January 29, 2010

ACC Baseball Preview


Kendall Rogers (no relation) recently put together an excellent preview of the upcoming ACC baseball season for Yahoo Sports and the Rivals Network. BANG IT HERE.

Spoiler Alert! Virginia is favored to win the ACC, and features five of Kendall's eleven-member all-conference team.

Folks, our baseball team is loaded for bear this season, and it's pretty much Omaha or bust. GO HOOS!

The Elephant in the Room

No, I'm not purposefully trying to ignore the utterly gut-wrenching loss we suffered to Virginia Tech in overtime last night. In fact, I'm still just trying to process it. What does it all mean? Some assorted thoughts:

  • Sylven Landesberg is a great player. But he's no superstar. And he's no Sean Singletary. And he's not ready for the NBA, not even close. My complaints with Sylven run three deep: 1) he's not good defensively, 2) his jumper, while improved, is still not a weapon that he's confident in using, and 3) he's afraid to take and make the big shot (UNCW game-winner notwithstanding); he hasn't developed into the closer we so desperately need him to be. Landesberg needs to be a four-year player, but I fear he'll hamstring the program by trying to leave early. The NBA doesn't care if you can't play defense, but that league does tend to dislike shrinking violets.
  • Virginia Tech has surpassed Virginia in the pecking order of college basketball. But given the facilities at each school, the tradition, and the coaching talent, I think this is a short-term development. This Virginia Tech team is average at best, and this average team is at or near the peak of what they can accomplish. Our team is currently below average when it comes to ACC talent, and last night's loss proved it. I'm not worried about the trajectory of our program, nor am I concerned that Tech has now become a better basketball school than UVA.
  • We're not an NCAA Tournament team this year. We might be an NIT team. Virginia fans should rejoice if Tony Bennett can coax a winning season out of this bunch. I'm not down on the team or the players, mind you... just taking a realistic look at the roster. We have two players who should be ACC starters (Landesberg and Mike Scott), and a few others that belong on ACC rosters as role players. We have some guys on our team receiving regular playing time that simply do not belong on an ACC-caliber roster.
  • $10 tickets... Ergg... Well, let me start by saying that I applaud the athletic department for FINALLY realizing that they had priced themselves out of being able to attract new fans and rectifying the problem by offering a cheap ticket option. The idea sort of backfired when the Hokies scraped together enough pizza delivery money to invade our home arena en masse. Why was the Duke game ticket price not lowered, but Virginia Tech was? Somebody in the ticket office made a blunder that must be called out. Furthermore, Virginia fans need to make it a freaking point to keep Hokies out of and away from our home games!
  • Tony Bennett will get it done at UVA. My confidence in this fact wasn't shaken at all by last night's game. Once he stockpiles his own talent and gets his systems ingrained in the players to the point that they execute on an instinctive level, we'll be where Washington State was over the last few years -- winning consistently, Tournament appearances every two out of three years, consistent trips to the Sweet Sixteen. We'll get there. Be patient.
  • I hate Virginia Tech fans now more than ever. They are the scum of the earth. They pick fights and are openly contemptuous. I wish them nothing but the worst, forever more. Jeff Allen and Virginia Tech deserve each other.

"Oregon of the East" and Other Assorted Rumblings



First of all, apologies to my loyal readers for the recent spotty updating of the Wahooze blog. 2010 has been a busy year for yours truly... not too busy to roll around in the muck that is Virginia athletics, but [unfortunately] too busy to spend much time writing about it. Rest assured, Wahooze remains near and dear to my heart, and I'm doing my best to un-swamp myself and get back in the healthy rhythm of posting. Today, I'll try to hit you guys with some rapid-fire news and notes, starting with...

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This past weekend (Jan. 22) was a big recruiting weekend for Mike London and the Virginia Football program. Almost all of the committed class of 2010 was in attendance, along with a handful of uncommitted prospects. One of the biggest bits of news to come from the event wasn't really recruiting related. Instead, it was the buzz created by the coaching staff announcing to the players that UVA would be changing up its football uniform, and introducing many different variables and alternate uniforms. The staff announced that from a uniform standpoint Virginia would become, and I quote, "the Oregon of the East." Check a look at the above pictured overview of Oregon's 2008 uniform package, and use the power of imagination to see the possibilities in orange and navy blue.

Whether you approve of the concept of Virginia as the Oregon of the East or not, be aware that the 16, 17, and 18 year old kids we're recruiting to play football absolutely LOVE the idea. Personally, I don't really enjoy trying to connect the dots between fashion and football, but I will admit that I'm a bit of a uniform-phile. And I think we can really benefit from a bit of a "rebirth" when it comes to pretty much everything involving football. Changing the uniforms is a part of that rebirth. We went in as a sluggish, unexciting, boring, borderline inept navy blue football team, and hopefully we'll explode from the cocoon as a fast, hard-hitting, fired-up squad decked out in gaudy orange and blue 4th alternate uniforms.

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About 1000 times more important than the uniform change is the fact that Coach London has [finally] settled on an offensive coordinator to run that side of the ball. I'll have an exhaustive "meet the coaching staff" post for you soon, but for now feast your eyes on the press release naming Bill Lazor as Virginia's offensive coordinator.

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And since we were kind of on the topic of this past weekend's recruiting, we've had a few new players join the 2010 class this week:
  • 3-star quarterback Miles Gooch (Decatur, GA), whose game has been compared to former UVA standout Aaron Brooks.
  • Unrated offensive lineman Stephen Lawe (Norfolk, VA), who is a relative late bloomer on the recruiting scene, but who has recently drawn serious interest from Virginia Tech and a few other BCS conference schools.
  • 2-star QB Jake McGee (Richmond, VA), poached from the Richmond commitment list and projected to the UVA offense as a tight end. (You might remember another unheralded 2-star high school quarterback-turned-tight end... Heath Miller? Yeah, that guy was pretty good.)
Coach London is cobbling together a fairly decent recruiting class, considering the wholly underwhelming class Al Groh left behind. It won't be a heralded group, but it could help provide some of the bedrock for what London is trying to build at UVA. Stay tuned for a Wahooze-style overview of the 2010 class, coming soon as National Letter of Intent Day approaches -- next Wednesday, February 3.

January 20, 2010

Random Thoughts on Virginia Basketball


At 3-0 in the conference and alone in first place, Virginia Basketball is starting to get some national recognition, namely from ESPN's Andy Katz.
After beating Miami handily, could Virginia could be 9-7 in the ACC and make the NCAA tournament? The Cavs already have three quality wins (UAB, Miami and Georgia Tech). The Cavs may only lose one home game (Duke) and could easily steal a road win at maybe BC later in the season. Tony Bennett is your leader in the clubhouse for ACC coach of the year.
Check out his Weekly Watch column for more good words.


The Roanoke Times also delivered some good press. Check out Aaron McFarling's recent column -- At UVA, Fun is Back in Style.


The thread finally surfaced on the CavsCorner "Hoos Next" board, but I had already been pondering the topic for a few days... What is UVA's MAGIC NUMBER to make the NCAA Tournament field of 65 this March? At 12-4, 3-0 and with 13 ACC games left to play (not including at least one game in the ACC tournament), I think we need to win seven more games down the stretch to get into the Big Dance. Doesn't matter when, doesn't matter against whom. Getting to 10-6 in the ACC pretty much assures us a spot. 9-7 or worse, not so much. 7-6 over the next 13 games gets it done, and the schedule is pretty darn favorable.


In fact, here are my predictions for the second half of Virginia's regular season schedule:

1/23 @ Wake Forest -- loss
1/28 Virginia Tech -- win
1/31 @ North Carolina -- loss
2/3 NC State -- win
2/6 Wake Forest -- win
2/10 @ Maryland -- loss
2/13 @ Virginia Tech -- loss
2/17 Florida State -- loss
2/20 @ Clemson -- loss
2/23 @ Miami -- win
2/28 Duke -- win
3/3 @ Boston College -- win
3/6 Maryland -- win

This Saturday's game against Wage is HUGE. Win that one, and we're at 4-0, and our recent run is legitimized. And you know what? I think that game is infinitely winnable. Wake has a good team, but it plays sloppy. If we roll in playing good solid Bennett Ball, I think we could shock them on their home court.

The four game stretch in mid-February -- @ Maryland, @ VT, FSU, and @ Clemson -- looks really brutal to me.


Jontel Evans, Mustapha Farrakhan, Sammy Zeglinski, and Jerome Meyinsse continue to improve with each game. These four players are the critical role players that allow Sylven Landesberg and Mike Scott to shine. If this quartet can continue to play well, the Tournament seems within reach...

GO HOOS!

January 15, 2010

Groan.


Well, it's official. Al Groh has decided to return to coaching, this time as Georgia Tech's defensive coordinator.

He must really want to try to stick it to UVA.

It's amazing how much respect I've lost for this guy since that win against Minnesota in the 2005 Music City Bowl.

Meanwhile, this is great news for the Hokies. It pretty much eliminates the 2nd best team in the Coastal as any sort of threat to their dominance.

I wonder if the man in the mirror is still happy with himself.

Hoos in First!

Virginia basketball currently stands at a very solid 10-4 overall and an downright unbelievable 2-0 in the ACC. It's early, but we're alone in first place in the conference!

Much of the basketball team's recent success can be attributed to the natural, organic improvement of our young players. But make no mistake -- without Tony Bennett's systems and focus on playing sound defense and protecting the basketball, we'd be nowhere right now. Case in point, the 2008-2009 team went 10-18, 4-12 in the ACC. It averaged 12.4 assists to 14.8 turnovers. The Bennett-coached 2009-2010 team is currently sitting at 10-4, 2-0, and has averaged 14.1 assists against just 10.2 turnovers. Teams must beat us, instead of just waiting for us to beat ourselves.

This year's basketball team, under Coach Bennett's guidance, has become more than the sum of the parts. It has truly become a team.


Here's a quick player-by-player look at what I've seen so far this season. For a fun twist, the players are ranked in order of what I believe to be their overall value to this year's team.

1) Sylven Landesberg
Landesberg continues to be the primary go-to scorer for the team (averaging 17.4 ppg), but he has really stepped up in terms of getting his teammates involved, especially recently. His defense continues to be a liability, but his shooting percentage from the perimeter has risen dramatically to 40% (up from 31% last year.) His best asset might be his accuracy from the free throw stripe -- he's shooting 81.7% from the line, and getting there roughly six times per game. If this improvement continues, I fully expect to see Syl bolt for the NBA after this season.

2) Mike Scott
He missed a few games with a high ankle sprain, and his absence made the heart grow fonder. Scott is our best interior player, and is really our only low post scoring threat. His rebounding has always been solid, and this year he's close to averaging a double-double -- 13.6 points and 8.4 rebounds. The team usually struggles without Scott on the floor, so his improved defensive footwork, body control, and focus on sound positioning has really been a boon to the team. As he avoids ticky-tack fouls, he avoids leaving games prematurely, and we're able to put a reliable big man on the floor in crunch time.

3) Sam Zeglinski
Sammy is our 3rd-most valuable player? Really? I absolutely think so. One of Coach Bennett's best decisions this season has been to move Sammy over to more of a shooting guard role, freeing him from some of his ball handling duties. Sammy has drained 34 threes as a spot-up shooter so far this season, hitting from the bonusphere at a remarkable 50% clip. Best of all, his shot seems the most sure when the team needs it the most. It's always key to have a clutch three-point sniper, and that seems to have become Sammy's role with this team. His defense has also improved, and while he'll never be mistaken for a defensive stopper, he's been doing a fine job of "heating up the ball" from the point in the pack-line defense.

4) Mustapha Farrakhan
Easily our most improved player, Mu has emerged as our best on-ball defender. Coach Bennett's decision to put Mu on UAB's Elijah Millsap basically won that game for the Hoos. Additionally, Mu has stepped up as a scorer and also has seen some time running the point.

5) Jerome Meyinsse
His numbers have been modest, but his widebodied presence has been vitally important to a team that is extremely thin in the frontcourt. His defensive effort in the Georgia Tech game was a critical piece of the Cavaliers' success on Wednesday night. Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors should have been able to pound us to death, but Meyinsse prevented that from happening. He's a solid defender, a solid rebounder, and gives the team 17 solid minutes each game.

6) Jeff Jones
He's embraced his role of "instant offense" coming off the bench, and that's been a very big thing for the Hoos this season. JJ is stroking a nice 45.2% from downtown, and his confidence seems to be growing.

7) Jontel Evans
I like to think of the freshman as the straw that stirs the drink. He's always good for a lift, as he's a tenacious defender and attacks the basket on offense. As he continues to improve, I imagine he'll take over as our starting point guard, making Sammy's move to the 2 a more permanent thing.

8) Calvin Baker
Currently standing in Evans' way is the grizzled old vet, Calvin Baker. Baker earned a spot in UVA fans' doghouse by being careless with the ball and committing way too many boneheaded turnovers in the two years prior. This season, he's cleaned up his game considerably, with an impressive 31 assists against just 10 turnovers. (Compare that to last year's miserable 78 assists against 70 turnovers. Horrendous for a point guard.) Baker is finding his teammates this season, and he hasn't lost any of his unconventional scoring ability.

9) Assane Sene
His lack of progress has been frustrating, and many fans wonder why he isn't playing more. The answer is simple -- he still hasn't gotten comfortable in the pack-line. Until he does, he won't play major minutes unless matchups dictate. You have to play strong fundamental defense in order to see the floor for coach Bennett. Still, Sene has a ton of talent, shows flashes of being great, and can really block shots with the best of 'em. If the light flickers on for him, look out.

10) Will Sherrill
This walk-on has given us some solid minutes this season, and his three point shooting carried us to a comeback win over Cleveland State in Cancun. He's too slow and unathletic to play big minutes against ACC foes, but he puts forth a good effort and plays with strong fundamentals.

11) Tristan Spurlock
Like Sene, Spurlock just isn't "getting it" on the defensive end of the floor. His plus athleticism could be an asset to the team on offense, but he's too much of a defensive liability and too careless with the basketball to play for Coach Bennett. Sadly, Spurlock is a prime example of how Leitao players sometimes don't fit with Bennett's system. Don't be surprised if Spurlock transfers after this season.

The other players have only seen time in mop-up duty, so I won't bother listing them. The above eleven players are basically our team for this season.


Trying to keep my expectations in check, but winning six more games -- including one against UNC Wilmington -- would put us at 16-13 and in the NIT mix. A major step forward from last season's disaster.

(And I hate myself for thinking and typing this, but...) going .500 the rest of the way would put us at 18-11 and 9-7 in the ACC, and likely on the NCAA bubble. I seriously doubt we'll battle our way to that point, but we're really looking pretty good right now.

Saturday's game is crucial. A win over Miami would put us at 3-0 and would serve notice to the ACC: Virginia basketball is back.

The remaining schedule:
Miami
UNC Wilmington
@ Wake
Virginia Tech
@ UNC
NC State
Wake
@ Maryland
@ Virginia Tech
Florida State
@ Clemson
@ Miami
Duke
@ BC
Maryland

My prediction is that we win six more (including UNCW) to get to 16-13, 7-9 ACC heading into the ACC Tournament.

I'm really liking the progress we're making under Coach Bennett.

GO HOOS!