty nice freshman season in 2008 with six goals, but didn't see hardly any time this year. We've got the depth to cover Tchani.

Even if you've been under a rock since New Year's, you probably still know that Jim Reid, formerly the Dolphins' linebackers coach, is going to be the new DC. Cross your fingers for Bill Musgrave to be rehired as OC - myself, I don't see it happening. We gotta get this stuff in place and Musgrave is playing the waiting game. I'll probably make some kind of stab at an overview of the new coordinators once they're both in place and announced.

Remember Aaron Corp? He was USC's dauphin quarterback this year, the heir in the dynasty behind center for the Trojans. That was until Matt Barkley horned in on his territory and kept the job all season. Barkley is firmly entrenched for the next two seasons at a bare minimum, which as bad luck would have it is all the time Corp has left in college. Yeah, I'd transfer too. The neat part is that some guy told some guy who told some guy that UVA had inquired into his availability. Have we? Who knows, but it makes sense. We're thin at quarterback, and all our options in 2011 are going to be pretty young still.

Let's pretend for a hot minute Corp does end up transferring here. As you probably know, he couldn't play in 2010 because of transfer rules, and he's already used up a redshirt year so the working assumption would be that he'd get one year: 2011. I'm also going to assume Marc Verica, the only upperclassman on scholarship, gets handed the keys next year, so that it's once again an open competition for the job in '11. Right now that's going to be between redshirt sophomores Smalls and Metheny and redshirt freshman Strauss, and probably an as-yet-unknown redshirt or true freshman. Would be nice to have a little senior leadership in there, no? Corp could take the job for a year, strut his stuff for NFL scouts, and leave the reins (spelling hint time: it's reins, not reigns, as in, what you use to control a horse) to that same bunch which is now a year older and hopefully wiser in 2012.

Of course, Corp might find it beneficial to have two years to get ready for what he clearly hopes will be a bid at being an NFL draft pick, and therefore transfer to a I-AA school where he can play right away. His decision comes down to, is it better to play two years in a place where getting noticed is that much harder, or one year in a spotlightier place? Me, I'd be thrilled to bring him in, and would promise to keep all Christian Olsen comparisons to a minimum.

OK, so one of the best parts about college football in the Internet age is that the moment something hilarious shows up on TV, it goes straight to YouTube, every blog everywhere, and the message boards, usually before the game is over. Whether it's Lee Corso trying to shake hands with a blind kid or Clemson fans taking a flying leap off the metaphorical ledge, it goes right to your computer screen before Sportscenter even comes on. Such was the case with Sad Cowbell Girl, as she was known in the 12 hours or so before it became common knowledge that she is blind. Unfortunately for the Internet, we'd all already had our jollies. So if you saw a major uptick in the past couple days on the InterWebz We Are All Total Assholes Meter, that's why. We may have a new record for edited blog and board posts in one day, which in itself restores the humor by changing the target to All Of Us Being Dickheads. Don't feel bad, Internet: blindness is not synonymous with emotionlessness. Obviously she had no way of knowing there was a camera and therefore wasn't going to make silly faces at it the way humans are genetically wired to do whenever inside a stadium. But still: when's the last time you ever saw a bored marching band member? Even the cowbell calls for slightly more enthusiasm than it takes to shuffle over to the fridge for another beer.

I'll wrap this up with a complaint, complete with bad language: I hate you, TV networks. I hate what you've done to my bowl system. I hate how you allow shitty bowl games to take place after New Year's Day. I hate how you make good and damn sure there cannot possibly any competition for the bowl game you're airing by making the ACC champion play on a Tuesday fucking night five days after New Year's. I hate how you make this possible by airing something called the "Papajohn' Bowl**" on New Year's weekend instead of the Monday before Christmas where it belongs. I hate how you give airtime to some stupid midlevel asshole representing the sponsor so he can pimp his company under the cover of pretending to "wish the best of luck to the finest student-athletes in the nation." This is only funny when watching a team which has suspended half its depth chart for thugging it up at a fraternity fundraiser. I hate how you're putting the BCS CG on a damned Thursday because heaven forbid it compete with your precious NFL. GET OFF MY LAWN.

**This is the only context in which a bowl named for its corporate sponsor will appear on this blog without asterisks like you'd use to represent a curse word in more family-oriented contexts: to emphasize the point that it sounds really stupid. You may see "E*******k Bowl" or "ex-Peach Bowl" but you won't see the actual name if a corporation has whored out the bowl for itself. And by the way, Papa John's pizza is terrible. Putting the cheese on top of the toppings means you have to guess which one is the delicious pepperoni and which one has the nasty disgusting green peppers on it, and even if they did put the toppings where they belong, Pizza Hut and Domino's and Little Caesar's and Sbarro and just about everyone else still kick the ass of Papa John's.