Wednesday, April 30, 2014

future of lacrosse, updated again

This is the third year in a row for this particular feature, and so much has changed from when I wrote the last one 14 months ago that it's worth yet another look.  Quick background: Conference realignment may have been quite the shock to the rest of the landscape, but it's been a fact of life in lacrosse for a very long time now.  It's not a very stable system.

The instability continues from year to year, so much so that a lot of my assumptions from just 14 months ago no longer hold true.  Such as:

-- Wagner will leave the NEC, a conference in danger of losing its autobid.
-- The ECAC will actually continue to exist.
-- Big Ten lacrosse is still some distance down the road.
-- The Big East will disappear, to be replaced with some as-yet unknown entity.

Actually, I think the Wagner thing fell apart a couple months before I wrote and I just missed it.  Whether that was more Wagner's doing or the MAAC's depends on what you read, but in any case, the NEC found itself in pretty good shape, about which more in a bit.  The ECAC, on the other hand, got dismembered, in no small part because Big Ten lacrosse wasn't so far away after all, and the Catholic 7 kept the Big East name.

Quite a few moves got announced since then, and some even took effect this year.  The moves:

St. Joseph's: CAA --> NEC **
Penn State: CAA --> B1G
Air Force: ECAC --> ???
Bellarmine: ECAC --> SoCon
Denver: ECAC --> BE **
Hobart: ECAC --> NEC **
Fairfield: ECAC --> CAA
Michigan: ECAC --> B1G
Ohio State: ECAC --> B1G
Johns Hopkins: Ind. --> B1G

**already happened this year

Essentially it's like this: Wagner stayed in the NEC, which added St. Joe's from the CAA and Hobart from the ECAC to get to seven teams and keep its autobid.  The Big East, having lost Syracuse and Notre Dame and facing the loss of Rutgers, saved its autobid by adding Denver - not strictly a Catholic school (but then, neither is Butler) but a small private school all the same and a good fit, culturally speaking.  The rest of the ECAC wandered off to pretty natural landing spots - the Big Ten will be a lacrosse conference next year, Hobart's a perfectly good fit in the NEC as is Bellarmine in the Southern**, Fairfield is a good geographical and on-field quality fit in the CAA.  The only ECAC school left to find a place is Air Force; word had it last summer they were working on membership in the A-Sun/SoCon as well, but there hasn't been any announcement.  It might be tough to convince a bunch of small, low-budget startup schools to fly out to Colorado on the regular.  They did, however, play nearly every team in that conference this year.

**it's the Atlantic Sun this year but they made some arrangement or other with the Southern Conference and it'll be the SoCon going forward.

That bout of realignment really about took care of most of the issues I figured would be next in the hopper to solve, which basically were: what's up with the Big Ten, Big East, and Hopkins, and can the NEC hang on to its bid?  The answers to most were to sacrifice the ECAC.

This means that realignment is probably slowing down a bit for the time being, now that the holding-pen conference is no more and most schools are in a geographically logical place - or else, in the conference that they exist in for real.  And on top of that, the tournament expansion I'd been predicting also came to pass.  I think they will stick with 18 for the near, foreseeable future, but I also don't think it'll take very much further expansion for the NCAA to pull the trigger on two more teams to make it a 20-team affair.

Any further shifting of the landscape, then, depends almost exclusively on where the next expansions take place.  There are two teams that will begin play in 2015: UMass-Lowell and NJIT.  The former has a spot in the America East waiting for it.  NJIT rolls independently in most sports with associate conference membership for just a few sports such as men's volleyball and women's tennis.  No conference affiliation for lacrosse has been announced for them and I don't expect one; if they do, just go ahead and assume the NEC or A-East.  These two won't make a mess of things.

Something else might, though.  Here are the possible avenues for expansion:

-- ACC.  Anyone with a brain could see the benefits of the autobid for the ACC this year; it went to the one team least likely to snare an at-large pick and should give the conference the full complement of six teams in the tournament.  The question is whether people in the conference office see it too.  If so, and if there is someone with both a keen interest in lacrosse and enough political capital, the conference may push one of its current members to pick up the sport.  Boston College and NC State are usually mentioned as possibilities because of their previous engagements with the sport at varsity level and because of their proximity to other extant programs.  Keep your ear to the ground long enough and you might hear Virginia Tech and Louisville whispered as well.  VT would make some sense, as they have a new AD who has already turned over a new leaf for the school by making an actual commitment to having a basketball team.

The ACC does have a two-year grace period before the autobid expires, so it'll be there in 2015 and 2016; that said, if you were talking about getting a team running from the ground up, you'd really have to start this summer in order to be in place by 2017 when the bid is otherwise gone.

-- Northeast.  Obviously the foundation of the sport.  Four schools in the past couple years obviously thought the region could support more programs.  Such expansion could affect the NEC, A-East, or MAAC.  Chances are, unless we were talking about Boston College, further northeast expansion would follow the same pattern as it has recently: smaller schools whose football program is at best FCS-level, if it exists at all.

-- Southeast.  The same football thing holds true here.  Most big-time programs in this region won't be interested in something that would be viewed as taking resources away from football or baseball.  It's likely nobody would start a program unless they were assured a place in the SoCon; it would take four or five more teams in the region before it could support two conferences.  However, I do have a suspicion, which is based on nothing more than a gut feeling, that the area is not done adding lacrosse teams.

-- Midwest.  I don't think this is as much a possibility as most of these options, but the notion of a team at, say, Michigan State, Northwestern, or Minnesota is not a completely out-there idea.  In general, though, I see the area as less likely to sprout a team than most of these ideas.  The question of which conference to join, if it's not a Big Ten team, would be an interesting one.

-- Texas.  An interesting and possibly fanciful proposition, but there are folks who think it's only a matter of time before there's a D-I team in the state.  SMU was said to be looking at the possibility a couple years ago.  Texas - the Longhorns, that is - is a financial dreadnought and if they ever want a team, they'll have one.  Ironically, UT would probably face more interesting challenges than SMU.  SMU could probably score an invite to start life off in the SoCon.  UT likely would not; I have my doubts that a conference of small-budget private schools want to compete with a flagship behemoth with more enrollment than all of them combined and a GDP the size of a Pacific island nation.  UT might have to compete as an independent until it can bully some more regional teams into starting a team themselves.

-- West.  Another possible matter-of-time school is USC.  The LA area, while not exactly a geyser of lacrosse talent, is at least a small park fountain.  And USC also has the budget.  My gut says they won't do it unless they can convince five other Pac-12 teams (or at least some other California teams if not a full complement of Pac-12 ones) to take the leap all at once.  Life as a West Coast independent would be fraught with unique challenges that make a team not really worth it until you've got some buddies.  Some Pac-12 teams - I'd say UCLA, Colorado, Stanford - would take a little less convincing than others (WSU, OSU.)

Interestingly, most of the top MCLA teams - the club setup that spawned the Michigan varsity team - are out west.  BYU, Colorado State, Chapman, Arizona State, etc.  13 of the top 20 teams in LaxPower's calculation are in the Rockies or points west.  A couple by themselves wouldn't mean much, but that many is proof there's a reasonable batch of talent out that way that could, in the not-distant future, become a foundation for a crop of varsity teams.

I'm gonna go ahead and cop out, and call it a coin flip whether or not any new schools announce a new team between, say, now and the new year.  Four new teams starting play in one year is kind of extraordinary, when you think about it.  There may be some momentum, but it's also the case that there's nothing out there but speculation right now.  Boston U. is an example of a school where things were kind of getting out there before any official announcement.  On the flip side you have NJIT, which was never mentioned until the day the school did it themselves.

If there are no new teams announced between now and next spring, then you'll probably find that the realignment thing stabilizes, too.  Not to rule out surprises, because they always seem to crop up, but the only unresolved issue with existing teams is Air Force, and that's likely getting close.  Otherwise, teams and conferences seem happy where they are.  It may not be necessary to write this post next year.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

next year's acc

Still just can't let go of hoops just yet.  The deadline for early entry to the NBA draft has passed us by, so now we know for sure what next year's ACC rosters will look like, except for inevitable attrition here and there on account of summer shenanigans and potential late transfers.  So, as promised, here are the roster changes for each ACC team next season.  (Note on transfers: most have to sit out a year, as you know, so the ones included here are the ones who can play this coming season.  Duke is getting Sean Obi, for example, but not til '15-'16.)



Steve Donahue (fired)
Danny Rubin (graduated)
Ryan Anderson (transfer)
Joe Rahon (transfer to St. Mary's)


Jim Christian (new coach - from Ohio)
Nat Dixon (freshman)

BC didn't exactly make an inspirational hire, and they took the usual transfer hit from the coaching transition.  Rubin was an emergency pickup by Donahue when he first took the job, and didn't have much of a role after his freshman year, but Anderson and Rahon represented a huge chunk of minutes and scoring.  Christian will still have Olivier Hanlan to rebuild around, but this team lost a ton of close games this year and will probably lose a ton of blowouts next year.



K.J. McDaniels (early entry)
Adonis Filer (transfer)


Donte Grantham (freshman)
Gabe DeVoe (freshman)

The loss of all-everything star McDaniels will be somewhat softened by picking up top-100 recruit Grantham, but McDaniels is an outstanding player on both ends of the court whose NBA decision was considered one of the better ones.  Clemson loses a world of talent in him alone.  Filer was a 15-mpg player who is replaceable.  The plus side for the Tigers: no seniors this past year, so there are a ton of returning veterans, and Brad Brownell is a savvy coach.



Rodney Hood (early entry)
Jabari Parker (early entry)
Alex Murphy (transfer)
Andre Dawkins (graduation)
Tyler Thornton (graduation)
Josh Hairston (graduation)


Tyus Jones (freshman)
Jahlil Okafor (freshman)
Justise Winslow (freshman)
Grayson Allen (freshman)

Duke has a nasty-good recruiting class even by their standards; the lowest ranked player there is Allen, #28 in the country to Rivals.  Consensus has it they won't really miss a beat, even by losing their top two scorers who are both first-round projections.  Two NBAers out, three five-stars in; the math looks to be in their favor.  Still, in Dawkins and Thornton they're losing a not-insignificant amount of shooting and quality role-player minutes.  Pinning your hopes on a marquee freshman class can be a volatile strategy, so we'll see if Coach K can make it work.

(This is as good a place as any to throw in this note about Parker.  He's a top-three pick by most projections, but ESPN does give this as a downside: "Can sometimes struggle against long, athletic players."  I just wonder where on earth they got that idea.  Bweh-heh-heh-heh.)



Robert Gilchrist (graduated)
Ian Miller (graduated)
Okaro White (graduated)
Kiel Turpin (graduated)


Robbie Berwick (freshman)
Norbetas Giga (freshman)
Dayshawn Watkins (juco)
Kedar Edwards (juco)

FSU is perfectly balanced here, losing nobody early and replacing every senior with an incoming recruit.  It's not a highly-thought of class, though, and FSU loses the coaches' choice for ACC 6th Man (Miller) as well as their most dependable interior scorer and rebounder (White.)  They had a scoring triumvirate this year and lose two of those players to graduation; they're going to have to see some of their holdovers take big steps forward in order to maintain their position in the league.



Solomon Poole (kicked off)
Trae Golden (graduation)
Kammeon Holsey (graduation)
Daniel Miller (graduation)
Stacey Poole (graduation)


Robert Sampson (transfer from East Carolina)
Myles Autry (freshman)
Abdoulaye Gueye (freshman)
Tadric Jackson (freshman)
Ben Lammers (freshman)

With Golden, Holsey, and Miller, that's a very big chunk of the GT core this season.  Miller developed quite well during his career, and Golden provided them a year's worth of better PG play than they ever got out of Mfon Udofia.  But they also have a solid lineup of holdovers, and their recruiting class is a good one.  Jackson and Autry picked GT over a very long list of suitors.  ECU transfer Sampson should be a decent role player.  Some thought that GT might fire Brian Gregory this year, considering as they kind of stunk, but they could be poised for some upward mobility next year.



The school


Guys in Louisville uniforms

This is a trade-up for the league, at least here in the short term.  Louisville already had a very good team; they won't bring Russdiculous with them to the ACC, but they do keep Montrezl Harrell so that Hokie fans can see just exactly what they missed out on, and their freshman class is outstanding.

(I've chosen not to more fully profile Louisville here, because from an ACC perspective we won't see the difference.  Like how it didn't really affect us that Michael Carter-Williams left Syracuse for the draft.)



James Kelly (transfer)
Raphael Akpejiori (graduation)
Rion Brown (graduation)
Erik Swoope (graduation)
Garrius Adams (graduation)
Donnavan Kirk (graduation)


Sheldon McClellan (transfer from Texas)
Angel Rodriguez (transfer from Kansas State)
Ivan Cruz Uceda (juco)
Ja'Quan Newton (freshman)
James Palmer (freshman)
Omar Sherman (freshman)

It seems weird that a team that was so widely known for losing so many seniors last offseason would go through the same thing yet again.  Of their top seven scorers, Miami gets back only two.  McClellan and Rodriguez are terrific pickups on the transfer market, though, and the Canes' recruit class is at least solid; Newton is the top member of the group.  They could very well improve on their 7-11 league mark from last year and might be set up even better for '15-'16.



James Michael McAdoo (early entry)
Leslie McDonald (graduation)


Theo Pinson (freshman)
Justin Jackson (freshman)
Joel Berry (freshman)

Let's face it: McAdoo was a big contributor, but a replaceable one.  Did anyone really ever say, "man, we really gotta gameplan to stop that McAdoo guy"?  McAdoo and the UNC '13-'14 season went hand-in-hand: big numbers and they did things that made you think they could be great, but you watch 'em enough and they stop really being all that scary.  UNC gets Marcus Paige back and another major-league recruiting class, and will take another shot at the ring next year, probably a better one than they had this year.



T.J. Warren (early entry)
Tyler Lewis (transfer to Butler)
Jordan Vandenberg (graduation)


Abdul-Malik Abu (freshman)
Caleb Martin (freshman)
Cody Martin (freshman)

Hard to say from here whether the Pack will move forward or backwards; Warren was a tremendously prolific scorer (the dude took over 650 shots this year) and Lewis's transfer thins out the backcourt rather considerably.  There's a good recruiting class on the way, though.  This team will just have to learn to spread out the scoring some now that Warren won't be around to lean on.



Eric Atkins (graduation)
Garrick Sherman (graduation)
Tom Knight (graduation)


Martin Geben (freshman)
Matt Farrell (freshman)
Bonzie Colson (freshman)

This wasn't a good season for the Irish, and losing Atkins and Sherman to graduation will really sting.  They'll have only one of their big three scorers back.  The freshman class is respectable, not spectacular, but there's promise there; Geben is a guy that Tony Bennett pursued pretty heavily.  The big acquisition isn't technically an acquisition; the Irish expect to get Jerian Grant back from his academic-related absence.  He was scoring 19 ppg before he had to leave the team.



Lamar Patterson (graduation)
Talib Zanna (graduation)


Tyrone Haughton (juco)
Sheldon Jeter (juco)
Cameron Johnson (freshman)
Ryan Luther (freshman)
Shaquille Doorson (freshman)

Out the door are Pitt's top two scorers, rebounders, and minutes-eaters.  UVA won't be sorry to see the back side of Zanna after the outstanding game he had against us in Greensboro.  Pitt has a large recruiting class because they got hit harder than you'd expect by transfers just before arriving in the ACC; it also explains why they ran with a short rotation this year.  But the class is undistinguished in the accolades department, and the Panthers probably won't be considered as big a contender as they were this past season.



Jerami Grant (early entry)
Tyler Ennis (early entry)
C.J. Fair (graduation)
Baye Moussa Keita (graduation)


Chris McCullough (freshman)
Kaleb Joseph (freshman)

Cuse is a huge contender for the title of "most talent lost", even considering the haul that Duke saw walk out the door.  Three of those guys played over 30 mpg and two of them topped 35.  Fair was 12th in the country in minutes played (as a percentage of team's total.)  The freshman class is small but highly talented, so Cuse may again struggle with a short rotation.  Very hard to see them having another big undefeated run like they did, but they're still outside contenders for the title.



Teven Jones (transfer)
Joe Harris (graduation)
Akil Mitchell (graduation)


Isaiah Wilkins (freshman)
B.J. Stith (freshman)
Jack Salt (freshman)
Marial Shayok (freshman)

You know all this, but, for comparison's sake, see.  I haven't included redshirt freshmen or otherwise redshirted players besides transfers in the other rosters, so I didn't include Devon Hall here, but once again, sorting out the minutes will be like trying to stuff ten pounds of shit in a five-pound sock.  And that's if neither Devonte Graham or Sviatoslav Mikhailyuk decide to sign here.  I'm trying not to let my homerism cloud this too much - it would manifest itself in the assumption of faster and better development of our holdovers than those of other teams - but suffice to say anyone who thinks UVA will follow Miami's path from year to year will be disappointed.



James Johnson (fired)
Trevor Thompson (transfer to Ohio State)
Marquis Rankin (transfer)
Cadarian Raines (graduation)
Jarell Eddie (graduation)


Buzz Williams (new coach - from Marquette)
Ahmed Hill (freshman)
Satchel Pierce (freshman)
Justin Bibbs (freshman)
Jalen Hudson (freshman)

Nobody wants to hear this, but Buzz Williams was a grand-slam hire in Blacksburg; not only does he offer a huge upgrade in the coaching box, but he brought two terrific recruits with him from Marquette in Hill and Pierce.  Eddie and Raines were decent pieces to a puzzle, but everyone the Hokies lost is replaceable.  The holdover talent was already good enough that I was suggesting VT could rise to the middle of the conference in a year or two; add in a suddenly very good recruiting class (which before was utterly forgettable) and you'd have to think it's time to buy stock in VT basketball again.  They're not going 2-16 next year.



Jeff Bzdelik (fired)
Arnaud William Adala Moto (transfer)
Travis McKie (graduation)
Coron Williams (graduation)


Danny Manning (new coach - from Tulsa)
Shelton Mitchell (freshman)
Rondale Watson (freshman)

They could've had the whole team transfer out and the "out" list would still be addition by subtraction.  Wake AD Ron Wellman's operation of this team was absolutely appalling; letting his elementary school buddy Bzdelik coach the team aimlessly into the wilderness after the short rope he gave Dino Gaudio rightly infuriated every single fan of Wake Forest basketball.  McKie was a good player, but so badly misused (underused, really) by Bzdelik that it almost doesn't matter he's leaving.  Wake still has some good pieces left, didn't get hit too badly in the transfer market, and brings in a very good point guard in Mitchell, so they ought to be able to get out of the doldrums some.


In no particular order except alphabetically by school, here are the league's top ten departures:

K.J. McDaniels (Clemson)
Jabari Parker (Duke)
Rodney Hood (Duke)
James Michael McAdoo (UNC)
T.J. Warren (NC State)
Lamar Patterson (Pitt)
Tyler Ennis (Syracuse)
Jerami Grant (Syracuse)
C.J. Fair (Syracuse)
Joe Harris (Virginia)

Honorable mention goes to Okaro White, Ian Miller, Daniel Miller, Ryan Anderson, Tyler Thornton, Akil Mitchell, Eric Atkins, and Talib Zanna.

And the top ten freshmen, in the order they appear in the Rivals 150:

Jahlil Okafor (Duke)
Tyus Jones (Duke)
Justin Jackson (UNC)
Justise Winslow (Duke)
Theo Pinson (UNC)
Chris McCullough (Syracuse)
Joel Berry (UNC)
Greyson Allen (Duke)
Shaqquan Aaron (Louisville)
Quentin Snider (Louisville)

It stands to reason, though, that they're not all gonna be household names next year, simply since so many of them are stacked up on the same team.  Others to keep an eye on, who have a chance to make a major impact on their team:

Ahmed Hill and Satchel Pierce (VT)
Ja'Quan Newton (Miami)
Donte Grantham (Clemson)
Martin Geben (Notre Dame)
Tadric Jackson and Myles Autry (GT)
Sheldon Mitchell (Wake)
Angel Rodriguez (Miami - not a freshman, but still one of the league's top newcomers.)

Monday, April 28, 2014

weekend review

It wasn't a perfect weekend.  A perfect weekend would've involved a tidy clean sweep of Florida State, and the lacrosse team's win would've earned a trophy instead of a small shred of bragging rights.

I'll take it, though.  I will always take it.  Especially when two more ACC trophies are added to the case; the tennis teams brought home the hardware this weekend.  I was honestly surprised to learn the women's tennis team had never won an ACC title before.  I'd have guessed they had a few by now, if you'd asked.  On the plus side, getting a first-time ACC title means there are only four teams at UVA that have never won an ACC title: volleyball, field hockey, and mens' and womens' golf.

That brings our title count to four (men's basketball, women's swimming & diving, and the two tennis team) this season, with a fully-expected rowing title yet to come and obvious contention for a baseball title still in the works.  We won't catch Florida State this year, as they have seven championships, but c'mon - three of them are basically the same damn team (women's cross country and indoor and outdoor track.)  No fair that we don't ever get to count indoor tennis.


And hey, at least we scored bragging rights over the Noles in baseball this weekend.  Nick Howard is the star of the weekend as far as I'm concerned.  Seven batters faced, seven strikeouts.  That's just rude.  Howard turned some perfectly good hitters totally upside-down; the Noles didn't even look remotely good against him.  One of the better at-bats was turned in by Jameis Winston on Friday.  When Jameis Winston looks like the best hitter of the inning, the other guys did something really wrong.  And Winston got this distinction by being one of the few to actually foul off a pitch.  Then he watched dumbfounded as a waist-high, straight-line fastball zipped merrily across the middle of the plate for strike three.  The other guys brought their Swiss cheese bats to the plate.

At this point it's hard to make a case for anyone else but Howard as the top closer in the country.  15 saves - our bats have been just good enough to give him lots of chances and just bad enough to give him lots of chances.  But the really nasty stuff: 43 Ks against 6 BBs.  And he's been getting better as the season goes on.  Nate Kirby is doing a ridiculous job, too, and Brandon Waddell - who started the season by giving up 6 runs in 4 1/3 - has worked his ERA all the way down to 2.90.

The weekend finally convinced Collegiate Baseball to stop being the last holdout among the five polls/rankings, and give UVA the #1 nod.  Five rankings, five #1's for UVA.  #1 in the country - and currently sitting in the ACC's 3rd seed for the tournament.  No further proof is required for the fact that having divisions for baseball is monumentally stupid.


I turned the lacrosse game off in disgust during the second quarter, only to be overcome by curiosity, and turned it back on at some point midway through the third.  That second period was perfectly emblematic of why this team has struggled.  The first half, really.  Matt Barrett couldn't stop a beanbag.  Mick Parks gave up yet another faceoff win so clean that UNC's R.G. Keenan had but to run straight ahead til he arrived at the doorstep.  And on one UNC goal - their second of the game, I think - a UVA defender watched the eventual scorer catch the pass, and then peeled off for parts unknown while the ballcarrier (Pat Foster, if memory serves) strode easy as you please into the vacated spot and potted the easiest goal of his life. 

This is to say nothing of the pitiful clearing game.  Awful decisions and half-assed passes turned the clearing game into a sloppy mess.  One failed clear was an inexcusable 30-second violation - probably brought about by doing too much of a 180 from recklessness to an overabundance of caution.  Fortunately, the Heels were even worse, particularly in the very crucial fourth quarter where they cleared two of six attempts.

The fourth also happened to be Barrett's time.  He saved only 45% all day, but 100% when it mattered.  Consistency is not Barrett's middle name, but there's a chance yet that we can be going into the 2018 season going "whatever will we do without that guy?"

I really think this team has a higher ceiling than it's shown this year.  And effort is not the problem.  This team has out-ground-balled everyone this year; in fact, they lead the nation in ground balls per game.  Joseph Lisicky gets a lot of well-deserved attention for sucking up ground balls but it's not just grinding long-stick guys; that was UVA's leading scorer Mark Cockerton diving into the scrum for a loose ball, in front of an empty UNC net, and coming out with the crucial two-goal lead.

No, this team's problem is between the ears; they keep shooting themselves in the foot with mental breakdowns in all facets of the game.  They shoot more with no backup behind the net than any team I've seen - and the X man will hang out blissfully by the side of the net when the shooter is winding up, instead of getting a head start on the backup.  Several times a game I'll wish I could get inside the head of a defender and find out why he didn't consider the guy with the ball worth defending.  And even when they were playing well against UNC, the passing was rather less than crisp.  Either end of a pass might be the one to screw up the next one - maybe it goes sailing over someone's head, maybe it just gets ignored by the recipient.  Eight seconds to go in a game where you have the ball and a two-goal lead, and you manage a giveaway.  Silly.

This team would be a legit as hell title contender if they could just deal with some of this low-hanging fruit.  They could very well find themselves in the Final Four - the draw I gave them in this week's bracketology happens to be an awfully favorable one, about as good as they could ever hope for, and set up beautifully for a potential trip to Baltimore.  But they can't beat four good teams in a row with their brains working the way they do now.

(Speaking of bracketology: I've finished a project of mine that perfectly calculates every team's RPI and all the RPI-related factors that go into bracketology too.  All I have to input is wins and losses.  Put in the results of one game and it calculates every change to every RPI in the whole system.  What does this mean?  Faster bracketology; I don't have to wait for the Internet to update itself before I can start.  Now that it's conference tournament week I plan on pushing out an update on Thursday and then every day unti Selection Sunday.

Even better: I should be able to adapt the thing for basketball and baseball and do my own bracketology for those sports, too.  Baseball won't be ready in time for this year's tourney, but next year, wait and see.)


I guess we have to spoil things by finishing up with football.  It's attrition season, and you expect to wring your hands occasionally when someone with untapped potential transfers out or washes out, what have you, but you don't really ever expect your top passing-game weapon to say see ya later.

Jake McGee's transfer comes as a surprise to us in the outside world, but word floats around the tubes that he and Tom O'Brien got along like Tom and Jerry from day one, and that just maybe that move to "TE/WR" was mostly about having McGee get his coaching from Marques Hagans instead of TOB.  That is rumor, but it passes my smell test.

There's no way to put a positive spin on any aspect of it.  Demeitre Brim also announced his transfer this past week, to Central Florida, and that was easily explainable by the fact that he's a Sam backer and nothing even remotely like the kind of Sam backer that Jon Tenuta is using.  Is it a shame we couldn't finagle his considerable athletic potential into usefulness on the field?  Sure.  But it's also a cost of doing business.

McGee, on the other hand - they're selling his jersey FFS.  He's plastered all over all kinds of advertising and literature.  That the coaches allowed that to happen despite knowing he might leave is at a minimum a lousy grasp of PR; that McGee made it plain that he thinks Tight End U can't do a good job of preparing him for the NFL, that is just about as bad a piece of pub as we could've asked for.

The passing game is now short a terrific mid-range and red-zone option, and McGee's receiving skill set will not be easily replaced.  Perhaps more importantly, Mike London's regime just took a major blow to the solar plexus of its image.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

lacrosse bracketology

All hail the mighty Showcase Game.

So, yeah... all that talk about whether Notre Dame deserved a bid to the tournament just became moot as hell; the Domers can't be left out now.  The ACC looks to be a very secure six-bid league.

If things don't change much, this could be a very good test of the system I've put together here.  Notre Dame as high as #4 seems a little crazy, but that in fact is the way things are.  They beat Maryland and Syracuse on their way to the title, which is gonna give you a boost no matter what; I admit I was a little surprised to see it be that much of one.

The second excellent test of the system could be Hofstra.  During the UVA/UNC game, much talk was talked about who was going to get a tourney bid, and Hofstra might as well have been on Neptune for all the attention they were paid.  This system, however, likes them quite a bit - relative, at least, to the general feeling about them.  The line between the last two in and the first two out is a huge, gaping, possibly insurmountable chasm.  The Ivies ate each other up, and it's highly, highly possible that league is only a two-bid affair; its saving grace is that Cornell vs. Penn is a first-round game, and thus, someone is going to have a shot to be a bid thief.  (Also, just to be on the safe side, rooting for Hofstra in the CAA tourney.)

Last week's games of interest went thus:

Patriot League tournament: Loyola took the prize, and rather handily, too.  This 9-team conference comprised mostly of teams that have had some legitimate success in the recent past, is a one-bid league.

ACC tournament: Discussed above.  The strength-of-schedule party went absolutely as well as the ACC could've schemed, and the conference looks like it'll send all six teams to the dance.  Notre Dame goes from potentially facing a win-or-die game against Army next week to an automatic invite.

Denver 17, Marquette 9: This was only here because the Big East regular season title was on the line; Marquette is nowhere near actual tourney consideration.  I spoke of the Patriot League as a conference that has seen better days than this year, but they've got nothing on the Big East in that regard when two-year-old Marquette is running roughshod over the sorry competition.

Penn State 8, Hofstra 7: The system didn't seem to mind that Hofstra flopped in this one. 

Harvard 11, Yale 10: Harvard weed-whacked Yale's shot at an at-large bid, much to their delight, I'm sure, but not to the Ivy in general.

Cornell 12, Princeton 10: The last-ditch effort for the Tigers falls flat.

Virginia 13, North Carolina 11: Showcase game forever.  UVA gained a very, very good shot at a home game to start the tournament in two weeks.

This week's games that matter:

CAA tournament: The Biggest Disappointment of the Year (Penn State) is ineligible for the tourney because they're leaving the conference after the season, which is good news for a lot of other teams because they were just hitting their stride.  The matchups are Towson/Drexel and Hofstra/Delaware. Only Hofstra has a legit chance at an at-large bid.

A-Sun tournament: One bid for a play-in game on the road is up for grabs.  Matchups: High Point vs. Jacksonville and Mercer vs. Richmond.  High Point is the favorite here.

NEC tournament: St. Joseph's vs. Hobart and Bryant vs. Sacred Heart.  Not gonna lie: am rooting hard for St. Joe's here, as they've been a great story to follow all season.

Big East tournament: One of the biggest questions is this: Does Denver get a bid if they fail to win this tournament?  Likely moot because the teams in this conference stink, but I think the answer's yes.  Matchups: Denver/Rutgers and Villanova/Marquette.

A-East tournament: No, Albany is not getting a bid if they lose.  Matchups: Albany/Stony Brook and Binghamton/UMBC.  You haven't seen Binghamton's name all year in this bracketology, but lately they've been popping up at the very bottom of my list of teams under consideration, which is a tremendous leap forward in and of itself.

MAAC tournament: A while back, somebody on the LaxPower forums posited that if A, B, C, and so on through like N happen, the MAAC would end up with one undefeated team, one winless team, and five in the middle at 3-3.  This then proceeded to take place.  The tiebreaker, as it turns out, was goal differential, leaving two teams out in the cold and three in.  The matchups here are Siena/Canisius and Marist/Detroit.  Should Siena lose, it would be a tremendous upset, but this conference tourney has become known for those in recent years.

ECAC tournament: A similar mess is going on here, with three teams at 3-1 and one at 1-3.  (And winless Bellarmine sopping up all the other losses.)  The tiebreaker is RPI, so they won't be officially announcing the matchups til tomorrow - it takes the NCAA stat monkeys a while to get the difference engine fired up - but here they are anyway: Fairfield/Michigan and Air Force/Ohio State.

Johns Hopkins at Loyola: Besides all the tournaments, there's this one very interesting game going on here, with a tourney home game on the line in all likelihood.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

series preview: Florida State

Date/Time: Fri.-Sun., April 25-27; 6:00, 6:00, 1:00


Record against the Noles: 24-48

Last meeting: UVA 7, FSU 4; 5/25/13, Durham, NC (ACC Tournament)

Last game: UVA 13, UR 0 (4/23); FSU 13, Stet. 3 (4/23)

Last weekend:
UVA 2-1 over UNC (3-2, 3-1, 2-4)
FSU 2-1 over WF (7-1, 4-3, 2-5)

National rankings:

Baseball America: UVA #1; FSU #4
Collegiate Baseball: UVA #2; FSU #6
Perfect Game: UVA #1; FSU #4
Coaches: UVA #1; FSU #5

Pitching probables:

LHP Nathan Kirby (8-1, 1.36) vs. RHP Luke Weaver (6-3, 2.83)

RHP Josh Sborz (4-2, 2.81) vs. RHP Mike Compton (3-1, 3.70)

LHP Brandon Waddell (5-2, 2.93) vs. LHP Bryant Holtmann (5-0, 3.24)

This series doesn't need much introduction; it's so often the biggest on every year's ACC schedule and this year is no exception.  UVA and FSU represent the ACC's two top-five teams and both sit atop their respective divisions, tied for the prospective #1 seed.  The Hoos are clearly putting their #1 ranking on the line this weekend as well.  You don't get any better simulations of postseason baseball in the regular season.

Scouting report:

-- First base: John Nogowski (.310-4-39).  Solid all-around player in all respects - he can hit for contact with decent power, and is a good fielder.  Good batting eye, too; most walks (35) and fewest K's (19) of qualified hitters.  One of three players (all infielders) who've played every game.  Nogowski has been batting fourth for the past five weeks.

-- Second base: John Sansone (.239-1-27).  Not a frightening hitter, but a steady player who's started all 41 games at second base.  Has a knack for getting in the way of a pitch with 16 HBP, boosting his on-base percentage; a little bit strikeout-prone, though.  Usually bats 7th.

-- Third base: Jose Brizuela (.308-2-30). Lefty-batting junior is a long-time starter with 167 starts under his belt at FSU.  Broke out last year, hitting .324.  Possesses some speed, with 8 SB and 2 triples, but only a fair fielder.  Typically the 5th hitter.

-- Shortstop: Justin Gonzalez (.248-1-26). One of two fifth-year senior starters on this team, with a whopping 214 starts in his FSU career (he took a medical redshirt last year.)  Excellent fielder who has batted 2nd in most of his starts this year, but he's never been much better than decent as a hitter - his claim to fame is being a Rob Deer All-Star with the most strikeouts and a tie for the most walks on the team - and a cold bat of late has seen him bumped to the bottom half of the lineup.

-- Left field: D.J. Stewart (.359-7-35). Big, stocky player whose bat is easily the best on a team of pretty good ones.  He leads the team in most offensive categories, owns an OPS of 1.085, and bats third.  Won't hit any triples, but he can mash it.  Was suspended four games earlier this year for sparking a brawl in one of FSU's games against Florida by steamrolling the Gator pitcher as he tried to field a grounder down the line, and yes, Stewart did go out of his way to run him over.  He's kind of a hothead.

-- Center field: Ben DeLuzio (.281-1-21).  Tall, speedy player who is the only freshman in the regular lineup for FSU.  Has been successful on 11 of 12 stolen base attempts.  Missed some time this year with bruised ribs after forgetting what the warning track is for.  Generally the 8th hitter.  Center is occasionally manned by Brett Knief, but most of those came during DeLuzio's injury.

-- Right field: Brett Knief (.274-2-21).  Right field is the only position where there's a regular split of playing time, with the right-handed Knief platooning with the lefty-hitting Josh Delph.  Knief is a fifth-year senior who transferred from North Carolina with a juco stop in between.

-- Catcher: Danny De La Calle (.238-0-23).  A juco transfer who never gets a break; he's started 40 of 41 games behind the plate.  Light hitter who always bats 9th.

-- Designated hitter: Josh Delph (.285-0-9).  Delph usually DHes when not playing in right field, so it's not a true lefty-righty platoon out there.  This is as good a time as any to also mention utility man Casey Smit (.330-1-20), who has 11 starts at DH but also a handful at 1B, SS, and LF, and will often be used as a pinch hitter as well.

-- Pitching staff:

Friday: RHP Luke Weaver (6-3, 2.83).  A pretty good draft prospect (a 19th-round pick out of high school) who was 2nd-team all-ACC last year and a preseason all-American this year.  Weaver is a hard thrower who can get up into the mid-90s, and features an excellent change-up.  His breaking ball is still a work in progress and occasionally hangs, but his fastball and change are more than enough to get a ton of outs.

Saturday: RHP Mike Compton (3-1, 3.70).  Promoted to Saturday due to the bone bruise suffered by FSU's outstanding starter Brandon Leibrandt.  Compton is coming off of Tommy John surgery and is thus a draft-eligible sophomore.  He's a pitch-to-contact pitcher who doesn't throw hard but gets groundballs by the handful.  Those numbers look very good but they're boosted by a complete-game shutout of Maryland earlier this year; in other games his ERA is 4.54 and he's allowing a .271 BA.

Sunday: LHP Bryant Holtmann (5-0, 3.24).  A career reliever moved into the weekend rotation because of Leibrandt's injury.  FSU didn't have much other choice because their other weekday starting options weren't very palatable, but Holtmann is solid.  He's a big, tall southpaw at 6'5".

Bullpen: Nice thing if you can have a Heisman winner coming out of the pen; FSU has been using Jameis Winston (1-0, 1.17) as the closer, and he's a much, much better pitcher than hitter.  He's been nigh unhittable this year - striking out more than one per inning - and his own batting average and that of his opposing hitters are having a breakneck race to the bottom.  Both sit way below .200.  FSU can also turn to sophomore lefty Dylan Silva (3-0, 1.93) who's done a very nice job this year.  After that, their options become decidedly less palatable; the best is probably lefty Billy Strode (1-1, 4.39).  Opponents are batting .196 off of smallish freshman righty Taylor Blatch (1-0, 7.11) but, that ERA.  Sample size is an issue in both of those stats.

Bottom line: Let's face it: #1 in the country, yes - but if the basketball team had been squeaking by its opponents all season instead of blowing them out three times out of four, nobody would've given them a chance against Syracuse, probably not even me.  They weren't #1, and wouldn't have been in that case either, but there's still a parallel there.

FSU is a tough team because they have a good, patient lineup that will make you work for every out.  They don't swing at crap very often.  The pitching is solid, though not as deep as a title contender would usually like; when they get Leibrandt back, it'll help a ton, but that's not this weekend.

The UVA bats woke up this week against Richmond... but, they woke up against Richmond.  Brian O'Connor has talked about being more aggressive at the plate, and this is a good weekend to start, because Friday opponent Luke Weaver will turn you inside-out with his professional change-up if you let him go to work on you.

As the records and rankings indicate, this is a winnable series for either team, and a tremendous challenge for both.  I hesitate to pick against either, honestly; UVA has superior pitching across the board but needs to hit much better and needs to do it in a hostile setting.  Were this a home series, I would pick UVA; it being in Tallahassee, I give the slight edge to the Noles.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

the recruit: Marial Shayok

Name: Marial Shayok
Position: SF
Hometown: Ottawa, ON
School: Blair Academy (NJ)
Height: 6'7"
Weight: 205

24/7: 89, three stars; #30 SG, NJ #4, US #119
ESPN: 79, three stars; #33 SF, NJ #2
Rivals: three stars
Scout: three stars

Other offers: Marquette, Michigan, Indiana, Boston College, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Providence, Seton Hall, Georgia, La Salle, Rutgers

Marquette fans must be hating the state of Virginia right now.  Their coach departed for VT and took two of their four-man recruiting class with him (and those two instantly became far and away the top two players in VT's incoming class), and UVa became the beneficiary of that choice as well just last night when Marial Shayok flipped to Tony Bennett.

Shayok was a player UVa had pursued heavily last year, in the normal recruiting cycle for 2014 players, and the Hoos essentially finished as the runner-up, so they were a natural contender when Shayok got his release from Marquette.  UVa already had commitments from all three of the other class members when Shayok committed to Marquette, so this is something they'd've done even without the news of Teven Jones transferring; Shayok was a guy they wanted, period.

Quite a few other folks did, too.  The actual complement of Shayok's offer list is fuzzy; various credible sources list schools like Kansas State, Villanova, St. Louis, without any backup from one another; the ones above have multiple sources.  After Shayok's decommitment from Marquette, UVa's competition came from Michigan and Indiana mainly (as well as Marquette again) but UVa seems to be the only place he seriously looked.

A native Canadian, Shayok played his junior and senior years of high school ball at Blair Academy in New Jersey, a noted talent magnet.  Several of his teammates are also headed to D-I schools, either this summer or in the future, and the place is also known for producing NBAers Luol Deng and Charlie Villanueva - and UVa center Mike Tobey.  Shayok arrived there too late to be a teammate of his, though.

At Blair, Shayok was asked to play a huge variety of roles, and he prides himself on his versatility.  He probably won't be playing a lot of point guard at UVa, but he can do most things you ask of a wing and a stretch four.  His shooting is usually mentioned as a weak point of his game, but various descriptions of his strengths combine to give the impression of a player who thrives on constant motion, whether with or without the ball.  He's got that wingspan that coaches are real big on - it's been talked about as anywhere from seven feet to seven-two - and ESPN calls him a college-ready defender right now and others say his potential as a defender is almost limitless.  You can guess what Tony Bennett likes about him.

It's Shayok's versatility - and his bloodline - that make him difficult to project.  If you ever watched Michigan this year (I might have caught a game or two) and saw Glenn Robinson III play, that's the best comparison I can think of; Robinson only ever knocked down a three if it was wide open, but he could do remarkable things with the ball, was an outstanding finisher, and was asked to guard positions two through four (though he wasn't especially suited to the latter.)  Shayok sounds much like a poor man's Robinson in terms of athleticism and abilities on offense, and better on defense.

He's also coming from a basketball-playing family, the respective sizes of which lead some to believe he's not finished growing and could fill out into a true four.  Right now he's a big shooting guard, or a biggish wing, or a skinny-as-hell power forward, but another couple inches and 20-25 pounds (he'll probably put on the weight regardless) and he'll look an awful lot like Akil Mitchell.

Right now we'll call him a three, as he draws a few comparisons to Justin Anderson as well.  However, it's become clear that versatility is one of Tony Bennett's priorities.  I think this is only partly a system thing - that is, an on-court system thing.  I think Tony looks for players who don't fit a positional mold, because really talented players who do fit tend to be fought over by the big-name programs.  Tweeners often get looked at for what they can't do, so a smart guy like Tony figures he'll take them for what they can do and mix and match the combos to cover for the things they can't.  Thus you end up with our roster, which has a bunch of guys more aptly described as 1.5s (Brogdon), 2.5s (Harris), and 3.5s (Nolte) rather than 1s, 2s, and 3s.  Well, that's Shayok, too; whether he's a 2.5 or a 3.5 will depend on where his growth settles down.

This season, there'll now be an even fiercer competition for court time; Shayok is going to join Devon Hall and B.J. Stith as new contenders for Joe Harris's minutes, with Justin Anderson in the mix for more of a role as well and Malcolm Brogdon and London Perrantes already looming as 30-minute players.  The freshman class got fat all of a sudden, with the late addition and Hall's redshirt; there are now five each in the freshman and junior classes, which presents a recruiting challenge down the road.  There are two 2014 players - Devonte Graham and Sviatoslav Mikhailiuk - that Tony is in hot pursuit of, not really caring that it'll create a six-man class again, but if neither goes with UVa then it leaves two spots in the 2015 class.  Tony would likely try and fill both if for no other reason than to try and spread things out.  The hot competition for minutes might well mean a redshirt for someone, too, and by the way there's no reason it necessarily won't be Shayok.  You know how things are with Tony: it depends on how you defend.  In any case, though, it ought to be a really interesting subplot for next year's preseason.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

the recruit: Chris Peace

Name: Chris Peace
Position: LB/DE
Hometown: Newport News
School: Denbigh
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 220

24/7: 70, two stars; #211 OLB, VA #86
ESPN: 76, three stars; #91 OLB, VA #32, East #126
Rivals: 5.4, two stars
Scout: two stars

Other offers: FCS only

Today we finally wrap up the series on 2014 recruits.  Does this mean the 2015 recruiting board is finally going to make an appearance soon?  It might!  We can certainly hope.

Chris Peace committed on the same day that Cory Jones did; both received an offer and committed almost immediately during their official visit in January.  Fitting, because the similarities between the two players are immense.  If I told you about a recent basketball convert who piled up huge sack numbers in his first year of playing D-line and whose eye-opening athleticism earned him an offer from Mike London to play the role of pass-rushing OLB in Jon Tenuta's scheme, despite being ignored by the vast majority of FBS football, I still haven't given you enough info to distinguish the two.

So you're lucky I don't just mail it in and link you to the Cory Jones profile.  There are some differences, though.  Peace is not as brand-spanking-new to football as Jones is; he just grew.  A lot.  As a junior - that is, when colleges are really paying attention - Peace was a 6'1", 170-pound wide receiver, and so, ended up on no radars at all because those guys are a dime a dozen, and 170 pounds is too skinny to pay any attention to.

Then he gained 50 pounds, kept the wide-receiver quickness, and added muscle, to the point where ESPN uses the words "strong" or "strength" five times in their evaluation.  This is another difference between Peace and Jones - ESPN likes Peace a lot more, praising his strength, speed, and perhaps most importantly, motor.  Scout says mostly the same things, except for the strength part - they're not as high on that.  Nevertheless, their write-up finishes with, "Peace IS A MAJOR GET" - emphasis very much theirs.

With Peace, Jones, and J.J. Jackson, UVA's entire linebacker class consists of hybrid DE tweeners rather than true linebackers.  You would expect a learning curve for all of them, but especially these last two.  I'm tempted to interpret the presence of all three of them as a way of saying, "look, not all of these guys are gonna pan out, but we're hedging our bets here and at least one of them ought to."  In a way that's a self-fulfilling prophecy, because three guys at the same position in the same class can't all be starters.  By definition, someone will lose that competition.

That's one to look at it, though it's probably not the coaches' intention.  More likely, they saw athletes they liked and thought they could use, thought were flying too far under the radar, and offered, which has been London's SOP for his whole time here.  It just so happens that these are LB/DEs rather than DB/WRs.  Like Jones, Peace is a pretty blank slate, and these kinds of projections and descriptions can be easily thrown off by anything from a new coaching staff to a new growth spurt. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

weekend review

OK, I guess it's safe to panic and run around screaming now.  If the coaches and players are willing to admit publicly that the hitting is a concern, then I'm pretty sure the Fan Constitution allows us to go completely apeshit.  I'm sure that's in there somewhere.  Let's commence.

Or maybe there's a corollary that says when you're the #1 team in the country, you don't get to complain.  I like that better, in fact.  But it's still likely going to be necessary to color our perceptions for a while; in fact, I believe I got a head start on that in predicting a 2-1 series win over UNC instead of a sweep, though I did think Sunday would be much less of an issue.

Brian O'Connor bemoaned lost opportunities on Sunday, such as failing to score with runners at the corners in the first inning.  Without a healthy dose of moxie from Josh Sborz, he might've been doing the same on Saturday; you probably lose 19 out of 20 games where you get outhit 10-3.  Sborz wasn't stingy in giving out hits, as every Tar Heel in the lineup got one off him.  But you talk about scattering hits, and Sborz laid them out almost perfectly so as to escape nearly unscathed..... and then Connor Jones and Nick Howard slammed the door.

It goes to show the value of a good bullpen.  That's something that fans never think about until it blows enough leads.  Well, consider it thought.  Sborz did a nice job wiggling out of his jams, but life is much easier when you don't create any in the first place.  Combine all this with Friday's performance from Nathan Kirby, who outdueled UNC's Trent Thornton by fanning 12 hitters and, most importantly and unlike Thornton, not giving up any home runs ... and you have another virtuoso weekend from the moundsmen.

Perhaps one of these days the batsmen will follow suit.  The Hoos won two games mainly on the strength of two mistake pitches from the Carolina starters; a flat Thornton fastball that ended up who knows where and a hanging curve from Moss that snuck over the fence in just about the same place.  The fun part, though, is this: UVA is the near-consensus #1 team in the country and the #120 team in batting average.  Who's going to stop UVA if the pitching stays just as good and the bats fire up?

More baseball in brief:

-- Notre Dame did UVA a big favor yesterday by beating Miami.  If it happens again I'd be awfully surprised, but for now the best Miami can do is keep the tie.  It gets harder for the Canes next week as they visit Clemson, but UVA has Florida State so it's not like it's any easier for us.

-- The reason UVA is only near-consensus as #1 is because Collegiate Baseball is of the strange opinion that Cal Poly's sweep of Cal State-Fullerton (that's "18-16 Cal State-Fullerton" to you) is more impressive than whatever UVA did.  Their previous #1, Louisiana-Lafayette, didn't sweep whatever Sun Belt cupcake they had this week, so they fell to 3rd and UVA stayed at 2nd.  Everyone else puts the Hoos up top.

-- Derek Fisher is back!  That's excellent because he was hitting .333 before he went down.  The guy who moved into the lineup on the regular when that happened, stayed in - that'd be John LaPrise, since he's also hitting over .300.

-- Florida State next week - by far the biggest three games of the remaining regular season.


-- I opted to watch baseball over lacrosse on Saturday; they were at the same time, which is always a conundrum, and I figured I'd better get my chance to watch a halfway decent production of baseball for once.  The box score says everything I probably would've said anyway, though.  Namely, Ryan Lukacovic still should not be losing minutes to Owen Van Arsdale (1 goal, 1 assist, 1 turnover against goose eggs, 2 TOs, and a penalty... hm.)  I'm not gonna lie, when the program announced the hiring of Dom's son as an assistant coach, "Mike Groh" was one of the initial thoughts that popped into my head.  Now, Marc Van Arsdale has been a productive offensive coordinator in his time, and OVA has 24 assists so he's definitely had his moments too... but will Dad have the stones to bench his son if he continues to be outplayed?

-- I'm getting awfully fed up with Cavaliers Live.  I'm not the only one.  This was a much better production two, three years ago.  I'm not really jonesing for HD coverage, because I'm mindful that simply being able to watch UVA baseball (and lax, and soccer, and stuff) is a major upgrade from the inaccessibility of past years.  Give it time.  But I'm also mindful that I'm paying far more than I am for any cable channel and getting the most amateurish production imaginable. 

The scorebug looks like it was created by the freshman TV class at the local high school, has less than the bare minimum of useful info, and is sometimes not updated for a full inning, leaving the impression that the visitors are batting in the bottom half.  You've got the patented Earthquake-o-Vision from the third-base camera - surely it can be set up anywhere else, because I assume what's happening is that fans are moving around and rattling the stand.  Cutting from the side view to the plate view in the middle of the pitch is incredibly disconcerting and would probably get a producer fired at a real cable station.  (According to the explanation from the VSTV folks, we can't have a center field view because the coaches don't want the signs broadcasted, and therefore at risk of being stolen.  Fine.  You still can't see them from behind the plate, and you can still have the guy hitting the button for the switch learn when pitchers are ready to throw, and not wait for the middle of the windup.)

Then of course we have the cardinal sin: chopping off the end of games.  It happened during the Loyola game in lacrosse; I suspect because the feed was coming in slower than live, so that when the game ended, fans were watching the middle of the fourth quarter but the production people just shut off the feed and went home.  This weekend the feed just cut off before the end of the game.  If those were the only two times I'd be surprised, but they're the two I remember.  The first time, they promised that, "The error will be corrected to ensure the Cavaliers Live viewing experience meets our production expectations for future webcasts."  Uh-huh.

There's one more home baseball series, after which that subscription is coming to a merciful end.  Whether I re-subscribe next year depends on the work they put in during the offseason to unfuck the presentation.

-- There are new uniforms in the world of ACC football.  Florida State's are fine, more or less, but Syracuse's are A) godawful, B) largely a copy of Boise State's, right down to the unnecessary Trendy Gray**, and C) living proof that college football players would "get hype" about playing in a pink tutu if it was brand new and you presented it with enough I'M-A-WARRIOR flair.  Make sure the CG models hold their arms out like their lats are the size of elephants.

**The gray is funny because Syracuse fans already got up in arms over Trendy Gray basketball jerseys a couple years back - remarkably, they didn't really like having their team look just like the one they considered their biggest Big East rival.  Georgetown's school colors are gray and blue.  Let's hope Trendy Maroon is never a thing.

-- It was announced today that UVA will play a basketball home-and-home with George Washington, which is just exactly the kind of team we should be scheduling home-and-home.  You can play 28 games, so, ACC teams get 10 non-conference ones, and a tournament of up to four can count as one.  In my ideal world no more than six of these 10 would be cupcakes.  The other four would be the yearly tournament, the B1G Challenge, and two teams from conferences like the SEC, A-10, Big East, etc.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

lacrosse bracketology

This week's bracketology, thusly:

There continues to be heartache in the vein of: "if we lose to UNC (that is, in the "showcase" game at the ACC tournament, in which "showcase" is branding-ese for "participation-ribbon") then we'll miss the NCAA."  I continue to make reassuring noises here.  Barring an incredible number of bid thieves, and even then not necessarily, UVA is essentially a lock to make the tourney in some fashion.  The Hoos will play UNC not for a bid, but for an outside shot at hosting duties.  Very outside.

Truth is, the eight at-large bids are basically sewed up, barring any disasters.  Of the bubble teams listed, only two of the "first four out" have even a remote chance of snagging an at-large bid: Princeton and Drexel.  And Princeton is locked out of the Ivy tournament; even should they tie Yale for the last spot, the Elis have the tiebreaking win.  Princeton has a game against Cornell remaining, and I'm not convinced that even a win will help them.  Drexel, in playing some teams down in the middle of the RPI rankings, is going to spin its wheels and little else.  And the Hoos beat Drexel.

So the only thing that can screw the pooch for UVA is an unfortunate but galactically remote combination of bad news in conference tournaments.  The Patriot, Ivy, CAA, and Big East tourneys present the only threat - the one-bid leagues in the play-in, plus the A-East, aren't a concern.  And in the case of the Ivy and BE, the victims of bid thieves would almost certainly be the teams in those conferences anyway - Yale and Denver.  Notre Dame is also precariously on the edge, and is behind UVA in line - so you do not want them advancing to the ACC final, because part of the combination of bad news would be the Irish securing an auto-bid.

Last week's results in important games:

Cornell 14, Brown 9: Cornell got past the Bears and moved up a spot as a result - and their doing so also helps float Hofstra to a surprising seeded slot.

Maryland 12, Notre Dame 8: Rematch next week in Philadelphia.  As much as I hate to say it, a Terp win would be a plus for UVA.

Harvard 9, Princeton 8: This probably just about puts an end to Princeton's tourney hopes; they can't play in the Ivy tournament and have dropped from a virtual tie for the last at-large spot to being a longish way out.

Ohio State 8, Air Force 6: Now if Fairfield will beat Ohio State next week, we might just get to find out what the deepest and darkest tiebreakers are in the world of ECAC tourney seeding.

This week's important games:

Patriot League tournament: The PL has a six-team affair, with Loyola and Army getting byes and the opening round games being Colgate/Bucknell and Lehigh/Navy.  None of these teams except Loyola are anywhere in the same area code as NCAA contention.  Loyola, however, has a very secure position in the tourney, so anyone besides them winning this thing would be a true bid thief, with the first likely victim being Yale.

ACC tournament: Duke vs. Syracuse and Maryland vs. Notre Dame.  The only rooting interest you have as far as UVA is concerned is for Maryland to knock off the Domers.  That would ensure UVA stays ahead of Notre Dame in the pecking order; in fact, it would force Notre Dame into a must-win situation the week after, as they will be 6-6 if they lose to Maryland.

Marquette at Denver: I include this only to point out the surprising fact that the Big East #1 seed is at stake here.  There's little chance of Denver losing it, but that should illustrate for you the sorry state of Big East lacrosse this year - that Marquette, in their second-ever season of competition, sits second out of seven in the league.

Hofstra at Penn State: PSU is still the Flop of the Year and nobody can take that away from them.  But this game has potential to let next week's bracketology illustrate the potential effect of a bid thief; by the rules I establish for myself, it's likely Drexel would snag the (temporary) autobid should Hofstra lose, and then we'd get to see what the bracket looked like with one team that doesn't belong.  For their own part, Hofstra actually has a pretty safe-looking bid.

Harvard at Yale: Harvard still isn't going to get an at-large, no matter what happens, but they can mess up Yale and they're as big a threat as anyone to win the Ivy tourney.

Princeton at Cornell: Obviously, if Princeton loses, it's game over; I'm not sure what to make of things if they win and Yale loses, but their problem is this is the only bullet left in their chamber, so any jump up into the field would likely be very temporary.

Virginia vs. North Carolina: Woo embarrassing "showcase."  Well, if we win I won't call it embarrassing, but still.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

series preview: North Carolina

Date/Time: Fri.-Sat., April 18-20; 6:00, 1:00, 1:00

TV: Cavaliers Live Friday and Sunday; RSN and ESPN3 on Saturday

Record against the Heels: 100-176-4

Last meeting: UVA 2-1 over UNC (10-4. 5-8, 8-7); 5/16-5/18/13, Chapel Hill

Last game: UVA 11, W&M 2 (4/16); UNC 5, Elon 4 (4/16)

Last weekend:
UVA 2-1 over Clemson (3-2, 1-7, 1-0)
UNC 2-1 over WF (9-0, 4-3, 5-6)

National rankings:

Baseball America: UVA #1; UNC UR
Collegiate Baseball: UVA #2; UNC UR
Perfect Game: UVA #1; UNC UR
Coaches: UVA #1; UNC ARV

Pitching probables:

LHP Nathan Kirby (7-1, 1.23) vs. RHP Trent Thornton (7-1, 1.50)

RHP Josh Sborz (3-2, 2.91) vs. RHP Benton Moss (2-1, 3.62)

LHP Brandon Waddell (5-1, 2.78) vs. RHP Zac Gallen (3-3, 4.99)

The Hoos are riding higher than they have all season, a near-consensus #1 in the rankings and sporting a shiny 14-4 record in conference play.  Normally that'd mean this was one of the biggest series in the country this week, but the Heels aren't holding up their end.  UNC's low point so far this season is probably a sweep at the hands of Duke, and they've also provided lowly Boston College with one of their three conference wins.

The pressure remains on UVA, though; despite the lofty rank, they're at risk of not even leading their division at the end of the week.  There'd be no shame in a 2-1 series win over UNC, even if they are struggling, but Miami hosts Notre Dame this week, and it'd be a shock if they didn't sweep the Irish.  Even with a good showing, UVA could be looking upwards in the Coastal, and very much needs to avoid giving away two games on the weekend.

UNC scouting report:

-- First base: Adrian Chacon (.264-1-8).  Let's start this off by saying, right off the bat, that UNC's lineup has been really fluid this year.  UNC coach Mike Fox has been letting things go for two to three weeks and then shuffling the batting order, and by that pattern UNC is due for another shuffle.  First base has been a place where the shuffle is most evident; three different players started here against Wake Forest, and UNC went through another stretch where they started four different players in five games.  Joe Dudek started the first 21 games, but his .218 batting average dissuaded Fox from giving him any further regular role.  Dudek is a lefty hitter while Chacon is a righty, so if Dudek plays it'll be on Saturday; otherwise, first base tends to be a place where UNC moves someone from another position for a game so as to get an outfielder off the bench or a DH some field time.  Chacon, for his part, will occupy one of the spots in the bottom third of the order, depending on who else plays.

-- Second base: Wood Myers (.307-0-17).  On the other hand, this is the picture of stability.  Myers is a freshman that the Heels really like; he handles himself well at second, and his lefty bat gives him the ability to turn some singles into doubles.  He's second on the team in doubles despite lacking any semblance of power - he's yet to hit a triple and probably will never homer.  Myers is one of two Heels that have started every game at the same position - their double-play combo is the only thing they've kept completely intact - and typically bats second.

-- Third base: Landon Lassiter (.266-0-11).  A freshman all-American last season with a BA of .358, Lassiter has definitely hit a sophomore slump this year.  Opening the season near the top of the lineup and spending a time as the leadoff hitter, Lassiter has been bumped to fifth in the order, but without the power hitting that often implies.  Despite a propitious drop in batting average and collecting only two extra-base hits out of 34, he has a keen eye and a knack for getting on base in general - he's collected 26 walks, second on the team, and leads the Heels with 9 HBP.  His slump may be attributable in part to his move to the field on an everyday basis, as he's started all but three games at third base after being primarily the DH last year.  It's been a rocky road; Lassiter has piled up 12 errors for a fielding percentage of .852.

-- Shortstop: Michael Russell (.338-3-25).  This junior and second-year starter at shortstop is undoubtedly the Heels' top offensive threat.  Russell is tough to pitch to; he hits the ball all over the field and draws plenty of walks, and once on base, is also the top base-stealer on the team, with a 10-for-11 success rate.  He spent most of the season batting third or fourth, as you'd expect of a hitter of his caliber, but lately has been in the leadoff spot.  I read this as a sign that Mike Fox is trying anything to stop the offense from sputtering, and figures he might as well maximize the appearances for his best hitter.

-- Left field: Parks Jordan (.257-0-15).  UNC definitely has its share of guys whose first name is really more of a last name.  Seems like more of a lacrosse phenomenon, but whatever.  Jordan is a left-handed hitting senior who's never been a major offensive threat but also never been terrible; his career average is .256.  He packs very little power and has a slugging average of just .286, a mere three points below Lassiter to claim the bottom spot among regulars.  Jordan is a high-quality fielder, however; he committed his first collegiate error just this season.

-- Center field: Skye Bolt (.250-1-17).  Like Lassiter, Bolt was a freshman sensation last year - probably more well-known than Lassiter due to a combination of his name and playing in the field - and has hit a sophomore wall this year.  Bolt is a speedy player, a good fielder, and his 27 walks and 14 strikeouts indicate a good batting eye - he's just not collecting base hits.  Nevertheless, he's been batting third lately and hits in the top of the lineup most games this year.

-- Right field: Tyler Ramirez (.311-1-17).  Despite having some of the top numbers on the team, Ramirez is one of the players more likely to be bumped from the lineup, and his typical spot in the order is 8th or 9th.  One wonders if the next lineup shuffle from UNC moves him nearer the top.  Zach Daly (.258-2-5), usually used in a pinch-hitting role, gets an occasional start here, as does the very light-hitting Adam Pate (.176-0-2), whose main role is as a pinch-runner.

-- Catcher: Korey Dunbar (.248-3-25).  Early in the season this job belonged to Adrian Chacon, but Dunbar took over two weeks in, and when Chacon eventually returned to the lineup it was at first base.  Dunbar doesn't get much rest, starting all but three games since then.  He doesn't hit for a great deal of contact and he strikes out a ton, and is generally a bottom-half hitter, but he does at least have a little pop in his bat when he does make contact.

-- Designated hitter: Tom Zengel (.329-4-25).  Fox has used this spot this year to get a variety of players some time in the lineup, but that's getting harder and harder to do since Zengel is basically the second-best hitter after Michael Russell.  He's having a big breakout year as a senior after not hitting much in his first two and sitting as a junior.  Lately he's been batting cleanup, an appropriate spot for the team slugging (.565) and HR (4) leader.

-- Pitching staff:

Friday: RHP Trent Thornton (7-1, 1.50).  Thornton is a high draft pick in the making, and his matchup with Nathan Kirby promises to be a must-watch.  He's got three plus pitches, maybe four depending on his slider, and started the season as Carolina's Saturday starter but didn't need much time to show he deserved the role of Friday ace.  His average outing lasts into the 8th inning.  His numbers are eerily similar to Kirby's, and he's only allowed three extra-base hits all year.

Saturday: RHP Benton Moss (2-1, 3.62).  A veteran workhorse in his third year in the starting rotation.  He's been consistent but not spectacular his whole career; his excellent freshman-year numbers are mainly built on weekday competition.  Moss has started twice against UVA in his career; in 2012 he earned a win and in 2013 a no-decision.  He was outdueled by Scott Silverstein last year but Carolina came away with the win when Kyle Crockett inexplicably melted down.

Sunday: RHP Zac Gallen (3-3, 4.99).  Gallen comes in as a very highly-rated freshman, with stuff that the scouts really liked, but has been very hittable this year so far.  That ERA is just a shade under 5, and he's allowing a BA of .288.

Bullpen: Carolina goes very deep in the bullpen, and should be able to match UVA stride for stride here.  RHP Chris McCue (0-0, 0.77) is a tough customer as the closer, with 7 saves in as many appearances.  UNC leans very hard on righty Reilly Hovis (5-1, 2.09), allowing a .196 batting average, and righties Spencer Trayner (2-2, 2.25) and Trevor Kelley (0-1, 2.40) are trusted options as well.  There aren't many lefties; if UNC wants one they'll turn to Zach Rice (1-2, 3.52), usually for only a batter or two.

Bottom line: Carolina has good pitching, as they tend to usually do, but they're frustrating their fans with poor performance at the plate.  Sound familiar?  The difference between us and them is we were bursting at the seams with options for the rotation and they've had trouble getting consistency from Gallen and have no other options they fully trust.  Also, this is a fairly young team; usually, the backbone of a good team is your junior class, but UNC has only five, and only Michael Russell is not a pitcher.  They have a couple seniors too, but the team is mostly underclassmen, and in too many cases for the sanity of UNC fans, highly underachieving sophomores.

Despite all that, UNC's lineup is outperforming UVA's on the stat sheet, so the advantage we might have is not great.  Friday promises to be a terrific battle between two terrific pitchers, and could easily be won 1-0 by either team.  UVA will have the advantage on the mound from then on, though Moss is a very capable pitcher and shouldn't be discounted.

Prediction: UVA 2-1.  The Hoos aren't batting well enough that they're likely to hit both Thornton and Moss hard enough to win.  Just like last week, Sunday should set up as a rubber match which UVA should then win.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

put the bagmen in charge

I swear I've had it up to here already.  I've come to the conclusion that something had to fill the void of conference realignment, and that something is college athlete compensation.  I figure it that way because I'm already damn sick of it and because so much stupidity gets tossed around with no critical thinking attached, and whatever comes out the back end of this sausage-making process is going to be much less desirable from a fan perspective than when we started.

My take on the whole thing can be summed up thusly: The status quo needs tweaking here and there but the model is otherwise just fine, and if a tiny percentage of Johnny Manziels are earning less than they're worth, it's not really a big deal because they're gonna get paid eventually and giving more money to them means taking money away from either fans or non-revenue athletes, probably both.  Forgive me if I don't feel sorry for a guy who can't sell his autograph but will make millions anyway and prefer to direct my concerns toward people who work just as hard for an opportunity that in all likelihood will be taken away or severely limited if the Johnny Manziels get their way.  You know this latter group better as swimmers, tennis players, wrestlers, and the like.

This places me basically on the side of the NCAA, which is run by some of the stupidest baboons that ever ran anything, ever.  Arguments on both sides of the coin have gotten uncontrollably moronic, in fact.  Shabazz Napier claiming he "goes to bed starving" is supposed to be taken as evidence that college athletes are the functional equivalent of Oliver Twist, and some people are thrilled to fall for it.  College athletes living off-campus receive a cost-of-living stipend which I've read is about $1,200 a month, which is why you so often see them living together; two of them pooling that money can rent a house that sleeps six or eight.  Napier is walking around with about two thousand dollars' worth of tattoos on his arms, most of which he's gotten while at UConn (compare these two pictures here and here) so if he can't afford food, it's because he and common sense money management have never been formally introduced.  Not because he's been exploited.

As obnoxious as Napier's claim is, it pales in comparison to Northwestern's appeal of the NLRB's CAPA ruling.  The money quote is:
Contrary to the Regional Director’s findings, Northwestern scholarship football student-athletes are not “initially sought out, recruited and ultimately granted scholarships because of their athletic prowess on the football field.”

This is a lie so brazen it defies all attempts at mockery, but I can try.  The people in charge of the system today are trying to convince us that football recruiting has nothing to do with football skill.  This is where we've come in this debate.  That's the strategy.  If they had been in charge of the German defenses at Omaha Beach they would've sent their entire army swimming into the ocean, figuring to try and clog the propellers of the landing ships.  And these are the people at the smart university.


On the heels of all this comes the well-known bagman article from SB Nation, which failed to surprise anyone because the fact that most SEC players are on the take is something people have taken for granted for a while now.  Not to impugn the SEC only, of course, it's just that they're the ones basically flaunting it.  Cheating?  Who cares?  Rowl dayum Tahd.  But I would guess there's at least one player on the take at 90% of BCS-level schools, and at least a few of the non-BCS ones as well.  If you removed all the schools with technically ineligible players from consideration for the national title, it might be contested between Washington State and Purdue.  Maybe.  Don't sit there and pretend UVA is 100% clean; chances are it ain't.

The fact is though, that nothing you can do will shut off that spigot.  People who do this, and there's a critical mass of them, have a different code of ethics from provincial little naifs in the Midwest who actually think rules matter.  SMU didn't get the death penalty because they paid their players.  They got the death penalty because they were told to stop paying their players and didn't - the reasoning being was that they'd made a promise to the current roster and thought it would be wrong to renege on it.  That sort of ethic is alive and well today.  Start up a sanctioned system of compensation and the bagman money will be totally unaffected.  And if the NCAA were to do its worst and death-penalize the SEC for being mud-pit dirty, the SEC would probably just leave and take half the NCAA with it.

So we have a growing clamor for athletes to get paid, dammit, or if not athletes necessarily, football and basketball players.  (I notice nobody's asked the swimmers and wrestlers what they think of the pay-the-poor-orphans movement, and the conspiracist in me, whom I don't let out very often, says that's because the media has a pay-the-poor-orphans agenda and is afraid to hear the answer.)  We have the same athletes operating basically with their hands out, expecting money on the side.  Adrian Peterson opined that college athletes should get paid, and Adrian Peterson went to Oklahoma where they definitely have had some problems with that side-action thing; Rhett Bomar got kicked off the team for being on the take, conveniently right while Peterson was playing there.  I would be blown away if Peterson was clean.  Absolutely flabbergasted, to be honest.

So the temptation is growing in me to give the gimme-gimme football players exactly what they want.  Legitimize the bagmen.  Open the faucet all the way. And to counterbalance it: ban athletic scholarships entirely.  Let's consider how a system like this might work:

-- Players in any sport would be allowed to take any amount of money they can get their hands on, for any reason.  No more burn phones, or silly (and kind of narcissistic, in a look-at-me-I'm-a-secret-agent kind of way) code language, or shady cash drops.  Just write the check; nobody cares anymore.  Your pay is between you and the boosters now.  The key is there can't be any limitations, because the first one, no matter how small, will drive the money back underground.

-- They would also be entirely responsible for paying their own tuition, and allowed to receive no financial aid of any kind from the school.  Schools would have to submit their rosters to the NCAA along with proof of the financial remittance from each player, and the rolls of their financial aid recipients to prove that no athlete is on it.  Scholarship limits would be replaced by simple roster limits.  You can have 17 players on your basketball team, 100 on your football team, etc.  No more than 35 players may appear on your team that weren't there last year, covering both transfers and recruiting.  That kind of thing.

Complications, of course, would arise:

-- What about players that can't pay their way but can't attract enough financial support from the boosters?  A lot of these guys ain't exactly from 90210.  Student loans, man.  Student loans.  Like the rest of us.  Harsh, maybe, but more on this in a bit.

-- Isn't it really bad to just turn the competition into a game of who has the richest boosters?  Kinda; there would be some mitigating factors, though.  One, if everyone's paying, the field gets a lot more level.  Two, roster limits will help.  Three, I've always thought of this as the Pickens Problem.  T. Boone Pickens donated $165 million to Oklahoma State to turn their athletic facilities into exotic pleasure palaces.  That kind of money would pay a full 85-man football roster a six-figure salary for almost 20 years.  However, if tuition is like $40,000 a year, which it tends to be these days, it puts a major dent in the pay.

-- Won't they just pocket the money and take out the student loan too?  Yes.  Some of them are kind of dumb like that.  So?

-- There is no way swimmers and wrestlers will get any of this free cash; they will all be on student loans.  First of all, I'm not so sure of that; the best of them will still attract some money, and the better programs, who like being that way, such as Stanford, will have donors who earmark money for the swim teams and the tennis teams and such.  I figure that once this system is in place, any school that doesn't have a VAF-like organization will quickly have one, which will be in charge of negotiating pay, and quite a lot of the athletes' money will funnel through that.  So donors will specify a sport just as they do now.  Second, a lot of them pay their way now anyway.  Scholarships are really tight in these sports and it's rare to find full rides in the non-revs.

-- If scholarships go away, athletes in sports like soccer and hockey, tennis and golf, will be induced to go pro sooner without the lure of a free education.  I think this effect will be negligible and balanced out by the ability to sweeten the pot to compete with the pros.  These guys go pro when it suits them to anyway; they aren't in college for the education necessarily, just to develop until someone is ready to pay them or they're good enough to fend for themselves on a pro tour.

Now, then: most of the money that goes into the NCAA and the schools these days goes toward scholarships.  TV revenue and ticket revenue isn't going away.  So what to do with this sudden windfall that isn't paying for scholarships any more?  This is the fun part.  I don't know if all these ideas could be funded at once, but maybe.

-- First, some of it can go to a fund that essentially becomes a scholarship fund.  Athletes who took out a student loan, and earned a degree, could apply to the NCAA (yes, it would be centrally located and not with the schools) with their loan documentation, and get a check that covers the cost of it, or some significant portion thereof, or at the least a subsidized, interest-free loan.  Rules would be set up whereby athletes on pro rosters, or signing a pro contract, or drafted in a professional league, or some combination the details of which could easily be hashed out, would be ineligible.  This would essentially prevent the best and richest college athletes from also getting the free ride as well.  They got theirs.

-- Finally hire and pay some real referees.  Not this private-contractor business.  The freed-up money could be used to train them, pay them, and basically employ them full-time.

-- Facility improvements; schools that find themselves with freed-up money always have projects they want to do.

-- Sport expansion.  The primary expense of fielding a sport is its scholarships.  Freed from having to care about that, there would be money for a lot more offerings.

-- Media expansion.  Wouldn't it be nice if Cavaliers Live were a really slick operation instead of the budget-limited, facility-limited thing we have today?

-- Cut ticket prices and get more people in the stadiums.  I know, I know - just a crazy, lunatic idea on my part.  I shouldn't even bother with something so unrealistic even in this most unrealistic of proposals.

This is just spitballing ideas.  I'm sure some ADs can think of some way to spend a few million a year they didn't have before.  Much of the money we're talking about is just re-juggled instead of freed up.  The NCAA would keep a lot of the money it now sends to schools.  The VAF would merely redirect a lot of the money it now gives the department.  Scholarship funding is heavily crowdsourced anyway.  So this isn't going to give the schools a massive windfall.

I'm not sure this would be better, in the big picture, for athletes.  Big-money athletes would get theirs and have no room to complain anymore.  Most of the rest have a pretty good deal, though, and such a new system would disrupt that.  It's not better for competition; there would be mitigating effects, as I mentioned, but you'd certainly also have Phil Knight purchasing the best team money can buy.  It would improve the budget situation for athletic departments, but not by a huge amount.  On one level this is less a serious proposal and more kind of a thought exercise to provoke a consideration of the true effects of throwing the system open to the free market.  (With a dash of spite, in two flavors.  One: you want this golden goose, you got it, but you can't have this one anymore.  And two, you bagmen think you're such hot shit with the team you've bought, so if you've got so much money you can go pay for the whole thing.)  This unionization stuff is supported by a "free market" interpretation of what football players are worth, but a bastardized free market system is all we'd get and it isn't necessarily the best for college athletics.  In a way it's what exists now, but with much of the money underground.  Nobody but the bagmen thinks this is a good idea.