March 3, 2015

I have a few things to say...

This team is incredible to me.  I can't even really process it.
ACC regular season champs, two seasons in a row.  The first time a non-Duke, non-UNC team has done this in 40 years.  And not to poo-poo our players, but this team is so more than the sum of its parts, moreso than any team I've ever seen.  We are 28-1, 16-1 in the ACC.  Coach K would be .500 with this roster, I think.  (Remember, he's 13-3 with a roster full of 5-stars and McDonald's All-Americans.)  Roy Williams would be 5-13 right now.  Brian Gregory would be 3-14... because Brian Gregory is always 3-14.  Anyway, our players are great, and Tony Bennett is the best at turning five fingers into a fist.

I know we've gotten some bad press, but I don't care.
"Is Virginia's style bad for the game" and "UVA basketball keeps winning but that doesn't mean we have to like it" enraged our thin-skinned fanbase, and I understand all the reasons why.  But look, like my friend Juwhan taught me, any press is good press.  If your name is out there - good or bad! - it means your name is out there.  We're ranked #2 and in the minds of everyone watching college basketball.  There's no way that's anything other than a good thing!  (But if you need a counterpoint to those articles the hacks wrote, try this or this or this or this or this.)

Seth Davis and the hack writers leeching onto this topic --- College basketball is not broken!  So stop trying to fix it!
Bullshit: Why College Basketball Needs an EXTREME MAKEOVER!

We're witnessing innovation here!
Well, sort of.  Really, we're witnessing the re-birth of team basketball.  It's gritty, tough-minded, mature, controlled, resilient.  It's old school and throwbacky.  The skeptics hate it because it's different.  Bennettball and the Packline isn't anything like the modern spread in college football, but think about it: 2014-15 Virginia  Basketball = 2000 Oregon Football.  Think about what I'm saying here.  I think our Hoos are altering the landscape.  I THINK OUR HOOS ARE MOVING MOUNTAINS!

London Perrantes is one tough son of a bitch.
Shaking off a concussion and playing great with a broken nose, and no mask.  Our point guard is a freaking warrior.

Haters gon' hate me saying this, but Evan Nolte is a good player!
And don't look now, but he's shooting 45% from behind the arc in his last three games!  Haters gon' hate, but Nolte is an important piece to this puzzle.

Tony Bennet gets credit for his defensive system, for doing more with less, and for building this program the right way, for long-term sustainable success... but I think we've found one other "best" trait:
Developing big men.  Take a look at Darion Atkins right now, and be amazed.

Justin Anderson is about to return.
He's going to play against Louisville this weekend, I just know it.  I'm excited about the adrenaline shot his return will provide!  I just want to pause to remind everyone that Justin had been in a horrible slump since the Clemson game on January 13.  You could tell, the form on his newly-rebuilt jumper was out of whack, for whatever reason.  He was drifting.  As a result, he was shooting 32.7% (including just 28% from three) during his most recent six-game run prior to the injury.  The problem with that is that Justin was still taking shots -- 52 of 'em across six (really, five-and-a-half) games, 9.5 shots per game.  On a team - and in an offense - built on efficiency, Justin Anderson had become an inefficient shooter.  Maybe even a teensy bit of a black hole.  Now don't get me wrong -- his defense, hustle, athleticism, energy, those are enormous assets for this team, and we desperately need those things again.  Here's hoping he comes back to the team on fire like he began the season, when he was hitting 60% of his threes.

Somewhat lost in the shuffle, Brog is back for 2015-16.
He said it earlier this season, and then again after the Virginia Tech game.  He's coming back.  He's not leaving early for the NBA.  Discuss among yourselves: Has there been a more complete player in UVA history?  Ralph, okay, fine.  Bryant Stith?  Maybe?  And Brogdon has this postseason and all of next season to finish writing his legacy.

Only the NCAA Tournament matters.
Here's my closing, a bucket of cold water over your head.  The the fantastic regular season, the ACC regular season title, all of the attention and accolades and awesome play... none of it matters.  March 19 thru April 6, THAT'S what matters.  If we want the respect we know our team deserves, we have to win games in March.  Last year's Sweet 16 run was nice, but now the stakes are significantly higher.



February 24, 2015

Important Statement

“If you say you love basketball and you say that Virginia is boring, one of those statements is false.”

~Mark Titus




It's been a while.  London Perrantes has a broken nose.  We're winning ugly.  We're under attack by pockets of the national media for a style and system that is considered "bad for basketball."

Meanwhile, baseball season has started.

And... nothing from Wahooze.  But it's coming.  I've just been busy.

Thanks for your patience!

February 12, 2015

It all starts with stops.

Good, solid, grind-it-out win in Raleigh last night.  Don't allow yourselves to be spoiled, Hoofans.  Any ACC win on the road is big; NC State is a pretty good team, and we were able to pull through in our first game without one of our stars.  It's an adjustment period, and it's going to be ugly at times.  The good news is that winning ugly is Tony Bennett's specialty!

My thoughts on the game...

We played the percentages.
We held NC State to 33% shooting, then rebounded 72% of the misses.  That's really the simplest formula for Bennettball -- make 'em take crappy shots, then complete the defensive possession with a rebound.  That's the way it's always been, and that's the way it always will be... especially now, missing one of our best scorers.



Our offense was gawd-awful.
Okay, okay, my head is not in the sand.  We shot 37% and allowed State to snare 57% of the rebounds.  It was a putrid performance from the field, pretty good on the glass.  It was enough to be better than the Wolfpack last night, four points better to be specific.

I was disappointed in Marial Shayok's performance.
11 minutes, 0-for-3 from the field, including misses on two really bad, ill-advised shots.  At this point, I have to call in an APB on the skills Shayok showed us earlier in the season.  He was impacting the game in profound ways, and now he just looks like a lost freshman, slogging through a horrible slump.  (By the way, there is no C in Shayok.)



I was happy with Evan Nolte.
24 minutes, drilled a key 3-pointer, played decent defense, hustled, made some plays.  I'd actually like to see him shoot a little bit more -- two shots in 24 minutes is defaulting to a fault.  But otherwise, let's note that Nolte has hit two out of his last three 3-point attempts.  He's got a good shot.  Let him shoot.

I was also happy with Devon Hall.
He couldn't stay with Cat Barber, but few can.  Otherwise, I thought Hall played a solid game.  It's clear that he's part of the solution to the problem of how we're going to replace Justin Anderson.

The last two fouls on Malcolm Brogdon were complete bullshit.
At this point, you just have to accept the fact that ACC officiating is a total joke.  Meanwhile, I want Brog to hunt his own shot a bit more aggressively while Justin is out.  He was having an off night (5-for-13 from the field / 0-for-3 from deep), but 13 shots needs to be 16 shots.

Speaking of shots, here's how I'd like to see Justin Anderson's 10 shots per game divvied up:
-- Brogdon - 3 additional shots per game
-- Tobey - 3 additional shots per game
-- Gill - 1 additional shot per game
-- Nolte - 1 additional shot per game
-- Perrantes - 1 additional shot per game
-- Hall - 1 additional shot per game

Mike Tobey is good, haters (and announcers) be damned.
He's a finesse center, and I think people have a problem with that on some philosophical level.  But you have to face facts -- Tobey is one of our most efficient scorers, blocks a surprisingly high number of shots, and might be our BEST offensive rebounder.  Last night, in the second half, I saw a fire lit under Tobey.  I saw the dragon awaken.  I saw an inspired performance down the stretch.  And you know what?  We can talk about Evan Nolte and Devon Hall and Shayok and Brog getting more shots and whatever else, but ultimately, I think the biggest beneficiary of Anderson's injury might be Mike Tobey.  There is burden on him now, and as he showed last night, he is more than capable of rising to the occasion.  How about those two free throws at the end of the game?  Clutch.  And ice fucking cold.

I bet that's the first time Mike Tobey has even been referred to as "the dragon."

No doubt, the frontcourt is the strength of our our team.
Tobey, Gill (when he's on), Darion Atkins 2.0, the x-factor spark provided by Isaiah Wilkins... this is the best thing we have going right now.  Our bigs accounted for 41% of our field goal attempts last night.  That number needs to be above 50%, and the attempts need to be coming from Gill and Tobey.  A good-scoring frontcourt is akin to a strong running game in football.  It allows you to control the game and win low-scoring, grind-it-out rockfights.  That plays perfectly into the other strengths of our team and also the foundation upon which the program has been built.  Run the offense through the post, with Brogdon and Perrantes serving as the facilitators.

Coaching matters.
Brog was out with four fouls.  Hall was guarding Cat Barber.  State put their other four dudes on the opposite side of the floor and ran an iso play for Barber... who promptly ate Devon Hall alive, hoop and harm, three-point play.  I said to my wife: "Whelp, we're fucked.  We can't stop that."  Number of times NC State went back to that type of play down the stretch: zero.  We like to credit Tony Bennett with amazing coaching, but sometimes mere competent coaching while the opposing coach is drowning in blatant incompetence is all you really need.  Love Tony Bennett for the coach he is, and love his just as much for the coach he isn't.  Mark Gottfried is a hack, and I really think he cost his team the game last night by not going back to dip into the Cat Barber iso well.

It was an ugly win, but I'd say it was a top-5 win for us this season.
In terms of MEANING and IMPORTANCE, I mean.  At Maryland and at VCU were both big.  The statement win over Harvard.  At Notre Dame.  At UNC two days after the Duke loss.  Louisville.  And at NC State without Justin Anderson.

Ranking our 22 wins this season...

  • #18 (five-way tie) @ JMU, Norfolk State, South Carolina State, Tennessee State, Cleveland State
  • #17 @ Virginia Tech - Ugly "survival" type of game against a bad opponent.
  • #16 Davidson - We played like crap, but then Gill saved us.
  • #15 @ Boston College - Ho-hum.
  • #14 NC State - Ho-hum.
  • #13 Rutgers - Held them to 26 on a neutral floor.
  • #12 La Salle - Solid win against a solid A-10 team.
  • #11 @ Miami - We took their best shot and survived... barely.
  • #10 Clemson - Workmanlike Virginia-style win.
  • #9 George Washington - Big win over a good team.
  • #8 Georgia Tech - Held those fuckers to 28 points, the all-time low scoring effort in ACC history.
  • #7 Harvard - I've never seen a more dominant performance... over a good team, too!
  • #6 @ Maryland
  • #5 @ NC State
  • #4 Louisville
  • #3 @ VCU
  • #2 @ Notre Dame
  • #1 @ North Carolina


February 9, 2015

Silver Linings!

Before we dive into Justin Anderson's injury, let's not lose sight of the fact that on Saturday night, we beat a very good Louisville team.  They were 19-3 (7-2 ACC), ranked #9 and were #13 in the RPI.  Most importantly, a loss to the Cardinals would have dumped us into a first-place scrum with them atop the ACC, with two losses (with each of Duke, Notre Dame, and UNC with three losses).  Instead, we're alone in first place, two games better than the three-loss riffraff in the loss column.  Huge.

Now on the the injury.


CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Virginia head coach Tony Bennett announced late Saturday (Feb. 7) that junior guard Justin Anderson (Montross, Va.) has a fractured finger on his left hand and will undergo surgery on Sunday (Feb. 8). Anderson is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with the injury.

Anderson suffered the injury in the first half of No. 3 Virginia’s 52-47 win over No. 9 Louisville. He ranks second on the team in scoring at 13.4 points per game. Virginia (21-1, 9-1 ACC) returns to action at NC State on Wednesday, Feb. 11.




Let's talk about the 4-6 weeks, shall we?  A quick (and hopefully obvious) schedule breakdown...

February 7 -- Virginia 52, Louisville 47; Justin Anderson injured
~~~ February 8 -- Surgery on Justin's broken finger ~~~
February 11 -- @ NC State
February 14 -- Wake Forest
February 16 -- Pittsburgh
February 22 -- Florida State
February 25 -- @ Wake Forest
February 28 -- Virginia Tech
March 2 -- @ Syracuse
March 7 -- @ Louisville
~~~ March 8 -- Four weeks since surgery ~~~
March 10 -- ACC Tournament Opening Day
March 11 -- ACC Tournament Second Round
March 12 -- ACC Tournament Quarterfinals (top four seeds receive a bye to this stage)
March 13 -- ACC Tournament Semifinals
March 14 -- ACC Tournament Championship
~~~ March 15 -- Five weeks since surgery ~~~
March 15 -- Selection Sunday
March 17-18 -- NCAA Tournament Play-In
March 19-20 -- NCAA Tournament Round of 64
~~~ March 22 -- Six weeks since surgery ~~~
March 21-22 -- NCAA Tournament Round of 32
March 26-27 -- Sweet Sixteen
March 28-29 -- Elite Eight
April 4 -- Final Four
April 6 -- Championship Game


Okay dudes, I'm not going to try to spin this as a good thing.  It's not a good thing.  But I do see some very specific silver linings to the injury.


Silver Linining #1: This is now Malcolm Brogdon's team.
Maybe Justin Anderson is this team's heart... but Malcolm Brogdon is its soul.  And its brain.  Other guys will step up to take Justin's time and try to replace his production, but Brog is the one who will take the reins of this team fully.  And I look forward to seeing a Virginia team that plays even MORE cerebral and controlled basketball, in the image of its leader and tone-setter.  (Plus, more low post offense and less perimeter shooting, in general.  That's what "cerebral" looks like.)



Silver Lining #2: Justin gets to hit the reset button.
Brog just overtook Justin as the team's top scorer, but it's not because of the half Justin missed against Louisville... it's because Justin had been in a horrible slump since the Clemson game on January 13.  You could tell, the form on his newly-rebuilt jumper was out of whack, for whatever reason.  He was drifting.  As a result, he was shooting 32.7% (including just 28% from three) during the most recent six-game run.  The problem with that is that Justin was still taking shots -- 52 of 'em across six (really, five-and-a-half) games, 9.5 shots per game.  On a team - and in an offense - built on efficiency, Justin Anderson had become an inefficient shooter.  Maybe even a teensy bit of a black hole.  Now don't get me wrong -- his defense, hustle, athleticism, energy, those will be impossible to replace.  But I think we can potentially find a bit more efficiency in our offense with him out of the lineup for now.  And after his 4-6 weeks, here's hoping he comes back to the team on fire like he began the season, when he was hitting 60% of his threes.



Silver Lining #3: Opportunity knocks.
While Justin is out, I'm sure Evan Nolte will start at the 3 against traditional lineups, while Marial Shayok will start against 3-guard looks.  These two guys have a golden opportunity to shoot their way out of their funks.  If we can get either - or both! - of them straightened out prior to tournament time, then this is an improved team.  But don't stop there.  Justin Anderson was playing 30 minutes per game.  No way Nolte (12 mpg) and Shayok (15 mpg) each take 15 additional minutes.  Instead of shrinking the bench, I bet Tony Bennett goes the other direction and extends it.  Here's how I see it shaking out...
  • Evan Nolte -- from 12 minutes to 20 minutes
  • Marial Shayok -- from 15 to 20
  • Isaiah Wilkins -- from 10 to 15
That still leaves 12 minutes, right?  How about Devon Hall and... drumroll... B.J. Stith splitting those right down the middle?  In so doing, we would effectively give four shooters (Nolte, Shayok, Hall, Stith) an opportunity to find their shot before we roll into tournament time.  Want to know how the #3 team in the nation can get better?  It's by identifying additional threats from the perimeter, that's how.

Time to step the fuck up, Tommy Bahama.

As bad as he's played this season (which really boils down to his 21.6% three-point shooting), we know Evan Nolte has hero potential.  Maybe he's hit the so-called "freshman wall," but we've seen Shayok bury a handful of key threes.  (Remember the stepback against Notre Dame?  That was cold-blooded.)  Devon Hall has made some shots.  B.J. Stith might be the best pure shooter on the team.  So, ultimately, I don't see it as a bad thing that we get to explore these four guys in a bit more depth over the next four to six weeks.  Maybe a weapon (or weapons) will emerge?


Silver Lining #4: An adrenaline surge in March, when we'll need it the most.
Justin is returning to action, and he's returning this season.  Think the team might be excited when he gets back?  You see my point.


Silver Lining #5: Delay the NBA?
I think the slump did more to delay Justin's jump to the professional ranks than this injury is going to, but think about it --- the last time scouts saw him, he was mired in a sub-35% shooting slump, and now there's no chance for him to shoot out of that slump.  I wish no ill on Justin, but I do wish for UVA to win a freaking national championship, and our best shot at that is going to come in April 2016, when Brogdon, Gill, Tobey, Nolte... and Justin Anderson... are seniors.

Add it up, and while this injury really sucks, there are silver linings!



February 5, 2015

National Signing Day...

...was yesterday!

As much as I hate our football program right now, I still love our new Hoos.  These guys are part of a brighter future for Virginia Football, I truly believe that.  A quick, Wahooze-style synopsis of the class...

QB
Nick Johns (no relation to Matt Johns), 3-star
Big (6-3, 225) dude, big arm, pro-style dropback prospect.  Lacks the hype of a Corwin Cutler, but has certain QB1 upside... if Virginia can find a coaching staff to properly cultivate quarterback talent.

RB
Olamide Zaccheaus, 3-star {Pronunciation Guide: Oh-llama-day Za-key-us}
Chris Sharp, 3-star
O-Zac is the fast scatback type while Sharp is the physical bellcow type.  Good complements for one another.  Neither seem to have elite-level upside, but you never know.  UVA has had good luck with backs like Zaccheaus, who compares favorably to Alvin Pearman and Perry Jones.  Sharp is cut in the Cedric Peerman mold.  If this duo ends up being in the same ball park as the Lundy/Pearman backfield, then we may be cooking with gas.

WR
Warren Craft, 3-star
David Eldridge, 3-star
Fast athletes, still a bit raw.  My guess is that Eldridge spends his UVA career in the slot.  Craft has conceivable go-to potential, but he'll need considerable development, since he's more basketball player than football player at this point in his career.  Not really a program-changing haul of WR talent in this year's class, but either/both of these guys are scholarship-worthy and could develop into players.

TE
Richard Burney, 3-star
Tanner Cowley, 3-star
Unless we were going to eschew the tight end position completely in favor of going three- and four-wide... GOOD LORD, DID WE NEED SOME TIGHT ENDS.  Not sure either of these dudes is a home run, but maybe each one is a solid single we might be able to leg out into a double.  (Boom, confusing, off-putting mixed sports metaphors!)  From what I've been able to gather, Burney is the receiving tight end while Cowley is more of an in-line blocker.  Again, neither really captures the imagination, but both add much-needed bodies at a position that had become negligently undermanned.  I'm also hoping we can find a recruited walk-on or three to add to the mix.

OL
Ryan Bischoff, 3-star
Grant Polk, 3-star
R.J. Proctor, 3-star
I could wax on here forever, but I'll just say this: These three dudes are fine, I wish it were five or six OL recruits instead of just three, and despite what Jerry Ratcliffe says, Virginia's offensive line remains woefully threadbare.  In fact, when we look back on the demise of Mike London's head coaching career at UVA, I think poor offensive line recruiting is going to be the first (of many) bullet points.  But like I said, it's no fault of Bischoff, Polk, or Proctor, each of whom is - I'm sure - a fine recruit, and part of the solution, not part of the problem.  (Interesting note: Through five full recruiting classes, London has secured just ONE offensive line recruit ranked above three stars by the recruiting services.  "Great recruiter," my ass.)

DT
Eli Hanback, 3-star
James Trucilla, 3-star
Hanback, also an OL recruit, should have ended up on the offensive line.  But instead, nope, it's defensive tackle!  Hanback and Trucilla are both high-motor mauler types who need to add bulk.  Same story as just about every other recruit in this class -- they're raw, they need to add size, they need to be developed.

DE / OLB / Pass Rusher
Naji Abdullah, 3-star
Eric Gallon, 2-star
Gladimir Paul, 3-star
Steven Wright, 3-star
Jon Tenuta has made a career out of taking under-recruited raw pass rushers and turning them into NFL draft picks.  Straw into gold, y'all.  In this 2015 class, I'd say Abdullah, Gallon, and Paul are the straw, joining 2014 recruits J.J. Jackson, Darrious Carter, Cory Jones, and Chris Peace.  Our Rumpelstiltskin has a lot of raw material to work with... we'll see what he can spin up to replace Eli Harold and Max Valles in 2015.  Meanwhile, Steven Wright sounds like a strongside defensive end all the way, so consider him the outlier in this group of recruits.

LB
Dominic Sheppard, 3-star
Jahvoni Simmons, 4-star
C.J. Stalker, 3-star
THIS is the best positional haul of the '15 class.  Some are even putting it on par with the Kai Parham / Ahmad Brooks class of way back when.  I'm not sure if Simmons/Stalker/Sheppard has quite that much star power, but all three of these guys can play.  (Too bad we've pretty much moved to a base nickel and require fewer of these players than ever before...)

Safety
Juan Thornhill, 3-star
Don't look now, but safety is threatening to become as dangerously thin as tight end and OL.  Yikes.  Thornhill is a great prospect, but there's a ton of pressure on him to pan out.

CB
Kareem Gibson, 3-star
T.J. Griffin, 2-star
Myles Robinson, 3-star
Good players, but tiny.  Gibson is 5-10, 157, Griffin is 5-9, 180, and Robinson is the hulk of the bunch at 5-11, 185.  I shit bigger than these guys.  So none are potential position switches to safety... but Robinson can play [slot] receiver and Griffin is apparently a killer scatback that Wisconsin recruited hard.


Add it Up...
Looks like we're wrapping up the nation's 47th-ranked recruiting class, 9th-ranked in the ACC (ahead of Duke, WF, BC, Pitt, and Cuse).  I'm happy with this class, but it's also pretty clear to me that Mike London can no longer float the concept of recruiting past his Xs and Os deficiencies.  The future of Virginia Football rests on our ability to develop some of these young men from raw athletes into dynamic football players.  The lack of numbers in the trenches troubles me deeply, as does the lack of pure star power in the playmaking positions.  I'm happy with this class, but taking a step back and looking at the big picture, it does still feel like the ship is sinking further into the abyss.


Here's a great write-up from our favorite blog, from old virginia:



And you gotta love those haters at the Augusta Free Press (no seriously, I love them):




February 4, 2015

New Titus

This has become a weekly must-read of mine, and it should be one of yours, too.

Titus’s Top 12 NCAA Power Rankings: Featuring the Seven Stages of Kevin Pangos’s Hair

In this week's edition, Titus perfectly summarizes the psyche of Hoofans, and then provides the best breakdown of the Duke/UVA game I've seen.  Plus, you can't miss the seven stages of Kevin Pangos's hair.  Hilarious.

Oh, and watch this shit.  Titus loves it.


February 2, 2015

I would like to say...

Tyus Jones looks like the leprechaun from the movie Leprechaun. That's all I've got.

Right?


Oh, and Justise Winslow is a scumbag. Way to misspell Justice, ya a-hole.

Also:

Tyus Jones made Three Point Jumper. Assisted by Matt Jones.
Quinn Cook made Three Point Jumper. Assisted by Justise Winslow.
Quinn Cook made Three Point Jumper. Assisted by Justise Winslow.
Matt Jones made Three Point Jumper. Assisted by Quinn Cook.
Quinn Cook made Three Point Jumper. Assisted by Jahlil Okafor.
Tyus Jones made Three Point Jumper.


Amid all the pleas of "we sucked down the stretch," and "Mike Tobey plays so soft," and "where the hell was Anthony Gill?," can we please just acknowledge that Duke went completely unconscious from three point range during the last ten minutes of the game? 6-for-7 during that stretch, and the only one they missed, they got a long offensive rebound. Most of those shots were contested, most of them from really deep, and all of them hit nothing but net. They went unconscious. If they shoot just 57% (4-for-7) on those threes instead of the 86% (6-for-7) they hit, we win the game. (On the season, opponents shoot 30% from deep against us, by the way.)

Lastly, on Tobey... We can't have our cake and eat it too. He's a finesse big man. He has flaws. If he had all the skill he has, and was ALSO a physical banger or thrives with contact, he would have been a McDonald's All-American and would be playing at Kentucky - or Duke! - right now. We accept (and embrace!) the various flaws and limitations in our other players, so why all of the Tobey bashing? I bet I could name 10 or 11 ACC teams that would kill to have Mike Tobey in their starting lineup right now. We bring him off the bench, and we bitch about him? Oh my, how spoiled we've gotten so quickly.

Carolina tonight. We win unless Duke beats us twice. GO HOOS!