Thursday, February 28, 2013

game preview: Duke

Date/Time: Thursday, February 28; 9:00


Record against the Blue Devils: 48-115

Last meeting: Duke 61, UVA 58; 1/12/12, Charlottesville

Last game: UVA 82, GT 54 (2/24); Duke 89, BC 68 (2/24)


UVA: 60.6 (#338)
Duke: 68.5 (#62)

UVA: 111.2 (#31)
Duke: 118.9 (#5)

UVA: 88.8 (#21)
Duke: 89.0 (#22)

UVA: .9096 (#17)
Duke: .9511 (#6)

Projected lineups:


PG: Jontel Evans (4.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 5.3 apg)
SG: Paul Jesperson (5.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.0 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (16.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.2 apg)
SF: Justin Anderson (7.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.3 apg)
PF: Akil Mitchell (12.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.5 apg)


PG: Quinn Cook (12.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 5.6 apg)
SG: Seth Curry (16.8 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.6 apg)
SG: Rasheed Sulaimon (12.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.2 apg)
PF: Josh Hairston (2.9 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 0.3 apg)
C: Mason Plumlee (17.5 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 2.0 apg)

Prime time, man.  Prime time.  On the eve of March - college basketball's holy month - the big fish comes to town.  It's such a big game that I polished off a scotch before writing this post, the better to make it a good one.  Scotch brings out the wordsmith in me.  UVA's postseason aspirations don't exactly hinge on Thursday's showdown with Duke, but a win would do wonders for their positioning.  At ITA this week I wrote about the ACC tournament, specifically how it would be really nice to finally have some success there, and beating Duke would put the Hoos in a nearly unbeatable position for what is turning out to be a very important race for third seed.  Not only that, but it just might give Jerry Palm** a reason to reconsider his position.

-- UVA on offense

The first thing that popped off the page, in looking over Duke's defensive numbers, is this: they don't let you shoot many threes, and the ones you do shoot rarely go in.  This seems odd; you'd think that going up against a guy like Mason Plumlee, you would want to stay out of the paint.  Well, the actual truth is this: Plumlee cleans the boards like a fiend, but when it comes to the nuts and bolts of defense, as well as good clean shotblocking, he's kind of average.  Well, better than average, but not transcendently great.  The truth?  We've faced better paint defenders in the past.

Tony Bennett's game plan against Georgia Tech kept Daniel Miller guessing all day long, and it resulted in him being out of position to affect a shot, and zero shot blocks to boot.  Something similar will likely be run against Plumlee.  Plumlee is much more athletic than Miller, so it's not necessarily guaranteed to work, but in this regard you can consider the GT game a nice little warmup for gameplanning against Plumlee.

Really, the reason teams don't shoot many threes on Duke is because their guards are quicker than almost anyone else's, and don't need to sag way off in order to prevent a drive to the lane.  And they can close out well if caught slightly out of position.  But UVA will almost always enjoy a huge size advantage at at least one backcourt position.  Seth Curry is 6'2", Tyler Thornton is 6'1".  Rasheed Sulaimon is 6'4" and will probably draw Joe Harris, lest Harris post someone up the way he repeatedly did against GT.  Coach K surely watched the GT tape and is not stupid.  However, Paul Jesperson and Justin Anderson are 6'6".  K has started Josh Hairston lately, but with Anderson almost certain to start again, he might go with Thornton.

This would be easier for the Dookies if they had Ryan Kelly, but they don't.  So UVA will almost always enjoy a matchup advantage.  It might force them to play 6'8" Amile Jefferson much more than they'd like (maybe even start him) as he's really the only one they have with the physical makeup not to let an Evan Nolte or a Joe Harris let it fly over his head.

However, the quickness of Duke's guards is not to be overlooked.  All three of them; Cook, Curry, and Sulaimon.  They're very disruptive and if you try to get fancy they can make you regret it.  UVA doesn't want to get in a late shot-clock situation because Jontel Evans doesn't have the ability to consistently get past Duke's guards and make a play with time running out.  Mfon Udofia is one thing.  Duke is quite another.  That means UVA is going to have to walk a very fine line between patience and a sense of urgency.  In other words, this is going to be a game where UVA does something and you wonder why they can't do that all the time.... and then there'll be possessions that make you wonder how we ever managed a bucket at all.  Make the former happen more often than the latter and we're in good shape.

-- UVA on defense

Obviously, this is a major challenge.  Duke has one of the most efficient and prolific offenses in the nation.  Under no circumstances, for example, can Mason Plumlee be allowed to catch the ball close to the rim.  He shoots 75% at the rim and 35% away from it.  Plumlee is damn near automatic when allowed to work.  Whoever's assigned to him, be it Akil Mitchell or Mike Tobey, can't let him just catch the ball in the paint because then it's over; and then, of course, it's double-team time.  Josh Hairston isn't terrible or anything, but Plumlee represents Duke's only real scoring threat down low.  He's all they've needed, really.

Duke is also one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country, with Cook, Curry, and Sulaimon all hitting on better than 40%.  Tyler Thornton isn't chopped liver in this department either.  This team can hurt you from deep.  Bad.

Seth Curry, of course, is a guy who's dangerous from anywhere he feels like shooting it.  One thing that makes Duke so tough to guard is that Curry's effectiveness doesn't go down as he gets farther away from the rim.  He loves to drive then pull up after he's created his space, and he can catch and shoot both inside and outside the arc.  Quinn Cook prefers to get to the rim if he can, which he does very well, and he's developed into a nice facilitator.  Rasheed Sulaimon, meanwhile, has gotten more productive as the ACC season has worn on.  Partly this is because he's taken over for Ryan Kelly as the fourth scorer, but a good freshman will start to figure out the league by mid-February and that's exactly what Sulaimon has done.

Duke's only real weakness is their depth.  There's no real PG backup for Cook and there's definitely no backup at center for Plumlee.  They average 33, 34 minutes for a reason.  The rotation is thin, with four players - Cook, Curry, Plumlee, and Sulaimon - getting as much time as K dares, and the fifth spot being a revolving door that'll be based largely on matchups.  Duke doesn't foul much (SURPRISE) or else they'd be in a lot of trouble.

The bottom line: Try and shut down Plumlee and hope their three-balling goes cold.  The cold hard numbers:

Maryland: Plumlee 2-for-7, Duke .316 from deep
Miami: Plumlee 5-for-15, Duke .176 from deep
NC State: Plumlee 7-for-10, Duke .300 from deep

Those are their three losses.  Only NC State let Plumlee shoot well.  Seth Curry was an incredible 0-for-10 against Miami, but getting him some buckets would've only made the score respectable, not given them a win.  You've got to force their game outside and hope they're having a bad night.

-- Outlook

Alright, well.  Maybe it's the matchups.  Maybe it's playing at home in front of a sold-out crowd.  Maybe it's the scotch.  Maybe it's the long streak of playing well - even in losses - that's vaulted UVA's offense up near KenPom's top 30 in the country, which has got to be their highest point ever under Tony Bennett.  But I feel good about this.  Call me crazy all you like.  I know Duke is Duke, and I'll tell you what else: Karl Hess hasn't reffed an ACC game all week, so he's probably gonna be in the house.  Just a guess.  Another guess: UVA will surprise a few pundits with their offensive output and knock off big bad Duke in front of an ecstatic crowd.

Final score: UVA 70, Duke 66

**Palm's pathological insistence in not considering UVA to even be a tournament contender is one of the most laughable stories of the bracketology season.  He had a podcast recently in which he haughtily summed up UVA fans' arguments for the Hoos' tourney-worthiness as "those losses don't matter."  Please.  I refuse to believe out of all the angry emails he got, not one of them mentioned, say, Wisconsin.  But really I told you that story to tell you this one: isn't it kind of enjoyable that we Virginia fans are developing a reputation for being a prickly bunch that will flood your Twittishfeed if you cross us?  Last year Mike Scott was left out of a Wooden candidate list (I can't remember whose, Andy Katz's or someone's) and the Mike Scott = Chuck Norris thing was born on the comments section.  And then another ESPN writer did the same thing and the original guy tweeted him with something along the lines of "look out dude, Virginia fans are coming."  Palm got so much hate mail from UVA fans that he advertised his podcast with "why Virginia fans hate me" and he's not even the first bracketologist to feel the pain; Lunardi, in the past, has also felt the need to go "ok Virginia fans, here is why I dissed your team."  The difference was, Lunardi ended up being right, and Palm will end up with egg on his face.  At any rate, keep it up, folks.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

2014 big-picture

With Signing Day nearly a month into the rearview mirror, it's a good time to project the makeup of the next class up.  I've gotten pretty good at saying this next class will be pretty small and then finding it to be normal-to-biggish, but this time I mean it.  By the time we get to the fall, the senior class will only have like eight people in it.  Since you can usually expect to attrite between five and eight players a year (and eight is kind of pushing it) the 2014 class will (should) cap out around 15 or so players.

Fortunately, it'll be small but talent-rich.  Five-star safety Quin Blanding is widely expected to commit to UVA on Wednesday, and there should be other elite 757 talent not too far behind.  This is a class Mike London's been working on for a while now; Jamil Kamara took a visit to UVA way back in 2011, and had this to say:

"I was there with Eli Harold, Quin Blanding, (Taquan) Smoke Mizzell, Corwin Cutler from Ocean Lakes, and Keanu Reuben from Landstown. ... It's still Virginia Tech and Virginia. Those are my two favorites. They're about the same. I still haven't been to Tech and I really like Virginia."

Do any of those names ring any bells?  The only unfamiliar one is Reuben, who ended up at William & Mary.  Kamara would later take a trip to Virginia Tech and wear a Hokies sweatshirt on the trip.  That led Hokies everywhere to conclude he was obviously Tech-bound, and when it came up eventually that he favored UVA, that helped lead to the creation of the mysterious "Godfather" that was "steering" prospects to Virginia.  Hokies have such vivid imaginations.  (And they're actively destroying their own school's ability to recruit in the Tidewater area, so keep it going fellas.)

Anyway, let's check out the positional breakdown for 2014:


For two years now I have looked like a royal dum-dum for saying I didn't expect to take more than one quarterback in the class, and then we took two.  Well, this year, Corwin Cutler looks like a likely prep prospect, which shifts him back to 2014.  So that's sort of one quarterback in the class, and really, from a purely numbers-management perspective, it works out very well.

So have I learned my lesson?  No, I have not.  Now, any old thing can happen.  Just watch, it probably will.  But: the numbers crunch in this class, the fact that we probably already have a 2014 QB in Cutler, and the other fact that that would put six scholarship QBs on the roster in 2014, gives me no choice but to predict we won't take any more this coming year.  Wait til 2015.


I only have one (Cortavious Givens) on the recruiting board at the moment, but I expect things to pick up a little here.  There are currently five on the roster, three of which will be seniors in 2014, so it's not wise to leave the cupboard bare when they go.  (Not that Smoke Mizzell is chopped liver, but he and Kye Morgan alone aren't a depth chart.)  Look for one or two to appear in the 2014 class.


The need here is small - probably for about two.  Kamara is likely to be one.  I wouldn't be surprised to see the second be a case of London dropping a January offer to a 757 guy the way he did with Mason Thomas and Divante Walker, but it's a long year and we'll see.  With only Tim Smith graduating after 2013, though (Bobby Smith's scholarship is probably being turned over to a class of 2013 recruit) and a pretty sizable stable of receivers in the fold, taking more than two would be wasteful.


There's a weird dichotomy going on here in that the coaches seem to want to recruit a pure tight end prospect, but are being very picky about the ones they offer.  At this point, though, they seem likely to fill the position from within; Mario Nixon and Zach Swanson are strongly rumored to be making the move to TE (back to TE, in Swanson's case) and Max Valles will likely start out there too.  So the need isn't pressing, and it looks from here like the coaches are focusing elsewhere.  I wouldn't rule out taking a TE but I wouldn't bank on it.


As per always, three is the bare minimum, and more are usually to be expected.  The coaches really cranked up the offer cannon aimed at offensive linemen this year; a full eleven of the players on the recruiting board are O-linemen.  Some of that might have been before they dug up George Adeosun and flipped Eric Tetlow, the latter of which was a Signing Day surprise even to the coaches, and so they might be dialing back on some of those.  That said, at least two were in town for this past weekend's junior day, and there are quite a few more that both think very highly of Virginia and wouldn't be turned away if they committed.  I think four linemen is the likely target for a small class like this one, but five wouldn't surprise me.


UVA already has one commitment in the fold (DT Chris Nelson) but it's a coin flip at best that he stays.  He's from Florida and is working the instate-school visit circuit hard; there's a bit of a placeholder element to his status right now.  It might not matter if the Hoos land Andrew Brown and Derrick Nnadi.  The former seems very likely - hard to believe about a five-star talent like Brown, but this is our year, man.  Nnadi is setting up to be a major battleground between UVA and Tech.  Landing both would take care of all defensive tackle needs for 2014, with or without Nelson.

As for DE, having only signed one in 2013 makes this more of a pressing need.  I'd like to see two or even three in this 2014 class.  I realize that would make half the class nothing but O-linemen and DEs, but so be it.  Trenches baby.


None are seniors this coming fall, so any we take will add to the numbers without any corresponding subtraction.  That minimizes the need.  We'll probably take one and maybe two, but likely no more.


There's such an enormous glut of players at both CB and safety that it seems like it'd be hard to take very many in 2014.  But it also seems like this position is a prime candidate to be hit by attrition when some of these guys are so likely never to see the field.  Plus, 2014 is the senior year for four safeties, so it makes sense to add a couple more in that recruiting class.  Blanding is probably one; I think the coaches might try to find another as well.  Two outstanding cornerbacks just signed up in 2013 and there's a major freshman glut from 2012 there too, so taking just one is very possible in 2014.


It seems having an experienced special teams coach on staff has already had an effect on recruiting, because Mike London just did something he's never done at UVA: offer a scholarship to a kicker.  It's probably the only such offer that'll go out, but UVA's chances of landing him are very good.

So, the numerical breakdown and projection, not counting prep candidates:

QB: 0
RB: 1
WR: 2
TE: 0
OL: 4
DT: 2
DE: 2
LB: 2
DB: 3
K: 1

As ever, all numbers are +/-1.  Especially on the minus side because that adds up to 17.  Maybe knock off a DB and an OL.

Now to finish things off, the year's first recruiting board update.  Here we go:

-- Added K Gary Wunderlich to blue.  And in case you're wondering, I'm fully on board with the idea of putting a kicker on scholarship if you find a really good one.  Good kickers aren't all that common in college and I hate watching a perfectly good drive go to waste because of a missed 35-yard field goal.

-- Added OTs Will Richardson and Bentley Spain to green.  I resisted adding Spain when I made the original board because he had such a damn offer list, but he put UVA in his top six so what the hey.  That top six also includes LSU, Michigan, and Stanford so Virginia is sort of a one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-other inclusion, not to mention that if "numbers of articles by one particular Rivals affiliate" is a good indicator, he's a South Carolina lean.  But still.

-- Added DE Jeremiah Clarke to green.  Clarke picked up an offer at the junior day.

-- Removed LB Troy Reeder from green.  Reeder was even kind of borderline blue-green in my thinking, but he committed to Penn State today.  Bother.

-- Moved TE Chris Laye from green to yellow.

-- Moved ATH Travon McMillian and DE Jalyn Holmes from red to yellow.  Holmes is a guy the coaches are on like white on rice but hasn't - until recently - been all that receptive to UVA.  Owing to a need for DEs, though, if I could put one guy from the red or yellow lists into the verbally committed section, it'd be Holmes.

weekend review

Who says February sucks?  Well, I do.  I hate February.  One of its few redeeming qualities is that it's the shortest month, so we get out of the misery quicker and into what is supposed to be spring.  But another redeeming quality is that it's the beginning of the spring sports season and so we get to witness a lot of wins.  Especially if the hoops team is playing well.

Which it so happens they are.  At some point as the Hoos were busy pulling away from Georgia Tech I thought to myself, "man, this would be a blowout if we'd ever hit a damn three pointer."  Not long afterwards, Taylor Barnette dropped in two three-pointers easy as you please and it was a blowout.

I've been beating the drum that UVA's suddenly dynamic offense is not dependent on the three-pointer, and there couldn't have been a better example than this Georgia Tech game.  UVA's game plan took GT's shot-blocking maestro Daniel Miller totally out of the shot-blocking business - in fact, Tech only had one blocked shot all day.  Akil Mitchell was astoundingly wide open underneath the rim; sometimes so much so that Jontel Evans realized it before Mitchell did.  And GT lived in deathly fear of leaving three-point shooters open, allowing Evans a lot of clear and easy lanes to the rim, which he took well full advantage of.

Toss in a few bad-idea defensive switches that left Joe Harris guarded in the post by GT's rail-thin backcourt (their guards are all awfully skinny and Harris's time in the weight room has borne fruit) and UVA just had its way inside the three-point line.  That the Hoos could effect such a blowout while shooting a measly .316 from three (and getting the first 0-fer from Harris in that regard since the Mississippi Valley State game) is one of the biggest reasons to be excited about this team's chances in their remaining games.  And really, they were already up 14 when Barnette popped those two three-buckets, and two more came even after that point.  (Mike Tobey's was the best.  It's not the first he's shot this year, so we knew he could do it, but basketball is the kind of messed-up game where your center comes back from mono and is maddeningly short on all his shots so of course his longest one is nothing but net.)  We've always said "man when Tony Bennett's teams learn to play offense, watch the hell out" and it's starting to come true.

If you want to start giggling like a schoolgirl during a UVA basketball game this year, wait til they have a 20-point-and-widening lead on an ACC team and then say to yourself "and next year we get Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill."


I didn't get to watch the lacrosse game, so I only have two observations: holding Stony Brook to two second-half goals is impressive work by the defense (not that Stony Brook is a great offensive team, but they ain't VMI either) and second, end-of-quarter goals are going to kill us one day if that trend doesn't stop.  Both Drexel and Stony Brook scored two goals with ten seconds or less left in a quarter.

Other than that, I got nothin'.  Which leaves baseball, where every starting pitcher is apparently trying to one-up the other.  Scott Silverstein rebounded nicely from last Saturday's performance to turn in over six shutout innings, and Whit Mayberry finished his game and his shutout by giving up one hit and four strikeouts in two and two-thirds.

They couldn't touch Brandon Waddell, though.  Holy piss.  Or Holy Toledo, I guess, since that's the official overused har-har-get-it phrase you're supposed to use when the Rockets come to town.  Waddell struck out 15 batters in six innings.  That is to say, only three hitters got themselves out some other way.  Needless to say, Toledo did not score on him either.  It is mentioned that Danny Hultzen was the last UVA pitcher to strike out 15 hitters, and I would love to go to the box score and look to see if that was done in only six innings also, but the website redesigned stripped it of most of its functionality and broke all the links.  So I will check the ECU website, and learn that Hultzen did his work in seven innings.  But Waddell walked a batter and Hultzen didn't.  So.

Anyway, when you're comparing your freshman pitcher with two games under his belt to Danny Hultzen, you might have something special on your hands.  Then again, only one UVA pitcher allowed any runs at all to Toledo, and that was (sigh) Nathan Kirby, who's going to have to get this straightened out.  Actually, the folks at the game are suggesting being straightened out, as in a total lack of movement on his pitches, is why he's being knocked around.  Fortunately, our other pitchers don't seem to be giving up any runs, so there's time to work on this.


The results of this week's season sim are below:

They are starting to reflect reality now; for example the only two teams in real life with a chance at the ACC's #1 seed are Miami and Duke - and Miami can't fall below #2 - and so the sim is duly aware of this. I've been telling you that UVA is in the driver's seat for third seed, and the sim backs me up, giving us almost a 70% chance at winning it.  What surprised me most is how apparently locked in Maryland is to the 6th seed, with very little hope of moving up and not much more chance than that of moving down.  FSU, Clemson, and Wake are locked in a major struggle for the 7th seed, which earns you the likely right to play Georgia Tech.

Finally, the release of the ACC schedule (do you suppose part of the reason the confernce is supposedly in trouble is because they can't get their shit together in this regard til almost March?) and the announcement of the 2015-17 home-and-home with Boise State made me realize I haven't touched the future schedules page for quite some time.  So I updated that as best as I could without having any kind of a new schedule model in hand.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

game preview: Georgia Tech

Date/Time: Sunday, February 24; 2:00


Record against the Jackets: 34-39

Last meeting: GT 66, UVA 60; 2/3/13, Atlanta

Last game: Miami 54, UVA 50 (2/19); UNC 70, GT 58 (2/19)


UVA: 60.6 (#339)
GT: 66.3 (#174)

UVA: 109.2 (#42)
GT: 95.8 (#249)

UVA: 88.3 (#21)
GT: 87.0 (#10)

UVA: .8979 (#20)
GT: .7292 (#82)

Projected lineups:


PG: Jontel Evans (4.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 5.1 apg)
SG: Paul Jesperson (5.0 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.1 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (16.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.2 apg)
SF: Justin Anderson (6.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.2 apg)
PF: Akil Mitchell (12.3 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.5 apg)

Georgia Tech:

PG: Mfon Udofia (8.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3.0 apg)
SG: Chris Bolden (7.0 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.3 apg)
SF: Marcus Georges-Hunt (10.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.2 apg)
PF: Robert Carter (9.8 ppg, 6.9 ppg, 0.9 apg)
C: Daniel Miller (7.7 ppg, 6.6 ppg, 2.2 apg)

UVA's last two losses aren't actually all that distressing - they played well enough against that Lunardi actually moved them up in his last bracketology - but they still represent missed opportunities.  As such, there's not much margin for error any more.  The Hoos remain in the drivers' seat for third seed in the ACC, but they have to win the winnable games or else have the selection folks cast doubtful eyes in their direction.  Losing to GT on the road didn't help, but fortunately, the last time we had a revenge game at the JPJA, it went OK if you consider a 37-point blowout win OK.

-- UVA on offense

The score on Georgia Tech hasn't changed much since the last time we saw them.  Really bad on offense and pretty excellent on defense.  In fact, their KenPom numbers have trended even further toward the extremes since that last game.  The last time a team scored better than a point per possession on them was NC State on January 9.  UVA was on pace to do just that, and then went FLUB.

Daniel Miller remains a dangerous shotblocking fiend, with his stats for both blocks and fouls in excellent shape.  His shot-altering presence was a big reason UVA wilted in the second half last time.  I had hoped at the time that Mike Tobey could help draw him away from the basket, but Tobey only played nine pretty ineffective minutes and was probably starting to feel the effects of the mono that's kept him out of every game since.  On the off-chance he returns - unlikely - Tobey isn't going to bring much but some semi-useful breather minutes the way Darion Atkins has been relegated to doing.

There are other ways to get Miller away from the rim, which UVA used to some effect last time, but Robert Carter does a lot of good cleanup work even when your scheme for Miller works to perfection.  Keeping our (thin lineup of) bigs on the move is important, and guys who attack the rim need to be aware of the backdoor block.  Against GT, drivers need to be more aware than usual of the possibility of kicking to an open three-point shooter.  (Who must then of course knock the shot down.)

If anything has held UVA back on offense this year, at least in the ACC portion of the season, it's simply finishing opportunities.  Unfinished chances were a big problem against Miami and they were a big reason for the last GT loss; UVA could never quite find the dagger they needed to put the Jackets away.  Georgia Tech isn't a great team and UVA needs to find that killer instinct and bring it to every game.  That'll be the difference if they do what they couldn't in Atlanta.

-- UVA on defense

Another reason for the Atlanta loss was a breakdown in interior defense.  This is always going to be a thing as long as Akil Mitchell is the only healthy post player and Evan Nolte is left guarding guys his own size only much more athletic.  Miller is a solidly efficient player and Carter has a lot of athleticism that needs refinement into consistent post scoring.... but is very dangerous when given space to operate in.  Plus, Kammeon Holsey can bring it off the bench as well.

I seem to recall trashing GT's guard play last time out; in that respect, nothing's changed.  Brian Gregory tries to minimize the minutes played by his guards, letting Mfon Udofia run the point (at which he's become respectable if not exactly dangerous) but otherwise keeping the ball in the hands of the frontcourt as much as possible.  Three-guard lineups are rare.  Marcus Georges-Hunt is a forward who takes up a lot of the responsibilities of a two-guard since Brandon Reed and Chris Bolden are such awful shooters.

So scheme-wise, the matchup shouldn't be a problem.  The pack-line defense loves it if you try and work the ball inside because more often than not, it'll handle that.  Personnel-wise, it's tricky.  Nobody's really athletic enough, big enough, and at the same time, healthy enough to guard Carter and Miller at the same time.  That plus Holsey was a problem.  Expect Tony Bennett's game plan to focus on finding ways to keep Carter and Holsey out of the paint.

-- Outlook

Yeah, I know this didn't go so hot last time.  But up until it started going badly, it was actually going pretty well.  And even on a two-game losing streak, UVA's on a long playing-pretty-good streak.  Tony isn't the kind of coach to let the same thing bedevil his team twice, and I think there'll be an answer for some of those interior defensive problems.  If GT starts raining threes from everywhere, then you tip your hat and move on, but that's not their game and it should allow the UVA defense to come up with some solutions for stopping GT's frontcourt.  It's a good day to bounce back in more ways than one.

Final score: UVA 64, GT 56

Thursday, February 21, 2013

lacrosse in five years - updated

Last year I wrote a post speculating on the future of college lacrosse, mainly as it pertains to realignment.  I hate the subject of realignment - except in lacrosse, where the conference shuffle was going on long before the football mess and will be going on for a little while yet.  I think it's time to revisit some of the speculations from last year and add a few new ones.

Here are the points we made last year:

Known for sure:

-- Syracuse will be in the ACC.  Yes, and now we also know that Notre Dame will join and Maryland will leave.  That puts the ACC at five teams, barring further movement, which is a pretty tenuous situation.  The ACC's future likely hinges on that Maryland lawsuit.  Win it and it's a likely blow for stability.  Lose it and - well, we'll see.  It's not outside the realm of possibility that the ACC has to drop lacrosse because Syracuse and Duke are the only teams left to play it.

-- There will be at least four new teams in Division I.  Two of which have started play this year (Marquette and High Point) and two of which (Furman and Boston U.) come next year.  Last year, Furman's schedule was the spring of 2015 - that's been bumped up one year so as to facilitate the formation of the Atlantic Sun (about which more in a bit.)  And since that post last year, three more schools have announced new lacrosse programs: Richmond, Monmouth, and UMass-Lowell.

-- The MAAC will become a "fully funded" league. Still unsure about the impact on the MAAC, but outside forces greater than its scholarship funding are conspiring to change the conference more than that.

Predicted by me:

-- There will not be a sudden wave of FBS football schools adding lacrosse.  There hasn't been, nor does it look like there will be.  If I had to make a totally wild guess on which FBS school might make the jump, the pressure might be building on Boston College as more schools in the state have added the sport and they have a new AD, as of last October.  Gene DiFilippo's approach to lacrosse was "not only no, but hell no."  Brad Bates is a much younger guy and his openness to the idea is up for debate, but will never be less than DiFilippo's.  But other than that?  Still don't see it.

-- There will be a Southern Conference.  The mantle has been taken up by the Atlantic Sun, which will start play next year with six schools: Jacksonville and VMI from the MAAC, Mercer and High Point from the independent ranks, and Furman and Richmond as brand-new programs.

The A-Sun will have an autobid right away.  That seems a little screwed-up when you consider the NEC had to wait a couple years, and the NEC is comprised entirely of actual NEC members while the A-Sun will need four affiliate members to make it happen (only Jax and Mercer are real card-carrying A-Sun members.)  The issue was Bryant, which only this year dropped their provisional status for Division I.

I see the South, by the way, as the next real expansion grounds for the sport.  Not the Clemsons or Auburns of the world.  It's these smallish southern schools that don't have the football GDP of a small banana republic that are jumping on the bandwagon quickly.

-- The ECAC will re-evolve into a reincarnation of the Great Western Lacrosse League. Actually, it'll be interesting to see what happens here, because the Big Ten seems dead set on having a lacrosse league of their own.  Big Ten lacrosse would probably force the ECAC to either stay as a weird hodgepodge of eastern and western schools or make like the GWLL in another way, and dissolve.

-- The tournament will expand to 18 or 20 teams.  Hasn't happened yet, but seems almost a foregone conclusion with yet another autobid on the way next year.  And don't rule out the ACC as an autobid candidate, if it can hold itself together.

The total unknowns:

-- The future of the Big East.  Much better-known these days.  The Big East has basically become a southern conference with the advent of the Catholic 7 - and one that almost definitely won't sponsor lacrosse.  Seven schools currently comprise the lacrosse-playing conference, and not one of them plans to be in the Big East in two years.  Two are ACC-bound, one to the Big Ten, and the other four are C7 schools.

-- Who will drop lacrosse.  Nobody has in the past year.

So with those items updated, it's worth a look at the conference scene.  Here's a list of teams that will definitely be in a different conference in 2014 (or 2015) than they are today.  The conferences listed are lacrosse-only, so if someone's going to, say, the Big Ten, then it's not mentioned.

Maryland (ACC --> ???)
Notre Dame (Big East --> ACC)
Syracuse (Big East --> ACC)
Providence (Big East --> ???)
St. John's (Big East --> ???)
Rutgers (Big East --> ???)
Villanova (Big East --> ???)
Georgetown (Big East --> ???)
Loyola (ECAC --> Patriot)
Jacksonville (MAAC --> A-Sun)
VMI (MAAC --> A-Sun)
Quinnipiac (NEC --> MAAC)
Wagner (NEC --> MAAC)
Mercer (Ind. --> A-Sun)
High Point (Ind. --> A-Sun)

Of the new teams, Boston U. will join not the America East, but the Patriot, a jump they made last summer.  Monmouth will join the MAAC instead of the NEC - they announced that move at the same time as Wagner and Quinnipiac.  And UMass-Lowell will be in the America East.

From the conference standpoint, it's like this, with departing members crossed out and new ones italicized:


North Carolina
Notre Dame

America East

Stony Brook

Atlantic Sun

High Point

Big East

(forget it, it's disappearing entirely.  The only way it sticks around is if the C7 get to keep the Big East name, which is looking highly unlikely.)


Penn State
St. Joseph's


Air Force
Ohio State

(the ECAC's role as a holding pen until teams find a real conference continues.)

Ivy League


(what, you expected any movement here?  Stablest conference ever.)



(the fairly safe bet here is that the conference's fully-fundedness means that its new members are also joining for lacrosse, and the end result of that plus the A-Sun losses is that there is, for now, only one associate member, where before the conference was like, practically nothing but associate members.)


Mount St. Mary's
Robert Morris
Sacred Heart

(autobid is in real danger unless the conference can scare up two more teams.  Hobart?  A new program from a team already a member?)


Boston U.
Holy Cross

So with all that settled, it's time for a fresh look at the issues, such as they've cropped up over the past year.  Starting with....

-- What will the Big Ten do?  This is the sword of Damocles over the entire landscape, and not just lacrosse.  The conventional wisdom is that they're not done at 14 teams.  They've had various ADs plus Gerry DiNardo (the guy in charge of the BTN) speculating as much.  (But only speculating.  Those folks don't make any decisions in this area.)  Their big TV contract renegotiation is due in two or three years and you expect they'd want any further expansion in place by then.

When it comes to lacrosse, they only need one more team to make Big Ten lacrosse a reality.  Penn State leaving the CAA wouldn't be too big of a deal there, as the CAA has seven teams.  Michigan and Ohio State would leave the ECAC with five if no other moves are made.  I would guess Maryland is going to make a go of it as an independent unless and until Big Ten lacrosse exists; I don't know what the hell Rutgers's plans are.

Big Ten expansion these days is thought to be all about UVA and UNC, which would make B1G lax a reality, but what if those two resist the call?  Nobody really knows.  The B1G is not gonna play lacrosse with five teams, so the lacrosse world awaits their next move.  However, they do have one other play they're making.....

-- What will Johns Hopkins do?  Hopkins, the Notre Dame of lacrosse, that so dearly cherishes its independence?  Well, if Notre Dame can join the ACC and be almost a football member even, so can Hopkins.  The similarities are big; Notre Dame has their NBC deal, and Hopkins has a nice setup with ESPNU broadcasting their schedule too.  But Hopkins, as they say, is "weighing its options."

One of those options is the Big Ten - if Jim Delany gets his way, Hopkins will be an associate member.  But wait, you say.  I thought the Big Ten didn't do associate memberships.  A lacrosse autobid is not the reason the Big Ten is leaning on Johns Hopkins; it's just the excuse.  There's a well-written post on it in the MGoBlog diaries.  Big Ten membership means CIC membership as well; it's the Big Ten's research collaboration enterprise, and it means big bucks.  And Hopkins is a research powerhouse.  JHU and the B1G doesn't look like a stretch at all when viewed through the very politicky, massive-budget, prestige-fueled lens of the research world.  In fact, when viewed in that light it starts to look awful silly that Inside Lacrosse reached out to Dave Pietramala to ask whether Hopkins was gonna B1G it up.  If research money is the deciding factor, Petro won't have any more say in the process than I will.

If the Big Ten has "reached out" to Hopkins, you can bet the ACC has as well.  At least I damn hope so.  I've been advocating they do so for a while now.  And with the Big Ten already trying to eat the ACC for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, if the ACC lets Hopkins go to the Midwest without so much as a peep, it'd be no wonder everyone thinks the conference is doomed.  That'd be a massive lack of leadership.  No, the ACC doesn't have a CIC equivalent to make the decision about something more than lacrosse, but hell - maybe it should.

-- Who do the Catholic 7 want to associate with?  Among them, they have five lacrosse teams: Providence, St. John's, Georgetown, Villanova, and Marquette.  That ought to make it easy.  Just find one more.  That said.....of the schools most often mentioned as possible future members of their future conference, none have a lacrosse team.  It might be that if they want their own lacrosse league, they're going to have to make one addition with the sport specifically in mind.  And there aren't too many Catholic options - if indeed they want to stick with Catholic options.

(Side note: I go to Detroit Mercy for grad school, so if I had my way, that's who they'd invite - UDM is a Jesuit school, so that's one check in the box - and that would solve the lacrosse problem too.  Detroit would leave the MAAC and join the new conference and then there wouldn't be any associate-member stuff in the MAAC either and everything would be neat and tidy.  Despite the size of the Detroit market, though, it seems a massive, massive longshot.)

At any rate, if they don't end up with a sixth lacrosse member, the options defy imagination.  Maybe they keep Rutgers as an associate member - if the Big Ten doesn't require their services, that is.  Maybe they just go with five and no autobid - remember, the ACC is technically just four independent schools that agree to play a round-robin and a tournament, as far as the NCAA is concerned.  Maybe they scatter to the four winds.

-- What does the NEC do?  It's gonna be a short-lived autobid if they stand pat.  If they're smart, they'll court the Catholic 7 (or 5) as associate members until they figure something out.  That probably won't work, but hey.

-- Will any Western schools add the sport?  USC and Colorado are adding women's teams.  Florida and Northwestern have them and have made no noises at all about a men's team, but it's a step in that direction anyway.  Colorado can't play football to save its life, it might as well try men's lacrosse.  Any new Western program would be a natural fit for the ECAC, which as I've suggested might just end up being the WCAC, particularly if the B1G pulls its teams out.

-- What will the Ivy League do?  Just seeing if you're still paying attention at this point.

Chances are we'll have a chance next year at this time to revisit this topic yet again and see what happened in the interim.  Let's hope that UVA hasn't decided to follow Maryland to the Midwest by then.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

the recruit: Eric Tetlow

Name: Eric Tetlow
Position: OL
Hometown: Richmond
School: Mills Godwin
Height: 6'6"
Weight: 300

24/7: 82, three stars; #108 OT, VA #38
ESPN: 79, three stars; #41 OT, VA #23, Atl. #69
Rivals: 5.5, three stars
Scout: two stars; #122 OT

Other offers: Wake Forest, Pittsburgh, Arizona State, Maryland, Purdue, Boston College, South Florida, Navy, East Carolina, Temple

Two Signing Day commitments necessitate two more recruit profiles before the series wraps up for the 2013 class.  In the summer, UVA looked pretty set at O-line after taking commitments from Sadiq Olanrewaju, Jack McDonald, and Brad Henson; then some cracks in the depth appeared, most notably the loss of Tim Cwalina to a heart condition, and the coaches started looking around again.  This was even before Henson decommitted; when that happened, the staff went into O-line overdrive.

Tetlow was one of the first guys they reached out to after Henson left; he had been recruited by UVA during the cycle, but was never offered, and committed to Wake Forest in November.  The first time around, he said thanks but no thanks; that was just before Christmas.

But it so happens Tetlow is one of those guys who's picking a school and not just a football team.  And he wants to study engineering, which is a very, very tall task for an athlete.  Even one with a 3.9 GPA.  It's even harder to do at a liberal arts school like Wake Forest.  Tetlow would've had to do some convoluted distance-learning stuff through some other school and the more he thought about that, the less appealing it must have sounded.  So literally in the middle of the night before Signing Day, he called the Wake and UVA coaches and made the switch.  A very nice surprise for UVA fans; I don't envy making that phone call, though.

Tetlow's ratings are all over the map a little bit, but that's not too surprising.  Mid-level offensive linemen tend to be that way more often than not.  His offer list is OK and about matches the ratings.  But what he's got going for him is being the biggest guy in the O-line class.  The only other players already at 300 pounds are defensive guys.  ESPN says "strong" and "strength" a few times in their assessment and sums him up as a guy who can run-block very well and has the physical tools to add pass-blocking to that repertoire.

Right now on the depth chart I've got Tetlow as a tackle, since that's sort of the default for incoming freshmen unless guard looks obvious.  But I'm thinking Sean Cascarano as a comparison here.  Cascarano could be a tackle if we needed it, and probably a good one.  The reason he's not is named Morgan Moses and the other reason is named Oday Aboushi; he basically got pushed inside by players even better suited to tackle than he is.  Tetlow's very similar.  He's got the height and long arms for tackle and he's very smart, I don't doubt he can get the footwork down.  But his run-blocking appears well ahead of his pass-blocking (the latter of which you don't learn anything about in his highlights because his opponents don't have any moves at all)** and the chances are that this class (and maybe the next one) hold players better suited to tackle than Tetlow.  Olanrewaju is an obvious candidate, and George Adeosun blew up so damn fast it's hard not to see tackle potential with him as well.

So I think the ultimate move will be inside to guard.  A smart engineering student like Tetlow might be a center candidate, but we have to wait and see on that.  I suspect we won't learn much at all his first year, really, as I expect the coaches to do a fair amount of experimenting on him.  If he's a guard, the path to playing time is a little more open than at tackle and his redshirt freshman year could see him on the field, with a very legitimate shot at starting by his third year in the program.

**Also, Tetlow has a website, on which is an amusing picture of a relatively clean Tetlow pass-blocking for a quarterback whose every inch of his uniform is caked with mud.  Yes yes a zillion extenuating circumstances, not least of which is that there are four other pass-blockers not headed to BCS-level football, and it is in no way a reflection of Tetlow's skills, but it's still a funny commentary on the pass-blocking when the quarterback looks like a walking mud bath.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

game preview: Miami

Date/Time: Tuesday, Feb. 19; 9:00


Record against the Canes: 5-9

Last meeting: UVA 52, Miami 51; 1/7/12, Charlottesville

Last game: UNC 93, UVA 81 (1/16); Miami 45, Clem. 43 (1/17)


UVA: 60.7 (#336)
Miami: 63.5 (#281)

UVA: 109.2 (#42)
Miami: 110.5 (#31)

UVA: 88.6 (#20)
Miami: 84.5 (#4)

UVA: .8953 (#19)
Miami: .9397 (#10)

Projected lineups:


PG: Jontel Evans (4.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 5.0 apg)
SG: Paul Jesperson (4.9 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.1 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (16.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.2 apg)
SF: Justin Anderson (6.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.3 apg)
PF: Akil Mitchell (12.6 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.5 apg)


PG: Shane Larkin (13.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.3 apg)
SG: Durand Scott (13.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.0 apg)
SG: Trey McKinney-Jones (9.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.8 apg)
F: Kenny Kadji (13.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 0.9 apg)
C: Julian Gamble (6.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 0.2 apg)

UVA has a golden opportunity tonight to do something really nice for its tournament hopes, but the thing about golden opportunities like this is that they're more commonly referred to as "games where we gonna die."  Miami remains UNDEFEATED (capitalized in hopes of getting the attention of the same jinx gods that let Team X get a basket every single time the "Team Y is on a 10-0 run" graphic is put on the screen) and at this point they're a near-lock for the #1 seed in the conference.  A win would do two things for UVA: bump them up in everyone's bracketology (except Jerry Palm's) and give UVA a near-guaranteed tiebreaker win over any ACC team where the head-to-head was a split.

-- UVA on offense

Has been relatively awesome of late, especially given that the loss of a lot of our interior presence has naturally made things more one-dimensional.  Joe Harris is learning what it means to put an offense on your back and start carrying it - it's a travesty that he wasn't ACC POW with not one but two career-high games.  (Get used to it.  If you think Harris is going to be anything more than 2nd team all-conference you're in for a disappointment.  Caulton Tudor might be retiring but there's still enough dumbasses left over in the media to screw Harris over.)  Miami's defense, though, has been outstanding.  Jim Larranaga has had them on a major upward trend in this area since Frank Haith left for Missouri.  About the only "weakness" they have is that they don't get a lot of steals; this is largely due to a forward-heavy lineup.

As you might guess, though, they block a ton of shots and are generally prickly as hell to score on down low.  Forward-heavy lineup.  Julian Gamble and Kenny Kadji are a couple of twin towers that will probably take away Jontel Evans's driving game almost completely; Gamble has a shot-block percentage of 10, which is 35th in the country.  Kadji's no slouch either.  Reggie Johnson is an enormous person and even though he lost his starting job, Miami loses nothing on defense when he subs in.

UVA's best shot at scoring obviously is to make it rain three-pointers and loosen things up; that's been the plan for a while now.  If Larranaga can be lured into the same thing Mark Turgeon was, and pull his bigs off the floor in an effort to slow down the artillery barrage, we'll have our best chance at winning.  My guess is Larranaga's too sharp for that; he can't have missed the Maryland game.

Having Justin Anderson flying around the court will also be important.  Miami's bigs aren't unathletic, but Anderson's the most likely to be able to add another dimension to an offense begging for it.  Unless Akil Mitchell can work a few post moves, that is, and I expect Miami to double him a lot since there's very little risk in doing so.

-- UVA on defense

Miami's success is unsurprising when you see the high level of play they're getting from well-rounded sources.  Shane Larkin is getting some well-deserved pub for his point-guard play.  He does a little of everything and all of it well.  He's a 40+% three-point shooter, he can get to the rim, and he gets the ball to his teammates with a nearly 2/1 A/T ratio.  Jontel Evans will have his hands full on defense; like, more than Erick Green levels full, because he can't just dare Larkin to pass.

The obvious biggest problem is down low, though.  This isn't like handling Alex Len where you can just double-team; Gamble and Kadji are both down-low nightmares for a team as thin as we are in the frontcourt, and Kadji is a mismatch forward besides, with the ability to hit three-pointers.  If you think Evan Nolte has been getting abused lately on defense, it's about to get a lot worse.  I think Justin Anderson gets Kadji at first because of the nice job he did on Len, but he'll get little help.  Even if Larranaga "goes small" it's highly unlikely that there won't be at least one of Johnson, Gamble, or Kadji in the game at all times, and more likely two.

At guard, Miami's got a solid depth of scoring options.  Durand Scott is good enough to play for anyone, and Trey McKinney-Jones is probably underutilized but just as tough as Scott.  And the whole team takes care of the ball very well, especially bench guard Rion Brown, who's in the top 15 in the country in turnover percentage.  Brown's not a terrific shooter relative to the others, though.

If we weren't so thin right now I'd suggest the best course of action might be to hack away.  Gamble's an awful free-throw shooter and the rest of the team ranges from mediocre to OK, with McKinney-Jones being the only real sure thing; even Larkin and Scott are only in the low .700s, lowish for guards.  It's the only thing Miami doesn't do real well on offense, but it's not like they're godawful, just worse at that than most other things they do.

-- Outlook

The Canes have had some close shaves this year.....but all on the road, including their now-ignored loss to FGCU.  In ACC play, they've won their games by an average of 5.5 points on the road and 21.2 points at home.  This game is not being played in Charlottesville.  If we win, we probably hit more than two-thirds of our three-pointers.... or else were really, really good at denying entry passes.

Final score: Miami 72, UVA 59

Also, I saved this for today because I wanted it to appear in conjunction with the preview.... point out the immense likelihood that the top two teams are just about locked into place.  Even with a loss tonight, Miami's chances of getting the #1 seed would drop from almost 98% to about 93.5%, which is still higher than they were last week.  What it means is that obviously the Miami and Duke games are chances to position ourselves for seeding, but even with wins we're not that likely to pass either one.  But what a win against either would do is put a huge wall up around our 3rd seed that NC State and UNC can't get past; both for the obvious reason and because it solidifies our tiebreakers over them.

Monday, February 18, 2013

weekend review

With spring season upon us, I get to have a lot more fun on Mondays with three sports to look back on instead of just one.  Let's start with the one everyone's most pissed off about.  On the face of it, I can't find much reason to be too surprised or disappointed or upset or whatever about losing on the road at North Carolina.  I mean, that's not exactly a bad team.

This being the ACC, though, you don't come away from a loss at Carolina without having something to say about the refereeing.  Which was the usual debacle.  I have three instances on the top of my head of obvious bullshit that went UNC's way:

-- Brice Johnson pulling up his dribble at the free-throw line, landing with both feet, long-jumping past a defender, landing again, and ending with an easy dunk.

-- Joe Harris deflecting a pass, running after it, being clipped at the waist by the guy he deflected it from (I think Strickland) and being called for a foul.

-- McAdoo shoving Akil Mitchell halfway out of bounds while jostling for position and somehow getting Mitchell to be called for the foul.

It wasn't caught on TV, but those at the game - and the radio guys - described Tony Bennett's heated confrontation with a ref during a TV timeout.  Like, actually heated, with voice raised and everything.  I know it's standard to complain about the reffing when playing a team from the state of North Carolina, but Tony thus far has usually limited his expression of distaste for the reffing to subtle body language cues and the occasional glare.  This is a guy who's earned the right to be taken seriously when he's pissed about the officiating.  Although frankly, Coach K is well-known for being just this side of the line between "proactive" and obnoxious in dealing with the referees; it probably wouldn't hurt if Tony moved his zebra interactions a little closer in that direction.

As usual, UNC fans will say that the gap in fouls and free throws - in this case, 11 to 21 and 30 to 11, respectively - is due to superior athleticism and other teams having to hack to keep up.  And as usual, bullshit: Akil Mitchell can match anyone in Heel blue for athleticism.  Also as usual, the pinnacle of irony is when a dissatisfied wail goes up in either Cameron or the Dean Dome when the home fans feel hard done by the refs.

As for the non-ref portions of the game, it was an odd one.  UVA hit 58.5% percent of its shots and 57.1% of three-pointers.  That's pretty awesome.  Scoring 1.17 points per possession wins you most games.  Unless your point guard turns the ball over 6 times and you give up 1.35 PPP on defense.  Both numbers are almost totally foreign to a Bennett-coached UVA team.  If UVA hadn't shot so well I'd hate to see what the score would look like, because UNC wasn't exactly cold from the floor and got a 15-point advantage from the stripe besides.  (Dammit there I go again with the reffing.)

What we're really starting to see is the effect of a thin lineup.  Many times during this game UVA was simply unequipped to play defense against a Carolina team that could not shoot wrong.  No Mike Tobey means no center, and eight minutes out of Darion Atkins isn't what we envisioned either.  (Atkins is clearly a shell of the player he was at the start of the season, so his eight minutes barely count.)  It leaves Evan Nolte to defend players he simply can't defend, especially when our lone actual post player is in foul trouble because the zebras are stupid.  (Dammit there I go again with the reffing.)

Not to fear, however.  Yes, it would've been nice to have that one to help cement a tourney bid.  However, the mainest goal this regular season is to finish no worse than third in the ACC standings and then win a game in the ACC tourney.  Our one-game lead on NC State is really a two-game lead because we beat them for the tiebreaker.  If we have to tiebreak against UNC - over whom we still have a one-game lead - it'll fall to the how-did-you-do-against-#1 rule.  UNC is 0-2 against Miami and has lost to Duke and NC State this year; we'll finish 1-0 against NC State.  That means one of the following must happen for UNC to win the tiebreaker over UVA:

-- Beat Duke and hope we lose to both Duke and Miami.
-- Hope NC State falls behind FSU and/or Maryland, then polish off a season sweep against whichever one does (they have two left against FSU and one against Maryland, whom they've already beaten) and hope we don't do the same.

In a nutshell, UNC has to work so that the tiebreaker doesn't drop to how we did against NC State because they've already lost that one.  So things look good.  UVA still has to not screw this up, but the Hoos still sit in the drivers' seat, and ohbytheway can still get in position for 2nd with a win over Duke.


The baseball team, on the other hand, also went one state south and had a much better time of it.  They're now 3-0 after two wins over East Carolina and one over St. Peter's - the latter game being a surprise bonus after Sunday's game got washed out and St. Peter's had their entire Longwood series cancelled as well.  Only Saturday's ECU game was especially close, and that partly because Nathan Kirby, brought on in relief to put a nice easy end to the contest, got bombed instead.  So he's going to be climbing out of an ERA hole for a little while.

The bats looked nice.  Nice enough that I don't think it's out of line to say we probably won't have too many worries about them this year.  Maybe here and there, but you know, when you start off the year getting two grand salamis in the same game from one player (Kenny Towns, who had no other hits all weekend) you're in good shape.

Saturday was more or less a breeze, thanks to nearly five very good innings from Brandon Waddell.  If Waddell can keep that up all season it'll be huge.  Towns gave the Hoos a 4-0 lead in the top of the first and then helped cement the win as part of an eight-run seventh.  Josh Sborz and David Rosenberger made it an all-freshman day on the mound and combined for 4 1/3 innings of solid ball.

Sunday was the only difficult game.  Scott Silverstein struggled through five innings and gave up four runs; the fifth was really the best.  Then the roof fell on ECU, and good thing too because Kirby allowing five runs in the ninth wouldn't have been conducive to heart rates in Charlottesville if he hadn't been handed a nine-run cushion.  The best part of the day though: a surprise appearance by Whit Mayberry, who ended up with the win.

It'll be interesting to see what Nick Howard does tomorrow against Bill 'n' Mary, because Trey Oest made a strong case for the regular rotation with six shutout innings against St. Peter's this afternoon.  OK, yes, St. Peter's.  But with the rotation as in flux as it's likely to be over the next month, Oest is going to be one to keep an eye on as well.


Then there's lacrosse, which almost ruined my weekend and needed about eleven seconds of overtime to rescue it.  Oh, what the heck though, I can't be mad at the lacrosse team for doing the same thing they do every year, which is play a close game against Drexel.

The main story is probably the mad-scientist experimentation we got out of Dom Starsia.  Oh, sure, he tinkers with his midfield lines as much as any coach and doesn't always have them perfectly set up by the first game.  And sure, there've been years where we have three faceoff guys, any one of whom might be sent out for the next one.  That was more desperation than experimentation, though.  As expected, Mick Parks took most faceoffs and Tanner Ottenbreit took a couple; as not expected, Tyler German and Ryan Tucker also tried their hand.

And as might have been expected, by and large the faceoffs were a wreck.  During the game I thought to myself "we're not winning any of these, and what's going to happen is I'm going to look at the box score later and be surprised by winning a hell of a lot more than you'd guess."  I think winning half counts as surprising given how bad it looked.  Keeping in mind also that three of the 14 "wins" were Drexel violations, so really our guys won 11.  And the win to start OT wouldn't have been one if Drexel's wing guy, who consistently beat ours to the play, had made the scoop like he should've.  Just as the bats at Davenport announced that we won't have a ton of hitting-related concerns this year, the faceoff guys put up a flashing neon sign that said this is going to be a problem.  Or didn't put up a new sign so much as polish up the old one that's been there every year.

The other glaring problem seems to have been defending the front of the crease.  Dan Marino made 15 saves and looked good doing it, with only one Drexel goal being one I thought he really should've had.  He wouldn't have so many goals blemishing his record if there wasn't constantly a Drexel Dragon showing up unannounced on his front porch and leaving a bag of flaming poop.  It was hard to tell the extent of this problem during the game because the guy operating the live feed was having a grand ol' time switching between camera angles and seemed to especially love the ones that provided no information at all about the play;** the highlights did a better job of showing just how often an opponent was allowed to cut to the front of the net.

As for the tinkering with the offense, really it wasn't limited to just the midfield lines, as we got a look at James Pannell at attack and Matt White got time at both attack and midfield.  And with Mark Cockerton on a 1-game suspension, we haven't seen the last of playing around with the attack.  But man I would be surprised if any particular permutation of midfielders was out there more than three, maybe four possessions tops.  Technically the starting combo was White, Rob Emery, and Chris LaPierre, playing with a knee brace.  Dom also ran like five or six other guys out there in various combinations; there was a fairly surprising amount of Greg Coholan and Pat Harbeson (who played a very solid game aside from his dipshit conduct penalty) plus plenty of Charlie Streep, Ryan Tucker, and a smattering of Matt Florence as well, whom along with Coholan I didn't even mention in the season preview.

If the rules tweaks this season do in fact lead to more transition game as the writers hope, then it will also mean less futzing around with getting your matchups perfect and more emphasis on putting fresh legs out there.  Which means interesting combinations will show up, and not by design.  I like that and I don't.  Transition is fun.  Midfielders who can play two ways, like Tucker, ought to still be relevant, if not highly important.  But I also like the idea of me getting my best guys out there and you getting your best guys out there, all fresh, and let's see who wins.  One thing I'm sure I don't like: long-sticks in transition.  I mean, OK, it's a lot of fun when a long-pole guy races down the field and nobody thinks he's a threat and suddenly he's dropping one past the goalie.  What I don't like is watching two long-poles passing to each other trying to set up an obviously doomed fast break, especially since one by definition has to be a close-in defender and should never be 70 yards from his net.  That's just wasteful.  Like if Mike Tobey got a semi-long rebound and tried to celebrate by dribbling the length of the court.

Numbers I liked from the game: Scott McWilliams and his five caused turnovers, and Nick O'Reilly and his six assists.  This latter number is amazing.  People aren't talking about this enough.  Steele Stanwick had a ton of five-assist games but only one with more than that (he had seven against Vermont last year.)  The last game O'Reilly played in was the championship game against Maryland two years ago, where he had four assists, so in his last two he's got ten.  I think I really like the idea of him quarterbacking the offense.

**Seriously dude they don't give you cinematography Oscars for this.  I know the camera guys at field level like to feel important too but those cameras are for highlights.  Just show the regular whole-field camera so I don't get vertigo trying to find the ball.  And yes I realize that I ought to feel a little bit lucky that I can even watch a game like this or the VMI game when lacrosse on TV was unheard of not that long ago.  And I do.  But I also shelled out $6.95 a month, which gives me both the privilege of watching the game and a license to occasionally criticize.


I'm going to wait til tomorrow to post up the season sim results, in conjunction with the Miami preview, instead of tonight.  I promise it'll make sense.

Friday, February 15, 2013

2013 lacrosse preview

You've seen what they're up against.  Now, for the second part of the spring sports preview, it's time to see what weapons the lacrosse team brings to the fight.

Most of what people think about UVA focuses on what they lost, which is understandable when you lose a Tewaaraton Trophy winner (Steele Stanwick) and his goal-sniping sidekick (Chris Bocklet.)  Throw in Colin Briggs and you have UVA's top three scorers from 2012, all graduated.  Toss in a new goalie as well as having to replace the top defenseman and it's pretty understandable that UVA is the consensus fourth-of-four in the ACC.

If there's ever a team that can claim to dispense with the rebuilding in favor of reloading, though, it's Virginia lacrosse.  Expectations are still high because expectations are always high.  Here's what's in store:


Obviously, the biggest holes are Stanwick and Bocklet, so this is where some new faces will be prominent.  Or some semi-new faces gain greater prominence.  Nick O'Reilly is back from a year-long suspension and appears to be Dom Starsia's choice to take Stanwick's old spot at the X, behind the net and quarterbacking the offense.  O'Reilly finished the 2011 season strong, particularly in the NCAA tournament where he had four goals and six assists in three games, and was looking like a major weapon for 2012 before his suspension.  He brings a great deal of playmaking potential to the table.

A lot of fans would like to see Matt White on the attack as well, including myself.  That's where White is listed on the roster, but Starsia seems to like him at midfield.  Me, I like White's ability to play and shoot in a crowd, thus I'd like to see him here.  Mark Cockerton is a near-lock for one of the other attack spots; Cockerton is an accurate shooter who put 80% of his shots on net in 2012.  If White's not playing attack, other options include sophomore Carl Walrath or freshman James Pannell (Rob's little brother), both of whom Dom has spoken quite highly of.  Pannell may not be ready for the start of the season, however.

We also shouldn't forget about Owen Van Arsdale, who came on like gangbusters early in the 2012 season but tailed off a lot as time went on.  His size (only 5'8") makes it hard sometimes for him to clear himself room to shoot, but when he's open he's got very nice catch-and-shoot abilities and a compact, sometimes deceptive shot.  I consider Van Arsdale the wild card in the mix.


Probably the two locks for the first line here are Ryan Tucker and Rob Emery, both very dangerous offensive players that each have a great chance at finding their way to the top of UVA's scoring leaderboard.  Emery opened some eyes his freshman year, and then last year potted 24 goals, which was more than anyone but Stanwick and Bocklet.  Tucker might have the team's hardest shot; he fires some incredible bullets at the net, and his 13 goals as a freshman were just as many as Emery had his freshman year.

If White's a midfielder, obviously he's the third member of the first line.  The top second-line option right now is Bucknell transfer Charlie Streep, who I don't expect to see a lot of time parked on the bench.  Streep had a shoulder injury that cost him his 2012 season, and the Patriot League, like the Ivy, doesn't allow grad students to play, hence the transfer.  So, fittingly, Streep's last real lacrosse game was right here at Klockner in that overtime first-rounder that launched UVA to the national title.  (Also, yes, his aunt is Meryl Streep.)  Streep was a top producer for Bucknell with 28 goals and 9 assists in 2011, so I expect a good season from him, even if he starts it on the second line.

The rest of the second line is going to be up in the air.  Junior Pat Harbeson will get a look, as he's been getting spot duty the last two years on the second line already, and there's a large host of freshmen that Dom has to do some experimenting with.  Nothing is very well set, not even the first line for 100% sure, even if it looks sort of obvious.

Of course there's a major wildcard here, too: Chris LaPierre.  The Shocker.  After three years at defensive midfield as a one-man clearing game, LaPierre gets a chance on offense.  This is partly why I think it's silly to have White at midfield: how do you bench any of LaPierre, Tucker, or Emery?  Being thinner at attack than midfield, I think it'd make perfect sense to move White closer and maybe even Streep to attack too, but whatever.  At any rate, LaPierre's status is also a small mystery, as he (as well as Pannell) sat out the two preseason scrimmages.  Whether he's ready will determine a lot; we'll have to keep in mind that this is Chris LaPierre we're talking about, for whom a leg hanging from its hip by a thread would only increase his desire to run somebody over.


Without LaPierre on this end of the field, the unit is a little thin.  The two short-stick starters look like Bobby Hill and Blake Riley, both very capable players.  Riley missed most of 2012 as well, canceling any plans Starsia might've had to try LaPierre on offense last year.  Like Nick O'Reilly, he was another who made a little name for himself in the 2011 tourney; it was Riley, jumping on a Bucknell midfielder who'd slipped on the grass, who stripped the ball in OT and started the sequence that ended in White's game-winning goal.

Hill and Riley are both solid defenders and good in transition as well; neither is LaPierre, I suppose, but they're perfectly good at what they do.  Hill is a little better at sticking with an opposing midfielder and keeping him in front; Riley is a little faster and plays with more of an edge.  Riley, in fact, managed a rare trifecta of penalties in the G'town scrimmage, having to sit for a full two minutes with crosschecking, pushing, and misconduct fouls all on one play.  It kind of cuts both ways with him.  But this is an area where I really hope we stay injury-free because the proven depth is lacking.

At LSM, Tanner Ottenbreit is the front-runner to see most of the playing time, replacing the steady but graduated Chris Clements.  About the extent of knowledge there is on him is that those who've seen the scrimmages were impressed.


Two of three starters at close-in D return from last year: Harry Prevas and Scott McWilliams.  Last year's first guy off the bench was Greg Danseglio, making him the likely replacement for Matt Lovejoy as the third guy.  There isn't a Ken Clausen in this group, and what we got last season is probably about what we'll see this season, without a major dropoff or improvement.  Solid, but not going to cause any announcers to gush about the matchup between our guys and the opponent's superstar attackman du jour.  McWilliams was named to Inside Lacrosse's preseason all-American third-team, for what it's worth, making him the closest thing we have to some star power on defense.  If you're looking for a freshman who'll make some waves on the field, the likely candidate is Tanner Scales.  Also of note: this is where former footballing defensive end Thompson Brown ended up; it'll be interesting to see if his athleticism can get him onto the field in a useful role.


Austin Geisler's transfer to High Point might've been the best thing that's happened to that program so far in their short history - what it did for UVA was thin out the depth some.  Geisler may have seen some writing on the wall.  At any rate, this is largely a foreign situation for UVA.  Even last year when we had to replace four-year starter Adam Ghitelman, it was basically assumed Rob Fortunato would step in and do just fine.  He stepped in and did just fine.  Now things are more up in the air.   Freshman Dan Marino might have a small edge on sophomore Rhody Heller, but Marino is also making his way back from not one but two broken thumbs in the offseason, so his practice time has been awfully limited.  So you have a choice between a freshman who's barely practiced and a sophomore whose career is limited to 14 minutes and 13 seconds of game time and one save.

Also on the roster are Conor McGee and Matt Robertson, the latter a transfer from Colgate.  Neither has anything under their belts but garbage time and are less of a factor in the race, but not to be entirely counted out given the inexperience of the two leaders.


The only returning FOGO with extensive experience is Mick Parks, who took roughly a third of last year's faceoffs and won 52.6%.  Starsia has used LaPierre there in the past, more so in 2011 than in 2012, but LaPierre's performance suffers from the fact that he doesn't have himself at the wing.  Long-stick Tanner Ottenbreit also took 10 faceoffs in 2012 and may be another secondary option.


Stop me if you've heard this before: 2013 is the setup for 2014, with a good chance to scare some people this year.  The only seniors of major import this year are White, Prevas, and LaPierre (as well as Streep, whose presence this year is basically a bonus) and while the Shocker brings a truly unique brand of athleticism to the table that will be missed, the core of this team is non-seniors.  The ACC, as well as Hopkins, is as tough as ever and it might be a rough ride through the gauntlet, but this team is more than talented enough to semi-comfortably roll to the anything-can-happen NCAA tournament - which, by the way, will be diluted this year with the addition of a new AQ conference in the NEC.  It's never not a fun spring when you have UVA lacrosse to keep you busy on Saturdays, and the multiple possible combinations for offensive firepower should be the prime attraction this year, even minus a certain Steele Stanwick.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

2013 baseball preview

Spring season begins this weekend.  I always think that's weird, but it happens this way every February so you'd think I'd get used to it.  Spring means baseball, and UVA starts their quest for Omaha this week with a trip to Greenville to take on East Carolina.  Usually around this time of year I have a three-part ACC preview as well, which obviously hasn't happened yet and may or may not, depending.  InsideTheACC is doing a very nice job of this, however, so you can get your fix with that if you so desire.

Previewing our own team is always a challenge.  Brian O'Connor isn't one for pigeonholing a player to a position and he rarely has a lineup or a rotation fully in place right at the beginning of the season.  And when he does, he doesn't tell anyone.  This year more so than usual.  There's an excellent freshman class this year, following another really nice-looking freshman class last year, and the competition is as legitimately fierce as it's been in a while.  Things are bound to change from where they sit, so please don't come back in May and be all like "nice preview, dumbass."

I like to go in reverse numerical order because it saves pitching til last, so let's start with #9.


Incumbent: Colin Harrington

Likely starter: Harrington

Others to watch: Mike Papi, Joe McCarthy

Outfield is a little more settled than the infield and the pitching situation.  Colin Harrington settled into the right field role roughly a third of the way into the season and didn't give it up.  The guy he took it from was Mike Papi, who got hurt midseason and was slow enough returning that Harrington stuck the rest of the season.  Not to imply Harrington wouldn't have kept the job.  He's a very BOC type of player.  Not a lot of pop, but he's a good contact hitter who doesn't strike out much and defends his position very well.  Harrington was second on the team last year (among those who qualified) with a .305 average, and made only one error in the field.  A very steady, dependable player, and, very importantly in BOC's book, an excellent bunter.  Harrington should be a lineup fixture, and could settle in at second in the order or perhaps in a place like seventh; if the latter, UVA probably has a pretty nasty lineup.

Papi got off to a very nice-looking start last year but cooled down before his injury.  At his best he hits with a little more power than Harrington, but overall probably won't be as good a contact hitter.  There's some potential for an occasional platoon or pinch-hitting situation here as Papi is a lefty hitter and Harrington a righty.  Freshman McCarthy could get a few looks here as well; McCarthy is a big lad with potential for some serious power, and of all the freshmen without set positions, is the most likely to hit his way into a regular or semi-regular DH role.


Incumbent: Brandon Downes

Likely starter: Downes

Others to watch: none for now

With the speedy Mitchell Shifflett leaving the team (but staying at UVA) Downes gets the starting job in center field without much of a competition.  Downes missed about a month early in the season last year - his freshman year - with a broken hand, but came on awfully strong in the hitting department when he returned.  He ended the season batting .321 and slugging .453; good pop for a center fielder.  Despite his position, probably not a leadoff candidate unless he cuts down on strikeouts, but could hit fifth or even third - most likely is that he starts the season a little lower on the pecking order and moves up as appropriate.


Incumbent: Derek Fisher

Likely starter: Fisher

Others to watch: Colin Harrington, Rob Bennie

Don't get too caught up in who'll play left in place of Derek Fisher, because Fisher isn't gonna miss too many games.  He's the closest we got to a sure thing, and has easily the most power on the roster.  He'll be expected to improve his .288 average and cut down on his strikeouts, but he's got good wheels to go along with his power; he ripped eight triples last season in addition to his seven homers.  UVA's closest thing to a marquee player.  An obvious choice for the third or cleanup spot in the lineup.

If Fisher gets a day off, it's most likely that Harrington slides over from right rather than seeing BOC dip too far into his bench.  If we see anything of freshman Rob Bennie this year, it's probably here.


Incumbent: Chris Taylor (departed)

Likely starter: Brandon Cogswell

Others to watch: Reed Gragnani, George Ragsdale

Cogswell came on strong near the end of last year and got slotted as the DH more often than not by the time May rolled around.  He's being given big shoes to fill this year.  In truth, there's actually a chance he ends up a better defensive shortstop than Chris Taylor was; Taylor fell off in that regard last season.  Taylor's clutch hitting will be tough to replace, though.  Cogswell can drop a bunt and has a good knack for getting on base without swinging the bat; his 16 walks and 12 HBP from 2012 are good numbers for a guy with only 100 at-bats.  If he boosts his .260 average he could be a good leadoff candidate; else he might fit well batting ninth, in order to set up the top of the order.

If Cogswell ends up faltering, the likely option is that Reed Gragnani moves over from second, where he'll start the season.  George Ragsdale is a promising freshman whose been generally projected as a third baseman, but for whom SS can't be ruled out.


Incumbent: Stephen Bruno (departed)

Likely starter: Nick Howard

Others to watch: Kenny Towns, George Ragsdale

Howard is such a versatile guy that he's also found his way to the starting pitching rotation, which means third base will be a little bit of a revolving door.  Both he and Kenny Towns, who'll start the season manning 3B when Howard pitches, flashed a nice bat last year in semi-limited time (about 50 at-bats each) and should continue to hit well.  Their gloves are another question; there just isn't enough data to go on for them and so until proven otherwise, third base probably will be the biggest  defensive question mark to start the year.


Incumbent: Keith Werman (departed)

Likely starter: Reed Gragnani

Others to watch: none for now

The enormously popular Werm is no longer around the clubhouse, something that'll take some getting used to for UVA fans.  On the other hand, it's nice to see Reed Gragnani finally getting a position of his own.  Gragnani hasn't been the healthiest of players; he was off to a great start last year with 25 hits in 69 AB and then promptly lost the rest of his season to a slow-to-heal quad injury.

Gragnani is a little bit of a free swinger that doesn't walk a great deal, so I'm not expecting him to hit at the top of the lineup.  He's tailor-made for a fifth or sixth spot, where you like to have a contact-hitting guy with little inclination to hold the bat still, because the idea is for him to try and drive in some ducks with two outs.


Incumbent: Jared King

Likely starter: King

Others to watch: Mike Papi, Joe McCarthy

One of UVA's steadiest presences is kind of occupying one of those spots you like to try out new hitters in.  Oh well.  King is absolutely not going anywhere; he's a slick fielder at first base and UVA's most veteran presence.  He's a rarity in college baseball: a fifth-year senior.  He's a rarity in another way too: a patient power hitter who can steal bases.  King's power isn't overwhelming, but if he gets hold of one it flies, and better yet in the BOC book: he developed an excellent eye for the strike zone last year and walked 51 times.  His average dropped from .321 to .263 because he had 40 more ABs but only one more hit than in 2011 (and if truth be told was ice-cold late in the season), but the spike in walks made up for that in the OBP department.  He'd be a good candidate to hit 3rd if he can even just put his average somewhere in the middle of that range.


Incumbent: Nate Irving

Likely starter: Irving

Others to watch: Robbie Coman, Scott Williams

Irving beat out a couple other challengers in the competition for the backstop job last year and turned out to be a pleasant surprise.  His hitting was better than expected: solid if unspectacular.  Irving probably catches 90-95% of this year's innings, as he's built to take the punishment and has earned the trust of the coaching staff.  Anyone else in the job will be in spot duty only.  He'll likely bat 8th in the lineup.


Rotation incumbents: Branden Kline (departed), Artie Lewicki (injured), Scott Silverstein

Likely starters: Brandon Waddell, Silverstein, Nick Howard

Others to watch: Nathan Kirby, Cameron Tekker, Josh Sborz, Whit Mayberry

Talk about up in the air.  In fact, let's.  We already expected a crowded field of candidates for the rotation with all these talented freshmen rolling in, but injuries made a mess of everything else.  Whit Mayberry, we knew about; he was shut down during the FSU series last year after leaving his start early with an elbow twinge that turned out to require Tommy John surgery.  Artie Lewicki had to have the same thing after an injury suffered in summer ball.  Mayberry might be back at some point this year; Lewicki probably won't.

So that opened the door for a lot of rookies.  And if you'd told 100 knowledgeable UVA baseball fans a couple months ago that a true freshman would start the opener and asked which it would be, all of them would have said "Nathan Kirby" and 20 would've said, "but maybe Josh Sborz."  And then maybe five might have also tossed out Cameron Tekker as a name.  Nobody but nobody would've said Brandon Waddell.

But here he is, the first freshman to start the season's opening game for UVA since 1986.  Karl Kuhn has always put a big emphasis on a pitcher's mental makeup, which is impossible to guess at from our perspective, and he and BOC must like something about Waddell.  I have no idea how this will go.

Silverstein gets the call on Saturday this weekend, and Howard on Sunday.  I have to admit I have higher hopes for Howard, who looked undeniably good in 19 relief appearances last year, most of them long relief.  Silverstein worries me, as his tenure as a starter in 2012 was filled with inconsistency, and he didn't last long in his later starts.  This rotation, though, does give UVA two lefties for the weekend, with Howard the lone right-hander, and Silverstein was said to have a pretty dynamic arm before injuries tore it to pieces.  A year of strengthening and seasoning could easily help.

The William & Mary game next Tuesday will shed a little light onto who's next in the pecking order, and when (maybe if, but probably when) Mayberry returns, there might be some tough decisions.

The bullpen anchor will be Kyle Crockett.  Crockett has the stuff to be a potential starter, but the coaching staff likes him out of the pen.  Since Crockett's a southpaw, Austin Young will get the first shot to be the pen's top righty.  Closer, at the moment, is a mystery for the ages, and BOC is keeping his mouth extremely shut on that topic.  I've seen all sorts of speculation on that.  My guess: One of the better freshmen who doesn't win a starting role will get it.


Overall, potential oozes from this team.  Just drips from it like a full sponge.  It's short on proven talent.  King, Harrington, Fisher, and Irving are the only ones where I think we can say we know with a good amount of certainty what we'll get out of them.  Gragnani, Cogswell, Downes, and Silverstein might be the next rung down on the provenness scale.  This doesn't bother me, though.  It's fun watching new players break out of their shell and there's too much potential for it all to fail at once.  Even with changes to the opening day lineup, something that resembles the UVA teams of the recent past will shake out by season's end.

Speaking of that opening day lineup, here's one best-guess, guaranteed to be wrong somewhere:

RF - Harrington
DH - Towns
LF - Fisher
1B - King
2B - Gragnani
3B - Howard
CF - Downes
C - Irving
SS - Cogswell

We'll probably see quite a few different players - Towns, McCarthy, Papi, maybe Ragsdale - move in and out of that DH spot early.  BOC tends to settle on one as the season goes on.

The final word is that the 2013 baseball season is going to be like this year's basketball season: a setup for next year with hopefully plenty of eye-opening successes along the way.  ACC champs?  Probably not, but you never know.  Super-regionals?  Probably not, but you never know.  I'd call it a pure 50/50 toss-up as to hosting a regional ourselves, which isn't a bad place to be.  It's like, even though we expect success, we'll be pleasantly surprised to have it.