Monday, April 30, 2012

weekend review

Talk about your eventful weekends.  In fact, that's what I plan to do.

Starting with lacrosse, where the Hoos played a game that's Exhibit A in the case of "why UVA will be considered the bottom of the ACC barrel next year until they prove otherwise."  The good guys looked sloppy, and were bailed out by the mighty power of Steele Stanwick.  Stanwick scored six goals and added an assist to push his PPG average over five.  This dude is something else, and could do no wrong on Friday.  Even his "post up a guy then fake-flip the ball to a teammate" trick, which never works, finally worked.

The rest of the team?  Well, I'll exempt Chris Clements for now, who did a very admirable job.  Clements picked up a short stick again (which is how he started off his career) and filled in at SSDM for Chris LaPierre, who sat the game with a shoulder injury.  I don't think LaPierre was desperately missed (though he will be against better teams) except in the the realm of ground balls.  Ayyy.  There was no sense of urgency in picking up ground balls, not until the fourth quarter.  One Penn goal came about four seconds after a defenseman - Scott McWilliams, I believe - just left a ball sitting on the turf and chased a Penn attackman instead.  Pretty sure he thought that guy had the ball himself.  No excuse for not knowing where the ball is, though.

Even when we had the ball in our possession, we didn't seem too interested in keeping it that way.  Shot selection was lame.  Chris Bocklet is the main culprit that I remember, but he wasn't the only one.  Made some poor decisions that sent harmless beach balls at Penn's goalie Brian Feeney.  And it went both ways: Penn did everything but put up bright neon signs daring Mark Cockerton to shoot with his right hand, and he refused.  Obviously he's not too keen on that side, but this summer would be a very good time to work on that.  Heck, Friday would've been a very good time to work on that.  Even as uncomfortable right-handed as he clearly is, I can't believe a D-I athlete's shot is that bad that he couldn't have potted a goal that way, as open as they left his right side.

Then you had about three or four clean interceptions, way too many.  Rob Fortunato slinged a pass at a Penn rider that was so perfectly executed my only explanation is he brainfarted and forgot we were wearing blue uniforms.  Of course the ball ended up behind him three seconds later.

So the break is coming at a good time - mentally, and because of LaPierre's shoulder bangup.  And it seems clear that Stanwick isn't quite healthy either.  Unless he just gets up slowly every time he's knocked to the ground because he wants to.  All that's left is to take final exams and wait for the rest of the conference tourneys to play themselves out, and find out our first-round opponent this Sunday.


However, while I was gnawing my fingernails over the lax team, the diamond nine was restoring my faith.  Two very nice wins Saturday and Sunday have put the Hoos in position to potentially sweep Miami - at Miami.

On Saturday, Branden Kline had one of his effectively wild outings, walking five and striking out eight.  A 40-some minute rain delay messed with both pitchers; Kline was pulled after 120 pitches in only five innings, and Miami starter Eric Erickson pitched one inning too long; the UVA bats opened up on him in the sixth.

On Sunday, for the second week in a row Shane Halley pitched six innings in relief of Scott Silverstein, leading to the obvious question of why don't we just start Halley if that's how the game is gonna turn out.  Such a decision may be on the horizon, but I don't think Silverstein's time as a starter is quite done yet.  At any rate, he gave up four runs in the second - half of which got on base via walk in the first place - and Halley took it from there, shutting down the Miami bats and giving ours a chance to pull back in the game.  Which they did, in a big way.  Our bats have struggled against good pitching and bombed everything else, so it's nice to see them tee off on good pitching now, too.

Let's not forget Miami's role in all this.  I told you they were crummy fielders and they've upheld that statement beyond my wildest dreams, committing four errors on Saturday and five more on Sunday.  UVA scored seven runs in each of the first two games and of that total of 14, only three are earned runs.  That's amazing.  Not to say we haven't been hitting, but we have been timing our hits well.  Gotta put them together.  (And let's not forget that baseball has nutty rules about what's an earned run; one error can taint the whole thing.  If there are two outs and you commit an error and then give up a billion runs afterwards, they're all unearned on the theory that the inning would otherwise have been over.)

Still: nine errors in two games.  That's a lot of help.  Ain't complaining, though: win tonight and I'll revive my 18-wins goal.  Even better: our RPI is 15th in the country.  That puts us in the back end of the regional-hosting discussion.  Do I think we will?  Still nope.  But the chance is there.  And even if we don't we got a great shot at being that pain-in-the-ass two seed that nobody wants in their regional.  I would not be surprised, for example, to see us trucked to Columbia, South Carolina.  (Unless Tim Weiser is still calling the shots, in which case, Fullerton here we come.)


-- Phillip Sims is coming to UVA.  Doug Doubt-y says it ain't so, at least not yet, but I don't know why I even mention that because there's no reason to pay attention to it.  We're past the point of no return with this one.  This went from bullshit rumor to actual rumor to actual happening so fast that I barely had time to process it. People have different ideas of what a "done deal" actually is, anyway. This is what I call a done deal.

I'm the last Hoo blogger to mention this, but I've always said I'm in the business of commentary, not breaking news.  (And not even "business", really, since that would imply I've ever made a cent off doing this.) I did write a significant chunk of commentary.  It got to be too significant.  It's now a separate post all its own - tomorrow's.  I'm afraid you'll have to wait til then to read it.  That's what we call a teaser.

-- Virginia Tech has a new basketball coach: James Johnson, the assistant who left for Clemson less than a month ago and who probably, in doing so, helped get Seth Greenberg fired in the first place.  I spent a ton of time on VT basketball last week and I don't want to bother doing so again, so Streaking the Lawn's piece on Johnson is good enough for me.  No sense in me rehashing it, which is all I'd have done anyway.  Go read that.

-- Man, the WAC is completely falling apart.  UTSA hasn't even played a down of I-A football in their lives and C-USA has already poached them.  It's funny how there used to be this 16-team WAC, then it branched out into the MWC and the WAC, and then all the good teams left the MWC and now the MWC is basically the WAC again.

-- Playoff talk abounds.  I'm gonna hold off most of my opinions til they actually settle on something and then I can poke holes in it.  Half of me thinks its funny that we used to have basically a two-team playoffs and now they're adding to two teams to that and saying "look everyone, a playoff!" and everyone's going "yay! (or boo!) a playoff!" as if it's really all that different.  The other half of me says it really is that different, because four teams leads to six and six leads to eight and eight leads to twelve and twelve leads to sixteen and this is the same organization that floated the idea of a 96-team basketball tournament so don't you dare doubt me.

I'll leave you with this thought: I've told you for a long time that most of the playoff advocates are gonna be awfully disappointed with the result, because the same people who bring you the BCS that you hate are the ones who'll bring you your playoff.  So don't expect anything brilliant.  In fact, expect stupidity.  The proof is in the pudding, summed up here and in this one quote:

[BCS director] Bill Hancock wonders if college football stadiums have the infrastructure to host college football games.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

lacrosse bracketology

What a mess.  Lot of upsets this week.  Lot of teams acting like the tournament is something they could take or leave thank you very much.  And so two new teams enter the bracket this week.  One I told you very specifically to watch out for.  And one I stuck the dagger in a long time ago, buried, and threw the dirt on their grave, and yet they've risen from their tomb and make a new appearance.

Yes, the Ohio State Buckeyes refuse to die no matter how much you kill 'em.  (They're sort of like that everywhere else, too.)

The "last four in" is really a last three.  Penn State is solid.  The rest is a tough call.  Bucknell, RMU, Syracuse, and Cornell, you can get rid of fairly easily.  Only Cornell is even remotely close in the RPI to what it takes to get it.  Robert Morris is a nice story but their top three wins are OSU, Bryant, and.... I guess Air Force.  They haven't even been competitive in their three losses, either.

Villanova's a little harder to bounce, with stronger numbers across the board.  Except for a weak RPI.  They do have a 10-goal win over Lehigh, a decent SOS, and one of the best average RPI of their wins.  That said, THEY LOST TO PROVIDENCE BY FOUR GOALS.  When you become Providence's second win of the year, you don't get a tournament berth unless the only reason you lost was because you spent the whole week literally turning water into wine.

So that left Colgate, OSU, Denver, and Fairfield - four teams for three spots.  Colgate is relatively strong.  Good RPI, good quality wins factor, and they did beat Lehigh before losing to them today.  Wins over Bryant, RMU, Fairfield, and twice over Bucknell.  In a common-opponents comparison among the five teams considered for the final three spots (these four plus Villanova), after you remove all the teams they all lost to or all beat, Colgate is the only one without a loss in that bunch.  In.

Which leaves us with three ECAC teams for two spots.  Ohio State is 2-0 against them both and has at least decent numbers across the board.  And though people don't always like it that you can, in their words, "lose your way into the tourney," five of OSU's six losses are rock-solid tourney teams and they were competitive in four of those.  In.

That left it down to Denver and Fairfield.  Agonizing choice.  Honestly, if you came at me and said it ought to be Fairfield and not Denver, you'd have a case.  Denver is 0-2 against the other ECAC teams we're comparing them against.  But they've also been strong outside the conference, which the NCAA does care about.  They blew out - not just beat, but blew out - RMU, Duke, and PSU.  They also have stronger numbers in general than Fairfield.  So even though they lost to Fairfield, even though Fairfield is 11-3, the Stags are the first team out.

The rest of the bracket wasn't much easier to put together, but I think the order of the seeds looks about right.  Duke is a strong #1 even though they lost to Denver this weekend.  If they hadn't lost it'd be a no-brainer.  As it is you could probably ask four different people who should be #1 and they'll give you four different answers.

Matching up seeded teams with unseeded ones was tricky too.  Remember, you can't have teams from the same conference play each other.  (Maryland and UNC played last year but all that means is that we don't count as a conference.  No autobid, no conference.  A good reason to find a sixth team.)  The NCAA considers travel, of course, but not at the expense of making the absolute worst teams play the best ones, which is why the A-East and MAAC champions aren't budging from effectively the 15th and 16th seeds. 

Stripped of hosting duties this week, Maryland is visiting Hopkins.  They're actually the "9th seed" in the pecking order, but obvious travel considerations flip them and Penn State.  Theoretically, as the last two teams in, one of OSU or Denver should play the 3rd seed - but they can't.  Loyola's the third seed.  Which is where it got tricky.  Princeton's an obvious choice to go to Loyola.  Would've liked to send Colgate to UMass, for easy travel reasons, but it can't be done without 1) twisting the hierarchy too much or 2) sending an ECAC team to Loyola, which is a no-no.

This is also the first week in which I've entered in the quarterfinal sites.  The NCAA considers Philly "North" and Annapolis "South" so I took the top four seeds in their pods, and the two northernmost ones go to Philly and the two southernmost to Annapolis.

Here are the scores from last week's games to watch, and the results as pertains here:

-- Colgate 14, Bucknell 9
-- Lehigh 13, Army 7
-- Lehigh 16, Colgate 14: As I figured from last week, the Patriot League would still be a two-bid conference as long as its two favorites made it to the final.  They did, and so they are.  Lehigh has secured the autobid and possible hosting duties.  Colgate is in, for now, but must hope that something ridiculous doesn't happen in one of the conference tournaments.

-- Denver 15, Duke 9: Lo, another prediction comes to pass - Denver is in after a convincing win over Duke.

-- Ohio State 8, Fairfield 3: Lo, a prediction fails to come to pass, as OSU moves into the tourney when I thought even a win here would fail to do the job.  I think this is because VILLANOVA LOST TO FRIGGING PROVIDENCE.

-- Johns Hopkins 10, Loyola 9: Hopkins does not behave.  Whenever I have a nice easy #1 seed all set up, they find a way - whether that means winning or losing - to screw it up.

-- Princeton 14, Cornell 9: The Rumbling Bears now require the autobid.  The Ivy is weak this year, and Cornell's opponent in the Ivy tournament (Yale) isn't good enough to push them to a bid if they win and then lose the final.  Princeton probably requires the autobid too, but there's a slim chance they get in if they lose the final.  Wackiness elsewhere would have to ensue, however.  And the problem is that some of the teams most likely to cause the wackiness (Fairfield, say) are fellow competitors for the final at-larges.  So it's basically safest to assume the Ivy is a one-bid league.

This is as good a time to confess something: I don't know what the fuck is the Big East's deal.  Here is their media guide:

And here is their policy manual:

You can flip to page 4 of both of them and see if you can find the discrepancy.  Or you can take my word for it: the media guide says the regular season champ gets the autobid and the policy manual says it goes to the tournament champion.

Well done, Big East, King of Having Your Shit Together.  And they wonder why every school in the conference wants to get the hell out and has to be replaced with Guam State.

For now, we're sticking with the idea that Notre Dame has already earned the autobid.  And yet it's possible that's wrong, and that would make the Big East tournament ripe for shenanigans.  So let's see what this week's games to watch are:

-- CAA tournament: Penn State vs. Drexel and UMass vs. Towson.  Probably not much drama here, as PSU and UMass are heads and shoulders above the rest of the conference and both are near-locks for at-large bids.

-- America East tournament: Stony Brook vs. Hartford and UMBC vs. Albany.  I don't consider any of those teams especially more likely to win than any other.  And unless Siena gets beat in the MAAC tourney, the winner here is certainly destined for the "16 seed."

-- Big East tournament: Notre Dame vs. St. John's and Syracuse vs. Villanova.  So does the winner get the autobid, or does ND already have it?  Hm, Big East?  Idiots.  At any rate, Villanova needs to win here.  Lose to Cuse and they're done.  Beat Cuse and lose in the final, and it's totally up in the air.  Also, if Villanova does win their first-round game, it makes Syracuse 7-8 and not only with no case at all for consideration, but below .500 and ineligible.

-- Ivy tournament: Cornell vs. Yale and Princeton vs. Brown.  Mostly discussed above.  Neither first-round underdog is good enough to push the favorites to an autobid.  A 90% chance this is a one-bid league, IMO.

-- MAAC tournament: Siena vs. Marist and Detroit vs. Canisius.  A twist of the tiebreakers (it's a four-way tie between Detroit, Marist, Canisius, and Jax) means that the Siena-Marist game is probably the ultimate winner as well.  It so happened that Detroit beat all of those teams, but lost to two of the world's worst - Manhattan and VMI.  Regardless: go Titans.  (My grad school.)  Again, one-bid league, the winner probably getting the "15 seed."

-- ECAC tournament: Denver vs. Loyola and Ohio State vs. Fairfield.  I saved the best tourney for last.  This is really where it'll be decided who gets the embossed invite to the dance and who winds up in Hokieland.

-- Maryland at Colgate: Yup, the Terps are headed up to upstate New York, and with a lot at stake.  Colgate would cement a tourney berth with a win, and Maryland would probably cement a top-8 seed if they came out on top.

Sometime this week - Wednesday, Thursday, or maybe Friday night, or maybe more than once - I'll post a supplementary bracketology.  Then the final one will be out Sunday afternoon before the selection show.

Friday, April 27, 2012

series preview: Miami

Date/Time: Sat-Mon, April 28-30; 1:00, 7:00, 7:00

TV: First two games on ESPN3 and local networks; Monday on ESPNUVA

Record against the Canes: 14-19

Last matchup: UVA 6, Miami 4; 5/27/11; Durham, NC (ACC tournament)

Last game: UVA 7, VCU 5 (4/25); Miami 3, FAU 1 (4/24)

Last weekend: UVA 2-1 over Duke (3-6, 12-3, 10-3); FSU 3-0 over Miami (2-11, 1-6, 7-8)

National rankings:

Baseball America: UVA unranked; Miami #22
Collegiate Baseball: UVA unranked; Miami #24
NCBWA: UVA #26, Miami #15
Perfect Game: UVA #32, Miami #25
Coaches: UVA #25, Miami #18
Composite: UVA unranked, Miami #20

Miami lineup:

C: Garrett Kennedy (.186-0-3)**
1B: Esteban Tresgallo (.269-3-8)
2B: Michael Broad (.279-3-23)
3B: Brad Fieger (.297-1-20)
SS: Stephen Perez (.264-4-21)
LF: Chantz Mack (.269-0-21)
CF: Dale Carey (.289-1-15)
RF: Tyler Palmer (.252-3-16)
DH: Rony Rodriguez (.266-1-13)

**Kennedy is filling in for Peter O'Brien, out 4-6 weeks with a broken wrist.  O'Brien is easily the Canes' best hitter, with a stat line of .354-10-38 and a .677 slugging average.  So it's a real shame he'll miss this series.  Wait no it's not.

Pitching probables:

Saturday: RHP Branden Kline (5-3, 3.38, 68 Ks) vs. LHP Eric Erickson (6-4, 3.43, 49 Ks)
Sunday: LHP Scott Silverstein (2-4, 3.22, 39 Ks) vs. RHP Eric Whaley (3-3, 2.54, 39 Ks)
Monday: RHP Artie Lewicki (2-2, 4.50, 30 Ks) vs. LHP Steven Ewing (4-0, 2.71, 65 Ks)

So I'd say, after not being able to sweep Duke, the idealized goal of an 18-12 ACC season is all but vanished from the realm of possibilities.  That would require three series wins out of three, with one of them a sweep.  Not completely impossible, but an uphill climb.  I'd like to say what the readjusted goal is (16? 17?) but that'd require a solid definition of just how good this Miami team is.

Which is hard to do.  These guys swept UNC, and the Heels swept us.  Bad news.  They lost their series to VT and weren't really even competitive against FSU.  Good news.  The series is in Miami.  Bad news.  Their hitting is Duke-like.  Good news.  Their pitching is UNC-like.  Bad news.  This is a tough series against a very beatable team.  What?  Yes.

-- UVA at the plate

The Hoos are, right now, the only ACC team batting over .300.  A neat little factoid I thought I'd throw in, because we might not be able to say it after this weekend.  For one thing, Miami brings possibly the most left-handed pitching we've seen all year.  They bookend the series with southpaw starters, and one of the top firemen out of the pen - A.J. Salcines - is also a lefty.  Salcines's K/BB ratio of 5.4 and ERA of 1.37 mean he'll be saved for the tightest spot of the series.

Really, it's a tribute to the depth of Miami's pitching staff that they're still this scary.  Of the three guys I figured would be in their rotation at the beginning of the season, only one actually is - righty Eric Whaley.  Bryan Radziewski, last year's staff ace as a freshman, suffered a season-ending shoulder injury halfway through the year, and huge right-hander E.J. Encinosa was moved to closer, where he's limited opposing hitters to a .155 BA.

And they still have three legitimate draft prospects taking the ball - Whaley, big lefty Steven Ewing (what pitching coach doesn't love a left-hander who's 6'2, 220?) and oft-injured Eric Erickson.  Erickson is actually on his fifth year, having undergone two Tommy John surgeries already, but has been healthy and dealing this season, walking just six batters in 63.2 innings.

So this is gonna be tough.  No cakewalks on any of the three days, and when the starters get in trouble, they can call on Salcines or Eric Nedeljkovic**, both very reliable pitchers.  Nobody in that bullpen is a slouch, actually.  Not a one.

One final note, maybe a silver lining of sorts: Miami is the second worst-fielding team in the league.  SS Stephen Perez has 15 errors, 2B Michael Broad sports a .918 FP%, and 1B Esteban Tresgallo has 10 errors of his own.  At some point this weekend, UVA's put-the-ball-in-play ethos should serve our hitters well.

**I bet pitchers' meetings at Miami are interesting.  Damn near half the staff is named "Eric."

-- UVA in the field

Now for the good news.  As mentioned, Miami will probably be without Peter O'Brien, who is by leaps and bounds their best hitter.  (And if he does play, it'll be on a wrist that isn't fully healed.)  As a team, Miami is hitting .274, which isn't great but not so bad that I'd've mentioned it otherwise.  Their non-O'Brien hitters are batting .265, which means that the version of Miami we'll face this weekend is hitting worse than Duke - and has the lowest average in the conference.

In fact, without O'Brien there isn't a .300 hitter on the roster.  The closest is Brad Fieger at .297.  Dale Carey is batting .289, Michael Broad .279 - nobody else tops .270.  By contrast, unless we use Brandon Cogswell, who isn't really in the full-time starting lineup, UVA will send nobody to the plate who bats less than .270.

Losing O'Brien sapped them of most of their power, too.  There'll be four hitters in the middle of the order with the ability to go deep if you make a mistake - these are Broad, Tresgallo, Stephen Perez, and Tyler Palmer, with Perez also having four triples to his credit - but no real masher.

The big thing: avoid freebies.  This is the baseball equivalent of "don't turn the ball over."  But last week against Duke, what happened?  Branden Kline gave up five free passes (four walks and a hit batsman) and lost.  Scott Silverstein gave up three walks in two innings and was yanked.  Shane Halley relieved him, gave up one walk in six innings, and no runs, and got the win.  Artie Lewicki gave up one walk in seven innings and got the win.  Miami will send out a lineup very similar to Duke's, so I don't see why the results should be different.  Don't walk people and they won't score much.

-- Outlook

The problem is, they don't need to score much to win.  Based on that pitching staff I'd be disappointed but not exactly shocked if we got swept.  But it's a winnable series too.  So I'm glad I could clear up all that ambiguity from the first section.  At any rate, it's probably the biggest one left in the regular season.  I'd like things better if it were at home, but it's not, so in the end, I have to predict we drop the series 2-1.

game preview: Penn

Date/Time: Friday, April 27; 7:30


Record against the Quakers: 3-2

Last matchup: UVA 11, Penn 2; 4/30/11; Charlottesville

Last game: UNC 11, UVA 9 (4/20); Dartmouth 7, Penn 6 (4/21)

Efficiency stats:

Faceoff %:
UVA: 55.4%
Penn: 46.6%

Clearing %:
UVA: 90.7% (off.), 87.9% (def.)
Penn: 83.3% (off.), 85.2% (def.)

Scoring %:
UVA: 37.1% (off.), 30.8% (def.)
Penn: 29.6% (off.), 33.1% (def.)

UVA: 18.86 (3rd)
Penn: 14.11 (41st)

UVA: 13.28 (21st)
Penn: 14.82 (33rd)

So this isn't really that important of a game.  But it's on TV, so here's your preview.

Aw, scratch that.  It's a thing.  Last year it was even more of a thing; the Hoos limped into this game after being the ACC's scratching post and finishing it off with a blowout loss in the ACC tournament.  This year is better, but not completely different; this time we bring a two-game losing streak into this interlude game, so once again we need something to get the screws tightened and ready for the big show.

The real difference this year is that Penn isn't going anywhere.  Unlike last year when they were a semi-surprise tournament team, this year they're 3-9.  They lost to Dartmouth for eff's sake.  BUT.  They also beat North Carolina.  So the main point here, other than tuning up for the tournament, is to not be North Carolina.  And I think that's always an admirable goal.

-- UVA on offense

Like last year, Penn is better on defense than offense.  It's just that this year, they're worse on defense.  Goalie Brian Feeney's sub-.500 save percentage (.486 to be exact) isn't helping.  That's problem #1.  Problem #2 is having to replace two starting defensemen from last year. 

Overall, though, Penn's defense is almost exactly average; the national O-rating (and therefore, D-rating) average is 14.86 at the moment, which puts Penn closer to the average than any other team.  Which leads us to problem #3: the schedule.  LaxPower calls it the toughest in the country.  By RPI it's 7th-toughest.  It doesn't get any easier on Friday, of course, but the point is there's a lot of good teams on this schedule.  Penn hasn't exactly impressed, but they usually don't get blown out of the water, either.

The UVA offense, meanwhile, needs a little recalibration.  Teams have found the formula for defending UVA's potent attack: aggressive man-to-man defense on the midfielders, who are having a tough time creating their own shots, and pack in tight otherwise.  Let Chris Bocklet do all the roaming he wants outside about eight yards or so, but don't allow that doorstep pass that Stanwick and Bocklet have perfected.

Fortunately, Penn's probably been more busy scouting the Ivy League than us.  It's UNC's job to figure out how to stop us; Penn has other fish to fry.  And less athletic defensive midfielders, too, most likely.  There might be some new wrinkles - this is the perfect game to try some dry runs on a few things, if the coaches have such adjustments - but I think the old ones will work just fine.

-- UVA on defense

Penn's offense in a nutshell: balanced but thin.  Really thin.  Penn's got 94 goals on the season; all but 12 have been scored by the starting six.  (The same numbers for UVA: 158 and 46, in case you're wondering.)  Those six players have taken almost 85% of their shots.  Few teams in the country - if any - rely so heavily on their primary scoring.  There practically is no second midfield.

The dangerplayers are attackmen John Conneely and Tim Schwalje.  Conneely is a converted midfielder who's taken over the starring role on the team, and has 19 goals and 13 assists.  Schwalje is also a well-rounded guy with 17 and 11.  But, 12 games into the season and no 20-goal scorer for the Quakers.

This is a team that shows flashes of quality - but only flashes.  Good teams shut them down more often than not.  13 goals against Harvard is a solid showing.  11 against Cornell and 10 against UNC, also good.  Not so good: four each against Lehigh and Princeton and three against Bucknell.  All those are good defensive teams, but still.  Perhaps even worse: only seven goals against Villanova and six against Dartmouth, both below-average teams defensively.

So it's a good test for our defense, in that, if we're on, we can shut them down similar to last year.  One-on-one defense has been a problem lately, particularly closeouts.  The Penn midfielders play mostly a supporting role with the attack bringing most of the production (this is a team that's really desperate for midfielders considering they barely even have a second line) so it'll be the close-in defenders on the spot again.

-- Outlook

No need to get too fancy here: we should beat this team, and probably by more than twice their goal count.  Penn's lack of depth will probably be even more of a hindrance in the altitude.  Like last year, this is a good tuneup for the NCAA tournament; let's hope the result is the same, from here to Memorial Day.

-- Final score: UVA 13, Penn 6

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

recruiting board update

OK, you wanted it, and here it is, but this is not one of those good news updates where I say look at all the future UVA players.  This week we're breaking out the machete and hacking huge pieces off of this thing.

Part of the reason is that VT had their spring game.  Or tried to - it got rained out and denied Shaney Beamer the chance to make snide comments about the relative attendances.  A working theory, which I neither subscribe to nor deny, is that if a recruit wants to commit to VT in late March-early April, Frank tells them to wait and announce it at the spring game so as to create an atmosphere.  I don't really know or care if that's true, but regardless: our junior days tend to be a time for VT to take a few names off their board, and their spring game is the same.  So let's get to the updates, and discussion later.

As always, the board lives here.

-- Added OT Brad Henson and DT Tevin Montgomery to yellow.

-- Moved LB Micah Kiser from green to blue.  Kiser is "focused on two", one of which is UVA.

-- Moved TE Arshad Jackson and LB Peter Kalambayi from yellow to green.

-- Moved ATH Reon Dawson from yellow to red.

-- Removed OLs Parker Osterloh and Braxton Pfaff from blue.  Both to VT.  Damn - I really did think we'd get one of those guys.

-- Removed CB Charles Clark from green.  VT.

-- Removed OL John Montelus (Notre Dame) and DE Shakir Soto (Pitt) from yellow.

-- Removed QB Bucky Hodges (VT) and LB Alex Anzalone (Ohio State) from red.

In case you lost count, that's seven removals, four because they committed to VT.  Tech also picked up a couple other commitments - a linebacker out of Virginia Beach I'd never heard of and a quarterback from somewhere out of state, North Carolina I think, neither of which had UVA offers.  That sounds like a disaster on the surface.  It really isn't.  Here's the deal.

Hodges, of course, was probably Tech ever since we took the Brendan Marshall commitment.  In fact, the coaches probably took Marshall because they knew Hodges was going to Tech.  I don't think they would've otherwise.  It means that we swung and missed on all of the so-called big three quarterbacks in the state, but the table was set for that when we took Greyson Lambert.  And I don't think anyone's complaining about that signing.

Losing both OL is disappointing mainly in the sense that we weren't able to keep them away from Tech.  They're big pickups for Tech because the Hokies absolutely had to get them.  Had to.  Would I have liked to get them?  Yeah.  So that Tech didn't.  It would've killed Tech not to get them, but it doesn't hurt us.  We have one lineman already - Olanrewaju - and if we can get Brad Henson (it's very early but there are positive signs) then we could get Alfred E. Neuman for a third lineman and still have a higher-rated class than Tech at that position.  So, the verdict: Very good for Tech, but not that bad for us.

Finally, Charles Clark - whatever.  We got Tim Harris at our spring game and the Hokies weren't happy about that, and Harris is a thousand years ahead of Clark.

So I would say we got through Tech's spring game pretty much fine.  That's in contrast to last year when J.C. Coleman committed.  Wyatt Teller was in Blacksburg and is still on the board, and if he'd committed then I'd have been singing a different tune here.  But as you can tell by the fact that he's in blue, I very much like our chances there.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

the transfer: Anthony Gill

WOOT WOOT.  After a couple months of suspense, Tony Bennett nabbed a long-sought transfer player: power forward Anthony Gill, formerly of South Carolina.  USC-E made a coaching change, replacing Darrin Horn with Frank Martin of Kansas State, and coaching changes always mean transfers, and one thing led to another and here we are.

"One thing and another" are mostly our dire need for a scoring big man and our coaches letting Gill know that.  Make a guy feel wanted and he'll respond in kind.  He must have felt very wanted, actually, because word came down early yesterday afternoon that he'd picked UVA - in other words, probably not even 36 hours after he'd left Columbus on his official visit to Ohio State.

Yeah, the Ohio State that goes to Final Fours and such.  Also after Gill - though in an on-and-off manner before finally giving him an ultimatum - was UNC, the same UNC that goes to Final Fours and such.  UVA had a leg up: Gill was high school teammates at Charlotte Christian with Akil Mitchell.

The basics, then: Gill is a 6'8", 235 pound power forward.  He's a wee bit undersized for our needs; if I could be picky and specific I'd ask for about 6'10" if you please, but I'm not complaining about a 98% fit.  Gill averaged 7.6 points, 4.7 boards, and 1.1 assists for South Carolina - an integral part of the team despite being a freshman.  Definitely the best freshman they had, which means he did a good job of living up to his recruiting rankings.  Every service put him in their Top Whatever, and though he was never gonna have one-and-done skills, he didn't disappoint at all.

KenPom gave Gill an O-rating of 100.2, right in the middle of the usefulness range (90 is pretty low, 110 is really good) - maybe the best comparison is that in 2010-11, Mu Farrakhan had a 100.4.  Gill's 100.2 isn't blow-you-away stuff.  You'd like to see a big man have a better shooting percentage, for example - Gill's was .453.  But for a freshman big man, Gill's performance was pretty good.

AG's coaches don't hesitate to compare him to Mike Scott.  Now, I'll believe that when I see AG cure a person's cancer by touching a basketball and then viciously dunking that basketball on the poor cancer victim.  Or I'll believe it when I see if Gill's jumper is as sweet as Mike's.  It wouldn't be quite fair to compare because it took Mike Scott years to develop that jumper, but just so's you know, AG shot .393 (11-for-28) from three-point-land this year.  Gill's 7.6, 4.7 stacks up pretty favorably to Mike's 5.7, 5.3 his own freshman year (albeit in seven more minutes per game), so the potential is very, very much there.

When AG is eligible to play in 2013-2014, the big-man situation looks like this:  Akil Mitchell will be a senior, Darion Atkins a junior, and Gill and Mike Tobey, sophomores.  That's still thin.  The coaches are hoping Brandan Stith grows a few inches and joins as another big in 2014, but that's a ways off.  There isn't much scoring punch from the bigs, except for the hope that some develops.  I don't think Mitchell will be a scorer.  Atkins, we'll see, but he didn't flash much ability in that regard this year.  Tobey, we have no idea.  That makes Gill the best bird in the hand, where we sit right now.

The coaches might now go after Gill's South Carolina teammate, Damontre Harris.  Harris averaged 6.8 points on .550 shooting, but wasn't counted on for offense; he played the second-most minutes of anyone on the Gamecock roster but took the fifth-most shots.  Very low-usage.  Whether the coaches make a push for Harris will likely depend on whether they think the 6'9"-but-skinny Harris can be an offensive threat.

It might not seem like it, but the coaches have to tread a little bit carefully with the scholarship situation.  The deal is that B.J. Stith is committed for 2014, and if the coaches get their way, Brandan Stith and Devon Hall will join him.  That'd be like totally sweet you guys OMG you have no idea, but we have to make sure there's room.  Right now, nine scholarships are spoken for in the 2014-2015 season, and no, I'm not going to assume attrition, which means that if we want both Stiths and Hall, we can take no more than two more people right now.  Meaning, the 2013 recruiting class is gonna be tiny, especially if we take another transfer, and don't think the coaches aren't still actively looking.  Oh, and one of the next two guys has got to be a point guard.

Meanwhile, Gill.  An instant starter when he's eligible, and here's why: his competition for playing time is mainly guys who defend more than they score, and the chances of us landing a really, really good big guy in the 2013 class are small.  (We might get a really, really good guard - Big Cat Barber, you listening? - but there aren't any bigs on the radar.)  Bennett might prefer a defender, of course, you know how he is, but I think as long as Gill gets the gist, and he's got a no-pressure year to learn, he'll get the nod. I think he'll be a starter from Day 1.  So any time you can add that kind of guy to the lineup, it's a big deal.

another interview with former Hokie Jeff Allen

One of my all-time favoritest posts I've ever done on this blog was a mock-interview with one of my all-time favoritest players, Jeff Allen of Hokie basketball.  I was very disappointed when Allen's eligibility finally ran out, because his temper and foul-proneitude made him probably the best player in the whole ACC in any sport for humor material.**

I should have known better.  We're not done yet with our boy Jeff.  Seth Greenberg's firing yesterday gave him the perfect platform to express his opinion, and what do you know, here's the man himself walking through the doors of the FOV offices for another interview.  What a guy.

FOV: Jeff!  Pleasure to see you again.  I assume you've heard the news swirling around your old program the past 24 hours.

JA: Man I wish I was at tech 4 this news don't want to get my hopes up but if it's wat I this it is shuda happen a long time ago

FOV: So I guess it's true that you were never really much of a Seth Greenberg fan.

JA: Naw

FOV: Happy to hear he got fired, then?

JA: I not happy he lost his job he can go to anova school just wish he wasnt there wen I was

FOV: You could've transferred if you didn't like him.  I don't think anyone even knew you had a problem with Coach Greenberg til today.

JA: didn't show them just held it in

FOV: But why not make your displeasure known when it would've done you some good?  After all you certainly never had any problem showing your displeasure to, say, Maryland fans.

JA: Its aleays diff from the outside lookn in

FOV: If you say so.  So you say this should've happened a while ago.  If it were up to you, when would you have made the call to fire Coach Greenberg?

JA: u don't know how long I was waitn 4 this not to dog him out but we all know ways best just look at the last 5 seasons

FOV: Do you mean "we always know best"?

JA: maybe

FOV: Eloquence, thy name is Jeff.  So sometime in the last five seasons, that's when you'd've gotten rid of Coach Greenberg?

JA: yea too long if u ask me .. No way in the world as talented as our team was we don't make it to the NCAA in 4 yrs

FOV: That's a little disingenuous if you ask me.  I doubt Greenberg was telling you to foul out of every game you played.  You players had a lot more say in getting there than Greenberg did.  Although he did seem to agree with you, at least every day after Selection Sunday.

JA: Well got damn

FOV: Yeah, he was up there battling for you guys and everything.  It was hard to miss.  What do you have to say about that?

JA: I'm done said wat I had to say..still a Hokie at the end of the day

FOV: The consummate Hokie as always.  As ever, thanks for your time, Jeff.  Door's on the right.  And don't forget, readers, that later today will be our profile (but sadly, no interview) of an actual power forward that won't foul out of every other game, hoist up ill-advised three-pointers, and badmouth the coach.

Postscript: Jeff Allen is currently playing basketball in the B division of the French pro leagues, an ironic destination for a Hokie considering their nickname for UVA.  And yes, he still fouls way too often, turns the ball over three times a game, and is 5-21 in shooting three-pointers.

**I ought to start a hall of fame.  We could have Allen for averaging something like 15 fouls per 40 minutes, Tomo Delp of Maryland baseball for always swinging his bat like a helicopter, Tyree Watkins for being a loudmouthed POS and going out in flaming glory....any more ideas?

Monday, April 23, 2012

weekend review

-- OK, the baseball team didn't get the needed sweep, but won the Duke series 2-1.  Bad game Friday, complete domination of doubleheader Saturday.  Wanted a sweep, whatever.  Moving on.

-- Lacrosse, big disappointment on Friday, watched Duke win ACC title on our home turf, that sucks too.  Got Penn next weekend in Denver as a tourney tuneup, probably going to own that game since Penn isn't half the team they were last year and anyway we beat that team 11-2.  Also, vote for Steele Stanwick. Moving on.

-- Jared Green.  We have to touch on this here for a bit.  You remember him: son of Darrell Green, blazing fast receiver we used to have, transferred out after Mike London's first season.  And apparently, trying to burn every bridge he ever had in Charlottesville.  I quote:
But after red-shirting as a freshman and beginning to show what he could do as a sophomore receiver at UVA under Al Groh and the coach’s son/assistant Mike, Jared suffered when that staff knew it was out the door midway through the 2009 season and even more so under new coach Mike London in 2010.
“His agenda was to play receivers from the Tidewater area because that’s where he recruits,” Jared explained. “I went home that summer and told my parents I wanted to transfer. My mom (Jewell) said, ‘No. You’ve got two more semesters. Graduate from UVA.’ I said, ‘OK. Who knows? This coach might be an awesome guy.’ He wasn’t. Coaches can manipulate your mind and tell lies. They can hide behind the program and make a kid look like an outcast. I’m so thankful I learned that at UVA. I’m on a path and I had to experience some adversity. I think that was God’s way of humbling me and keeping me hungry.”
Since the fawning fool of a reporter had no response to this but "awwww, poor Jared" I guess it's up to me.  It's interesting that Mike London gave so much preference to receivers from the 757 area in 2010.  We certainly had a lot of 'em.  Here's the full list:

Tim Smith

So that's interesting.  Green had only eight catches in 2010, which certainly does not amount to the kind of production he was probably hoping for.  And yet it was more than Smith's three.  London would've had a hard time finding Tidewater receivers to play, considering Smith spent most of the year injured.  Green transferred out after that year and immediately proved what a huge mistake it was to leave him on the bench, becoming the sixth-leading receiver for the Southern U. Jaguars of I-AA football, and leading them all the way to a 4-7 record.

If collecting butt splinters during 2010 was God's way of keeping Jared Green humble, it didn't work - the man is a legend in his own mind.  Alright moving on.

-- Anthony Gill: Will be a Hoo.  It didn't take him long at all after getting back from Columbus to decide on Virginia.  Gill is a slightly undersized power forward who put up solid numbers this year at South Carolina.  He can play in 2013-14, after sitting out a year to satisfy transfer rules.  At 6'8" he's not a big big, like, not ever going to be confused with a center, but depending on how Mike Tobey develops he's arguably now our best or second-best big-man scoring option starting in 2013.  We still need some action in that regard for next year, but Gill fits like a jigsaw piece into a just the right place.

Tomorrow I'll have a full profile.  It's still not what we're building up to.  Moving right along.

-- Finally we reach what I was getting to.  If I could just have a moment of your time....

Apologies, but today we are From Old Virginia Tech.  When I heard about 1) Seth Greenberg's firing and 2) the amazingly clumsy way in which it was done, I knew what today's post was gonna be about.

This is awesome in so many ways.  Well, not for Seth.  You know I've had my fun with the guy over the years.  His teams play an undisciplined, unwatchable style of ball.  He whines like an engine stuck in first gear when he doesn't make the tournament.  Etc. etc. etc.  I might as well stop piling on the poor guy, because nobody could ever punk Seth Greenberg as hard as his own boss did today.

It's not about the timing, really.  It's a little outside firing season, to be sure, but Maryland managed to land on their feet when Gary Williams left abruptly, and Mark Turgeon wasn't hired til May 11.  Course, that's Maryland, which has a location in a big metro area, a semi-recent championship banner, and a name.  Virginia Tech has a nice new practice facility and the reputation of a diluting agent in the ACC basketball equation.

It's really more the fact that the VT athletic department really showed their ass on this one, clownshowing their way through the whole thing.  You don't call a press conference in the morning and tell your coach it's about him in the afternoon, because you can't possibly be dumb enough to think no reporter will contact the coach in between and ask if he knows what the deal is there.  Which of course is exactly what happened, and of course Greenberg replied "lol no way dude still workin'."  Silly him to assume that he'd be among the first people made aware of his firing.

Then again, since Tech's AD Jim Weaver announced at the press conference that the decision had been made last week, what's another couple hours?  No reason to ruin the guy's weekend - or lunch for that matter.  Weaver explained the delay in informing Greenberg by saying 1:30 was a time that "fit into everyone's schedule," which makes you wonder just how often they fire coaches around there if it's an event that's no more important than, I dunno, the weekly 10:00 scheduling meeting.

The press conference - which Tech announced would be LIVE! and FREE! - was a little bit revealing.  Weaver mentioned several times the copious offseason departures of practically Tech's whole assistant coaching staff for greener pastures and stated that he didn't want to pay two staffs - the new one they'd hire for this year and the one that they'd have to hire again when Seth's contract was up.  If I read the Intertubez correctly that was going to be after this year, and they didn't plan to extend it, so essentially the decision boiled down to "all the other coaches are gone, might as well get rid of the head coach too."

That's certainly an interesting reason.  Weaver's miserly penny-grubbing frugality here means they're not exactly likely to shell out enormous bux to the next coaching candidate.  Frank Beamer gets about $2.3 million a year and you can guarantee a basketball coach ain't coming close to that.  Tony Bennett makes $1.7M and Mark Turgeon makes $1.9M, and I'd bet those numbers are too close to Beamer's for Tech's comfort.  Lots of Hokies think Shaka Smart is the guy - the same Shaka Smart that coaches at VCU and turned down Illinois - and Greenberg made less than Smart, which is about $1.2M.  (There's a reason he's happy at VCU.)

Anyway, if Smart turned down NC State and Illinois, he's not going to Tech.  Gregg Marshall at Wichita State - supposedly a hot choice because of ties to Roanoke - makes $900K, which I don't see Tech coming in much higher than, either. 

What we're getting at here is: they peaked under Greenberg.  A lot of Hokies didn't like Greenberg, but when they see the next era they're going to wish for the halcyon days of Seth.  He was an excellent recruiter.  Weaver doesn't have a lot of years left on his clock - in fact, when this press conference was first announced, a lot of people assumed it'd be announcing Weaver's retirement - and despite his confident assertion that coaches will beat down his door to coach in Blacksburg, not many coaches are gonna want to work for a lame-duck AD at a football (and football only) school.  And if the hiring is conducted in the same manner as the firing, they'll end up with Bobby Petrino and the press conference is gonna be mighty awkward when he learns they still have a football coach.

So I'm pretty much done bashing Greenberg myself, because I realized I feel bad for the guy after today's clownshow.  Not that his firing wasn't pretty much written on the wall - my assumption was that next year would be his last - but having it go down like that and then getting bashed on Twitter by his former players (between Hokie fans harassing Tim Harris and Hokie players ripping Greenberg, you wonder if its time to take away their keys to the lightnin' box) I'd say he's taken enough abuse.  All you need to know about the Hokie mindset is that some of them side with a piece of shit like Jeff Allen on this issue.  Allen and Greenberg probably didn't see eye to eye over Allen's propensity to foul everything that moved.

Anyway, I've written some critical words about Greenberg in the past but you have to be simply amazed at the ability of the VT athletic department (and some of their alums) to turn him into a sympathetic figure.  Simply stunning incompetence.  I have a feeling their coaching search will be the object of at least a little riducule, too, and not just by partisans like me.  Enough of that for now, though; tomorrow it's back to what's important, starting with a profile of the newest Hoo, Anthony Gill.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

lacrosse bracketology

I'm still trying to decide which of my regular features was the victim of more carnage this weekend: bracketology or the recruiting board.  We'll figure out the latter on Wednesday.  For now, here's the result of this weekend's lacrosse action, or in the case of some teams (coughHopkinscough) the lack thereof:

You know why the ACC holds a tournament?  So that what happened to Duke and UNC happen every year.  Duke was catapulted to a huge lead in the raw rankings thanks to successive wins over Maryland and UNC on one weekend, but they have one problem.  Actually they have three problems, which are the losses on their record, one of which just happens to be to Loyola.  So the Greyhounds hold on to the top seed, and Duke stays at #2, where they were last week.

So: the carnage.  Mostly to Johns Hopkins and Cornell, which lost to Navy and Brown, respectively.  (Thanks, guys!  We don't, like, need your numbers to be good or anything!)  It's as much those losses as our own that dropped UVA a seed to #5.  Cornell got booted from the bracket altogether, though; the Ivy is now a one-bid league.  And the winner of Cornell and Princeton next weekend is gonna get it, that is until the Ivy tournament when Dartmouth will probably steal it despite being ineligible.  That's the kind of thing the Ivy has been doing to itself this year.

Hopkins, meanwhile, plummets all the way to a very deserving 8th, from the 3rd seed they so comfortably occupied last week.  Combination of their loss, Syracuse's loss, and the only ACC team they didn't play also being the only one not to pick up a loss this weekend.

All this carnage opened the door for a few teams.  Colgate lost its autobid because the LaxPower computers went whirrr buzz beep and spit them out a couple hundredths of a point below Lehigh (rules are rules), and it didn't matter - they're strong enough now to stand on their own.  Fairfield knocked off Denver and took advantage of Cornell's bedwetting and they're back to the on phase of a very on-and-off relationship with the bracket.  Because of geography I expect they'll follow UMass around the bracket like a lost puppy.

Note now that Notre Dame is the first team to lock themselves down an autobid.  Syracuse's loss to Georgetown means that the worst that can happen to ND is to finish in a tie with Villanova, which, obviously, they just beat.  The rest of the autobids are determined by the conference tournaments.

Here are the games that mattered last week (not counting the big upsets) and what happened:

-- Duke 6, Maryland 5
-- North Carolina 11, Virginia 9
-- Duke 12, North Carolina 9: Probably the biggest change as a result of the ACC tourney is UNC's jump from #7 to #3.  Second-biggest: Duke being a real threat to steal the #1 seed from Loyola, which could happen if Loyola stumbles.

-- Colgate 11, Bucknell 10: The Patriot League now looks like a solid two-bid league thanks to Colgate winning this game.  If Lehigh and Colgate meet in the PL tourney final, it probably cements two-bid status.

-- Fairfield 9, Denver 8: Either way, the winner of this overtime game was going to be the beneficiary of Cornell's screwup.  Don't totally sleep on Denver; they're still not that far off the pace, and they have a game against Duke next weekend and then will face Loyola in the opening round of the ECAC tourney.

-- Georgetown 10, Syracuse 8: Syracuse has the fourth-highest SOS in the country (top-10 games only, which is the NCAA's criterion) and if the committee uses that as an excuse to put them in the tourney, it'll be grounds for burning down their headquarters.  We may not get that far; if Cuse loses their next two (Notre Dame and Villanova) they'll be 7-8 and ineligible.

-- Notre Dame 10, Villanova 7: As mentioned, ND locked up the autobid thanks to this win and Syracuse's loss.  The BE tourney is now set even though there are games left to play: ND vs. St. John's, and Nova/Cuse.

And now, the games to watch next week as we approach the stretch run:

-- Patriot League tournament: It's Colgate/Bucknell and Lehigh/Army.  A win by the favorites in the first round (Colgate and Lehigh) would probably give them all the ammo they need to make the PL a two-bid league.

-- Duke at Denver: I said don't sleep on Denver, and I meant it.  They have two huge opportunities, and a win in either one would make Villanova and the PL loser sweat bullets.  They're right in the mix.  Cornell is the "first team out" but that's based on results so far - of all the teams not in the bracket of 16, it's Denver that has the best shot at getting in at-large.  They have to beat some pretty boss teams to do it, though.

-- Ohio State at Fairfield: It'd be interesting to see what OSU could do with a win here - of course the Michigan fan in me has no interest in finding out.  My guess is that I don't think it'd be enough to steal anyone's bid - OSU still needs the ECAC autobid to get in.  Anyway, this is only a prelude, because the ECAC first round will simply be a rematch of this game.

-- Johns Hopkins at Loyola: Just like Maryland scrambled the mix by beating Hopkins, Hopkins can do the same here.

-- Cornell at Princeton: I'm not even sure it matters any more.  The two teams are likely to meet again in the Ivy finals, the autobid going to the winner and the loser sitting home.  That said, the winner at least gets the right to occupy the autobid in next week's bracketology.

The conference tournaments are just about set.  Here's how they sit for now:

-- America East: Worst league in the land this year; they got leapfrogged by the MAAC now that Stony Brook is a mere mortal again.  It's UMBC, Stony Brook, and Albany all sitting at 3-1, and the winner of Hartford and Vermont next weekend earning the fourth spot.  The winner of this tourney could be anyone, frankly, and whoever it is will play the NCAA's #1 seed, because they're all terrible.

-- Colonial: The CAA is the story of UMass and the six dwarves, although truth be told Penn State has emerged as a solid #2.  UMass needs to be careful because they've played with fire the last two weeks - winning by two over Drexel and one over Hofstra.  Still, they're the conference #1 seed and the obvious favorite.  Should be a two-bid league, with Drexel and probably Towson trying to play spoiler in the conference tourney.

-- ECAC: Also a possible-to-likely two-bid league, but probably with a much tougher conference tourney.  Loyola/Denver and Fairfield/OSU are the matchups.

-- Ivy League: Just one bid for the Ivy now that Brown has finished off any hopes Cornell had of getting an at-large bid.  Princeton was well behind Cornell in the pecking order last week but nosed just ahead this week.  Yale, Brown, and Harvard are in the running for the 3 and 4 seeds, and let's not doubt that any one of them could play spoiler to the favorites.

-- MAAC: One-bid league with Siena playing Jacksonville and Marist playing Detroit for the autobid, and a likely matchup against the NCAA #2 seed.  Siena is the heavy favorite.

-- Patriot: Colgate drew Bucknell and Lehigh drew Army in the only tournament being played between now and next week's bracketology.  As I've said - if Colgate and Lehigh win their first-round matchups, they're probably in the tourney.  But they're not easy matchups.

Friday, April 20, 2012

the recruit: Trent Corney

Name: Trent Corney
Position: ??
Hometown: Brockville, ON
School: Thousand Islands
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 240

24/7: NR
Rivals: NR
Scout: two stars, #109 OLB

Other offers: Buffalo, others?

This is a little bit of a different breed of recruitment.  You might've noticed that most of the recruiting sites are insistent on classifying Trent Corney as a 2012 recruit - not totally unreasonable, as it's the year he'll graduate from high school.  But they have their ways and I have mine: Corney will spend this fall (most likely) playing for Fork Union's prep team, and enroll at UVA in January 2013.  That makes him, in my book, an early-enrolling 2013 recruit.  The recruiting board reflects as much.

Right now, Corney is less of a football player and more of a track star that plays football.  He's a freakish athlete and moves ridiculously well for a guy his size.  If he wanted to play basketball he probably could.  If he wanted to play lacrosse he probably could.  Hockey, probably.  One report attributes him a 4.3 40 time and while I don't believe that any more than I believe there's a purple boogeyman under my bed,** I'm willing to believe he's absurdly fast for a guy his size.

Of course he's strong as hell, too; various numbers have popped up for his bench press, squat, etc. which are highly impressive and so on and so forth.  It's the javelin where Corney excels, though.  He's a national-level javelin thrower; in fact, if his personal best javelin toss of 64.05 meters (800 grams, the same weight the NCAA uses) had been entered in last year's ACC championships, he'd have placed fourth.  As a junior in high school.

Corney made his mind up a while ago, though, that he'd pursue a football scholarship and not a track one; he won't be on the track team at UVA.  To that end he hit some camps, and wowed with his athleticism but probably not his football skills.  The only school I could find that definitely gave him an offer was Buffalo.  Rutgers showed a lot of interest, Stanford and Miami had a look, Pittsburgh, but no firm offers. 

I don't usually find highlight tapes all that interesting, because they're "highlight tapes" for a reason, but Corney's was even less useful than most.  Which in fact tells the story.  A lot of the plays are of the man-among-boys type - like the time he tackled the holder before the kicker could get the extra point off.  It speaks more to the level of competition than anything.  Also, Corney's tackling form stinks.  Often it was just, grab a guy by the jersey and chuck him to the ground with the javelin hand.

Also telling in this regard is that he doesn't really have a position.  One report lists him as a "Running Back, Tight End, Wide Receiver, Linebacker, Safety, Defensive End."  Uh, that's basically all of them.  Except quarterback and kicker.  This FUMA year will be necessary to find out what position he fits best, just for starters.

Essentially, what we've got here is a blank slate.  I bet coaches love this, because it doesn't come across their plate too often: a freakish athlete where you get to just choose his position.  I have no idea what that'll be and I bet the coaches don't know right now either and don't care.  We can probably narrow down a few - he's not a defensive back, he's probably not an offensive lineman because he'd have to grow too much and learn too much technique, and he's probably not a tailback.  On defense, he's either a defensive end or maybe - maybe - a linebacker.  Big maybe, though - he's probably going to outgrow the kind of size Mike London prefers at linebacker, but that doesn't necessarily mean he won't be athletic enough anyway.  If on offense, he's a tight end or an H-back style fullback.

You have to love the idea of trying a guy like Corney on your team, though.  The chances of him really and truly reaching his full potential are slim, for two reasons: his incredible rawness, and the enormous height of his ceiling.  It's probable, though admittedly boring, that he'll fall somewhere in between total superstar and washout.  You ask me, I think I'd prefer to see him as a field-stretching tight end, because we haven't had that ability from that position for a while.

**Have you noticed I basically never mention anyone's 40 time?  Until there's a real, honest standard for them that everyone uses, they're useless.  Especially hand-timed ones.  People place such importance on tenths of a second and people just don't have that kind of reaction time.  Proof positive of the worthlessness of 40-time reports is that an actual newspaper-type thing reported with a straight face that a 240-pound guy ran a 4.3.  He bloody well did not.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

series preview: Duke

Date/Time: Fri-Sun, April 20-22; 6:00, 2:00, 1:00

TV: Nada

Record against the Blue Devils: 87-52

Last matchup: UVA 3-0 over Duke (10-0, 3-2, 18-4); 4/15-4/17/11; Charlottesville

Last game: UVA 7, Richmond 5 (4/17); Davidson 8, Duke 4 (4/17)

Last weekend: UNC 3-0 over UVA (1-2, 2-6, 3-5); Md. 2-1 over Duke (2-4, 2-21, 5-3)

National rankings:

Baseball America: UVA unranked, Duke unranked
Collegiate Baseball: UVA unranked, Duke unranked
NCBWA: UVA #27, Duke unranked
Perfect Game: UVA #34, Duke unranked
Coaches: UVA #25, Duke unranked
Composite: UVA unranked, Duke unranked

Duke lineup:

C: Mike Rosenfeld (.308-0-17)
1B: Andy Perez (.310-0-10)**
2B: Mark "Oompa" Lumpa (.300-1-7)
3B: Jordan Betts (.234-2-12)
SS: Angelo La Bruna (.191-0-16)
LF: David Perkins (.200-0-8)
CF: Anthony D'Alessandro (.229-0-5)**
RF: Grant McCabe (.301-0-19)
DH: Jeff Kremer (.302-2-9)

**Some notes on the lineup.  Will Piwnica-Worms, owner of the best name in ACC baseball and by far the best hitter in the Duke lineup, is normally the centerfielder.  He's been limited to PH duty the last two weeks, however.  If he's not in the lineup again this week, very bad new for Duke.  Also: Perez is the more-or-less usual first baseman for the Blue Devils, but - despite being tied for the team BA lead - he was lifted for a pinch hitter last Friday against Maryland and hasn't played since.  That screams injury as well, but I haven't been able to find anything.  If he can't go, I don't know who'll play first on Friday but Marcus Stroman will probably start on the other two days.  He hasn't been used much at the plate this year and is hitting .133.

Pitching probables:

Friday: RHP Branden Kline (5-2, 3.02, 63 Ks) vs. RHP Marcus Stroman (3-3, 2.05, 93 Ks)
Saturday: LHP Scott Silverstein (2-4, 2.79, 38 Ks) vs. LHP Trent Swart (3-5, 4.05, 47 Ks)
Sunday: RHP Artie Lewicki (1-2, 4.85, 29 Ks) vs. RHP Robert Huber (4-3, 3.35, 31 Ks)

So the ACC lacrosse tournament starts tomorrow, but there won't be any preview because I've told you all I know about UNC.  Plus if we get past UNC then it's pretty much likely that Duke awaits, and my prediction for that hypothetical game is obviously Duke by a billion.

So instead, the Duke baseball team.  Revenge for last week?  Nah - Duke is usually bad and this series doesn't tend to draw a crowd in Durham.  They sit at the bottom of the Coastal standings, and have lost a bunch of games to teams like Campbell, Davidson, and Western Carolina.  Still, they're a little odd, in that when I opened up their stats I expected things to look a lot worse.  14-24 teams don't usually have three decent starting pitchers and five guys batting over .300.  Still, there isn't much to look at.

-- UVA at the plate

One reason Duke loses so many games is because they fail to give their starters any run support, and then the bullpen comes in and blows the game open.  Getting to the pen will be the main goal in each of the three games, because it's garbage; the only pitcher really worth a damn is closer David Putman, and maybe - maybe - other-closer Andrew Istler.  (Istler's ERA is pushing 5.00, though.  So.)

That'll be especially important on Friday, with our hitters having to face Marcus Stroman.  Duke may suck, but Stroman is the real deal.  He's got a fastball that sits 95+ and can reach 98, impressive especially for a guy who's only 5'9".  Stroman's numbers across the board are outstanding and he'll almost certainly be a first-round pick this June.  The most impressive, I think, is the eye-popping 93 strikeouts - 12.7 per nine innings.  Stroman is the complete package, and if Branden Kline is on his game, Friday is set up to be a pretty classic pitching duel.  Our hitters need to work some counts and give themselves a couple innings hitting against Duke's pen.

There's nothing too remarkable about Duke's other starters, except maybe for Robert Huber's 5 BB/9 ratio.  They're hittable, not terrible, just kinda there.  They're better than anyone Duke has in the pen, so the goal for Duke will be for those guys to toss a complete game (Huber did it last week against Maryland) and the goal for us at worst will be to work our way to the bullpen.

Reed Gragnani continues to be out, and the length of time he's been out and the fact that he missed time earlier leads me to believe we shouldn't count on him for the rest of the year.  Too bad - we lose a lot of versatility and a very good top-of-the-lineup bat.  So I don't expect any changes from what we've been seeing so far.

-- UVA in the field

The first thing that jumped out at me when I looked at Duke's stats was "hey, they got a lot of .300 hitters."  At least for a team 10 games below .500.  The second thing was "oh, but like none of their hits are bigger than singles."  Indeed, Duke is a very light-hitting team.  Their team average of .265 isn't completely terrible (last in the conference, but not by much), but their team slugging average of .354 is by far the ACC's worst.

In fact, you'll find Duke at the bottom of almost every category.  Somehow, shortstop Angelo La Bruna is third on the team in RBIs despite having a .191 BA and only two extra-base hits (for a SLG of .209.)  The most dangerous hitter they have is Will Piwnica-Worms and he doesn't look very available.  Piwnica-Worms is tied for the team batting lead at .310, and Andy Perez is the other guy and he might not be available either.

Probably the only other guy on the team with dangerous power is third baseman Jordan Betts, who is a little bit of a strikeout machine.  Other than that - well, basically you've got some guys that'll hit some singles and leg out a triple once in a while.  When they get on base, almost all of them might try to steal, so our pitchers need to keep a weather eye on any baserunner.  (Something they've occasionally forgotten.)  But baserunners will be rarer than we're used to in ACC play, too.

-- Outlook

No sugarcoating: This series is a must-sweep.  Duke has a chance in any game with Stroman on the mound, and so Friday will be crucial.  Kline must be able to match him inning for inning - a task well within his reach given Duke's anemic lineup.  After that, it's basically a question of hitting like we know we can hit.  Duke has averaged three runs a game in ACC play, two when not playing Virginia Tech, so getting to about the five-run mark probably wins us the game.  Winning the series 2-1 would still make the season's goal (18 wins) doable, but much more difficult.  Sweep or die.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

recruiting board update

Hello and welcome once again to the weekly recruiting board update.  We've got a great show for you today in which we do the same shit we always do: update the recruiting board.  So, the changes:

-- Moved CB Tim Harris from blue to orange.  Huzzah.  Harris is one of the top pickups of the class and will remain so regardless of who else signs.  The hope is that more guys like Harris, I'm thinking of ohhhh let's just toss a name out there, Taquan Mizzell, who are "strongly leaning" UVA, will make it official relatively soonish and create some momentum, in order to make someone like Micah Kiser, who likes UVA but has a lot of suitors, take notice.

-- Moved OLs Parker Osterloh and Braxton Pfaff, and DE Wyatt Teller, from green to blue.  In the case of the two OL, it's becoming clear that it's UVA or VT.  50/50 is good enough for blue.  I see both as guys who'll slowly and methodically work their way up the food chain, rather than leapfrog anyone on the depth chart.  But, they are the top two linemen in the state.  We're not in any state of major need there, except for my rule that you should take at least three every year - but VT is.  They've been swinging and missing on linemen for a couple years now.  Just keeping either or both of these guys away from Tech so as to make the future Hokie front five look like a paper fence would be worth it.

As for Teller, I have read nothing, either outside or behind a paywall, that makes me think he should definitely be in the blue section vice the green one.  It's just a spidey-sense thing, I guess.  I think Teller will eventually choose UVA.  Now go light some candles and offer some goat sacrifices to make it happen.

-- Added WR DaeSean Hamilton and CB Kirk Garner to green.

-- Added DT Maurice Hurst to yellow.  I hope we get him so I can call him Maurice Hurts.

-- Moved LB Alex Anzalone from yellow to red.

-- Removed LB Dorian O'Daniel from yellow - committed to Clemson.  Bummer, because O'Daniel was the best Good Counsel player that we had even half a legit shot at, but we're after a lot of good linebackers and I gotta feeling it's going to be a very solid linebacker class.

-- Removed CBs Kendall Fuller and Desmond Lawrence from red.  Lawrence committed to UNC.  Fuller, yes, we're giving up on him, or I am; he listed a top six that didn't have UVA in it (fifth bullet from the top) and was full of schools that would be almighty tough to overcome.  Given his obviously well-known connections to VT, it's time to put this one aside.


Piece of news: the all-ACC lacrosse team came out, and has on it Steele Stanwick (obviously), Chris LaPierre (good to see his work be recognized), and Colin Briggs.  Excellent choices, all.  And that's all well and good, too, but - somehow, the ACC's leading goal-scorer (whether you want to use total goals or goals per game) didn't make it, and I refer to one Chris Bocklet.  I would put Bocklet on before Briggs, for starters, but what in the blue Hell is Maryland's John Haus doing on that team??  10 goals and 8 assists in 10 games is Haus's stat line.  He's a sub-.300 shooter.  There are like 10-12 midfielders in the league, at least, who can do what Haus does - he's a solid player but not, like, all-ACC caliber.  Off the top of my head I can think of several players in the league, and not just on Virginia, who'd be more deserving than Haus.  Think UNC's Jimmy Bitter or Joey Sankey, or Duke's Josh Dionne, or a defender like Maryland's LSM Goran Murray or even their second-best scorer, Owen Blye.  Anyone but a guy with 1.8 points a game (and just 12 in 8 games since the first two), and 2 goals and 0 assists in three ACC games.

Bocklet has managed eight assists of his own despite being known as a finisher, which he does spectacularly well - he is the Marvin Harrison to Stanwick's Peyton Manning.  Haus isn't even the second-leading scorer on Maryland let alone the conference.  Stupid vote.  Bocklet got jobbed.

Oh, but speaking of voting, you still have to do so for Steele Stanwick.  Don't let the Dookie win.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

weekend review

So I turned on the TV on Friday, all set for a great weekend to be kicked off with an exciting lacrosse game, and I was really pleased with what I saw - the orange uniforms are far superior to the blues, and they look really good with white helmets and shorts, and frankly I wish more games featured both teams wearing their colors instead of whites.  Looks really good that way.  So I liked what I saw.

Then the game started.

Shortly thereafter, I learned anew the meaning of "downhill fast."  I seriously don't know what to make of that, and fervently hope it was simply the one implosion for the year.  I would love to tell you that the reason we can't seem to beat Duke is simply a fluke of probability.  That most of the big games we play - UNC, Maryland, Hopkins, Syracuse minus this year, Cornell, etc. - are largely coin flips, Duke is no different, you can never win all your coin flips, and it just so happens the ones we lose are all the Duke ones.   It's not that there's a Doonkie Kong on our backs, the players are different every year, it's fatigue or whatever.

I have to call bullshit on myself, though, after that game.  Sports so often comes down to math and probabilities and sabermetrics and things, but there's a real danger in going full Moneyball on everything too.  UVA has one of the country's elite offenses, the defending Tewaaraton winner and possible front-runner for a repeat, and possibly the best combination of star power and balanced scoring in the land.  And nobody this season has scored as few as five goals on Duke.  MAAC members Marist and Jacksonville, 2-8 Dartmouth plus other Ivy patsies Brown and Penn, Big East weenie Rutgers - everybody has scored at least seven.  We scored five, most of which were meaningless.  There's psychology involved when that happens.  Period.

Maybe it's just that Duke didn't think Marist and Jacksonville were worth their time to defend, and got up for this game instead.  Or maybe there really is that mental block in the heads of our players.  Maybe we need to schedule Duke on a different weekend.  I dunno.  I expect we'll see them again in the ACC final, assuming we get past UNC, and it goes without saying it sure has to look better than that.  Not getting an early lead will probably fire up the ol' mental-block neurons and that'll be that.


-- I wish I could say baseball was a silver lining, but nope: the offensive black hole over Klockner enveloped Davenport, too, and the Hoos managed just six runs all weekend, and got swept by Carolina.  Remember your mantra: reloading year, reloading year.  Especially when considering Saturday, in which the Hoos gave up six runs - five unearned.

I wanted 18 wins, but we'd have to go 9-3 to get there, which means sweeping at least one of the remaining series (Duke, Miami, GT, Maryland.)  The bad news is, Miami is the kind of team that could drop another sweep-bomb on us instead, and that series is down there.  The good news is, Duke and Maryland suck, and GT is also surprisingly bad, and all are eminently sweepable themselves.  So keep the faith on that 18-win goal, and keep in mind too that 17 is really not all bad, considering.

-- I'd be very happy to tell you all about what I thought about the spring game...uhhh, as soon as I watch it.  It was on at the same time as Michigan's only televised lacrosse game of the year, and I watched that instead, figuring I could just watch the spring game on Monday.  But not so much.  So that's on hold for a little bit.

-- The weekend wasn't a total loss - Mike London added to his commitment total by getting one from four-star cornerback Tim Harris.  Harris has been pretty much UVA-all-the-way, but it's nice to make it official, especially since he had offers from Tech, Michigan, and OSU.  The mythical fence around the state isn't always real big, but sometimes it's big enough, and it helps too that Varina has become a very UVA-friendly school.

-- Speaking of recruiting, ESPN's 150 came out today, which hopefully means more evaluations will start showing up on more players in their database, which in turn would mean I can get a little earlier of a start on recruit profiles and maybe not be eight recruits behind this year.

-- Anthony Gill: down to two.  Three?  Two. (?)  It's like this: Gill's already visited UVA - this past weekend - and we turn to Twitter (no, not the riffraff, actual people who know things) for the rest.  His AAU coach tweetered on Sunday that Gill will visit Ohio State next weekend, and that his decision will (in Coach's opinion) come down to UVA or OSU.  The next day: "My money is on UVA for AG."  Today, Whitey Reid reported that UNC finally got in touch, after a lot of rumors here and there assuming they were interested.

So - does Gill take the bait from Chapel Hill?  I will give you two snippets and let you form your own opinion.  Snippet one: AG's father told Whitey the reason UVA got the first visit was because UVA was first in contact.  In other words, we made him a priority, and they appreciated that.  Roy Williams, on the other hand, waited well over a week after Gill got his release.  Snippet two: yet another tweetypost, this one from CavsCorner, that reads, in part, "Anthony Gill is down to UVA and...."  Yes, that's where it stops because the rest is behind a paywall, but don't you know it would be bad English to say "UVA and UNC and OSU"?  The OSU visit is still on, by the way.

My own opinion on the situation is that Gill reminds me in several ways of KT Harrell.  Religious guy, big on relationships, working closely with his father on his destination (who by the way sounds a little like Harrell's dad did during that recruitment), and doesn't seem to respond to in-your-face coaching.  (Frank Martin is very much a player's coach off the court but a louder and more neck-bulgy version of Bobby Knight on it.)  I dunno.  Maybe my amateur psychology degree is wrong on Gill's demeanor, but he doesn't come off as the kind of guy to be dazzled by a football stadium with 90,000 people in it.  I boldly predict Anthony Gill declares himself a Hoo in less than two weeks' time.

-- And finally: another big guy Tony Bennett has inquired about is Coastal Carolina's Sam McLaurin, who intends to go to law school and therefore if he chooses UVA he'll be McLawyerin' for all time.  McLaurin is 6'8", shot .652 last year, is an all-academic guy in the classroom (he's going to law school, so, obviously) and best of all can play next year since he's going to be a grad student taking a course of study not offered by his current school.  We'd only get him for one year, but hey - next year's big man lineup consists of Akil Mitchell, Darion Atkins, and Mike Tobey, and squat else.  In other words: not a lot of scoring unless Tobey is a surprise double-double machine.

Of the five schools on the list of those to contact McLaurin, two don't have law schools, one is Drake, and one is actual competition until McLaurin gets a load of our law school.  Of course there'll be others that get in touch, but I'll start this one off on the optimistic side.

power outage

You could read the title as a commentary on Friday's lacrosse game, but in fact it's to be taken literally; it is the reason for my lack of work yesterday.   Using borrowed Internet now just to let you know I haven't died or been arrested or anything.  I should get my power back this evening and then you can have your weekend review as usual, except late.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

lacrosse bracketology

Things got a little scrambled this week, in large part thanks to Johns Hopkins forgetting how to locate the back of the net and losing to Maryland, and when that happens the confidence level on these brackets always goes down.  Nevertheless, here is this week's effort:
In the initial ranking formula, which I use as a starting point, the top-ranked team was..... Virginia.  We have the 3rd-best RPI, 4th-best strength of schedule, 2nd-best quality-win ranking, have only lost to the #2 and #4 RPI teams - it all combines to put us at the top.  Initially.  Obviously, I can't in good conscience do that.  Loyola is tops in the two most important categories and has to take the #1 slot.  Has to, at this point.

That left Hopkins, Duke, and UVA, and since we lost on home turf to both of them, #4 slot it is.  Duke has an inferior RPI to the Hop but a better SOS and has fared better against common opponents (both lost to Maryland but Duke beat UNC.)

Speaking of Maryland, why are they 8th, and not moving up after beating Hopkins on Saturday?  Good question.  The top four teams, I think, are clear, which leaves the next four as Maryland, UNC, UMass, and Notre Dame.  All but UNC have the exact same RPI.  UMass's schedule still sucks, but I think you have to defer to their undefeatedness - they dominate the quality wins rankings as compare to the other three because of it.  I could see flipping Notre Dame and UMass, they're that damn close.

Then you have UNC and Maryland, and despite UNC's RPI being much lower, they hold up favorably everywhere else and they did kinda beat Maryland.  Next time, don't lose to UMBC.

With autobids and whatnot, that left four at-large spots to award.  Penn State still makes a strong case despite a 7-5 record.  In a mini-ranking comparison among the seven bubble teams, they, Lehigh, and Cornell are in a near dead heat.  For the last spot it comes down to Villanova and Fairfield and, even though I hate the idea that Fairfield is 10-2 and not invited to the party this week, I couldn't twist the numbers to make it work.  It's hard to escape the fact that the best two teams Fairfield has beaten are Bryant and Hofstra.  But with Denver and Ohio State coming up, they're by no means out of the race.

In fact, the truth is that of all the teams that missed the bracket, only three are realistically left in the race: Fairfield, Syracuse, and Denver.  Colgate and Princeton are in on autobids this week and wouldn't have made it without them.  After those three, that's the next two.  The fact that Ohio State is next is the signal that that's where the real bubble cutoff is.  They might be "first four out" but they're not actually a threat here.

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

-- Cornell 12, Syracuse 6: The Cuse is running low on chances.  The only thing keeping them afloat is that one-goal win over Princeton (and Princeton is in on autobid only - they're not strong enough to earn an at-large) plus a bunch of losses to good teams.  They're 6-5 - had they lost to Princeton the other week, they'd now be 5-6 and ineligible for consideration right now.  Their best hope for a tourney bid is either to beat Notre Dame at the end of the year, or to hope that the Lax Mafia espoused by UMass fans really does exist.

-- Duke 13, Virginia 5: Fockin' A.  Let's hope that was our implosion for the year.

-- Maryland 9, Johns Hopkins 6: This could've been a much tidier process for me this week, but Maryland had to go screw it up.

-- Loyola 12, Denver 9: Denver misses a golden opportunity to climb back into the picture.

-- Lehigh 9, Bucknell 8: The Mountain Hawks survive.  I can't honestly say whether they'd be in or out if they'd lost (if I was truly interested in that hypothetical, I could run the numbers and find out, but I'm not interested enough) but they'd definitely be sweating.  They clinch a PL tourney berth and, likely enough, another shot at Colgate.

-- Stony Brook 10, UMBC 8: Like Siena in the MAAC, Stony Brook is now a semi-permanent fixture, displacing UMBC with this road win.

Time to take a look at conference tournaments.  Several teams clinched a spot in theirs this week, and of course in most cases the winner earns the autobid - the only exception is the Big East.  Here's how the conference races are shaping up in the autobid conferences (so, not the ACC or NEC):

America East: Stony Brook and Albany have clinched spots; UMBC can do so with a win this coming weekend.

Big East: Don't care about the conference tourney because the autobid goes to the regular-season champ.  That's likely to be the winner of this week's Notre Dame-Villanova game.

Colonial: UMass is obviously the heavy favorite, has clinched a spot, and only has Penn State as a proper challenger.

ECAC: The field is all but set; it'll be some combination of Loyola and Fairfield, which have clinched a bid, and Denver and Ohio State, presuming OSU beats Air Force this weekend.  This conference tourney will be awfully interesting from a bracketology standpoint.

Ivy: The whole league probably comes down to Princeton and Cornell (as usual) who have already earned themselves a spot.  Princeton likely gets two shots at Cornell (one regular season, one tourney) and probably has to beat them at least once in order to be a factor for the NCAAs.

MAAC: Siena is in, and nothing else is guaranteed but it's likely to be them vs. Jacksonville and Detroit vs. Marist.  The only thing that matters in this obvious one-bid league is who hoists the trophy at the end.

Patriot: The entire field is set here.  It's just a question of order; either Lehigh or Colgate will get the #1 seed and either Bucknell or Army will take #3.  A Lehigh-Colgate rematch in the final is a must for anyone rooting for the PL to be a two-bid league.  Bucknell and Army need autobids, but they're just dangerous enough to make it happen.

Now for this week's games to watch:

-- The whole ACC tournament: It's that time.  I would guess that all four teams are very, very likely to host a first-round game regardless of the outcome, but they all have a chance to better their seeds with a win on Friday.

-- Colgate at Bucknell: Can Bucknell salvage any at-large consideration with a win?  I doubt it.  But Colgate can't really afford to lose, and PL tourney seeding is at stake.  The whole PL tourney will have major bracketology implications, so jockeying for position there is important.

-- Denver at Fairfield: Neither of these teams made it into the bracket this week, but both are almighty close.  This is an absolute must-win for both, as it's likely an elimination game for at-large consideration.

-- Georgetown at Syracuse: I really don't think Georgetown is good enough to go into the Dome and steal a win.  But then, I really thought Syracuse would be just fine this season.  They better not lose this one; if they do, they'll probably finish the season 7-7, meaning a first-round loss in the Big East tournament would seal their fate - sub-.500 teams are automatically excluded.

-- Notre Dame at Villanova: If Villanova wins, they clinch the Big East regular season title - and thus, the NCAA tourney autobid.  The Irish can clinch this week if they win and Syracuse loses to Georgetown.