Monday, January 17, 2011

the waiting is the hardest part

It's not that hard, seeing into the future. You just have to know where and when to look. Basketball games these days are a good start. The Future Channel doesn't come in HD, of course; it's a staticky, broken-up picture. Sometimes it's there, sometimes not. It's clearest when you see things like aggressive close-outs that follow a crisp, well-executed double team; it fades out again when the ball is heaved carelessly out of bounds on the ensuing possession. The future is right there on your TV, but it's like listening to the radio on the very edge of the broadcast radius, with other stations fighting to be heard on the same frequency, replacing your Aerosmith with local community college talk radio every time you drive underneath a power line.

We're getting there, of course. It just sucks to wait. It's frustrating to watch this team play like a talented ACC powerhouse for 30 minutes, only to be foiled when the opposition realizes what it's dealing with. UVA had Duke fooled for a half and then some. They played exactly the aggressive, close-out defense I wanted to see. They forced entry passes to be caught too far outside the paint to be of any use and then double-teamed the shit out of the post man. They cheated outside the pack-line just enough to hurry Duke's three-pointers and eliminate the mid-range jumper that they've feasted on since about 1991. On offense, Jontel Evans and Mustapha Farrakhan drove with authority and kicked out to wide-open three-point shooters. Assane Sene somehow knew when to be on the offensive glass and when not to be.

And then it all went to shit when Duke remembered they were Duke and further took note of where Mike Scott was. The lack of anyone at all who can reliably score from inside affects everything on offense. There's nowhere to pass to except around the outside. You can drive, but Duke was basically playing an inverse box-and-one: four guys running around playing man-to-man and one seven-foot lummox stationed near the basket to discourage any thoughts of driving the lane. The lack of a respectable big man not only takes away your plays for scoring down low, it takes away most of your guards' options too because there's no good reason to respect anything you'll do within twelve feet. Duke simply deployed Ryan Kelly and/or Mason Plumlee around the basket and told them to swat any flying round objects. UVA's guards got the hint and ceased all attempts at aggressiveness.

Still: the future. So many pieces to a successful basketball team are missing from this one. No respect-at-all-costs scoring threat. No size. The future is visible in those glimpses of what's being accomplished despite that. Any team that can be leading Duke, by nine, at Cameron, in the second half, is a force to be reckoned with; give it back its best player, add a couple highly talented recruits, and give it a year to grow up, and you've got the reason Tony Bennett was hired. It'll be worth waiting for. It just sucks having to slog through the static to get there.


Other stuff from the game:

- Didn't hear much out of Kyle Singler on Saturday. Part of that was because Duke was riding Nolan Smith's hot hand, but UVA did an excellent job defending Singler, holding him to his third-lowest scoring total and second-lowest rebounding total of the year. Singler's a matchup nightmare - he's Will Sherrill with athleticism and a better jump shot. Holding him to 13 and 4 is outstanding work.

- Mike Patrick and Len Elmore are supposed to be pretty good broadcasters, but they sounded like local radio. Basic knowledge of the visitor's roster was horrendous. I don't even know what Jontel's last name is any more; Patrick and Elmore offered a number of different suggestions, trying out "Jontel Harris," "Jontel Evans," "Jontel Davis," and "Mustapha Farrakhan" with equal emphasis throughout the course of the broadcast. That's when they weren't calling the real Mu "Mustapha Farracan." Small wonder people think the Worldwide Leader exists to cater to certain teams only.

- Speaking of hilarity from the WWL, it made me giggle to listen to the broadcasters praise Mike Kry-whatever for remaning calm in the face of adversity to provide his team with a "teaching moment," only to watch Coach K go apeshit in the very next timeout. I would make some kind of a comparison to Tony Bennett's timeout demeanor during the game except there were never any cameras on him. Duke, you see.

- The refereeing brought zero complaints from me, which is weird for a UVA game and really weird for one in Cameron. I thought it was very even-handed, actually, which probably means it was tilted in UVA's favor. At any rate, they failed to give Duke the platinum-membership treatment they're accustomed to, which helped the first half go as well as it did.


I don't know when this week I'm going to be able to get to this, so now's as good a time as any to update the recruiting board. This is in advance of what shapes up to be a huge recruiting weekend. Practically this whole class committed before official visit season began, so most will be in town, along with a couple of the biggest of the biggest targets on the board. Ahead of the weekend, it's time to whittle a few names off the board and get ready for the homestretch. Updates:

- Removed DE Horace Arkadie from blue - he committed to Arkansas. That's one of the main five targets down, though Arkadie was almost certainly fifth of five on the wish list. Mainly that's a function of space and already-committed players, although it's always hard to get a Texas kid out of the southwest.

- Removed WR Brandon Reddish from yellow - Syracuse commit.

- Removed LB Nick Menocal from red - looks like a definite to stick with Miami.

- Moved LB Curtis Grant from green to blue. Remember how I've been saying UVA would at the very least be one of the hats on Grant's table? Well, here we are: Grant will take an official visit to UVA, a change from his earlier stance of figuring he'd been to Charlottesville enough. That's good enough to move him up. Bleacher Report thinks he's down to Florida and Ohio State only, but that report was derived from the rectal extraction tables.

I've said it before, I'll say it again: Curtis Grant just can't stop hanging out in Charlottesville. I like our chances just as much as OSU and UF like theirs.

- Lastly, Daquan Romero now shows up in the database, a week following David Watford, so his status is changed to "enrolled."

The 2012 board is thisclose to being ready to go. Really I'm just waiting for a good chance to unveil it. If not this week, and this week is likely, then next. Possibly the weekend.

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