Friday, April 29, 2011

for charity: Cavaliers Against Cancer

I was asked by the folks at the UVaClub of Charlottesville if I wouldn't mind offering a little space for a good cause.  I like good causes and so do you, so you should take some time and get interested in the Cavaliers Against Cancer Texas Hold 'em Charity Tournament.

The UVaClub of Charlottesville is hosting the inaugural Cavaliers Against Cancer charity Texas Hold'em Tournament at 12 noon on May 7th at the John Paul Jones Arena.  The deadline for priority registration at the discounted rate of $75 is this Saturday April 30th and we’re encouraging folks to register as soon as possible since the number of spots is limited.  Card players of all abilities are encouraged to register for this great event, which supports cancer research.

All net proceeds of the event will be donated to the Rebecca Clary Harris, M.D. Memorial Fellowship at the University of Virginia Cancer Center. This fellowship celebrates the life of Rebecca Clary Harris M.D., a talented physician and researcher who excelled in the study and treatment of melanoma. The fund provides clinical and translational research fellowships to graduate students or fellows in the Human Immune Therapy Center at the University of Virginia Cancer Center. This event is strictly a non-cash charity game with a chance to win non-cash prizes.  There are prizes worth over $4,500 that will go to the players who make it to the final table, as well as being given out as door prizes throughout the event.

The Texas Hold'em Tournament is being professionally run by Casino2U, a Charlottesville-owned company that employs professional dealers and only uses high-end tables and chips. They have hosted many similar events in central Virginia and are privately owned and insured.

Registration is at the event website here -

Cavaliers Against Cancer

- and will be $75 until Saturday.  You can still register after Saturday; the cost will be $100 and seats will be limited by then.  For $75 you get a seat in the Texas Hold’em Tournament, a behind-scenes-tour of the John Paul Jones Arena, an all-you-can-eat buffet, free non-alcoholic beverages (alcoholic beverages will be available at a reasonable cost), and a chance to win tournament and door prizes, including (but definitely not limited to):

•Two foursomes (green and cart fees) at The Homestead’s Cascades Course – Each with a $1,000 Retail Value
•Five nights accommodations at Bluegreen Resort Villas – A $1,250 Retail Value
•A foursome (green & cart fees) at Massanutten Golf – A $270 Retail Value
•Four Massanutten WaterPark tickets – A $155 Retail Value
•Prizes from Mincer’s – Over $150 Retail Value
•A Prize package from – Over $100 Retail Value

And way more, including gift certificates all over Charlottesville.  Plus everyone who registers and shows up gets a 10% coupon at the UVA bookstore.  Now that you know, get out and register!

game preview: Pennsylvania

Date/Time: April 30; 3:00

TV: UVA webcast

History against the Quakers: 2-2

Last matchup: UVA 12, Penn 7; 3/11/98; Charlottesville

Last game: Duke 19, UVA 10 (4/22); Penn 9, Dartmouth 4 (4/23)

Opposing blogs: I don't think the Ivy League "blogs," it's a very public-school thing to do

I missed my chance to get in some quality rumormongering.  Now that the school has put out a press release confirming that, yes, Shamel Bratton has finally misbehaved his way right off the team, I guess it no longer qualifies as a rumor.  Would Rhamel's status still be rumory?  Probably, and honestly it wouldn't surprise me if he's at least unavailable for this game.

I don't know if this is a result of Starsia cracking down on the crap after last season's mess, or if Shamel has been thinking "fuck it, I'm a senior and this season is going nowhere, wuteva I do what I want," or both.  I'm not gonna bother psychoanalyzing this because I'm a little bit relieved we won't have to put up with this Viking drama during the postseason.  Here's to hoping that addition by subtraction means anything.


- Hope for the Ewing Theory to come through.  You know, where you remove the star player and everyone thinks you're through and then you crush everyone because of better chemistry, motivation, whatever.  This didn't work with Stanwick out, but Stanwick is not a constant distractor off the field.  No Shamel means a lot less athleticism on offense but hopefully fewer screwy turnovers as well.

- Dominate the faceoff X.  We can do this.  We can do this.  It might come true.  Masked by the godawful 1-for-5 slide we entered a month ago is some improving faceoff performance.  Penn is a sub-50% performer here, checking in at 44%.  This would be a great chance to get back onto the plus side of the ledger ourselves (we're exactly 50%) and keep our defense rested.

- Stop making goalies look like all-stars.  If we can't get shots past this guy, we can't get them past anyone.  Penn's Brian Feeney has an awful save percentage of .488.


- Matchup nightmare.  OK, so get this.  Remember a couple days ago I posted a quick look at our offensive and defensive efficiency as compared to a few select teams we've played.  Since then I've done the same for every team in the country.  Here's a miserable stat: In terms of percentage of defensive possessions that result in a turnover, UVA is second to last in the country.  The bottom six are, from least bad to worst: VMI, Mercer, St. Joseph's, Presbyterian, UVA, Providence.  That's five of the country's shittiest teams, and Virginia.  One of those teams is in its first year of D-I lax.  One is in its last.  The combined record of those teams: 8-53. 

We also do very badly in percentage of defensive possessions that result in a goal, but not that bad.  Penn, on the other hand, is the second-best team in the country at getting the ball back from opposing offenses.  So they'll find it easy to get the ball and easy to keep it.


Penn is not to be taken as lightly as I thought earlier this year.  They're solidly in the tournament.  They opened the season by beating Duke and Bucknell.  But their resume is perhaps stronger than their stats.  The silver lining in the above matchup nightmare is that Penn is not much good at holding onto the ball - their offensive turnover percentage is very high.  So that's weakness vs. weakness there, and something's gotta give and you have to like our chances.  It also turns out that UVA is actually quite good at holding onto the ball on offense, despite what your eyes have been telling you, so that end of the field is strength vs. strength.

Since we should do well on faceoffs, and Penn isn't well-equipped to take advantage of UVA's biggest weakness, and besides that Dom just kicked a turnover machine off the team, I think you have to like our chances.  This game is a godsend, a chance for the team to get its collective head right before the postseason, and not only that but a team that looks good in the metrics and if we can get the win it'll be a boost to our seeding and offer a chance to host a first-round game.  I rarely make specific predictions, but we need a break in our luck, so I'll break tradition: UVA wins this game 10-7.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

series preview: Boston College

Date/Time: April 29-May 1; 2:30, 1:30, 1:30

TV: none

History against the Eagles: 14-1

Last matchup: UVA 6, BC 4; 5/26/10; Greensboro, NC (ACC Tournament)

Last game: UVA 7, NC State 6 (4/24); BC 8, Harvard 0 (4/26)

Last weekend: UVA 2-1 over NC State (2-6, 3-1, 7-6); GT 3-0 over BC (0-2, 1-8, 8-10)

National rankings:

Baseball America: UVA #1; BC unranked
Collegiate Baseball: UVA #1; BC unranked
NCBWA: UVA #1; BC unranked
Perfect Game: UVA #2; BC unranked
Coaches: UVA #1; BC unranked
Composite: UVA #1; BC unranked

RPI: UVA #1; BC #113

I bagged on South Carolina fans last week, so in the interest of fairness and equal opportunity, it's our turn: leave it to Virginia fans to have a team that is 40-4 and worry that we're winning too much.  We are a jumpy, fretful bunch to be sure.  Success always makes us wonder when the other shoe drops.  I'm no different most of the time.

Take these next two weekends.  This weekend is too easy-looking and next weekend is final exam break, so no games, which means I'm going to chew my nails endlessly over the possibility of lost momentum.  Going into the series against Miami and UNC, that's not a good thing.  Yadda yadda.

This is a weird series, though.  Boston College lists their Sunday starter as "bullpen" and that's pretty much how they roll on Friday, too, except they have one guy who does start and then goes two innings, tops.  UVA will be dealing with a parade of different hurlers all week.  It's an interesting way of doing things but in essence it's a way to cover for a weak staff.  These'll be guys that if our hitters got a hold of them a second time through the lineup, they'd figure out their stuff and be raking all over the field.  For what it's worth, the approach flustered the GT hitters on Friday last week and held them to two runs, which is normally enough except for when you don't score at all.

They didn't score because BC's hitting stinks.  If they hadn't discovered Matt McGovern in the middle of the season it'd be even worse.  McGovern is 35-for-81 this season, but outside of him and third baseman Anthony Melchionda there isn't much consistency.  No slugging at all - only Andrew Lawrence (with four) has more than one home run - and very little hitting for average.  Four regulars are hitting .255 or worse.  That wouldn't raise many eyebrows in the majors but in college it's pretty anemic.  We probably won't see much basestealing either; BC doesn't steal often and they're not good at it - successful just slightly over 50% of the time.

So yes, it's sweep or die again. All the cool teams are doing it: Clemson, FSU, Miami, and GT have all played BC so far this year and none have lost a game.  GT is just a game behind (effectively two since we have the tiebreaker) but plays Clemson this week, so there's a chance to get the game back that we lost to them last weekend.  (They swept BC and we lost on Friday to NC State.)

Finally, why are you not voting for Tyler Wilson?

Rest of the ACC:

Georgia Tech at Clemson: Kindly beat each other up please.  GT should win this series but if Clemson can take one from them it'd be highly appreciated.
Virginia Tech at Duke: Duke is way worse than I thought.  If VT sweeps them - very possible - they'll do themselves some real favors when it comes to ACC tournament eligibility.  Not that VT is much good - that sweep could plausibly go the other way, too.
Florida State at Miami: Oooo, battle of Florida.  FSU is recovering from a few stumbles earlier and a sweep here (possible since I think Miami is overrated) could lock up the Atlantic for them depending on how Clemson does.  This one also has major, major NCAA implications, because the NCAA won't want to host too many regionals in Florida.  UF will definitely get one and Stetson is making a major case too, and the NCAA would love to toss the little guy a bone.  The loser of this series may find themselves traveling to start the NCAAs.
Maryland at NC State: NC State is surprisingly positioning themselves for the tournament and Maryland bites.  Possible sweep.
Wake Forest and North Carolina both have byes.


Basketball has its own sets of excellent tempo-free stats, and baseball is a statistician's paradise, with sabermetrics - essentially the study of alternative states - becoming an industry unto itself.  Football too.  Lacrosse is essentially a possession-based game like basketball, so it should be a doable thing to create some efficiency stats that take tempo out of the equation.  Like basketball, there are teams that like to run and gun and teams that prefer to sit on the ball, and that affects the per-game stats that announcers always refer to and that never tell the whole story.

I've only ever seen one effort to do this, that by the Syracuse blog Orange:44, and it's pretty simple.  There are three basic ways to gain possession: win a faceoff, get the ball from the opposing offense, or get the ball from the opposing defense.  There's a stat for each: faceoff wins, attempted clears, and opponents' failed clears.  So O44 simply divides goals by total possessions to come up with a measure of offensive efficiency.

That's not bad, but really, your offense in lacrosse and your ability to clear are two different things, and that stat includes both.  Usually they involve two different groups of players.  I wanted to see how the UVA offense has been operating this year, so as is my custom at times, I played around with the stats.  Really I just adjusted the way possessions are calculated.  Instead of:

Faceoff wins + attempted clears + opponents' failed clears

we now have:

Faceoff wins + successful clears + opponents' failed clears

That will tell you how many possessions actually got the ball into the offensive zone so you could go to work on scoring.  It gets rid of possessions that never got over midfield or otherwise failed to get the offense involved.  Clearing percentage is already a stat so removing failed clears from the equation should give us a better look at how the offense is performing.

Doing this also lets us separate the offense's turnovers from ones involving, say, goalie braindeadedness.  A failed clear is a turnover, so just subtract the failed clears from the rest of the turnovers to get the turnovers that the offense is responsible for.  We'll divide goals by possessions and turnovers by possessions to find how good the offense is at scoring and at hanging onto the ball.  (By the way, the NCAA explicitly states that a missed shot is not a turnover, even if the shot is backed up by the opponent.  Things like that, and saves and whatnot that are held by the goalie, fall into an "other" category that isn't being tracked here.)

In the hazy future, we'll look at where UVA ranks nationally at this stuff, but for now, it'll have to do to compare UVA to a few of the teams on the schedule.  Offensive efficiency looks OK enough:

Possessions: 478
Goals: 166 (34.73%)
Turnovers: 172 (35.98%)

Possessions: 418
Goals: 147 (35.17%)
Turnovers: 168 (40.19%)

Possessions: 539
Goals: 208 (38.59%)
Turnovers: 214 (39.70%)

Possessions: 443
Goals: 153 (34.54%)
Turnovers: 142 (32.05%)

Possessions: 395
Goals: 136 (34.43%)
Turnovers: 155 (39.24)

Possessions: 445
Goals: 137 (30.79%)
Turnovers: 157 (35.28%)

Possessions: 398
Goals: 160 (40.20%)
Turnovers: 150 (37.69%)

As you can see, UVA compares pretty well.  My bitching about turnovers is probably unfounded; on the other hand, it looks as though my bitching about beachball shots that always find their way to the goalie's stick is meaningful, since UVA has a smaller percentage than most of possessions that result in either a turnover or a goal.

But you can do this for defense, too, and I'm not even gonna lie: it's a fucking mess.

Possessions: 419
Goals: 135 (32.22%)
Turnovers: 148 (35.32%)

Possessions: 315
Goals: 92 (29.21%)
Turnovers: 164 (52.06%)

Possessions: 484
Goals: 148 (30.58%)
Turnovers: 194 (40.08%)

Possessions: 369
Goals: 120 (32.52%)
Turnovers: 155 (42.01%)

Possessions: 319
Goals: 80 (25.08%)
Turnovers: 122 (38.24)

Possessions: 372
Goals: 94 (25.27%)
Turnovers: 180 (48.39%)

Possessions: 376
Goals: 102 (27.13%)
Turnovers: 181 (48.14%)

UVA is:

1) among the worst teams of this bunch at having more possessions than the opposition in the first place,
2) among the worst teams of this bunch at preventing the other team from scoring,
3) unequivocally the worst team of this bunch at getting turnovers.

Almost as many of UVA's defensive possessions result in goals as they do turnovers - by contrast, teams like Cornell, Maryland, and Syracuse are almost twice as likely to recover the ball as allow a goal.  This isn't a trend limited to just this elite slice of teams.  I didn't have time to do all 61 teams so I could give you a national ranking, but I've done a fair amount and UVA is so bad at getting turnovers on defense it's not funny.  We are miles behind the other great, good, and even mediocre teams in this department.

You could've guessed this just by watching us flail around on defense in any given game this year, but now you've got numbers to back it up.  I truly hope this is because of youth and inexperience, but there are seniors and juniors on this defense and this really should be going better than it is.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

recruiting board update

Eventful times, with good news and bad news afoot.  I'm also updating the depth chart, so stay tuned at the end for that.  Recruiting board here, map here.  Updates:

- Removed RB J.C. Coleman, WR Desmond Frye, and ATH Der'Woun Greene, all of whom committed to VT at or following their spring game.  Frye and Greene are replaceable - top-30 types in the state.  But that sucks about Coleman.  We need a couple running backs and Coleman was a major target who was thinking UVA not that long ago.  Options here have become limited and kind of longshotty for now.

- Moved DE Eli Harold from green to blue.  Now for the good news, as the #2 and maybe eventual #1 prospect in Virginia names UVA his favorite.  Score one for Mike London, and score another if and when he can close on Harold.

- Moved ATH Cyrus Jones from yellow to red.

- Added S Demeitre Brim to orange.  Brim needed less than a week to commit to UVA after getting his offer, and is from Florida and has never been to Charlottesville.  That kind of verbal can go either way; either other schools start getting in his ear and he starts to think he might be missing out, or he gets to Grounds and it's everything he thought it was from the Internet.  Right now I see no reason to assume he won't stick, though.

- Added WR Stefon Diggs to yellow.  Diggs visited and seemed to be at least mildly interested.  He's a huge, huge-time prospect with offers from all corners of the land, so yellow is probably overly optimistic, but whatever.

- Added RB Imani Cross to red.  Cross is a Tennessee commit but calls himself a "soft" commitment and frankly the word "commitment" should be taken with a grain of salt.  It's nice to be on the right end of a decommitment.  Cross will move out of red should he ever actually "decommit", but the way things go in recruiting, he more or less already has and is only calling himself committed to Tennessee as a placeholder.

We also need another look at the depth chart.  Now that it's the offseason, injuries don't really apply, so that part of the depth chart is offline for now - red will be used to denote the two suspended knuckleheads.  They're not listed on the post-spring depth chart so I can't really have them as part of the two-deep, but they're not officially off the team either so I can't just make them disappear.  Yes, that post-spring depth chart is the reason for this latest update, plus I have to add Brim.

There's enough interesting stuff here that it's worth going over this position-by-position:

Quarterback - I've seen it said that this shouldn't be construed to mean that there's been any decisions in the QB race, but this plus some of London's earlier comments makes me disagree.  He wanted a 1A and 1B coming out of spring and I think we very obviously have that in Rocco and Metheny, and Rocco probably has the slight edge.

Running back - No surprises here.

Fullback - Kind of a surprise to see TFD running a clear third behind Ryan Cobb and Max Milien.  Well, not Milien, but seeing Cobb leapfrog him is interesting.  There are still too many scholarships promised out so this could mean TFD is a clear candidate to not return in the fall, since he's a fifth-year.

Wide receiver - This was a disaster zone in spring camp, injury-wise, with most of the best players sitting out all or some of the practices.  Looks like Bobby Smith had the best spring of those who did get to play.

Tight end - Nothing too surprising.

Offensive line - As I've been suspecting, Landon Bradley is in danger of getting Wally Pipped.  I think Morgan Moses would make a better guard than tackle, but this O-line depth chart appears to lean toward getting your best five on the field rather than sorting players out too precisely by position.  And Moses and Oday Aboushi are clearly the best tackles.  Interesting that Cody Wallace is not a center, but guard is wicked thin if Moses is a tackle.

Defensive end - No big surprises, but I'm looking forward to seeing what Brent Urban can do.

Defensive tackle - This should probably be read as a three-man rotation rather than two starters and one backup.  DT kind of requires it.  Chris Brathwaite isn't on the two-deep but he's probably the actual backup, and I can't wait for his emergence because he's going to tear some fools up eventually.

Linebacker - Nothing too surprising except the "or" next to Steve Greer and Henry Coley.  The coaches just do not seem to want to give Greer the job outright.

Cornerback - Drequan Hoskey is fast as shit, but his listing is evidence of how badly this program needs Demetrious Nicholson and Brandon Phelps.  I think Hoskey could do fine in a pinch but when walk-ons start showing up in the two-deep, you have depth issues.  Good job, Devin Wallace, getting yourself suspended.  I do have high hopes for Rijo Walker.

Safety - The two-deep is literally the entire roster of scholarship safeties.  The freshman class is bringing some help but nothing like a Nicholson.  Let's just offer burnt sacrifices for the health of McLeod and Mosley and hope for the best.

Monday, April 25, 2011

weekend review of curses and cursebreaking

I know exactly when I crossed over from being a casual, score-checking follower of lacrosse and into full-blown fanhood.  It was somewhere in the second quarter of the semifinal game in 2006 against Syracuse, because that's when I found out they actually put the sport on television.  Being able to actually watch the games does wonders.

The nice thing about UVA lacrosse is that it's been an embarrassment-free ride.  Until Friday.  19-10 is the kind of score we're supposed to be laying on Mount St. Mary's, and yes Duke was running up the score because that's how they roll but certain teams aren't allowed to ever complain about having the score run up on them because they should never be in that position in the first place.  UVA is one of those teams.

The charges are as follows: 2nd degree failure to give a fuck about important ground balls.  Multiple counts of felonious turnovers caused by hotdog passes which were obviously doomed from the beginning.  Failure to clear.  Pylonic defense.  The charge of felonious faceoff suckage is dropped - surprisingly UVA was 17 of 31, which is surprisingly competent.  The problem is that it seems like every faceoff we win is won back to the defensive end of the field and then we have to work on clearing it out, which used to be our #1 strength and has turned into an adventure and a half.  And every faceoff we lose is also lost to our defensive end and then its transition goal time.  Six Duke goals came within sixty seconds of a faceoff on Friday and four of them came within fifteen seconds of one.

The guy I feel bad for is Adam Ghitelman, because he looks like ass out there and it's not his fault.  Transition goals are nearly impossible for a goalie to do anything about, and the man-to-man defense is a complete lost cause.  Last year the starting defenders were Ken Clausen, Ryan Nizolek, and Matt Lovejoy, and none of those three are on the field any more now that Lovejoy (always the shakiest of the three anyway) is laid up for the season.  We're getting hoist with our own petard now; Duke just put on an athletic one-on-one clinic and served notice that any team who wants to test its own middies and attackmen one-on-one against our defenders should feel free to do so.

So that was probably the season.  Ostensibly, the Penn game next week looms large as a real chance to get something done and salvage some kind of tournament seeding - perhaps as a host team - but I don't think it's even that big any more.  I'd say with a win we have maybe a 50/50 chance at hosting a game.  A loss makes it dead certain we won't.  Neither will we get knocked out of the tournament altogether, but do you really like the idea of trying to play a game in the thin air in Denver?  I don't.  The plus side is that the tournament is a win-win proposition: either we rally and make a nice long run toward recaptured glory, or the misery ends quick and we can focus on baseball.


Speaking of baseball, baseball is nice.  I like baseball because in baseball we've only had to deal with four losses in 44 games.  NC State would be the first team to hand Danny Hultzen a loss this season because beating UVA has become NC State's only baseball tradition, but Tyler Wilson turned in a gem in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader and the bats came alive on Sunday enough to win the first rubber game we've seen all season.

Other than a little extra chatter on the field (I get the feeling NC State's aware of their usual death grip on UVA baseball) and the complete inability of the Wolfies to defend a stolen base attempt on Sunday, it was kind of a ho-hum series.  So let's bulletize the big-picture stuff.

- No, seriously, the way the Pack dealt with UVA baserunners was hideous.  Their pitchers - left-handed pitchers at that - repeatedly ignored the guy on first and his huge leads and gave up huge jumps to the baserunner.  And catcher Pratt Maynard couldn't hit the broad side of an aircraft carrier with his throws to second.  Except for one, which was a great throw but had no receiving end because the infielders forgot to cover the base.  NC State's coach pulled his starting pitcher in the middle of a second-inning at-bat because he ignored Chris Taylor on first (who would take three of UVA's six stolen bases) and at the same time hucked a pitch four feet wide of the plate and six feet in the air.

- You know about Robo-Danny's demolition of the school records, especially where strikeouts are concerned (he long ago passed the old career mark set by Seth Greisinger and is 42 away from the single-season record) but he's not the only one rewriting the books.  Steven Proscia's next RBI will give him sole possession of the UVA record in that category.

- UVA needs to go just 4-8 in its last 12 games to finish with a top-8 RPI.  Naturally they are the RPI top-ranked team, and only Florida also has the luxury of finishing top-8 with a losing record.  By this time next week it's possibly UVA has guaranteed itself a top-8 finish.

- Vote for Tyler Wilson!  Vote, damn you.  You can do it once a day.  He's losing ground.  Do not let that happen.


In the other stuff department:

- Two ACC championships over the weekend: rowing and men's tennis.  We get a lot of those.  There probably isn't a more dominant team at UVA than men's tennis.  This is the year it should hopefully turn into a national title.  UVA now has four ACC championships on the season, second only to Maryland with five.  Only baseball and softball yet to be decided, neither of which Maryland will win.  GT is the odds-on softball favorite; we'll see about baseball, which is often subject to the whims of fate.

- Mike London has his second commitment on board.  Remember last week when I said something to the effect of commitments coming at this time of year will be surprises?  Yeah.  Demeitre Brim needed only a few days to decide where he wanted to go to school.  It could bear watching because Brim has never been to UVA, had little contact with the coaches prior to his offer, and has just one besides the UVA one.  Half the time that's a kid making a snap decision and regretting it later and half the time it's damn near the strongest kind of commitment you can make.  Board update tomorrow, which has plenty of good stuff and bad stuff.

- The ACC coaching carousel is done spinning for the year unless someone is caught shoving dead hookers in a trunk, with George Mason's Jim Larranaga going to Miami.  Larranaga's a fine coach and all, and this move makes sense for him since Miami is probably stuffing his pockets with good American money, but it might not make much sense for Miami.  How much shelf life does Larranaga have at 61?  He's an upgrade over Frank Haith, and if Miami gets as many seasons out of Larranaga as they did with Haith (seven) they'll have done well.  But that might be the upper limit of what he can give them.

lacrosse bracketology

OMG OMG so late.  This is what family functions do to my productivity.  Happy Easter by the way, although by the time I hit "publish" on this bad boy it won't be Easter any more.  Whatever, this is the story this week:

The big news from a bracket standpoint is that Delaware got crushed by Penn State this week, knocking them off the CAA autobid perch and handing it to already-in Hofstra.  Did I say maybe the CAA could be a three-bid league?  Or they could be a one-bid league.  That throws one spot in this bracket wide open, so Hokieland means something this week.  The team that emerged when the dust settled was Loyola, but this next weekend could spin the merry-go-round again.

The big news from the standpoint of the stuff we really care about is seeing UVA on the road.  Ugh.  Would beating Penn change that?  I dunno.  Denver has a strong grip on that spot and the ACC is down enough this year that the committee might not want to have three of its teams hosting.  And Maryland won the RPI-fest that is the ACC tournament so they got a huge old boost, from "on the bubble like big-time" to hosting a first-round game.  From a tourney standpoint we really wanted Duke to win that.

Last week's games to watch and how they went:

Duke 19, Virginia 10 - Poop on everything.

Maryland 7, North Carolina 6 - The Terps helped themselves big-big-time by winning this and then beating Duke too.  Carolina, on the other hand?  They're probably in no matter what but man, they're sitting more precariously than we are.

Siena 12, Canisius 9 - It was a good run for UDM, but Siena reclaimed the MAAC autobid for now.  A Siena-Detroit rematch in the MAAC tourney will probably decide things for real.

Hofstra 14, UMass 5 - That'll be all for the Minutemen, and Hofstra continues to solidify their bid to the tourney even if they stumble in the CAA tourney.

Bucknell 12, Colgate 7 - A solid win for the Bison declares their Patriot dominance, but they still have to do it again in the tournament.  But, like Hofstra, they're continuing to make their case with or without an autobid.

This week's games to watch:

Yale at Harvard - Yale nudges out Penn State as the team most likely to take advantage if someone already in the bracket stumbles.  Harvard is a solid resume-boosting team, but Yale should still be able to handle them.

Loyola at Johns Hopkins - Welcome to the bracket, Greyhounds.  Here's your chance to prove you belong.

Pennsylvania at Virginia - Huh boy.  This was supposed to be more of a tuneup than anything, but fortunately Penn turns out to be a very solid team because the ol' resume needs a polishing up after Duke shat on it.  But will it matter?  Maryland and Denver have a solid grip on the last two host duties.  And I don't think we can fall out of the tourney with a loss here, but it might upgrade our tourney opponent some.

Penn State at Hofstra - If Yale and Loyola can't get it done, Penn State can pick up the gauntlet, especially with a win here against a very tough Hofstra team.

Notre Dame at Syracuse - #1 vs #2 cage match.  Also: WTFBBQ, man, how did #1 vs #2 end up in the Big East?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

series preview: NC State

Date/Time: April 22-24; 7:00, 1:00, 1:00

TV: Games 1 and 3 on UVA live feed; Game 2 on regional networks

History against the Pack: 66-119-1

Last matchup: NC State 2-1 series win (5-6, 8-4, 6-7); April 2-4, 2010; Raleigh

Last game: UVA 12, Richmond 1 (4/20); NC State 19, UNC-Wilmington 5 (4/20)

Last weekend: UVA swept Duke (10-0, 3-2, 18-4); NC State swept UNC (5-4, 8-7, 10-2)

National rankings:

Baseball America: UVA #1; NC State unranked
Collegiate Baseball: UVA #1; NC State unranked
NCBWA: UVA #1; NC State unranked
Perfect Game: UVA #2; NC State unranked
Coaches: UVA #1; NC State unranked
Composite: UVA #1; NC State unranked

RPI: UVA #1; NC State #30

UVA is #1.  My painstakingly thorough sampling of South Carolina fans find that at least two-thirds of them are whining about it based on the premise that 1) they just beat the previous consensus #1 in a series and 2) strength of schedule (ESSS-EEEE-CEEEE baybee.)  Frankly, I don't care - they can have it if they want.  They don't hand out CWS invitations based on this stuff.  All it is, is a reward for being 38-3 and not 29-7 like the Gamecocks, and if they wanted to be where we are they shouldn't have lost games to Clemson (who UVA swept), Furman (#128 RPI) or the Citadel (#159 RPI.)  Neener.

And it still doesn't get you to Omaha.  Doesn't even help you win the series at hand, and that's a shame because we could use it this week.  NC State isn't quite the crapfest I had them pegged for, but they're not real amazing either, and they could be 0-40 and it wouldn't matter because the Wolfies have UVA's number as badly as Duke lacrosse does.  (Hey, guess who our opponent in that sport is tomorrow.)  Since 2001 - two years before the O'Connor era - UVA baseball has won just one series against NC State.  Every year we have this amazing team and no matter how awesome you are, there's still the guy on the back of the chariot whispering memento mori in your ear.  That's NC State.

Their sweep of UNC last weekend was surprising (and a big help in the standings) but I'm still not especially impressed.  They really, really needed that sweep in order to stay afloat and in tournament contention.  The hitting and pitching are both kinda eh.  They're built around the "two walks and a dinger" model of baseball, which is a little obsolete with the new bats.  Last year they had a murderer's row lineup and a death row pitching staff waiting for execution, and the average NC State game was a 9-6 Pack win.  (For comparison's sake, with UVA it was 7-4.)  The scoring output has gone down by three runs a game, and the improvement in the pitching is only about what you'd expect with the new bats.

UVA batters teed off against soft-tossing Dillon Haviland last week, once they got used to his speed, and should be able to find similar success this weekend.  On Friday, NC State will have Cory Mazzoni trying to counter Danny Hultzen, and Mazzoni is a legit MLB prospect but the only pitcher on the Pack staff with the capability to overpower.  His ERA is a little inflated but his other stats are fine, and he brings a mid-90s fastball.  Mazzoni is the only constant in the rotation.  Nobody else on the staff has yet managed 40 strikeouts - partially because most of these pitchers aren't strikeout-inclined and partly because none of them have pitched many innings, having been shuffled in and out of the rotation.

So, the numbers and everything point to a hopeful sweep.  After the Hultzen-Mazzoni matchup, NC State doesn't have frightening pitching.  Better than Duke, but not exactly CWS-quality stuff.  It's possible NC State pulls the ol' switcheroo and uses Mazzoni on Sunday in hopes of stealing one, but that hasn't been their way of things and I don't think they will.  Friday should be a decent pitchers' duel; after that, the potential exists for some lopsided games.  As long as NC State leaves their voodoo dolls in Raleigh.


Note - lacrosse tomorrow against Duke, yes, yes - but look, we played those guys last week and if you watched the game, there's nothing new to learn.  Hopefully the ACC POY returns to action, because the offense is rough to watch with him in there and rough and slow when he's not.

Note two - finally, finally, finally the videos page gets an update.  The Cornell video is finished and available in the library, and you can also see what else I have that awaits.  Unfortunately this is going to be more of an unsteady drip than a running faucet, since I'm still working on the new process and there are a lot more machines, wires, and bits of software standing between a recorded game and a finished highlight video.  Blame AT&T and their bronze-age approach to copy protection; Apple got rid of DRM a long time ago ya fascist neanderthals.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Those people who say they really want to see the sport of lacrosse (and specifically men's D-I lacrosse) expanded beyond its traditional stomping grounds, and mean it, are getting their wish whether they know it or not.  The last year or two is undeniable proof.  Consider the evidence:

- For the first time in the history of the event, in 2010 the NCAA D-I championship game included a team (Notre Dame) from a state that does not border the Atlantic.  Teams from just six states had ever participated, and three of those states only ever sent one team.  And one of those (UMass) has only played once.

- That same Notre Dame team has a legitimate shot to snag the #1 seed in this year's tournament and in any case has proven themselves not a fluke.

- It's possible, even likely, that this year's tournament will play a game west of the Mississippi for the first time ever (hosted by Denver.)

- In the past three years, men's D-I lacrosse has begun in the states of Florida (Jacksonville), Georgia (Mercer), and Michigan (Detroit.)  In 2013, the state of Wisconsin will join the fun when Marquette makes the jump from the MCLA to Division I.  It's also all but official that Michigan will join the fray, likely in 2013 as well.

The evidence piles up, and you can see the effects.  It's not all roses, of course.  Sometimes lacrosse gets dropped.  Presbyterian is dropping the sport after a short experimentation with it.  A shame, because the reasoning is supposedly the lack of Big South conference affiliation with the sport, right as some chatter begins about the possibility of a conference of southern schools; there are six (the minimum number for an NCAA bid) besides the ACC powers, but losing Presbyterian makes five.

But I digress, as I always do.  There are two perfectly extant conferences new to the game - the Big East and Northeast conferences recently found enough members to form up lacrosse leagues and get autobids to the Biggish Dance, which will take effect next year.  That'll mean eight instead of six autobids, one of which will go to Syracuse for the foreseeable future and one of which will add a crap team to the mix.  If the NEC had their autobid this year it'd probably go to Mount St. Mary's, which UVA dispatched from last year's tournament in dominating fashion.

Eight autobids means fewer at-larges, of course, and the numbers are nearly there to support even more conferences in the sport.  The only negative aspect of the aforementioned southern conference would've been to leave the MAAC one shy of autobid status - and the dream is not dead since High Point will start play soon too.  If (and more likely "when") Michigan makes the jump to D-I, there are enough schools to form a true western conference without even needing the Big East schools.  This time the ECAC would be left with five, but they could just add Mercer.  More likely is that Michigan just joins the ECAC rather than everyone doing this the hard way, but still.  Further expansion - not just of teams, but addition of conferences - is not that far off.

Which means the NCAA tournament will expand, too.  Just speculation on my part, but I don't think it's idle speculation.  NCAA bylaws seem to call for more than 50% of a non-basketball tournament field to be comprised of conference autobids...

a sports committee must award, when a sufficient number of applications for automatic qualification exist, at least 50 percent of the championship field to conferences that meet automatic-qualification criteria and provide a play-in criteria. The remaining 50 percent of the championship field shall be reserved for at-large teams.
...but that's so obviously not the case in all these other sports that in reality it's basically the other way around.  (For example, 30 autobids and 34 at-larges in baseball, 22 autobids and 26 at-larges in soccer, etc.)  The NCAA always prioritizes things like "getting people interested in the tournament" over silly bylaws, which makes sense on some level, so I don't think it's likely that they'll allow Mount St. Mary's to steal a spot from North Carolina or Johns Hopkins.  Much more likely: expansion to 20 or 24 teams.  Given the choice I'd prefer 24 for symmetry's sake, but relatively speaking that's a huge tournament - it's almost 40% of the teams.

As exciting as this expansion of the sport is for the sport, it's a little bit of a storm cloud for the established programs.  We've already seen one example of a new program's rise at the direct expense of an old-guard team: when Bill Tierney made the jump to Denver from Princeton, he seems to have taken all of Princeton's mojo with him.  Denver is likely to earn a seed and the right to host a first-round game; Princeton won't be in the tournament barring a major upset run in the Ivy tournament.

It's also surely a possibility that the NCAA tournament doesn't expand, which would be bad news for teams whose only route to eligibility is as an at-large.  And a less concrete effect: dilution of both the talent and coaching pools.  In some places you'll see the talent pool strengthen - I think the state of Michigan will have a critical mass when Michigan joins UDM as the state's D-I teams, and the state is just beginning to spread its wings a little as a high school talent pool.  But that's a long-term thing.  Short-term, teams like Notre Dame, Michigan, and Penn State will be competing for many of the same recruits that would've stayed on the East Coast otherwise.  This will hurt the UVAs and Marylands of the world a little and the Towsons and Sienas a lot more - if you were a lacrosse player, especially at a prep school where most of these kids come from, and you weren't being recruited by the big boys but you did have offers from Michigan and, say, UMBC, where would you go?

UVA, being one of the Old Guard, should be on their toes to make sure what happened to Princeton doesn't happen to them.  Not that Princeton is permanently screwed, but I don't want to go a season without making the tournament, do you?  For starters, the ACC should either be pushing the NCAA to expand the tournament or pushing its members to start playing more lacrosse so that we can get to six teams.  Or it should be looking to expand itself, since Title IX makes it nigh-impossible for a football-playing school to start a lacrosse program.  It requires a massive commitment along the lines of the $88 million donation to Penn State to start hockey teams (lacrosse would be smaller since you don't need a big arena, but still) or a fundraising pool and lacrosse infrastructure built up over many years as a club program, as Michigan has done.  Title IX is why Boston College and VT play women's lax and not men's.  But the ACC needs to be proactive about this to protect its teams.  Maybe it would take a pitch to Hopkins to join the conference for lacrosse only.  A hard sell to be sure, but an autobid would appeal to both sides.  Or maybe the conference should get out and nudge the NCAA in the direction of expansion.  Because if the conference is gonna stay at four teams, it's vital that it maintain the status that it enjoys now where nine years out of ten, all four lax teams earn bids.

UVA can't sit on its butt either.  As I've said in the past I think Dom Starsia's career is on its downslope; Craig Littlepage needs to recognize the point of no return on that path, whenever that occurs, and work on a cordial transition the way Debbie Ryan left - and sooner on the trail than we did with Ryan.  And from where I sit now the next coach should come from outside the program.  If Starsia is still our coach in 2020, that's probably not going to be a good thing.

And we need to schedule for success.  There's a fine line between weenie scheduling and suicidal scheduling.  For now we do a pretty good job of walking that line.  We have basically the same opponents every year, though, and the schedulers should take care not to let longstanding matchups like the one with Drexel get in the way of keeping the team competitive - and that's the case regardless of whether the Drexels on our schedule become powerhouses, stomping mats, or anything in between.  I'm not saying anything is wrong with the way we schedule now, but shifting landscapes will require keeping a critical eye on things.

I was recently asked by FTRS in the run-up to the GT baseball series what I thought our flagship sport at UVA was.  It's hard to say lacrosse qualifies, since it's not the revenue machine football and basketball are.  It's not profitable unless you ignore the scholarship expenses.  Even so, it's certainly the one sport more than any other where UVA is a titan in the field, and with soccer and recently, baseball, that's saying something.  It's easy to think we always will be, but it takes a little effort to make sure that what's good for the sport is also good for our team, because the mathematics (it's a lot easier to win a national title against 50 teams than against 70 or 80) make it a slightly uphill battle.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

recruiting board update

Yup, that time again.  The board is here and don't forget about the map here.


- Removed RB Ronald Darby (Notre Dame), QB Zeke Pike (Auburn, Michigan, or Purdue) and CB Geno Smith (nowhere yet but I'm thinking not Virginia), all from red.

- Moved LB Ken Ekanem from yellow to red.

- Moved RB Wes Brown from green to yellow.

- Added TE Blake Bars and QB Chad Voytik to yellow.

It's getting on toward the spring slow season so there won't be a lot of movement in the coming weeks.  Kelby Johnson and Diamonte Bailey were late-April commits last year, but they were surprises that weren't even on the recruiting board.  Until June when UVA hosts its camp and sundry other events, expect things to slow down.

And because this is Virginia and we can't ever have nice things, Will Regan is transferring.  So that leaves only four of Tony Bennett's much-heralded six-man recruiting class.  I guess that's one reason you don't see those too often.  I'm slightly gobsmacked, but I probably shouldn't be.  Regan looked to me like one of the most likely members of that class to play some meaningful minutes right away; he also looked like a guy who had less of a ceiling and less room for improvement than the others.  I was wrong about the first and the transfer suggests maybe I was right about the second.  With Mike Scott coming back and James Johnson entering the fray for playing time, UVA essentially loses one big man (Will Sherrill) and gains two, not to mention whatever Darion Atkins and Paul Jesperson might do.  And Akil Mitchell had obviously passed Regan on the depth chart by the end of the season.

So Regan might have looked at the wall and seen some writing, even if we didn't.  We could've used the insurance but Regan was recruited by Michigan, Maryland, Stanford, Providence, Penn State, etc.....he probably sees himself as more than "insurance," and you can't hardly blame him.

The impact on scholarships: I don't think we'll bring in any last-minute candidates in the 2011 class, because that would make that a class of five and you just run into the same crunch problems the six-man 2010 class had.  Guys don't like to be squeezed out.  What it does is takes away the decision between a transfer player this summer (who would get to start playing in 2012-13) and a 2012 freshman.  Now we can have both.

This seems like as good a time as any to debut the basketball depth chart I've been working on.  You'd think this would've been easier, but in football, running backs are running backs.  In basketball, Joe Harris is a shooting guard who sometimes plays power forward.  So it has its own challenges.  Anyway, that can be found on the same page as the football one.

Lastly, get excited: yesterday I said I would likely be able to start the flow of highlight videos again.  Now I can guarantee it.  The Cornell lacrosse game will be ready to go shortly and after that I've got a bunch more.  It won't be all at once but you'll get sweet sweet video again in the coming weeks and months.

Monday, April 18, 2011

weekend review

I like to get the bad stuff out of the way early, which means lacrosse goes first today.  Want to know what's so thoroughly frustrating about this team?  Besides the brainfartitude, there are two huge, gaping flaws in the makeup of this team that prevent it from reaching its potential, which is frankly enormous.

Flaw #1: the obvious inability to win a faceoff.  This frustrates me to no end, not least because I'm about to harp on the problems at the faceoff X after a game in which UVA's faceoff men won 15 of 26 for 57%.  That's not half bad.  It's pretty good.  But you know what makes my head explode?  I've been thinking for a while that Ryan Benincasa should take the majority of the faceoffs, Garrett Ince and Brian McDermott should come in only rarely, if ever, and Chris LaPierre should be the second guy for a change of pace every so often  And then Benincasa wins zero of five against Duke and Ince and McDermott combine for 71%.  I've mentioned before that I think the faceoff problems are basically coaching problems because of the inordinate amount of faceoff violations called on our team, and I think the total lack of consistency also points to coaching.

Flaw #2 is that there is but one player on the offensive side of the field - Steele Stanwick - who can make his teammates better.  And he sat out to rest his foot on Saturday.  For my own sanity I'll just assume that Coach Starsia did that because this game didn't matter half of what the next one did and he wanted that ace in the hole he could throw in next week to change the game around....and not because Stanwick's injury got worse somehow.  I hope to hell not.

This is partly why I have that nagging feeling that the end-of-career fade is beginning for Starsia.  For the last decade UVA has had a star attackman that gathers assists nearly as fast as he gathers goals.  Right now that's Stanwick.  In the past it's been Danny Glading, or Ben Rubeor, or Matt Ward, or whatever.  They score and they help their teammates score.  When Stanwick leaves after next season, who'll that be?  Stanwick's talent was immediately evident as a freshman.  You can always tell who the heir apparent is.  Not this time.  It's not Matt White or Rob Emery; the former has disappointed this year and the latter looks like a nice complementary player along the lines of Colin Briggs.  I dunno, maybe I'm overreacting and the reason nobody's really emerged is because of so many upperclassmen in the lineup, but I doubt it; Stanwick and even Chris Bocklet, not to mention the players of the past, played their way in and made themselves indispensible.

But I digress.  Two major flaws in this team and we still only lose to Duke and Syracuse by two goals.  The talent is there to blow the competition out of the water.  But there are some missing elements.  It's like a Corvette with four-cylinder engine.

It doesn't help that we drive it with the parking brake on and the gas cap hanging off.  The silly mistakes are still there.  They weren't as obvious as against UNC, but there they were.  Example: Shamel Bratton jogging down the field after receiving a nice outlet pass following a turnover and setting up the offense.  Fine,'re Shamel Bratton and nobody's covering you!  Jog?  Shamel should've been sprinting downfield and ripping a shot at a corner of the net.  If it misses, fine....then go set up the offense.  Instead, Shamel jogged across midfield and the team proceeded to huck the ball around the box for thirty seconds before lobbing a beach ball at Duke's net, which of course was saved.  I'm not questioning Shamel's effort here, I'm questioning the recognition.  The Brattons are the kings of "argh don't do th.....YES!"  Would've been the time for it.

So as a punishment for losing to Duke like we always do, we get to play Duke again on Friday.  Let's hope Steele Stanwick is the difference.  I'm not brimming with optimism here.


Fortunately, there's a cure for that: the baseball team.  As punishment for beating our lacrosse team on Saturday, the baseball team beat Duke twice on Sunday - first by ripping their hearts out when they thought they had a real chance to steal a win, and then by stomping on it to the tune of 18-4 in the second game.

Friday was easy, of course, at least after the first three innings.  Danny Hultzen served up seven innings of Danny freakin' Hultzen, although the early going was a little rocky while the UVA hitters tried to figure out how to get to Duke's soft-tossing lefty Dillon Haviland.  Eventually they figured that out and before you knew it, it was 10-0, which is how the game ended.  Shutout woo.

Sunday's game 1 was quite the pitchers' duel.  UVA scratched out two runs against Dennis O'Grady and Duke did the same on a two-run double off of closer Kline, in relief of Tyler Wilson and his disgustingly efficient outing.  Wilson took the blame for the runs but it wasn't fair the way he was pitching.  Duke then  brought scheduled third game starter Marcus Stroman in to finish it up.

Not a bad move, by the way.  A few observers criticized the move but I liked it.  For Duke, I mean.  With Duke's miserable pitching staff you don't look for two of three against UVA.  You look to steal one where you can get it, and so they went all-in and brought Stroman in, figuring that because he's a starter and the best pitcher they have, he could work some long innings in what you had to assumed would be an extra-inning game, and outlast UVA's bullpen while Duke worked on manufacturing a run.  Stroman throws 95 and has the control of a kamikaze pilot.  He plunked the first two batters he faced, which appeared to draw a warning from the home-plate ump - "one more of those and you're gone" is my bet, because UVA's third batter walked on four straight pitches that were so far outside they'd have been behind a hitter in the other batter's box.  Bases loaded, none out, and UVA managed to score not even once.  Then they did the same thing in the 10th.  And then because baseball is a screwed-up game, two straight two-out base hits plated the winning run in the 11th.

Having run out of pitchers who can get hitters out, and having forgotten how to field fly balls, Duke fell apart in the third game and UVA won by 14.  I can't decide which pop-up I enjoyed more: the one that landed about five yards behind second base because three Duke fielders collided on their way to it, or the one that landed about five feet in front of home plate because the Duke pitcher lost it in the wind.  In the nine-run third, two of the three outs Duke recorded were sacrifice bunts.  After that inning UVA had just as many hits as Duke and nine more runs.

If you paid attention to the starting rotation, you noticed Will Roberts got his ACC shot on Sunday, and you probably also noticed it didn't go too great.  Roberts settled down some, but all in all gave up eight hits in five innings.  But he walked nobody, which is the kind of thing that makes pitching coaches happy.  For the same reason Cody Winiarski didn't get yanked after a couple tough outings here and there (that being: Brian O'Connor doesn't have a knee-jerk reaction to things) Roberts will almost certainly start next Sunday as well, and Cody will be the weekday guy for now.  Both will be absolutely critical come the postseason.


Newsy bits:

- Ausar Walcott is back on the football team, about a week after his charges were dropped.  Because I trust London on matters of discipline, it seems to be a good indication that Walcott in fact was less involved than his teammates in the Great Harrisonburg Party Invasion.  But he's now buried at defensive end.  I don't even want to guess at why, but playing time there is in far shorter supply than it is at linebacker.  The defense is still very much a work in progress and keeping track of the shuffles is sufficient to drive a man crazy, so I'm not going to read much past that into the move for now.

- Speaking of legal matters, the George Huguely murder trial will begin next February.  Surprised at the length of time?  Don't be.  It is the way of the court system.

- When Mike Tobey committed to UVA in January, I thought he looked like a player who'd start attracting a lot more attention as time went on.  Remember, he was supposed to reclassify to 2013 and then changed his mind, and I really think Tony Bennett is a big part of the reason why he changed his mind.  Bennett didn't want another two years to go by for people to get a look at what Tobey could do.  This is why.  Besides Tobey, the other interesting name on that list is 2013 recruit Anthony Barber, who UVA is recruiting pretty hard.  Remember that name because he's a possible answer to the point guard question.  I want him at UVA just because his nickname is Big Cat, which is the kind of old-old-school Harlem Globetrotter nickname they don't even make any more.

- Speaking of bright futures in basketball, Joe Lunardi's way too early bracketology for 2012 has UVA sliding into the ill-conceived at-large play-in round.  (Look, I don't care what the NCAA calls those Dayton games: UAB and USC didn't actually make the tourney this year.)  Lunardi's probably about right in what our expectations should be for the season.  The ACC will be much better, especially if Jordan Williams and Reggie Jackson and Harrison Barnes and whoever else stay in college, and our highly-improved team might not beat it's 7-9 mark from this season but 7-9 will look a hell of a lot better.  Especially if having Mike Scott back with all these freshmen turned sophomores and a functional Assane Sene and a redshirted James Johnson and everything else means we don't screw the pooch against the Seattles and Iowa States of the world.

- Lastly, you remember how there used to be highlight videos around these parts?  There haven't been this year because of a change in my living, and therefore TV, status.  But I think I've got that covered now.  The solution to AT&T's fascist unwillingness to let you download your recordings from DVR to computer arrived on a big brown truck today.  It's hopefully only a matter of time before videos are firing again.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

lacrosse bracketology

Note - normally I wait for the conclusion of all Sunday games, but I ain't about to hang around waiting for OSU and Air Force to finish up out in Colorado.

Strange week.  This turned out to be a really easy bracket to do, except for one fairly important part.  Explanations after you check out the May Madness:

So there's nobody new to the bracket. And in fact, the road teams all remain in the exact same place they were before. But there was a major shuffle of home teams seeded 3 through 8.

Third seed was easy enough - right now, it's definitely Duke.  After that?  You wouldn't believe how tight it gets.  Sadly, UVA drops all the way to 8th.  The good news is, that could completely reverse itself in the ACC tournament.  Teams are that close.  Cornell helped itself out big-time by smoking Syracuse this week, enough to even win a head-to-head comparison against the team that beat it: UVA.  When your resume is strong enough, you can do that.

As for Syracuse, losing to Cornell wasn't enough to bump them from the #1 spot.  Notre Dame, meanwhile, is in an interesting place; with upcoming games against the Cuse and UNC, they could conceivably either rise to the #1 seed, or drop into the churning mix below them.

Last week's games to watch went like this:

- Cornell 11, Syracuse 6 - And lo it came to pass as the prophet foretold: Syracuse kept the #1 seed even by losing, though they're on slightly shakier ground.  (No matter: if they beat Notre Dame there's really nobody who can make up any ground on them.  They've played every team seeded 4 through 8 and beaten all but one.)  But Cornell rose from the 8th seed to the 4th with the win.

- Duke 13, Virginia 11 - Piss on everything.

- Siena 20, Manhattan 6 - The Saints remain the MAAC's best on-paper team and need one more win to lock up a spot in the MAAC four-team tournament to claim the conference's bid.  Even though I don't have them in the bracket right now (thanks to Detroit's half-game lead) they're the odds-on favorite to land that spot.

- Massachusetts 11, Drexel 10 - That's just about it for Drexel.  And in triple OT, too.  They have nobody worth beating left on their schedule and they need to hope Penn State doesn't win any more conference games in order to slide into the last spot in the CAA tourney.  They're not on the bubble so much as clinging to the bottom of it by their fingernails.

- Detroit 10, Canisius 9 - The lone MAAC team to beat Siena clinches a spot in the conference tourney.

- Johns Hopkins 12, Maryland 11 - The Terps choke away a golden opportunity.  They're pretty much officially a bubble team now, and are rooting for sanity in the CAA and the Ivy League so as not to turn those conferences into three-bid leagues.  Yale and UMass are their biggest threats.  Beating Carolina in the ACC tournament would also help.

This week's games to watch:

- Duke vs. Virginia (ACC tournament) - The other silver lining in having UVA so low in this week's bracketology is that there ain't much to lose here.  I don't really think UVA will be knocked from hosting a first-round game, unless Maryland or UNC makes a championship run in the ACC tourney.

- North Carolina vs. Maryland (ACC tournament) - Loser in some trouble and relegated to watching other conference tournaments (Ivy and CAA, mostly) rooting for the chalk.  Winner breathes a sigh of relief and locks in their place.

- Siena at Canisius - Likely outcome is that Siena takes one step closer to claiming the MAAC bid.  If they slip, the MAAC becomes a total free-for-all.  That's almost certain to be effectively the 16 seed and Syracuse's sacrificial lamb no matter who wins the conference, but this is important because Siena's the only MAAC team with even the slightest chance of upsetting the Cuse.  Everyone else is a bullet sponge.

- Hofstra vs. Massachusetts - UMass already knocked Drexel down a peg, and they can put a crimp in Hofstra's plans too.  I think it's probably too late for UMass unless they get an autobid (entirely possible) but Hofstra needs this one.  Not desperately, but their fortunes would be close with a loss.

- Bucknell at Colgate - Patriot League Royal Rumble!  This is basically meaningless because both are locked into the Patriot tourney and it's probably a one-bid league. Probably.  Bubble teams like Carolina and Hofstra will be pulling for Colgate because Bucknell is on the edge of making a solid case for an at-large bid, and a Colgate win would wreck that and ensure the Patriot stays one-bid in the event that Colgate wins the conference tournament.

Friday, April 15, 2011

game preview: Duke

Date/Time: April 16; 11:00 AM

History against the Devils: 49-24

Last matchup: Duke 14, UVA 13; 5/29/10; NCAA semifinals (Baltimore, MD)

Last game: UVA 11, UNC 10 (4/9); Duke 18, Presbyterian 6 (4/11)

Opposing blogs: it's a basketball school, man

It's a Dooky Dook weekend with both the baseball and lacrosse teams taking on the Blue Devils.  You know how it's gone on the lacrosse field lately.  One win in the last however many tries; of course, it was a biggy last year since it advanced the Hoos to the ACC final, which they would also win.  But one win does not break a curse, and it's hard to be overly optimistic with this game on the road.


- More zone defense.  The zone was probably the #1 reason for the win over UNC.  Dom Starsia said he'd be scaling back on it (I wish I could remember where I saw that but he did) and that's fine because you don't want to give the whole world a chance to find out how to pick it apart.  So, man-to-man will probably be featured.  But there should still be a reasonably heavy dose of the zone.  It's a good treatment for the off-ball ills and it helps cover up the loss of the team's best on-ball defender in Matt Lovejoy.

- Play aggressive.  Not stupid, just aggressive.  You always prefer to avoid penalties, but if the refs are calling things tight on both teams, that benefits UVA.  Duke's special teams (to borrow a hockey phrase) are awfully mediocre, both when they're a man up and a man down.  UVA is outstanding in those situations.  One common theme in Duke's losses has been a total failure to take advantage of a significant penalty advantage.


- Keep trying to make silly low-percentage passes.  That was the culprit behind most of the derpitude last week.  Nerves?  Maybe, since they were trying to break the first losing streak any of this team had ever seen at UVA.  Koskinen Stadium at Duke is not a place where we've found any success at all this decade and so the nerves could easily be back this week.

- Faceoffs.  The broken record strikes again.  It so happens Duke is actually pretty good at faceoffs.  Say it with me: Uh-oh.


Another uh-oh for good measure.  I never like our odds against Duke - nobody ever does - and I especially don't like them on the road.  And I don't know how the team will show: will we get the kind of solid, quality, well-played lacrosse that won the game against Carolina or the showoffy, braindead variety that almost lost it?  Duke is not a consistent team either.  Statistically they're pretty ridiculously good.  They dominate ground balls in a way that we once did and no longer do, they can match UVA almost goal for goal this season, and they've got a goal-scoring machine in Zach Howell, while our goal-scoring machine is slumming around on one good foot and trying to make it work.  On the other hand: three goals against Penn and a loss to Denver (though Denver is turning into quite the force and really that says more about Denver than Duke's vulnerability.)

The only thing I can say with much confidence is that we're in for an old-fashioned shootout here.  The defense held Carolina to 10 goals last week which is pretty good considering how many of those were the unsettled result of facepalm-inducing passes.  We should be so lucky this week.  If the score is 18-15 it won't surprise me one bit.  But who gets the 18?  I'm a little less confident there.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

series preview: Duke

Date/Time: April 15-17; 6:00 Fri, 1:00 Sun, 4:00 Sun (doubleheader)**
History against the Devils: 84-52-1

Last matchup: UVA 3-0 sweep; 4/30-5/2; Durham

Last game: UVA 8, Coastal Carolina 7 (4/13); Duke 7, Davidson 5 (4/12)

Last weekend: UVA 2-1 series win over GT (6-2, 12-9, 8-10); Duke 2-1 series loss to BC (10-6, 3-5, 4-6)

National rankings:

Baseball America: UVA #2; Duke unranked
Collegiate Baseball: UVA #1; Duke unranked
NCBWA: UVA #2; Duke unranked
Perfect Game: UVA #2; Duke unranked
Coaches: UVA #2; Duke unranked
Composite: UVA #2; Duke unranked

Opposing blogs: baseball not included

**schedule change due to weather forecast

Part of the reason I'm so bullish on the fortunes of the baseball team is because they've flashed the ability to win games like last night's against Coastal Carolina - tight, and necessitating a ninth-inning comeback - without relying on it.  I'd've actually watched, but the Red Wings were on.  Playoff hockey, see.  Not much is ever allowed to get in the way of that.  Fortunately, this weekend the Wings are playing on Saturday, which is the one day the UVA video service isn't serving baseball.  And the lacrosse game is on actual TV, which means DVR to the rescue.

I was a little enthusiastic about the prospects for Duke's season when I wrote my conference season preview, and since then the Blue Devil bats have cooled off considerably and they still haven't figured out a pitching rotation.  Duke's pitching has been getting bombed in ACC play, allowing a 6.29 ERA and opposing batters to hit .329.  Anyone's guess is as good as mine as to who our hitters will face this weekend.  Dennis O'Grady is the only Duke pitcher to start a game every weekend but he's also been getting lit up the worst.  Marcus Stroman will probably start a game, and he tends to pitch well and then watch the bullpen piss away his hard work.  Freshman Dillon Haviland seems to be the lefty in the rotation for now, but he strikes out nobody.

There are still some bats to look out for in Duke's lineup, but the pitching ranges from sometimes-OK to horrendous.  UVA's lineup doesn't look all that gargantuan statistically, but this is a patient, patient bunch and they'll mash bad pitching.  As for Duke's hitting, well....the Duke game preview guy brags that of Danny Hultzen's two career losses, Duke was responsible for one.  That's cool, sure, and it was of course back in 2009 when Danny was a freshman.  Duke can hit for average fairly well, but they're not much on slugging.  They like to make up for that by stealing bases whenever possible and they're actually rather good at it.  John Hicks is doing a great job cutting down baserunners, and his arm will get a test this weekend.  Of course, you can't steal if you don't get on base, and the K/BB ratio of Duke's batters is as bad as we've seen all year outside of the Hammerin' Hokies.

It's another sweep-or-die weekend.  The margin of error admittedly is getting a little larger, but still.  I was maybe a year off when I said Duke looked like an ACC tournament team; the future is still bright, but not the immediate future.  The pitching in Durham is too poor.  There's hitting, and we could see some high-scoring action, but most of it should be in the bottom halves of innings.  I'm hoping to watch the Hoos light up the scoreboard, and to finally learn how to pronounce Piwnica-Worms.

Rest of the ACC:

Florida State at Virginia Tech
Wake Forest at Georgia Tech; see why the Duke series is sweep-or-die?  Because these two teams will.  The Wake-GT series especially looks like a complete slaughter in the making.
Clemson at Boston College; another big must-win for Clemson.  It's not out of the question BC could steal two of three here.
North Carolina at NC State; probably another sweep in the offing, but it's a rivalry series, especially for the Pack, so who knows?
Miami at Maryland; Miami still is playing above their necks with an anemic lineup.  This looks like it should be a sweep and a slaughter but don't be surprised to see the Terps grab one.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

the ryan phase

Next year will be an awfully strange one for the women's basketball team: the first since approximately the Civil War in which Debbie Ryan wasn't somehow involved.  The program is not that old, and when Ryan began her playing career it didn't even exist, but she was its head coach for all but four years of its existence and arrived here even before then.  Debbie Ryan was the program.  Almost literally.

Unfortunately she was the program for probably too long in the eyes of many fans.  Disclaimer before I go further: I don't follow women's basketball, and this post isn't even about women's basketball as you'll eventually see.  I'm sure Joanne Boyle is a wonderful lady, and if she's in the mold of these other coaches Craig Littlepage has hired (O'Connor, Bennett, etc.) then she'll have the fanbase wrapped around her finger in no time.  But she's following a legend, made easier by the undeniable fact that a lot of people felt the legend stuck around for too long.

Now, me, I tend to be a defender of the present coach, in all situations, for much longer than most people.  I thought Dave Leitao should have been given another year.  It took until William & Mary for me to join the Groh Must Go bandwagon, by which time it wasn't so much a bandwagon as a CSX freight train.  Hell, I still think Rich Rodriguez shouldn't have been fired at Michigan, and I liked Wayne Fontes as the Lions' head coach a lot longer than the media did.  I'm a little insane like that, but I don't believe in causing instability unless there's no other choice.  If I were a women's basketball fan, I'd probably have been campaigning for Debbie Ryan to determine the time and terms of her departure; I'm not a follower of the sport, and I still cringed at the vitriol that a lot of people had for her. 

That said, if you have semi-lofty goals for the UVA women's basketball program it was pretty evident she had become largely ineffective as a coach.  UVA's failure to have any success at all in the NCAA tournament - especially an upset loss to 12-seeded Wisconsin-Green Bay in what would be Ryan's final tourney appearance (and this is a sport and tournament where chalk reigns supreme) - was Exhibits A through P.  Having a super-superstar like Monica Wright during that lackluster performance made it worse.  Nobody knows exactly when Ryan hit the downslope, but it had to have been a while ago because in my time as a Virginia fan I've really only ever thought of her as an embattled legend, not simply a legend.  Quite a while ago.

Ryan's not alone; most coaching legends hang on for a little longer than they "should."  "Should" is in quotes because coaching legends do deserve the ability to leave on their terms; it might make sense from a cold-logic standpoint to callously fire a coach when it appears he's not finished with his usefulness, but it's such an awful thing to do that AD's never do it.  It makes me wonder this: Is Dom Starsia getting to that point?  A lot of legends get there.  Bobby Bowden sure as hell did.  Starsia clearly qualifies as a legend: barring a finish that would depress the pants off of every Cavalier lax fan, he should finish this season as the all-time winningest lacrosse coach in Division I history.  Only three more wins to get there.

It seems premature to ask that, and a little bit assholeish.  I've never seen it suggested that Dom should be let go.  In each of the last couple years UVA has found itself on the top of the lacrosse rankings; it didn't translate into a national championship, but still.

Even so: under Starsia, UVA lacrosse had gotten to the point where it could reasonably expect a national championship every four years or so.  In fact, it was almost like clockwork: 1999, 2003, 2006.  2010 would have continued the pattern nicely, but it didn't happen.  The Huguely incident may have had something to do with it, or it may not.  That may be representative of a pattern of undisciplined behavior, or it may not.  But, since the 2006 championship, there've been two seasons now that didn't live up to expectations at all: 2007, and this one, where it'd be a stretch to expect another national title for reasons other than the randomness of a 16-team tournament where the teams are so evenly matched.  It'd be one thing if the defense were the main issue, but the offense is what's been disappointing in the big games.

Really, I should be slapped for this, because I like for numbers to back up what I'm saying, and they don't.  Offense disappointing?  The rest of the country should be so lucky, since UVA tops the nation in scoring average.  We're 8-3 and smack in the middle of the hunt for the national title.  Sometimes in sports, though, you just have to go with how things feel.  Your gut, a hunch, whatever.  Sports is a little bit Bill James and a little bit Malcolm Gladwell and Blink.  And right now in UVA lacrosse, things feel off.  Maybe it's the multiple suspensions, maybe it's the brain-damaged decisions from the UNC game, or maybe the damn losses are affecting my spoiled, entitled head.  It's enough for now to make me wonder if we aren't just now entering the backslide of Dom Starsia's career.

If so, we probably won't really know it for a little while.  Even if I'm right, it doesn't mean it's time for him to go right now.  Own terms and all that, but also, whatever happens in the backslide of Dom Starsia's career isn't necessarily worse than what might happen under a new regime.  And you won't see me demanding Starsia's ouster.  He's done enough to deserve better.  I may, at some point in the future, express hope that he resigns in a timely fashion, but Littlepage shouldn't and won't ever fire the guy.  I may be wrong, and Starsia might just lead his team to a national championship this year and everything will be great again, and wouldn't that teach me a lesson.  When legends get to the end, it just sort of fades off, you're never quite sure exactly when it started, and nothing but new blood can rejuvenate things.  I can't help but suspect that the fade is beginning.

Monday, April 11, 2011

weekend review

Thank everything for Steele Stanwick and a slippery Klockner field, or this wouldn't be a very fun weekend review in the lacrosse section. The good news in that department: An 11-10 win in which UVA significantly outplayed UNC for long stretches. The bad: Dipshit brainfarts that put the game severely in jeopardy.

Nobody was immune. Adam Ghitelman's decision to heave the ball upfield with six seconds on the clock in the third quarter led to one Carolina goal four seconds later. Rhamel Bratton tried the slick, low-percentage pass toward the net (and copious defenders) when all that was required was to run around the field for three minutes. Chris LaPierre froze in the face of a double team, which naturally dislodged the ball a split second later. All of these led to goals and heightened blood pressure.

The other thing that kept leading to goals was the defense's decision to defend everyone but the ballcarrier in transition. This is probably brain-damaged coaching rather than brain-damaged playing. Yes, I get that we don't want the ball to be passed to one of UNC's actual stars, but once the guy with the ball gets within eight yards, does it matter if it's Billy Bitter or Billy the Clown? They're going to score from that range, and it's not helpful to let them get there.

That said, transition defense was a major struggle but settled defense, amazingly, was not. My first thought was that the defense had improved just enough to allow Ghitelman to make the saves and look like the goalie he really can be. Later I realized that was wrong: the defense improved a ton. It turned Carolina's offense into our own offense at its most frustrating: ball gets passed around the perimeter until it's turned over or shot harmlessly into the goalie's stick. Credit the switch to the zone, a timely adjustment that was probably forced upon the coaches as much as anything by Matt Lovejoy's season-ending (OH GREAT) surgery. UNC clearly didn't expect that.

Overall a pleasant surprise that shouldn't have been a surprise at all (a reminder that this can still be a dominant team, even against quality opponents, when it wants to be) pockmarked by some monumental insanity. Encouraging; dumb mistakes are more easily fixed than the entire system.

It sets up the Duke game next week for an interesting scenario: because of how the tiebreakers work, UVA is either going to be the #1 seed or the #4 seed in the ACC tournament. Not that it ever matters, but that's the way it breaks this year.


Just to get this part out of the way: the baseball team lost a game. OH NO. We being UVA fans, no doubt by now the meltdown is well underway. (checking to see.) (not finding anything.) (doublechecking.) (still no.) Huh, OK, so, baseball fans are a patient bunch, or more patient than basketball fans anyway. It helps that that was only the third loss in 34 games and that a series win on the road against a top-ten team that's probably second-best in the conference is a good thing, not a bad thing. And you'd expect this patience from a group of people who enjoy a game in which they have to sometimes wait for the pitcher to get done scratching his ass and horking loogies on the ball ground before he decides he's ready to deliver again. Gives us time to get another beer.

Anyway, even then it's not entirely rainbows. All three losses have been on Sundays, which means Sunday starter Cody Winiarski is in for some scrutiny, especially after a game that saw his ERA jump up nine-tenths of a point. Every time he struggles and every gem that Will Roberts pitches on Tuesdays increases the call for Roberts to be moved to the weekend rotation. Never mind that Winiarski completely shut down both Poly and Maryland; a bad outing against the team with the seventh-best batting average and ninth-best slugging percentage in the country is enough to bring the doubters out of the woodwork. Explaining to people that George Washington bats .254 as a team and is 245th in the country and Georgia Tech bats .330 and is seventh never seems to have any effect; there's still a crowd that wants to see Roberts "get his chance," as if pitching on Tuesdays isn't a chance and as if that means he'll be forgotten about come the postseason and further as if he and Cody and the rest of the pitching staff hadn't been pitching side by side all offseason under the scrutiny of the coaches. RRGGH. Roberts is pitching wonderfully but Winiarski isn't pitching badly.

Anyway. Georgia Tech. Killed 'em. Danny Hultzen was lights the hell out again, allowing one earned run and one walk and striking out 12 on Friday. The bats came alive late, and Danny had his 7th win of the season. The lineup continued to hammer GT pitching for the rest of the weekend, earning a 12-9 win on Saturday and taking a 10-8 loss on Sunday. Even with the loss and a few extra runs for GT hitting, you are directed to be ecstatic about this: GT's starters are not chumps - they are the opposite of chumps - and our bats chased Mark Pope from what had been a pitchers' duel til the 7th, beat Jed Bradley into submission, and rained hits on Buck Farmer, too.

So: 31-3. Two one-run losses and a two-run loss, up against more than a five-run average margin in our wins. This team has never been out of a game. They're loose, enjoying themselves. They've got that swagger, without swaggering. The last time we saw a UVA team rolling like this was probably during the soccer team's run to the national title (not to put any pressure on.) But soccer is the kind of game where any old fluke at any time can explode all your work up to that point. Baseball can be fluky too but you know you're gonna get your nine hacks, every time, and there's something reassuring about that. There's also something reassuring about Danny Hultzen being on your team. Don't forget that.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

lacrosse bracketology

Stuff happened as it does, and your blogger and lacrosse bracketologist took notice and did what he does:

This doesn't represent much of a change. Actually, this week mainly served to solidify the biggest contenders. There's quite a difference between Maryland - the last team in the bracket - and Hokieland, the first four out. The only team to drop out of the at-larges was Penn State, which did itself no favors by losing to Drexel. And it wasn't even enough for Drexel to jump into the bracket.

The other change is just another episode in As The MAAC Turns, and the new occupant of the autobid is.....Detroit? In their third year of D-I lacrosse the Titans can wrap up a spot in the four-team MAAC tourney if they win next week; that win over Siena (which is still by far the best on-paper team in the conference) last week threw the whole conference into chaos. I find this especially awesome on account of that's where I'm starting grad school in less than a month, so.....go Titans.

Here's what happened in last week's games to watch:

- Bucknell 8, Army 7. That about finishes Army, barring an autobid. Bucknell is just outside being able to snag an at-large themselves, so other bubble teams will be pulling for them to win the Patriot League.

- Virginia 11, North Carolina 10. Woot. Tournament is ours; we now play for all-important seeding, which, as you can see by Hopkins "earning" a game against Maryland while Villanova gets Bucknell, means a little something.

- Drexel 14, Penn State 13. Drexel managed to torpedo Penn State and not actually vault into the tourney themselves.

- Denver 12, Duke 9. Ho ho. If there was any doubt about Denver before, there isn't now. They're an almighty lock for an at-large now, and another team for the Drexels of the world to root for.

- Syracuse 7, Princeton 5. Princeton's RPI is amazing for a 2-6 team, so Cuse made out nicely here, and shot down Princeton's outside shot for a miracle run to the tourney. Interesting, the effects of Bill Tierney's jump to Denver.

- Villanova 10, Delaware 4. Dropped the Hens way outside at-large territory, but they're still atop the CAA for now, and with wins over Hofstra and Drexel already they look strong for at least a quality seed in the CAA tourney.

This week's games to watch:

- Cornell at Syracuse. Unlikely Syracuse drops from the 1 seed even with a loss, but a big seeding opportunity for Cornell.

- Virginia at Duke. Seeding only. Duke and UVA traded seeds (#3 and #6) in this week's bracket, and could do so again, but hopefully not.

- Manhattan at Siena. A couple of MAAC contenders battle. It's a hugely wide-open conference and it's for a single bid.

- Drexel at Massachusetts. An opportunity and a must-win for Drexel.

- Canisius at Detroit. MAAC again.

- Johns Hopkins at Maryland. Seeding duel with perhaps some potential to make Maryland's position a little bit precarious.