Monday, February 28, 2011

weekend review

So it's back to the grind. Losing by 19 to Boston College, if nothing else, serves to remind us of the cavernous talent (and more importantly, experience) chasm separating this basketball team from the rest of the ACC. Various game reports opened by wondering what to point to in order to explain the blowout - or more specifically, the total lack of ability to play either offense or defense in the second half. The answer is simple: the implicit conclusion from last week's column that this team has been playing way over their heads. At some point that has to be expected to catch up to you.

You are now forbidden, for your own health, from uttering the word "NIT." I suppose it doesn't especially matter what happens for the rest of the season, but since Tony Bennett is still Tony Bennett it's not like the team is going to agree with that. Worse teams than this one have made the CBI, and even if that's the only tournament we get invited to we should accept. It's probably a money-loser, but this is the most profitable athletic department in the conference and what good is making all that money if you don't spend it on something like that? This team needs to cram as much basketball into its gullet as possible. And even if the only thing we have to look forward to this year is three more losses to end the season, we'll always have Paris, where "Paris" is code for "sweeping the Hokies right the hell out of the arena."

Speaking of the Hokies: Fuck you, Duke. Seriously. You run roughshod over the entire conference for three decades and then the one time I want you to actually take care of business and crush someone, you choke like Monica on the President's cigar. I hope when Coach K retires you hire Matt Doherty.


OK, now that the profanity is out of the way let's talk about things that make us happy, like lacrosse and baseball.

I don't know whether to worry or not about the start of the lacrosse season. Yes, 3-0 is a good thing, and Drexel is no slouch of a team and Stony Brook is potential final four material, so beating them is great. Beating them without the suspended Bratton twins is pretty incredible.

That said, why the rash of suspensions? First Ghitelman and now both Rhamel and Shamel, and both for games of importance. Let's hope this is Starsia's way of reacting to the problems of last year and clamping down on stuff that he wasn't clamping down on before. And let's hope the team gets the message.

Discipline problems aside, this why there's such a thing as Steele Stanwick. Five goals against Stony Brook, including the OT game-winner, should tell you who the team sees as their go-to guy, especially when last year's second-line midfield of Haldy, Briggs, and Emery is suddenly the first-line midfield. The Brattons got the preseason hype and they'll be creating all the highlight goals, but Stanwick might well be the irreplaceable one.

The Stone-Age lack of TV means I'm still at a loss for individual observations, and tonight's VMI game won't add anything to what we know. Fortunately, it's Syracuse on Friday.


I might be waffling on the lacrosse team, but not the baseball team. Despite losing on Sunday and allowing East Carolina to avoid the sweep, the start to the season has been fantastic. Danny Hultzen, of course, sparkles as the Friday starter. Fifteen strikeouts and top-notch work with the bat earned him National Player of the Week honors from Collegiate Baseball. (Seriously, read that article. Hultzen's pitching on Friday was as dominant as you can get short of throwing a perfect game.) Hultzen's dominance is to be marveled at, and should result in all kinds of recognition, gaudy numbers, and Friday evening victories as the season goes on.

But we've kind of been counting on that. The same for Tyler Wilson's excellent job on Saturdays. Wilson's an excellent pitcher too, and we knew that. Even though Cody Winiarski took the Sunday loss with one bad inning, I'm more encouraged by his play than by that of anyone else so far this season. Winiarski has struck out six in each of his two starts, almost doubling his K rate from last season. A weekend rotation without a hole in it means lofty ACC expectations; this is probably the top rotation in the conference and should result in a solid 20 conference wins and maybe then some. This is an awesome development. This is how you live up to people calling you "one bad machine."

I was going to get moving with a full-out preview of the season this week, but actually it'll probably have to wait til next week when the basketball regular season is done.


And now, the rest of the story:

- Ralph Sampson, Hall-of-Famer. My initial reaction was this would've happened fifteen years ago if Sampson were a Dookie. Instead he played for lowly - which wasn't at all lowly at the time - Virginia. After all, Sampson is a member of a three-time-NPOY club that includes just two other players - Oscar Robertson and Bill Walton. Screw the man, man. Then I remembered that the NCBHOF is only like four or five years old, and Sampson wouldn't have been part of the (absolutely enormous) founding class because he's not in the big HOF on account of a mediocre NBA career. Still, how does Ralph Sampson, Three-Time-National-Player-Of-The-Effing-Year Ralph Sampson, have to wait behind Christian Laettner for his turn? Oh, right: Duke, and Not Duke.

Anyway, justice is done. The fact that a College Basketball Hall of Fame could exist as an institution with a building and everything and not have Ralph Sampson inside it was silly. Now it's not.

- Swimmers rock. The men's team, as predicted, made it two-for-two at the ACC Swimming & Diving championships. The meet, as not predicted, wasn't even close. 232 points separated UVA and 2nd-place UNC, which is more points than four of the competing teams achieved at all.

The meet's MVP was distance swimmer Matt McLean for the third time in four years. Other event winners: sprinter Scot Robison and butterflyer Peter Geissinger. The tone of the meet was pretty well set in the first individual event - the 500-yard freestyle - where Virginia swimmers took 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 8th. For those keeping score at home, the meet's over so you can put your pencils away, but that's still 92 of the event total 155 points. In one event UVA scored more than Boston College or Miami combined.

Nationals are next, where hopefully top-10 finishes await both the men and women.

- Can't let this go without a recruiting board update. But first, something even better. A map. I put together a Google Map of the recruiting board. It's color-coded and everything, although the red is kinda pink. And the orange looks red if you don't have the pink near it to compare it to. Blame Google's pastel coloring. Anyway, the link will have a permanent home on the recruiting board page so you can check it out whenever.

Now, the update:

- Added RB Kye Morgan and WR Drakar Harvell to yellow. Both might be green, but for a couple mitigating factors: Morgan lives almost literally in the shadow of Rutgers The SUNJ, and Harvell needs an offer. Harvell will eventually get one, I think, at which time he'll be instabumped to green or blue.

- Moved DT Korren Kirven from yellow to red.

- Moved ATH Cyrus Jones from red to yellow. Jones hails from Gilman - Darius Jennings's alma mater.

Full schedule this week (that's code for "I don't have to pull anything from my ass this week"): I'll preview the NC State game, and lacrosse's Syracuse game. I don't know if I'll preview the Maryland game, as we're destined to be killed by a team we match up with exceedingly poorly. As much as I enjoy this very likable version of our basketball team, I am really looking forward to spring sports.

Friday, February 25, 2011

game preview: Boston College

Date/Time: Sat., February 26; 12:00


History against the Eagles: 7-5

Last matchup: BC 70, UVA 67; 1/18/11; Boston

Last game: UVA 62, GT 56 (2/23); Miami 74, BC 63 (2/23)

Opposing blogs: BC Interruption, Eagle in Atlanta


National: UVA #108; BC #70
Offense: UVA #140; BC #14
Defense: UVA #83; BC #225

If you want to see what might have been, if any of the woulda-coulda-shouldas had come through (not collapsing against Miami, beating Wake Forest like we were supposed to, etc.) look no further than Boston College. One game separates these teams in the ACC standings, and Boston College is praying for an NCAA tournament bid while UVA's best shot is probably a low seed in the NIT. Yes, there's Seattle. BC has Yale. We are on the brink, folks. Next year. Just wait.

Meantime, there's Boston College, and the shoestring tournament bids riding on this one qualify it for EPIC SHOWDOWN status. So I turned to BC Interruption to learn more about the Eagles. Standard Q&A wizardry. The other half is there at BCI, as usual you are compelled to click over to find out more about my own take on things. Including that which I almost never do unless asked: a prediction and score.

1. How are BC's tournament hopes?

Hanging on by a thread.

BC's 16-11 (6-7 ACC) record isn't much to look at, but the Eagles' benefit from strong resume numbers, including an RPI of 50 and a conference-best SOS of 16. Now, about that 3-7 record in their last 10 ...

Given BC's strong resume numbers, all they have to do is start winning again. Three wins to end the regular season, plus a decent-to-above average showing in the ACC Tournament probably gets BC in. If the season ended today, the Eagles' would probably find themselves playing in Dayton on a Tuesday. Next week's mid-week game against the Hokies is probably an NCAA Tournament eliminator. Cage match style.

2. BC graduates something like eight seniors, and Steve Donahue inherited a program with literally zero scholarship underclassmen for 2010-11 and had to scramble to put together a recruiting class. What's the outlook for next year?


BC graduates Trapani, Raji, Paris, Southern and Dunn next season, and will be left with these players who have gotten significant minutes this year: Reggie Jackson (34.0 minutes), Danny Rubin (18.5), Dallas Elmore (16.3) and Gabe Moton (13.8).

Next year, Donahue will have Matt Humphrey, a transfer from Oregon, and six incoming recruits. Four of the six hail from Southern California -- PG Jordan Daniels, SG Lonnie Jackson, PF Ryan Anderson and C Kyle Caudill. Donahue is also bringing in SF Eddie Odio (Miami, FL) and PF Dennis Clifford (Milton, MA). So while Donahue is doing a good job reloading and bringing in players to fit his system, it will likely be a slow process ... and a LONG season next year.

3. How about further down the line? Is Donahue the right guy for BC basketball?

I think so. Far soon to tell, though. Donahue is playing with house money this year, and the fact that we are even talking about the NCAA Tournament as the calendar hits March is a good sign for his long-term prospects. Donahue took a less-talented roster of players that don't fit his system and has already won more games than last year's team ... against a much more difficult schedule. Opposing team writers and fans seem to come away from watching BC games stating that the Eagles are a very well-coached team.

Only two knocks so far on Donahue: home attendance and defense. I think the former will improve over time as Donahue builds a winner at BC. The latter ... well ...

4. Why does BC have a really good, efficient offense - rated 2nd-best in the ACC by KenPom - but they can't stop anyone on defense?

Over the last few years, BC has had a higher offensive efficiency than defensive efficiency. Defense was one of the team's flaws under Skinner that led to a change at the top. But this year, the offensive-defensive bipolarity is off the charts. I can't put my finger on the root cause. Sure, BC gets killed in the paint without a true big man on the floor, and this team gives significant minutes to three walk-ons, but even still, the defense shouldn't be that bad.

Donahue's teams at Cornell followed the same pattern -- highly-efficient offenses and porous defenses. Hopefully this problem gets better as he brings in guys to fit his system. The defense has to improve though, because there's nowhere to go but up.

5. Eight seconds left, BC is down by 2, with the ball, and Reggie Jackson just fouled out. Who's taking the shot?

Joe Trapani.

Trapani has been a workhorse for the Eagles over the last 10 games, averaging 16.5 points a game and 4 double-doubles over that span. A transfer from Vermont, Trap doesn't have the raw talent and athleticism that Reggie Jackson has, but he makes up for it with effort. Trapani can beat you on the dribble or drain the three ball. A lot of fans have a love-hate relationship with Trapani, but he's really come on strong down the stretch this season, and he'll certainly be missed next year.

6. Prediction?

A big, big test for Steve Donahue and the Eagles. Win, stop the bleeding, and keep your NCAA Tournament hopes alive. Lose and BC probably ends up hosting an NIT game in front of 5,000 fans. Being the homer that I am, I think Donahue gets this team to respond on the road, and we live to see another day. Then again, in typical BC fashion, it will be far too close for our liking ... 68-66 Eagles.

Beaucoup gracias to BCI. And best of luck in the cage match.


- Patience. Shots will come. BC's defense has gotten even worse since we played them. They can't force turnovers, and teams always find good shots. There are a multitude of ways to score on the Eagles. Patience, fortunately, is a strong suit of ours.

- Defend the paint better. Last time did not go well for the Hoos down low. BC, normally a good three-shooting team, shot very poorly from long range, but made up for it with stellar work in the paint. Center Josh Southern had four assists and no turnovers. That can't happen; for a big, Southern's a good passer, but not that good. Joe Trapani was 7-for-10 inside the arc. Southern, 3-for-4. And BC had 25 free throw attempts. Hopefully Will Sherrill can play more than just five minutes. Assane Sene will need to be a major presence and must stay out of foul trouble. BC's offense is one of the country's most efficient and very difficult to stop, and UVA has to at least make them work for their points.


- BC shoots like BC. They were an uncharacteristic 6-for-21 from long range in the last meeting, which helped keep the game close. They're much better than that.

- Let Joe Trapani get going. Trapani is a UVA-killer. As nasty-good as Reggie Jackson is, Trapani's the real matchup nightmare in my book. When UVA beats BC, Trapani is invisible, but otherwise he's all over the floor. Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell will probably be assigned to guard him, and they've got to find a way to make him one-dimensional, preferably by keeping him out of the paint as much as possible.


BC is so damn bipolar it's ridiculous. I don't think you'll find another team in the country with such a huge spread between their offensive and defensive effectiveness, the latter of which has gotten even worse since last time. Of course, I don't buy into the idea that they're struggling, either - sure, they're 2-6 since our last meeting, but UNC and Duke account for half those losses, and FSU a fourth. It's been a tough schedule since January 19, and they've swept Maryland this year. The only actual bad loss was the latest, against Miami, which is only going to serve to piss them off.

And yet, I like what I see. UVA is 3-3 in the last six and frankly, none of the losses were uncompetitive, despite what the Duke score said. This team has had the willpower to beat back adversity in the last two games. They're playing like they're on a mission, even if nobody's real sure what the mission is. The BC offense is highly efficient, but not unstoppable, and the UVA defense has been getting much better, game by game. And of course, BC can be scored on. As long as shots are falling at the rate they should, the chances look good for a third straight win.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

the kings of unlikely

The lacrosse team is 2-0, the baseball team is 4-0, both are headed for a big weekend of games, and the basketball team is barely over .500 on the season, playing out the string en route to another likely quarterfinals exit (at best) from the ACC tournament, which they do every year. They ain't exactly making history. If they're lucky they'll get a CBI invite, which isn't even the junior NIT - it's more like the NIT's janitor. No offense to janitors. If they're really lucky they'll get a low seed in the NIT. How does a basketball team get anyone to care about the longshot chase for a 7-seed in the NIT?

By caring very, very hard themselves. You might ask, if you were a national observer: how can you keep devoting so much attention to a mediocre bunch that missed the tournament bubble about two months ago? Then again, how can you not? This is the raggediest, misfittiest UVA basketball team in recent memory. It's held together - as an on-court product, not in the intangible locker room - with baling wire, Elmer's, rainbows, and the wishes of orphans. No duct tape. Duct tape hurt his ankle in December. There's an adolescent giraffe playing center, a shooting guard playing power forward, and another shooting guard that's sort of a point guard and can only hit three-pointers when flying backwards into the Gatorade jug with the shot clock expiring. And now they're winning basketball games. In the ACC.

Consider this: This team lost Sylven Landesberg, Mike Scott, Jeff Jones, and Jerome Meyinsse, replaced them with four freshmen, and that change resulted in a likely increase in wins - assuming they can win just one of the next three. That's how you know you have the right coach.

Now we have the kings of unlikely, trying to do the unlikely. Make the postseason and the NIT. Sure, it's a longshot. North Carolina did it at 16-16, 5-11, just last season, but of course they have something we don't: the name "North Carolina." And Assane Sene is gangly and awkward, and if you look up "assane sene" on YouTube half the results are "Travis McKie posterizes Assane Sene". He is the least likely person to create his own Sportscenter highlight and he just created his own Sportscenter highlight by MANBLOCKING two Georgia Tech shots. Somehow this guy who can't catch a bounce pass ripped someone's weak stuff right out of the air not two feet away from the hand that fired the shot. In the second half, he encored by belting a Daniel Miller dunk attempt into Mongolia. If you'd asked me two years ago or last year how I felt about a team led by Mustapha Farrakhan - who had made a career of shooting 4-for-15 - I'd have seriously considered demoting the basketball team to club level. Today I exchanged Q&A with BC Interruption and they asked me how to go about stopping Mustapha Farrakhan. An unlikely team leader, an even more unlikely clutch player - and yet without a trace of irony yesterday I exhorted the inbounder to find Mu and get him the ball.

Slowly but surely, and painfully, the kings of unlikely are coming up with unlikely wins. It is nothing to anyone whether they finish with 14 or 15 or 16 of them, but the journey, to recycle a hackneyed phrase, is more important than the destination. The process is one of learning how to win - another hackneyed, overused phrase, but never more apt than when describing a team that blows lead after lead after lead and then finds itself not blowing the lead any more. ESPN's announcers may condescend to marvel at the effort given by a team headed - from their lofty perspective - nowhere, and you might be crazy to keep letting your sanity hinge on every Sammy Zeglinski desperation heave. But as long as there's effort like that coming from this team, it's not only your right, it's a sworn duty. Lacrosse and baseball will still be there when they're done.


Other things you should know:

- No, seriously, Assane Sene. He's playing like a man possessed and is Exhibit A in the case for Tony Bennett's player development skills. Easily the team's most improved player.

- Or not so easily, given Farrakhan's progression.

- The NCAA is not happening, obviously, barring ACC Tournament insanity. The NIT is also unlikely. But you know what I've been saying about unlikely. NIT bracketology is a bizarre thing to do and I'm not gonna bother, but if you're holding onto that hope, the best bet is to root for the chalk in the small-major conference tournaments so they don't take up space in the NIT. Fairfield, Oakland, Vermont. Teams like that. Winning, at a bare minimum, two more games, is also obvious. Probably at least three would be needed, including a tournament game.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

the recruit: Mason Thomas

Name: Mason Thomas
Position: S
Hometown: Virginia Beach
School: Kempsville
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 195

ESPN: 63; one star; #272 WR
Rivals: 5.3; two stars
Scout: two stars

Other offers: Kent State, Delaware, Old Dominion, Norfolk State


January 21 through the 23 was a big deal for UVA recruitniks; all but a couple of the committed recruits, as well as some of the biggest uncommitted ones, were on an official visit. People had their ears to the ground hoping for a pleasant surprise from someone like Dominique Terrell or even, bless my soul, Curtis Grant. So when word came out Sunday that there was indeed a commitment, it was big news.

Excitement turned to puzzlement when the name actually got out, though. Nobody'd ever heard of Mason Thomas. Seriously. Seems the coaches had been recruiting him silently for quite some time, and nobody knew it. In fact, Thomas was reportedly a silent UVA commit since January 7, or even earlier - according to someone who works at Kempsville - and still nobody knew it. Or almost nobody. It was a they-must-know-what-they're-doing moment, since the numbers were getting awfully crunchy. It was, of course, before Jordan Lomax uprooted himself for Iowa, which was probably one of those things the coaches were expecting when they took Thomas's commitment.

Thomas was committed to ODU for about a month, and truthfully has the full profile - offers, ratings, and all - of a I-AA talent. Our last profile, Demetrious Nicholson, was the state POY; Thomas, from just across town, was no higher than second-team all-District. It's not all two stars and I-AA - at least one writer ranked him the #9 player in Hampton Roads, above Ross Burbank and Tech signee Dewayne Alford, and just behind Kameron Mack.

You have to assume the coaches agree. If Thomas was a March or April commit, he might be looked at as taking up space. Someone that the coaches liked early, offered early, and jumped at the first scholarship he got. Sometimes that's a road to disaster - the first five commitments of the 2006 class came in June '05, and three of them had zero other offers and all three of them, I don't even think any of them even made it to UVA. The coaches took Mason Thomas at a time when scholarships were at their absolute most premium. A desperate need for defensive backs helps explain it, but there must be something about Thomas that the coaches just love - as much as they loved what they saw in someone like Jeremiah Hendy, whom they recruited until the eleventh hour. Plus, the only service that rates Thomas as a safety - his intended position - is the one that ranks him highest. (Not that high at all, but still.) Scout and ESPN evaluate him as a receiver.

Still, how much playing time can there be in the future? Rodney McLeod, Corey Mosley, and Dom Joseph are entrenched at the top three safety spots. Also the only three safety spots, at least in February. Freshman safeties scare the everloving bejeebers out of me, but if we're gonna use four over the course of the season - which seems perfectly likely - at least one will be a freshman. Who exactly is ticketed for safety is a bit hazy, but I don't think any of them are the real blue-chippers of the class. Guys like Anthony Harris and Kameron Mack - talented yes; surefire stars, no. Thomas isn't likely to be as physically talented as his competition at the position, but safety requires at least as much brains as brawn, so he's as likely as anyone to end up playing a role.


I did promise a recruiting board update and here it is. It's loaded with additions. The staff has locked and loaded the offer gun and is spraying it in all directions. If I put on here every prospect that listed a UVA offer on every site it'd be three pages long; as I mentioned in the original post I limit it to players listed on multiple sites. Also, ones whose offer seems solid enough to commit to today, and there are some I left off because yes they have an offer but their eyes are obviously elsewhere.

You might also notice the addition of an extra column; someone decided there was room for a fourth recruiting site on the scene, so since they exist, why the hell not: I added a column for the rating from 24/7 Sports as well. Eventually it'll even have stars in it.


- Added OLB Mark Hall to orange. Recruiting profiles begin in June or Julyish, but for now, here's the basics on Hall: He plays linebacker and tight end for Green Run in Virginia Beach, the same place David Dean came from, and he's probably an OLB for UVA. I expect three stars across the board; I'd guess a 5.6 from Rivals and maybe a 77 or 78 from ESPN, though they're less predictable. Solid, solid pickup and a good way to start the class.

- Moved RB J.C. Coleman and LB Kwontie Moore from green to blue.

- Added WR Mario Nixon to blue.

- Added WR Eugene Lewis to green.

- Added ATH Corey Coleman, ATH Canaan Severin, DE Eli Harold, and S Alex Carter to yellow.

- Added ATH Germone Hopper to red.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

game preview: Georgia Tech

Date/Time: February 22; 7:00


History against the Jackets: 32-38

Last matchup: UVA 72, GT 64; 1/22/11; Charlottesville

Last game: UVA 61, VT 54 (2/19); Duke 79, GT 57 (2/20)

Opposing blogs: From The Rumble Seat


National: UVA #113; GT #96
Offense: UVA #152; GT #164
Defense: UVA #86; GT #54

Time to try for sweep #2. By virtue of being a road game in a tough place to play, this could be the toughest game of the next three. Well, theoretically a tough place. As we'll see in the customary FTRS Q&A, there may not be much of an audience. As per standard practice, click over to FTRS to see the other half (when it's posted) (which is now.)

1. GT's remaining schedule is a who's-who of crappy ACC bottom-feeders. Any hope among the masses - or on the team itself - that something can be made of the rest of the season?

Masses? What you talking about masses?! The coliseum hasn't been breaking any attendance records this year. The mentality around the fanbase is glum. I would say no one wants us to win because of the fear that Hewitt will solidify more of an argument to stay!

Players - Well, Iman Shumpert brings his game. He leads in scoring most nights, followed quickly by Glen Rice Jr. After that, who knows.

Paul Hewitt - Well, when you stare hypno-face in the eyes**, it used to be believable (see 2003-04/2004-05 seasons). But now we all fear it's backfiring on itself. Pretty soon, Hewitt will stare at himself in the mirror and say "I feel we are almost there! We play hard!" and then explode into flames.

2. That game against Duke was kinda chippy for a while, and so was the previous UVA-GT game. Think we'll see more of the same?

Losing leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads its way to suffering.

3. What's the biggest problem with this year's GT squad? Is it Hewitt, or is there a major on-court weakness that teams are exploiting?

On paper, Paul Hewitt can flat out recruit. He is known for his ability to reel in top prospects and he is very proud of the fact. Unfortunately it has not turned into results on the GT court. In the past 10 years what has been the most consistent subject in seasons of inconsistencies? I think you know the answer.

4. What's the long-term outlook for GT basketball? Next year, 2-3 years down the road, etc.

It's too hard to look that far ahead team-wise. Department wise, we are upgrading the AMC and turning the basketball complex into a state-of-the-art facility. All while paying a coach a continuious 5 year contract worth millions of dollars. Next year the Yellow Jackets will play mainly in the Gwinnet Arena (approximately 30 minutes away) with a few games at Philips Arena, the home of the Atlanta Hawks. In 2012-2013, we should be on schedule for a brand new facility. But with the same coach? Only one man knows the answer to that question...Dan Radakovich.

5. Prediction?

Empty stadium.

**Hmmm. Not feelin' it. Truly, the magic is gone. I wonder if this is why nobody on GT can hit a jump shot.


- Pack it in. Yes, I said this last time. It worked, why switch it up now? Georgia Tech still couldn't hit a three-pointer if their grandma's lives depended on it. This is another matchup game that favors UVA; Bennett's pack-line defense thrives on taking a team exactly like GT out of its plan. GT wants to drive the rim. The pack-line, if played correctly, makes that close to impossible. GT will have to hit from outside if it wants to win, and may I remind you that their best threat to do so is shooting .320? They are miserable from back there.

- Make free throws. Yup, another repeat. The Jackets are the fouliest team in the conference with a whopping 21 per game, and even if you bring it down to UVA's snail's pace, it works out to 18. Last game, UVA shot 32 free throws and made 22. Getting to the line is probably a given, so we must capitalize.

- Get Sene involved. This should open up the three-point lanes for easy shooting. GT is not only awful at shooting three-pointers, they're awful at defending them, and they should be even awful-er if they feel like they need to do something about the open looks that seven-footer keeps getting down there. Last time out, Sene had one of those outstanding games that didn't look like anything in the box score but made his presence felt with a meanness on the court, and our three-point shooting was mind-blowing. There's a connection.


- Get too dribbly. Iman Shumpert averages 2.6 steals per game, and GT is fifth in the nation at creating steals. VT almost worked its way back into the game on Saturday by pressing and causing our guards to make really poor decisions with the ball that mostly involved dribbling straight into trouble. GT has even more potential to create a disaster this way. Sloppiness cannot be tolerated.

- Letdown factor. Our players' quotes after the game showed they really were up for beating Virginia Tech. There are two ways you can go after that; you can relax and call it mission accomplished, or you can decide you enjoy the taste of victory and want more. Tech is teetering on the brink of not caring, and the arena won't be all that hostile especially if UVA can jump out to a lead. It's an opportunity lost if the team comes out flat.


FTRS's prediction about the crowds at Alexander Memorial Coliseum gives me happiness. GT can be a tough venue, but a check of attendance figures lately backs up the graveyard portrayal. Just 5,900 is the figure for their game against FSU two weeks ago - just less than two-thirds full if every one of those seats were full, which they surely weren't. UVA has had its usual tough time on the road - even Wake Forest turned into a house of horrors - but this is a fanbase staring down a tunnel without much light at the end.

And Georgia Tech is eminently beatable. Just about everyone's done it. I think my characterization of the Jackets from a few weeks ago in the last game preview holds true - they can take advantage of bad basketball (which we are certainly capable of) but if you play reasonably well, up to your level of play, you'll win. Take nothing for granted on the road, but I like the outlook.


Promised a recruiting board update and you'll get one.....tomorrow. (By that I mean today, but later today when it's really today and not late night yesterday.) The good news I referred to, you can have that, though: Just as with last year, Mike London's first commitment in the class of 2012 comes from Green Run in Virginia Beach. That was David Dean; this is his teammate, Mark Hall. Hall committed hours after getting his offer. He's an outside linebacker, and very preliminarily rated the #15 prospect in Virginia by Rivals. That should make him a very solid three-star in the low-5.7, high 5.6 range on their rating scale; for reference, the #14-#16 prospects in 2011 were Jay Whitmire, Lafonte Thourogood, and Rob Burns, all very heavily recruited players. Hall is an excellent kickoff to the 2012 recruiting season.

Monday, February 21, 2011

sweeps weekend

It must be spring when UVA fans get a whole weekend full of good news. Never happens otherwise. Hardly a Wahoo took the court, or field, or starting block, without leaving victoriously. Best of all: completing the hardcourt sweep of Virginia Tech in front of a sold-out JPJ Arena.

Did I say sweep? I said sweep. Of Tech. Barring a semi-miraculous run to the NIT (which would likely require winning the next three games in a row) or a thoroughly miraculous tournament run to the ACC championship, that's probably the highlight of the season. It's not a minor deal; regaining our identity as Virginia Basketball requires, among other things, putting Tech back in their place. In the future this needs to be the norm.

I must be the only person who cares enough to write about this stuff to have seen this coming, though. The rest of the media - and certainly just about every Hokie in existence - is all surprised and shit. The excuses are flying. I'm not surprised, because I told you before the game: UVA matches up very well with Tech. We're bigger. We're either deeper, or Seth Greenberg is insane for never playing anyone but his starters. We're smarter. With Mike Scott out, Tech does have the two and maybe three best players on the court (Malcolm Delaney, Jeff Allen, and maybe Erick Green) but otherwise, the point is this: Basketball is a game of matchups, and that can sometimes overcome a sizable talent deficit. And you won't find many other ACC teams that UVA is as well-equipped to beat as Tech. The reason for the sweep doesn't go much beyond that, and to whatever extent it does, it sure as hell wasn't fatigue on Tech's part, as has been suggested. Anyone who thinks that ought to be embarrassed.

Another thing that's been made a big deal of, and shouldn't be, is that UVA outrebounded Tech. By one, but that's not the reason it shouldn't be a big deal. It's true that we usually get outrebounded, because somebody will launch a three and most of the team will be on the other side of halfcourt by the time it hits the rim. That's Tony Bennett's way. On the defensive end, though, guess who the best rebounding team in the conference is? If you guessed "not Virginia," you're wrong, and you're making the same mistake everyone else does, by using raw, non-tempo-adjusted rebounding averages. The fact is, UVA has the best defensive rebounding percentage in the ACC, and 36th best in the country. File under "another reason I'm not surprised we won."

So yes, Akil Mitchell had a nice game with seven rebounds, but I'll wait to throw his debutante party til he double-doubles one of these days. Stats-wise the player of the game really is Sammy Z, who should never be allowed to shoot until thirty seconds of the shot clock have elapsed, but if you want to make a case for "blossoming potential" from that game, Assane Sene and Jontel Evans are your guys. Jontel actually can shoot, and when he realizes it he'll be that much better. Sene can score when he catches the ball. We just have to figure out how to optimize the transition from someone else's hands to his, and we're set.

The future holds three winnable games, and I'd allow you to get excited about the possibility of winning them all except the moment I do, we'll lose by 30 in Atlanta. So as far as the fates are concerned, it's one-game-at-a-time mode from here on out. Just to be on the safe side, try and give 110% too. It is what it is.


Sweeps weekend continued in Auburn, where Danny Hultzen, in between striking out 10 UAB Blazers and driving in seven runs for the weekend, also took a leak on Toomer's Corner and healed the trees. Chuck Norris has nothing on Danny. The opponents for the weekend were UAB, Auburn, and Arkansas State, in that order; UAB and ASU are fringe top-100 types in the RPI, while Auburn isn't SEC royalty like LSU but is a borderline top-25 team. Tyler Wilson shut down their powerful lineup, and UVA nickel-and-dimed their way around the basepaths for 13 runs against Auburn and 27 on the weekend in sweeping the tournament.

It's certainly refreshing to see that Hultzen is in his usual form. Enjoy it; the man will be a first-rounder this year. It's even better to see Tyler Wilson pitch six innings of shutdown baseball as the new Saturday starter, and Cody Winiarski did the same on Sunday. It makes me giddy. Winiarski, even at his best last season (and he certainly got better as the year went on) was never a strikeout pitcher, barely averaging one every two innings. He posted six on Sunday in six innings of work. Branden Kline also proved worthy of the closer role, slamming the door on a UAB rally on Friday. Six pitches, six strikes, and a one-out situation became Kline's first save of the year.

The wins bump UVA a few spots in most of the polls. East Carolina comes to town next weekend, with a home game against VMI in between. The ECU series won't have the same stature it did last year when ECU was considered the up-and-comer on the baseball scene, and a sweep there would open up the possibility of being undefeated heading into the ACC season in about three weeks.


The lax team started its season with its usual solid, if slightly uninspiring, win over Drexel. Drexel's a half-decent team, so the margin of victory - 12-9 - is no cause for worry. As per usual, though, the game offered some reasons for optimism and some for worry. UVA won the faceoff battle, which they did not last year, and maintained its usual dominance in clearing the ball, successfully clearing all but one opportunity. This was without Adam Ghitelman (who is one of the nation's top goalies at starting a clear) in net, who didn't dress because of a mystery suspension. Rob Fortunato played, and played reasonably well.

On the other hand, ground balls, normally an area of UVA dominance, tilted only slightly in UVA's favor, at 46-43. (That's a lot of ground balls to begin with.) Nothing's perfect, though.

Ghitelman will hopefully be back in net tomorrow against Mount St. Mary's; it'd certainly be ideal to have him see game action before Saturday's dangerous matchup against Stony Brook.


For the fourth straight year, the women's swim and dive team is ACC champions, and for the second straight year, it's sprinter Lauren Perdue taking home the honors as the meet's most outstanding swimmer. Perdue sets records like it's her job, but freshman butterflier Rachel Naurath gave her a run for her money for the top-swimmer title. This was, as suggested by the psych sheet scoring, a close meet - our girls were behind UNC by 37 points (not quite a virtual dead heat but close) going into the final day, and the meet was in doubt until the 200 yard butterfly - the second-to-last event. UVA swimmers went 1-2-3-5, seizing the lead and putting UNC far enough behind that they could afford a safe-start relay in the final event; they went ahead and won the relay regardless. You have to love the championship attitude Mark Bernardino has instilled into his swim teams, as well as the talent he's brought to UVA.

This week, it's the men's turn. Psych sheet scoring, with all the caveats of last week's exercise, is as follows:

UVA - 844
UNC - 764
FSU - 500
VT - 314
NCSt. - 190
Clem. - 186
Md. - 177
Duke - 160
GT - 150
BC - 70

Wake Forest doesn't have any swim teams, and Miami doesn't have a men's one.

This is eerily similar to the women's results, no? UVA and UNC will duke it out for the title, and it'll definitely be close. We are nasty strong in distance events - all strokes - and a little thin on sprinters - all strokes. FSU is a factor, but probably not a threat for the title, VT is a comfortable fourth, and the peasants will have themselves a really stirring chase to line up fifth through ninth. (Except BC - as with the women's events, the only points they'll garner will come from placing last in every relay.)

This is even closer than it looks thanks to the general lack of points we'll get from diving. The women didn't get any - the men might scrape a couple but we'll take a bath here. Figuratively. Frankly, this meet should be considered just about neck and neck, just like the women.


Speaking of four straight championships, and national-wise this time, it's the men's tennis team's turn for championship glory. This is indoor tennis, so before you get too excited - it still doesn't count in the NCAA tally. Not once in this run has UVA managed to win an outdoor tennis title. Why so different? Beats me. They'll have another shot this spring. This championship was a 4-0 win over Tennessee - yup, another sweep - and that's the kind of dominating fashion they've been using this winter, so with any luck this is a stronger team than years past and they can finally bring home an NCAA title in a couple months.

That finishes the good news weekend. Hope it wasn't too much all at once. They say starving people shouldn't pig out the moment they see food, it's not healthy. Unfortunately for your health, there's a recruiting board update in the hopper for tomorrow and you'll probably like what you see there, too.

Friday, February 18, 2011

game preview: Virginia Tech

Date/Time: February 19; 1:00

TV: ACC Network; ESPN3

History against the Hokies: 80-53

Last matchup: UVA 57, VT 54 (12/5/10)

Last game: Duke 56, UVA 41 (2/16); VT 91, Md. 83 (2/15)

Opposing blogs: Gobbler Country, The Key Play

KenPom stats:

National: UVA #120; VT #25
Offense: UVA #154; VT #36
Defense: UVA #98; VT #28

We meet again. It wouldn't be accurate to say the tables have turned, but these two teams have been moving clearly in opposite directions since the last meeting. Mike Scott's injury has helped drop UVA over 100 places in KenPom's offensive rankings; Tech has actually found an answer for their injury troubles. Instead of dropping out of the NCAA conversation as it looked like they might after losing at home to UVA in December, Tech finds themselves in a familiar place: the bottom of the bubble. They're still probably on the outside looking in: they sit at #56 in the RPI, below Belmont and two spots above where they finished last year. They can't afford any slips; Saturday's game is a golden, golden opportunity to play the spoiler.


- Attack the basket. Remember, Tech has nobody over 6'8" in their rotation. There won't be any galoots like Duke's Ryan Kelly running around, no seven-footers camped out in the lane to turn every layup into Cirque du Soleil. Plus, their notoriously short rotation has gotten even shorter as the season drags on. Manny Atkins, Tyrone Garland, and Jarrell Eddie have seen their minutes dwindle, and they're not real useful anyway: since New Year's Day, Eddie has hit five baskets against teams not named Wake Forest. Jeff Allen still dominates when he feels like it and fouls when he doesn't - lately, he's been feeling it more often, but a leopard don't change his spots. The strategy should be to send Farrakhan, Harris, and Evans at the rim as often as practicable and tell them to dish to the outside only if they see a wide-open man. Otherwise, attack and try and get the foul. (The basket would be nice, too.) Tech is the most vulnerable team in the league to foul trouble because of their short rotation.

- Find something for Tech's new wrinkle. That wrinkle would be Erick Green, who's outperformed Dorenzo Hudson, the guy he's replaced in the lineup. Outperformed badly. Green actually has a slightly higher offensive rating than Malcolm Delaney, and is a better defender, too - much better at coming up with a steal. Oh, and his asst/turnover ratio is much better than Delaney's, too. Green's been the key to Tech's mini-resurgence, and they tend to only lose when Green plays poorly. Case in point: in Tech's ACC wins, he's shooting 37-for-57 (65%), and in their losses, he's 7-for-35 (20%.) 0-for-8 in losing to BC, and 3-for-15 in their loss to GT. Stop Green, stop the Hokies.

- Get the home crowd going. It's a sellout and a big day for UVA sports with the lacrosse game later in the day. Hopefully the crowd isn't too maroon. Good opportunity to establish a big home-court advantage.


- Miss free throws. This is my way of mentioning what an annoying problem this has been of late. It's fair to say free throws alone cost us the Miami game. Besides, it won't do any good to follow my suggestion of trying to get to the line and then clunking half the shots from there.

- Fatigue. I said this in the last VT game preview, but I meant it differently. Then, it was because of the end of the long road trip. Now, it's because so many of our key players are playing their first college season. I do think the recent freefall on offense has a lot to do with fatigue, because the only ways we can score (attacking the rim and shooting threes) are the most susceptible to tired legs. VT remains a very athletic team, and the short rotation is something they're used to.


As usual, close. These games just are, because of the pace and style of the teams. Low-scoring, too, for the same reason. Tech is playing fairly well, but UVA is better-equipped to beat them than most of the rest of the teams on our schedule, so this is a great chance to steal a win. It's getting close to that time of the year where Seth Greenberg opens his flap to politic for a spot in the tournament. It's gotten to be such a common thing that it's now official: to whine, moan, bitch, bellyache, and otherwise throw a hissyfit about being in the tournament is now "going Seth Greenberg." This game will be close, and then in the end it comes down to better playmakers on Tech's side vs. home-court advantage on ours. I like our chances to get the win and put a big dent in the VT tourney bandwagon.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

basketball mathitude

One of the neat things about basketball is that, after baseball, it's the sport that best lends itself to cold, hard statistical breakdowns and the creation of fancy sabermetric stats - in hoops, they're called "APBRmetrics," which hasn't caught on like "sabermetrics" because it needs either more vowels or friendlier consonants to be reasonably pronouncable.

One stat that I like actually comes to you not from the usual suspects like Ken Pomeroy, but from Michigan State blog The Only Colors. (Technically they didn't come up with it, someone else did that lets TOC use it, but I saw it at TOC first and you can follow the credit chain all the way back to the beginning if you like.) They call it PORPAG: Points Over Replacement Per Adjusted Game. Follow the links all the way back for the full explanation; here's the summary (you may already know this stuff if you're a hoops math geek, or maybe not):

- It's like baseball's VORP; it tabulates how many points a player is worth over a "replacement" player - not "average", but "replacement", which is actually below average. Replacement = a guy you can get just about anywhere.

- The equation is thus: (Off.Rtg - 88) * Min% * Poss% * Pace

The stats can be found at KenPom or at StatSheet. Offensive rating is a creation of way smarter people than you or I that tells you how many points a player produces per 100 possessions. 88, because that's what they decided was replacement level. "Min%" is the percentage of available minutes in the season (40 * games) that a player has played. "Poss%" is the percentage of possessions a player ends while on the floor - ends, by either taking a shot or turning the ball over. "Pace", if you followed the links, is .62 because the average Big Ten game has 62 possessions. I used .65, because the ACC moves a little faster.

- The reasoning is that offensive rating is points per 100 possessions, so taking into account only the possessions actually used by the player (poss%), the minutes he's actually on the court (min%), and the number of possessions in a game, you get an approximation of how many points the player is worth per game, over someone you could just pull off the street (well, the recruiting trail, anyway) with no effort. Simple.

- The stat does nothing for defense, nor does it account for the interaction between players, chemistry on the court, etc.

Using .65 for the pace factor, and keeping the replacement-level 88 the same, here are the PORPAGs for all ACC players with over 30% of minutes played, except for those who sustained season-ending injuries early in the year (Mike Scott, Dorenzo Hudson.)

To save you a click, the top 10 are:

Reggie Jackson (BC)
Nolan Smith (Duke)
Malcolm Delaney (VT)
Kyle Singler (Duke)
Malcolm Grant (Miami)
Corey Raji (BC)
Reggie Johnson (Miami)
Jerai Grant (Clemson)
Jordan Williams (Maryland)
Tyler Zeller (UNC)

And UVA's guys:

#21- Mustapha Farrakhan - 2.05
#33 - Joe Harris - 1.59
#39 - KT Harrell - 1.24
#63 - Sammy Zeglinski - 0.53
#68 - Will Sherrill - 0.44
#86 - Assane Sene - 0.07
#87 - Jontel Evans - 0.04
#88 - Akil Mitchell - -0.01

So you see why we lose so much.

The point originally was to apply something useful someone else had done to the ACC. But I wasn't quite satisfied. Must be a way, I figured, to bring defense into the equation somehow, but nobody's ever come up with a defensive rating for individual players. I racked my brain, fiddled with numbers, and came up with this:

PORPAG * ( ( (Block% /2) + Steal %) / 2.45)

That's a lot of parentheses. Here's the thinking:

- Blocks and steals are the player's way of taking points off the board for the other team.

- The average team offensive rating is about 101, so essentially, teams average a point per possession. Possessions are, most of the time, either two or zero points, though. One point is about as common as three. So when you come up with a steal, you took two points off the board. A block would also be two, but roughly half the time the offensive team ends up with the ball again and the possession doesn't end. So I went with the assumption that a block takes one point off the board.

- One problem with defense is that certain stats (rebounds, blocks) lend themselves toward big men; and steals, toward guards. I left off rebounds because they generally have nothing to do with who caused the miss. This, plus the dividing of blocks in two, keeps big men from dominating the stat.

- Block percentage and steal percentage are explained here. I'm not gonna get deep into them, but suffice it to say they're basically the percentage of possessions which a player is on the floor for that he comes up with a block or a steal, respectively.

- "Replacement level" is 2.45. I came up with this by:

- Starting with the national average team block and steal percentage (9.2 and 9.5, respectively.)
- Dividing each by 5, because there are five players on a court (1.84, 1.9.)
- Multiplying again by .87, because that is 88/101 - the replacement level offensive rating divided by the average (1.6, 1.65.)
- Dividing the block percentage by 2, because of the reasons stated above (0.8, 1.65.)
- Add together for 2.45.

Divide a player's (block% + steal%) by 2.45 and you get a multiplier to apply to his PORPAG. This approximates adding his defensive contributions to his offensive ones. This is, for lack of a better phrase, enhanced PORPAG. EPORPAG. Acronyms should probably not have three syllables in them, but screw it. The new chart:

I'm as surprised as you are about the top player, but consider: Grant blocks 10% of opponent's shots that occur while he's on the floor. That's a crazy number. And that's a big steal percentage for a shot-blocker. Is he worth 9, almost 10 extra points to his team? Yeah, maybe.

Despite the presence of a lesser-known (and heretofore referred to as "wicked underrated") player on the top of the chart, I think this passes the sanity test. Look at Chris Singleton, considered one of the top players in the league. DPOY. He goes, from a middling nobody under PORPAG (less valuable than Mu Farrakhan) to one of the league's top players again under EPORPAG. Offensive dynamos - the guys that get the headlines - still get their due credit. Jackson and Smith are still way up there. Delaney, not as much, because he's not too far above average on defense. Iman Shumpert gets his due for being a steals fiend.

The problem is that it's kinda fishy the closer you get to zero PORPAG. A guy like Assane Sene, who blocks a zillion shots, still doesn't quite get his due for it because he's a stiff on offense. Theoretically, a guy could be exactly replacement-level on offense and block 100% of shots on defense and he'd still be replacement-level. And this still says nothing about on-court chemistry, and good off-ball defenders still don't get their due because their guys don't get the ball. Like a cornerback that quarterbacks never throw at. (But this is a stats-based thing, and there will never be a stat for good off-ball defending.)

So there are still limitations, just as there were with the original. But this is why coaches run the show and not statisticians. I think in general, the limitations with this as a new stat are limitations with statistics themselves, and not this one in particular, which is as good as I can hope for. And I think ultimately, I've taken a good thing and made it better.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

the recruit: Demetrious Nicholson

Name: Demetrious Nicholson
Position: CB
Hometown: Virginia Beach
School: Bayside
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 170

ESPN: 81; four stars; #4 CB; US #92
Rivals: 5.8; four stars; #5 CB; VA #2; US #92
Scout: four stars; #3 CB;

Other offers: Michigan, Virginia Tech, Penn State, Stanford, West Virginia, North Carolina, Clemson, Boston College, NC State, Maryland, Rutgers, Connecticut, Louisville, Duke, East Carolina

In the collection of game-changing recruits UVA signed this month, there are a few with (slightly) more impressive offers. There are none with the kind of universal accolades that Demetrious Nicholson has.

Nicholson committed in December, a couple days before Christmas, after an autumn in which UVA was a heavy favorite.....which itself followed a summer in which UNC was favored instead. What fun, recruiting against programs sitting in the shadow of the hammer. Carolina actually was Nicholson's focus for about a year - they offered first, and they're of course a very similar school to UVA, only with NCAA sanctions breathing down their neck and no Mike London.

People - not just football recruits, either - always talk about "fit" these days when it comes to choosing schools. Sometimes it's crap: just recruit-speak from someone who's learned the right thing to say to a reporter. Or it's because they know better than to say "highest bidder." Sometimes it means something though. UVA looks like a great fit for Demetrious Nicholson, but Nicholson is a perfect fit for UVA. He's a true cornerback - the one position where there's been a crying need for signees for the last three years, and a fantastic one. He hails from the Tidewater area where London focused his laser sights, and better yet he comes from Bayside, which is always in the thick of contention in their district, turns out quality talent and which UVA has been doing a good job of getting their hooks into. (If Anthony Cooper ends up at UVA, which I think he will, it'll put the Bayside pipeline firmly into place with three years in a row of pulling a commitment from there.) And, Nicholson is a terrific student. A top-ranked football player enrolled in AP Calculus and earning a 3.5? Yes please.

I could bore you with the excessively long list of all-Something teams Nicholson placed on, from district level all the way to national - Nicholson makes two years in a row UVA has scored a Parade All-American. He's not just an all-American, he's one of Parade's "starters" - making him one of their top 25 players in the country. That, plus his selection as Gatorade's player of the year in Virginia - over Curtis Grant! - should give you all the idea you need about the kind of player we're getting.

In case you're not sufficiently blown away, here's one more. The three services all rank Nicholson as one of the top five corners in the country - and he's the only one who can say that. Nobody else is a consensus top-five cornerback.

So it's obvious like a bat to the face that Nicholson will never see a redshirt at UVA, and will be a three-year starter, if not four. Chase Minnifield has one side of the field all to himself, but the guy with the inside track for the other starter job probably punched and lied his way right out of it and off the team. The opposite corner from Minnifield will be totally, totally up in the air, and even if Devin Wallace wasn't a knucklehead, Nicholson would have been given every chance to unseat him anyway. And there aren't that many contenders for the job. It'll be a rocky go at first; freshman corners, especially ones that are slightly smaller than ideal, tend to be abused by experienced receivers and quarterbacks. S'ok: Nicholson will work his way back to earning those all-Something accolades, and sooner rather than later.

Monday, February 14, 2011

catching up

Ordinarily I'd have the Duke preview tonight, but I've run out of different ways to say just how doomed we are, and you don't need me to tell you anyway. I have catching up to do after my long weekend, so I'm gonna do that instead. And skiing in New Mexico was awesome, thank you very much. Hidden gem of skiing in the West.

- First, a recruiting board update. There's a junior day tomorrow, and like you, I'd sure like to know if it's likely Mike London can pick up his first commitment for 2012. But I do get to make the calls on the recruiting board, so here are the updates:

- Added OT Mark Harrell and DT Nigel Williams to green.

- Added WR Romond Deloatch to yellow. Deloatch is one of the very few names on the board without an offer. He'd probably be green if he had one. Nobody's offered Deloatch at all (not even verbally which is the only kind allowed at the moment anyway - it's an academics thing) but he's the kind of player you recruit anyway and hope the grades follow. Lot of talent.

- Added WR Leonte Carroo to red.


The Duke game isn't the only thing going on tomorrow anyway. The ACC swimming championships kick off tomorrow with the women's event. It's a four-day swim meet, culminating on Saturday, and the men have their turn next week. And your humble writer is a former high school swimmer so you have to listen to me go on about it.

Last year I scored out the psych sheet and found that the women would in all likelihood breeze to the championship. They proceeded to breeze to the championship. This year's psych sheet shows a closer meet, but one that should still end with our girls on the podium again. The scores:

Virginia - 791
North Carolina - 690
Florida State - 435
Maryland - 374
Virginia Tech - 309
Duke - 212
Miami - 212
Georgia Tech - 128
NC State - 103
Clemson - 93
Boston College - 60

What is a psych sheet, you may be asking yourself? A psych sheet seeds swimmers in each event based on their best time of the season. It's highly unofficial. Well, the times are real, but the meet isn't as simple as that. There are limits both statutory and practical on how many swimmers can swim in an event. And most times will drop. Disqualifications will be a factor - they always are. Oh, and it doesn't include the diving because most schools didn't include their divers' scores. But UVA is stacked with freestylers and the highest-scoring individual event for UVA on the psych sheet is the 400-yard individual medley (IM) - 100 yards of each stroke. Having the most and fastest freestylers and the best IMers is the way to win these meets. The psych sheet may be a pretty unofficial thing (the actual lineup won't be disclosed until the actual meet) but it tells you pretty well who to watch out for. The bottom three teams will be nonfactors in the individual events, and the only real threat to another repeat championship is Carolina.

Swimmers who'll shine for UVA include Claire Crippen (sister to the recently deceased Fran) in IM events; Liz Shaw in IM and butterfly; hotshot freshman Rachel Naurath in just about anything; Lauren Perdue in sprint freestyle; and Katya Bachrouche in distance events. The grueling 1650-yard freestyle (one mile) could see a 1-2 for UVA with Bachrouche and Anne Summer Myers.

The men go next week, at which time I'll score out their psych sheet and you'll have to listen to me blab about it all over again. It's my blog and the swimmers will get their time in the sun once a year. Besides, this should be the first ACC championship of the year for UVA, so you should be excited about that.


The schedule slugs at the ACC finally got around to letting us know about the fall football slate. NC State returns to the ACC schedule, and Boston College disappears for another three years. Of course all the times are TBA - except one. A rare Thursday night appearance is in the offing, at Miami on October 27. (UVA doesn't do Thursday night home games, so the road is the only chance for one.)

Things I think:

- The bye week is where I was hoping it was: October. I hate September bye weeks, it sucks having two weeks of football and then missing one right away. And it was before the VMI game last year, as if we needed extra practice time for VMI. This year it precedes Georgia Tech, which is terrific.

- I was hoping, though, that the September 17 weekend would be filled with something a little easier than a trip to UNC. Because London continues to sell the "team on the rise" story, going on a long winning streak to start the season would be perfect for bolstering that sales pitch. The nonconference schedule is easy as pie (assuming William & Mary got all their upset-mindedness out of their system two years ago) with Southern Miss the toughest opponent. Indiana is going through a coaching change and isn't good anyway. Idaho is Idaho.

- The OOC gets a lot harder next year, since Indiana and USM are the tail end of home-and-home agreements, and Idaho is a one-off that doesn't involve a return trip. Try TCU and Penn State, with Louisiana Tech (looks to be very recently added to the future schedules page, also now updated here) filling the last spot.


Other things:

- Ron Mattes has taken the position of OL coach at Elon. A step up, because he was officially a graduate assistant last year, which doesn't pay. Too bad, because of the highly improved play of the O-line - Mattes surely had a hand in that. But you can't keep GA's around forever; they have a two-year shelf life, per NCAA rules. TE coach Scott Wachenheim is now the OL/TE coach, which was probably the plan eventually. London's being coy about the replacement GA that'll be hired, but the rumor - which I have no qualms whatsoever about shamelessly spreading - is that it'll be Marques Hagans.

- Will Sherrill looks like a maybe for both Duke, and the rest of the year. I hate to be like this, but: ah well. This was a bigger deal in December when he first got hurt, because there were still Things To Do. Now there aren't too many tangible things that this season can accomplish, so more playing time for Akil Mitchell and Will Regan can't hurt.

- As you can see, Tech is scared shitless of London's recruiting chops, and they gently nudged aside one of their most elder statesmen as a result. Billy Hite has been at Tech longer than Beamer, but he's kind of an old guy and not much of a recruiter. Shane Beamer is, and he'll take Hite's spot as RB coach. RBs don't really need much coaching, and the position is often used for a star recruiter (like Beamer Junior) or, in UVA's case, a sounding board for offensive strategy, like former offensive coordinator Mike Faragalli. Shane Beamer gives Tech an instant boost on the recruiting trail.

- Fluff piece on Stephen Bruno, likely shortstop. Fluffy but informative. Bruno steps into Tyler Cannon's biggish shoes at the most important infield position, but Bruno hit well last year in bench duty, and there shouldn't be much, if any, loss of firepower in the lineup from this change.

Speaking of baseball, I was going to start a season preview for baseball this week, but I decided it'd be better to wait. This is because I like being right, and seeing how the lineup looks in actual games instead of a lot of guesswork is a big step in that direction. The next two weekends are important - a tournament at Auburn and a home series against East Carolina - and Brian O'Connor will probably reveal his lineups then. So after the ECU series, which is the last weekend in February, look for all the baseball you can handle.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

game preview: Florida State

Date/Time: February 12, 3:00


History against the Noles: 17-18

Last matchup: FSU 69, UVA 50; 2/17/10; Charlottesville

Last game: Miami 70, UVA 68 (2/5); FSU 72, GT 63 (2/10)

Opposing blogs: Tomahawk Nation, Scalp 'Em


National: UVA #123; FSU #43
Offense: UVA #117; FSU #193
Defense: UVA #136; FSU #2

This is a day early; you get nothing tomorrow because I'm flying to New Mexico to go skiing. Skiing is the shit. I don't know if I'll have anything Monday or not. Possibly, bordering on probably. In fact, maybe it's kinda likely after all, because, having posted yesterday what passes for a lacrosse season preview, I now have baseball to get to. And other stuff. So yeah, posting on Monday. But not tomorrow.

Florida State, in a nutshell, plays defense. Amazing defense. If they could score like even a medium-good team instead of the Sun Belt-level output they have - note the KenPom national ranking of 193 out of 345 on offense - they'd be a top-16 outfit. But they don't, so they're not.


- Start hot. FSU's defense is insanely good. They block a ton of shots, so you can't count on driving to the hoop for layups. They're athletic as hell and can deny the three-point shot. You've got to loosen them up a little, and you can do this by hitting the first threes to make them respect the ability to do that. Otherwise they'll just swat every layup you try, they're that good at shot-blocking.

- Yet more active hands. One reason FSU is worse than mediocre on offense is because they turn the ball over a ton. Almost a quarter of their possessions end in turnovers, which is horrible. This worked against Clemson and it worked against Miami, with plenty of steals against both. FSU is also prone to losing the ball.

- Let Chris Singleton get what he gets, and deny everyone else. Singleton is FSU's go-to guy, but he's not actually an elite scorer like a Malcolm Delaney. FSU is deep, with pretty much everyone being capable of scoring, but they're basically a collection of role players. They can be stopped if your defense is stout enough. They're dangerous mostly only if you let them be. Singleton's an NBA talent, and at first glance he looks like the guy you ought to game-plan against, but he's just not gonna go off for 30 points all of a sudden. The defensive plan should focus on winning as many one-on-one matchups as we can and double-teaming the post when necessary.


- Pass the ball around the perimeter until the shot clock reaches four, then hork up an ugly, off-balance three. This is our usual modus operandi against good defensive teams. It never works. It's the sort of thing I envision happening on a third or so of our possessions.

- Don't finish layups, regardless of whether or not we're fouled. If I were Leonard Hamilton, I'd be having my players go crazy-aggressive for the shot block any time a Hoo gets within eight feet of the basket, and don't worry if you foul. Like UVA can hit a free throw. And FSU runs deep - they can handle foul trouble. Getting slammed on the arms by someone intent on making triple sure the ball goes nowhere near the hoop is one thing, but any time there's a layup or dunk opportunity, it really needs to go through whether or not there's a foul, because otherwise those points will probably just get left there and not go on the board.


If this were a home game, I might look at our close games lately and find reason to be optimistic. FSU's conference losses are all on the road, and in fact they tend to play poorly there. At home, though, even Duke has felt their wrath. They've been beatable in Tallahassee only by teams named Ohio State. (OK, Florida beat them too, but still. By four, and Florida's ranked for a reason.) That alone is reason for great pessimism. Then there's FSU's defense. A really, really good defense against an offense made of spit and duct tape is a bad formula. At this point I've got no illusions that UVA'll finish out of the double digits in ACC tournament seeding, but I do think we've got one upset in us that'll make some other team's fans deploy swear words and strong pessimistic opinions about their future prospects. This is not that game.


In what seems destined to be an ongoing story, here is the Cav Daily update on the Three Knuckleteers that got themselves in hot water in Harrisonburg. Let's pretend for a minute that everything printed in the papers - except the eyewitness account from the Cav Daily which we can assume is truthful but biased - is gospel truth; here is what we know so far:

- Wallace, Walcott, and Price (a name for a law firm if I ever heard one) are each charged with three misdemeanors ("assault and battery by mob") and one felony ("burglary-entering a dwelling with the intent to commit an assault") each.

- This is because they barged into what sounds like your average college party, which no doubt was in full swing at 1:30 in the morning, and started throwing punches. One guy got a split lip and eight stitches; the other trip to the hospital was probably something similar.

- This is the second time Wallace has been arrested for something, and he didn't tell either the coaches or the school. Neither did he bother ever going back to Harrisonburg for any court proceedings whatsoever, nor pay his fine.

These are the facts. The opinions, then:

- The felony charge will probably be dropped. Yes, they are each guilty as sin of the very letter of the wording, but the courts typically are loath to wring felony charges out of a simple college brawl, which happens all the time. As long as the defendants do the proper amount of yes-sir'ing and don't yell THE BITCH HAD IT COMING in court, their lawyers will plead this thing down to a misdemeanor or two each.

- Kyle Kelly, the JMU student quoted in the Cav Daily, is probably telling the truth, mostly, but I don't buy the babe-in-the-woods line about "gee, I have no idea why they'd want to fight." Maybe he doesn't, but someone does. If there were racial slurs being thrown around (and this is credible because Kelly mentions it right off the bat, rather than this coming out as a statement some weeks later) and if the police pinpoint the speaker (very unlikely, but you never know) then that person's in hot water too. Regardless, fights always take two sides to start.

- Even so. What the fuck, gentlemen. How hard is it to just flip the bird and walk away from the house?

- Wallace should be gone. I don't blame London for not giving him the ax right away, because there are facts to be found. But if he's not kicked off the team, it sends the message that if you get in a little court trouble out of town, the best thing to do is never tell anyone. It's pretty obvious Wallace never bothered showing up for any of the court proceedings from his previous minor-in-possession or whatever he got. I bet he doesn't even know his damn sentence. Or didn't. He figured he'd just blow the whole thing right off and hide it from Coach. Then he's stupid enough to go back to Harrisonburg. And get in more trouble. MIPs (that's what we call 'em here in Michigan) are never a big deal in my book - I really don't care and neither does anyone except the media - but not telling Coach, and blowing off the proceedings, is. So is this little beatdown. Wallace should be kicked off this team.

- Price and Walcott's scholarships should hang in the balance until the semester grades are out. No spring practice. After a while they can come back and lift, but make them jump through every hoop in front of them to try and keep that scholarship. Study their asses off, follow all the provisions of their eventual sentence and be there for every court date, and get exceptional grades. And definitely no more JMU trips for either of them or any partying at other schools. The usual show-me-you're-serious stuff. And then, if they make it, suspend them for two games of the season. That's how I'd roll with this if it were me.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

the lacrosse schedule

If you're ready for UVA to finally be a dominant force in college athletics, then you're ready for lacrosse season. That kicks off officially on Saturday the 19th, so to get you prepared, here's a primer on the opponents UVA faces off against this year. The opponents are typically almost identical from year to year, with just a couple changes each season. The ACC has just four teams, so UVA is free to schedule just about whomever they like, and that means big-time rivalries outside the conference.

UVA is ranked #1 in the coaches' poll, and 2nd in the media poll, to start the season - a familiar position. The trick has been staying there.

Quick explanation of the categories below: Preseason rank is first the media poll, then the coaches'. The computer is the final LaxPower computer rankings from 2010.

Drexel - Sat., February 19 - Home

Conference: CAA
Preseason rank: 16th/18th
2010 computer: 14th
Last season: W, 11-8

Drexel has been the season-opening game since 2002 and probably will be for a while. It's a good, medium-tough test to open the season; they were even good for an upset in 2007. They return most of their scorers and a solid goalie, and gave UVA a run last season; they led 7-6 to start the fourth quarter, and it took a three-goal outburst in the final four minutes to secure the win.

Mount St. Mary's - Tue., February 22 - Home

Conference: MAAC
Preseason rank: NR/NR
2010 computer: 32nd
Last season: W, 15-7; W, 18-4 (NCAA)

A familiar opponent, and not a good one. MSM earned the MAAC autobid to the tournament last year by upsetting somewhat favored Siena in their conference tournament. The Mount, as they go by, has been on the receiving end of a lot of UVA-administered curbstompings. The regular season game wasn't as close as it looked, as they did half that scoring against our third string. Typically this is a good game to find out about the freshmen and sophomores that'll be making themselves known this season, because Dom Starsia tends to go easy on using the first lineup. They do have a dangerous attackman in junior Cody Lehrer, who'll provide a good test for our rebuilt defense.

Stony Brook - Sat., February 26 - Away

Conference: America East
Preseason rank: 8th/6th
2010 computer: 8th
Last season: W, 13-8; W, 10-9 (NCAA)

This used to be easier, but Stony Brook is situated smack in the middle of Long Island, which is like being in Florida for football. Now they're the hot pick to be lacrosse's Butler. And the game is at their place, which came awfully close to being a house of horrors last year in the NCAA tournament. Stellar face-off man Adam Rand is back, which is the biggest reason this is a hugely dangerous game. WE CANNOT WIN FACE-OFFS and I will probably complain about this twenty thousand times this spring. Rand won 18 of 23 against us last May, causing UVA lacrosse fans to repeatedly throw heavy objects at the TV. The good news is, Stony Brook breaks in a new goalie this year, which could end up being their Achilles heel against our especially fearsome attack. But, you can't score without the ball, and Stony Brook returns two of a three-headed scoring monster in Jordan McBride and Tom Compitello. Could be just as tough a game as Syracuse.

VMI - Mon., February 28 - Home

Conference: MAAC
Preseason rank: NR/NR
2010 computer: 57th
Last season: W, 20-6

That's "57th of 60." VMI is a doormat. Last year's game saw UVA's starting goalie Adam Ghitelman pulled at halftime, and by the time the final horn sounded we were down to the fourth string. A tune-up scrimmage for the big fish at the end of the week...

Syracuse - Fri., March 4 - Away

Conference: Big East
Preseason rank: 1st/2nd
2010 computer: 3rd
Last season: W, 11-10

How close are these games? The announcers mentioned during last year's game that the all-time series between the two schools was dead even - in goals. So of course UVA took the game by a single point: the usual margin of victory. Make no mistake, this is a clash of the titans, and barring a loss to Stony Brook the previous weekend, it'll be for the #1 ranking. (And to think, it almost wasn't even on TV.) And this, too, is on the road, in the enormous Carrier Dome, where UVA/Syracuse has been known to draw 16,000 fans. Both teams have outstanding senior goalies with very similar traits. Syracuse is actually missing its top two scorers from last year, but the leading goal-scorer (Stephen Keogh) returns, and Syracuse is always obnoxiously deep so it hardly matters.

Vermont - Tue., March 8 - Home

Conference: America East
Preseason rank: NR/NR
2010 computer: 49th
Last season: W, 18-7

Finished 3-13 and in the bottom half of their conference last year and picked even lower this year. UVA is the highlight of their schedule, but this is a team that inhabits the bottom quarter of college lacrosse, the last of the punching bags before the real gauntlet begins.

Cornell - Sat., March 12 - Baltimore

Conference: Ivy League
Preseason rank: 7th/8th
2010 computer: 10th
Last season: W, 12-4

Last year I was all worried because of the previous season's tournament debacle in Foxborough, and we went out and had one of the easiest games of the year. In Ithaca. Go figure. Adam Ghitelman stood on his head and saved 14 of 17 shots on goal against him. Cornell relied on a two-man freak show to score most of their goals; the playmaking half, Rob Pannell, is back, but scorer Ryan Hurley is gone. This has the feeling of a team that might be a touch overrated to start the season, because of the loss of Hurley and a number of their better defenders. But the Ivy League is no slouch of a lacrosse league and they should still be the best team in it.

Ohio State - Sat., March 19 - Home

Conference: ECAC
Preseason rank: NR/NR
2010 computer: 28th
Last season: N/A

This is one of the two new games on the schedule, and you bet your sweet bippy I'm friggin' thrilled about this. You could say it replaces the Towson game, but Towson's a quality team so I prefer to assume Good Stony Brook replaces Towson while Ohio State replaces Medium-Crappy Stony Brook. The Midwest is trying to get a foothold in college lacrosse, and OSU scored a surprise win over Cornell in the NCAA tournament in 2008, but since then they've regressed a bit. Got some young scoring punch, but a lousy faceoff man, so they probably won't be able to take advantage of our #1 weakness. (Have I mentioned we suck at faceoffs? We suck at faceoffs.) OSU's a relatively new arrival on the scene - it's only in the last decade or so that they've gotten serious about D-I lacrosse, and they've been taking it three steps forward and two steps back. This is a team I'd love to assist with the latter process.

Johns Hopkins - Sat., March 26 - Away

Conference: Independent
Preseason rank: 11th/11th
2010 computer: 12th
Last season: W, 15-6

This has been a surprisingly one-sided series lately, and it shouldn't be that way. Really. Hopkins, obviously, is not the kind of team UVA should be beating by a combined score of 34-14 in the last two games, but we have. It's a big rivalry that's been a bit tarnished lately, not least because Hopkins - normally a tournament fixture - had to claw their way in last year and then bowed out uncompetitively to Duke in the first round. Not a good season, especially not by Hopkins' standards. And Hopkins was slammed by senior departures, too. They did get a head start in net by replacing faltering senior Michael Gvozden with freshman Pierce Bassett - in fact, that switch happened in the middle of the UVA game, and was permanent. It didn't stop UVA shots from finding the back of the net with impunity, and it didn't improve things much on the record sheet, but it did put an end to the blowouts until that Duke game. Unfortunately, though, I don't think this'll be Hopkins's year for a return to glory.

Maryland - Sat., April 2 - Home

Conference: ACC
Preseason rank: 4th/4th
2010 computer: 4th
Last season: W, 11-10; W, 11-6 (ACC)

Sadly for me, Maryland fired coach Dave Cottle after last season, on account of being tired of being NCAA bridesmaids. Never could get them to the finals. Cottle was enormously entertaining when he was angry. His face looked like a big square, squinty strawberry. Maryland took a bit of a flyer on Harvard head coach John Tillman, who was once an assistant down the road at Navy and appeared to have the Crimson inching upwards in the Ivy League hierarchy. UVA has had Maryland's number lately the same way Duke's had ours, but that means nothing come game time. The good news is, evil UVA nemesis Will Yeatman, who stood 8-foot-10 and weighed 450 pounds, is gone - the guy played tight end on the football team and was kind of big for that position too, let alone the lacrosse field, and he always seemed to rack up hat tricks against UVA. The bad news is, basically everyone else returns, except the goalie. It's the ACC, yo - it's a dogfight every year.

North Carolina - Sat., April 9 - Home

Conference: ACC
Preseason rank: 3rd/3rd
2010 computer: 5th
Last season: W, 7-5

Seriously, the ACC has four teams in it, and they're all in the top five. We should never have let Syracuse stay in the Big East. The only things you need to really know about Carolina are that they're still really damn good; and Billy "Sidney Crosby" Bitter is still on the team, just as he has been since nineteen-dickety-three, so you'll get to hear his name a lot whether or not UNC is actually participating in the game in front of your nose.

Duke - Sat., April 16 - Away

Conference: ACC
Preseason rank: 5th/5th
2010 computer: 2nd
Last season: L, 9-13; W, 16-12 (ACC); L, 13-14 (NCAA)

If somehow Duke could lose in the opposite ACC semifinal game every year, we'd never lose an ACC championship. The regular seasons lately, not to mention the ACC tournament except for getting the monkey off our back last year, have all boiled down to sweeping our way to the #1 ranking and then having to play Duke and having it all go for naught. Figures they'd land in our way in the NCAAs in 2010. Beating them in the ACC semis last year was nice - really nice - but until we can get an actual win streak going against them I figure it doesn't matter who their actual players are: a monkey in a Duke uniform would score a timely goal against us simply because the fates have decreed it.

Pennsylvania - Sat., April 30 - Home

Conference: Ivy League
Preseason rank: NR/NR
2010 computer: 30th
Last season: N/A

Despite playing in the lacrosse-strong Ivy League and their location in and around lacrosse hotbeds, Penn is no real threat. The ACC tournament precedes this game; it's something the team's been doing lately, playing a medium-bad team to stay fresh for the NCAAs.


The story around our own team this season is the Bratton twins and the rest of their senior class, which was quite the recruiting story when they signed in 2007. Rhamel and Shamel are amazing athletes, specializing in the "argh don't shoot that what are you thinkYESSSSSS!!!" In years past UVA's headline players have typically been attackmen - think Danny Glading or Ben Rubeor - but the Brattons are offensive midfielders, meaning a lot of our highlight goals will be slung at the net from long distance. Which is always exciting. The offense is going to be a powerhouse; the question is whether the defense can keep up. There'll be a lot of inexperience back there, and hopefully not too much reliance on Adam Ghitelman in net. Ghitelman is one of the best goalies in the country with the ball already on his stick, and has the ability to suddenly decide nothing's going in the net and play like the Incredible HulkGoalie. And then he'll let in a floater from twenty yards. Hopefully as a senior he'll put it all together and play like an MVP. If the defense gels early, the team will be mighty and unstoppable (except by monkeys in Duke jerseys); if not, it'll be a slightly bumpy year.


A little clarity on the football roster situation today:

- Space just got a little less tight with Torrey Mack's apparently academic-related attrition. We can afford this. As I've mentioned Mack was facing perform-or-else time this offseason with Kevin Parks taking off the redshirt and Clifton Richardson entering. Perry Jones, a year behind, had already lapped him. This means that Richardson's a lock and a half not to redshirt, barring injury. The scholarship count: 90.

- So those suspensions the other day: annoyingly police-related, after all. Oh, and Devin Wallace conveniently neglected to mention a previous run-in with the law to Mike London, who showed remarkable self-restraint in not ripping his head completely off. At least I assume so. At this point I'd put Walcott's and Price's return at 50/50, depending on what happens with that felony charge. And that's probably optimistic. (I'm so fucking glad I finally got to use the words "felony charge" in conjunction with UVA football. I think this signals our return to the big-time, don't you? The big programs down south go through this every year.) There are so many different ways Wallace could find himself disassociated with UVA that Vegas is opening a line:

100/1: UVA Judiciary boots him
100/1: UVA Honor boots him
50/1: Craig Littlepage boots him
25/1: Kind of hard to play college football in jail
1/1: London considers this strikes two, three, four, and five and congratulates Jared Detrick on his fifth year of scholarship football, courtesy of his numbnuts teammate

I always considered Detrick a strong possibility to be cut, but not if Ausar Walcott spends much time in the clink. Big hit to the linebacking corps, for sure. Mike Price is a problem only if Anthony Mihota goes down with injury, which, he's an offensive lineman so that's actually very possible. Cody Wallace is your only other center.

As for Devin Wallace, who, yes, is almost definitely a goner, if not for this little issue then for hiding the other one: the article said two of three assault victims were hospitalized. The third guy managed to escape serious injury probably because it was Wallace who tried to tackle him. oh SNAP.