November 30, 2010

Wahooze ACC Picks -- Conference Championships

Last week was another bad week.  I suck at this.  I hope you weren't betting money based on my picks.

Last Week: 6-7 (5-8 ATS)

Season: 71-35 (47-51 ATS)

Time for a last-second rally with the biggest games of 'em all...

Okay ladies, bring that good juju to the game in Charlotte...


Florida State vs. Virginia Tech (-4.0)
I bet this line grows to somewhere around 7 points or so by the weekend.  FSU is a couple of plays away from being 8-0 in the conference, but Tech IS 8-0, and is clearly the class of the ACC.  The Hokie fans will descend on Charlotte like flies on a fresh turd.  31-17, VT

SMU vs. UCF (-9.0)
Yeah, I'll admit it, I'm a closet C-USA fan.  I just really like acronyms, I guess.  SMU, UCF, UAB, ECU, USM, UTEP... it's a frickin wonderland of acronyms.  This game is really interesting to me; Southern Methodist is playing really well in the June Jones' run&shoot, and Central Florida is the best 9-win team you've never seen play.  The Knights are a solid team, top to bottom.  Tune in to ESPN2 at noon on Saturday to see some very entertaining football.  I like UCF here.  They're just the more complete team.  42-35, UCF

South Carolina vs. Auburn (-5.0)
It's beginning to seem like Auburn is the team of destiny this season, doesn't it?  I'm not buying that.  They are, have always been, and will forever be the classic 7 that thinks she's a 10.  I'm so, so, so tempted to pick the Gamecocks here, because they can win this game by pounding Auburn into submission with Marcus Lattimore (can't wait to draft this guy onto my fantasy football team!), but I think Steve Spurrier will fall victim to his immense ego and try to get too cute with this gameplan.  Aubie wins a tight one, after some nasty Stephen Garcia interceptions.  35-26, Auburn

Nebraska vs. Oklahoma (-3.5)
Not sure exactly why, but I really like Nebraska in this game.  I guess I like the concept of the Huskers giving the Big XII a big "eff you" as they exit stage left, toward the Big Ten.  20-19, Nebraska

Bball Power Rankings -- 11/30/10

At regular intervals this basketball season, I will update the power rankings for all of the players on the basketball team. This is essentially a relative measure of how they've been playing in recent games, coupled with an in-order listing of each player's value to the team moving forward with the season. (I'm only including players that are receiving regular minutes in the games, thus no James Johnson... even though I think he's wildly valuable to the program, and no Sammy Zeglinski... even though I think he'll probably be one of the three or four most important players on the team once he returns to action.)

Joe Harris: So much more than just a deadly sniper from behind the arc.


#1 -- Mike Scott (previous rank: #1)
He played well in Maui, especially in the win over Oklahoma (27 points, 15 rebounds).  So far, he's been a double-double machine, and exactly the kind of low post foundation that our burgeoning guards need to complement their outside shooting.  He's UVA's best player and he's been playing really well, but is at risk of being caught from behind on these rankings by...

#2 -- Joe Harris (previous rank: #6)
In his last five games (all on the road against big-time competition in Stanford, Washington, Oklahoma, Wichita State, and Minnestoa) Harris has averaged 14.4 points per game and stroked 13-of-22 three pointers (59% from three).  He's playing over 30 minutes per game, and is exploding like a supernova right before our eyes.  He is more than just a shooter, though.  He battles in the paint, plays decent D, and contributes wherever possible.  I've been beyond impressed with the guy.  He might be the best player I've ever seen at using screens to get open and then catching and shooting in rhythm, and his shooting stroke... sheer perfection.  I love this guy.  I FREAKING LOVE THIS GUY!

#3 -- Jontel Evans (previous rank: #2)
Bub continues to provide that football player presence on the basketball court.  He's struggled in a few of the games on the long road trip, but in terms of pure value to the team, his on-ball defense and tenacity cannot be ignored.

#4 -- Mustapha Farrakhan (previous rank: #4)
Mu makes so many boneheaded plays, that it's sometimes hard to give him proper credit for the positive impact he can bring to the game.  I still contend that his mistakes are usually mistakes born from aggression, and with a young team learning how to play hard, I'll always be able to live with that.  I think he looks for his own perimeter shot a little too much, and could stand to take it to the basket a bit more or at least dish it off to the hot hand (usually Harris), but by and large I don't have many complaints about what Mu is doing right now.  He's an important part of the rotation, and a guy who brings a lot of energy coming off of the bench.

#5 -- KT Harrell (previous rank: #5)
He seems to be settling into his role as a complimentary player, which is fine but maybe a slight disappointment.  I think Harrell suffers a little bit from the weight of expectations, but it's clear that Joe Harris is the freshman star here.  Harrell has been playing good defense, an has emerged as an opportunistic scorer.  Moving forward, I'd like to see him exert his mid-range game a bit more --- that can be a weapon that creates more space for Scott on the inside and Harris and Mu on the outside.

#6 -- Will Sherrill (previous rank: #8)
I was really sad to see Sherrill go down against the Gophers.  I hope his injury isn't serious and that he's back in the rotation in short order.  Over the course of the last five games, he's been a solid starter and has played good, smart, fundamental defense while providing a nice pick and pop weapon.  His outside shooting stroke has added a nice dimension to the offense.  if he's forced to miss time, I'll be looking for Assane Sene, Will Regan, and Akil Mitchell to take his minutes and run with them.

#7 -- Assane Sene (previous rank: #9)
See my post "The BIG Key" from earlier today.

#8 -- Billy Baron (previous rank: #3)
His minutes have been steadily declining, and without time on the floor he hasn't been able to impact the game with his incendiary outside shot.  The simple fact of the matter is that Jontel Evans has outplayed Baron to this point, and Tony Bennett will go with the more steady point guard.  Baron will have his chance to climb back to relevancy during the holiday season homestand, where we'll see a few blowouts and plenty of garbage time.

#9 -- Will Regan (previous rank: #10)
I list him above Mitchell for two reasons: 1) He's a bit of a Sherrill clone, and I think we'll be looking to replace Sherrill while he's out with that injury.  2) Regan has done more with his time on the floor than has Mitchell to this point.  I actually really like what I've seen from Regan in recent games --- he plays hard, doesn't shy away from contact, and has a very pretty shooting stroke.

#10 -- Akil Mitchell (previous rank: #7)
No doubt, he needs some seasoning.  I still think he's potentially the team's second-best rebounder behind Mike Scott, but he needs to be somewhat of a threat on the offensive end, and he needs a lot of work to be able to fit in with the defensive system.  He's a work in progress, and should be viewed as such.


Upcoming Games:
Sunday, Dec. 5, 6:00 PM -- @ Virginia Tech, FSN
Tuesday, Dec. 7, 7:00 PM -- Radford
~~~ EXAM BREAK ~~~
Friday, Dec. 17, 8:00 PM -- Oregon

Note:
Sammy Zeglinski should be returning to action for that Dec. 17th game against Oregon.  Stay tuned...

The BIG Key



Of course, Joe Harris and Mustapha Farrakhan put on otherworldly shooting performances last night against Minnesota, and Mike Scott turned in another workmanlike double-double in the winning effort.  But I don't want this stat line to be lost in the shuffle:

20 minutes / 7 points / 6 rebounds / 7-for-8 free throws / 2 blocked shots

That was Assane Sene.  And I don't even think the stats tell the tale.  The big man was active, aggressive, physical, clutch, and he chased the ball better than I've ever seen him.  He got down on the floor, he mixed it up in the lane, and he made numerous "hustle plays."  He was [mostly] sound on defense.  He threw his body around and played as hard as he possibly could.  He was absolutely instrumental in last night's win.

So even more than Joe Harris quickly ascending to the go-to scoring role or streaky Mu having a mostly "on" night or primary pivot Mike Scott having yet another rock-solid game, it is Sene's improved play that gives me more hope for the immediate future.

This team desperately needs another big man to help Scott in the post.  It needs another strong rebounding presence.  It needs a shot blocker to scare opponents from driving to the hoop.  Sene has the potential to fill these roles, and last night (for maybe the first time in his UVA career) he realized that potential.

With Will Sherrill potentially out for an extended period of time, the future is now for Assane Sene.  If he can build on last night's performance, he (and the team) could be better than anyone dared hope.

I'm pulling for the guy, because if he can step up and do what he did last night on a regular basis, it could be the key that unlocks a successful season for Virginia Basketball.

November 28, 2010

...?

I've been debating a title for this post for a few days now... and still haven't come up with anything.  How to wrap up an expected disappointing season in football and segue into the next season, where success is no more certain?  It's tough.  It's like waiting for an uncertain future.  So ellipsis question mark it is.

The post is not well thought out either.  So I'll just give you what I've got, in free-flow stream-of-consciousness form.  Like vomit flowing from my brain through my keyboard onto your monitor.  (Apologies for that mental image, but if losing another 30-point nailbiter to the Hokies doesn't make you want to puke, then I'm afraid the apathy has already run you down.)


Is southpaw Ross Metheny the future at the QB position for the Hoos?  Your guess is as good as mine.


We're 4-8, but we're closer than it appears.  I honestly think we were three plays / blown calls away from 7-5 and a low-level bowl game this season.  The three plays?  1) The bad call on the fake punt against USC, that cost us a 1st & 10 inside their 25.  With that call, I think we score, and I think we had a good chance to win that game.  2) The failure to hold Duke on 4th & 18, late in the game.  Get that stop, and we hang on for the 48-47 win in Durham.  3) The blown call on Dontrelle Inman's touchdown in the back of the end zone against BC.  His elbow was down, in bounds.  Should have been a touchdown, which would have given us a 20-17 lead late in that game, with Montel Harris on the sidelines.  The ACC refs made the call they needed to make to get another conference team bowl eligible.


Chin up, Wahoo faithful. We're in year one of a multi-year rebuilding process.  Coach London is raising the passion level, and he's recruiting the state... Pride will soon follow. And with pride will come reduced mistakes and increased discipline... and WINS.


If you can't handle another few years of up-and-down football, you might want to go into hibernation for a while. The rollercoaster riders will wake you up when she's running smooth.

Hang in there.


After a 37-7 loss to your biggest rival, it's hard not to be numb or apathetic or angry. We just have to grit our teeth, march forward, and fight the good fight. It'll turn. We have a great stadium, good facilities, an intense pocket of die-hard fans, and a winnable conference. There's a lot to sell here, and UVA is a sleeping giant in college football. I still believe that. It'll turn.



If you need a scapegoat, it's still appropriate to blame Al Groh.  Given our starting point, I'd say it will take four years to build and a fifth/sixth year to show and prove results.  Groh put us in a deep, dark hole with shoddy recruiting and poor player development.  It's going to take a lot of time -- and patience -- to climb out of that hole.


If Mike London can't get it done here, this job goes from being relatively undesirable to downright radioactive. We're teetering on that fence between being a decent, mediocre program and dropping down to the depths of Duke/Vanderbilt hell.

We all need to take a chill pill, celebrate the successes and make it a point to not overreact to the failures. Give London ample time to get the program on track. He deserves it, and God knows the alternative is a place we've only been in our worst fears.


We desperately want/need to beat Virginia Tech.  It has to start with one win. Can that win come in 2011, playing at home, with a ton of experienced players on the roster? I sure hope so...


We return 18 starters next season, which should be a big reason for optimism.  But some will say we're just returning 18 starters from a bad 4-8 team.  Aren't we just returning a hunch of bad, untalented players?

I absolutely disagree. Wake Forest (WAKE FREAKING FOREST) won the ACC with a roster full of experienced players who weren't especially "talented."


Now I'm not suggesting that 2011 Virginia = 2006 Wake Forest. We lack a lot of the pieces that made that Deacons team special... namely a star QB. I'm just saying that less talented players can still improve and form a better team than the collection of the parts.

In college football, many (most?) players improve from one season to the next. We have a lot of returning starters that will have a chance to improve and make the team better.


To me, it's ALL about the quarterback. If we can find [and/or develop] a good one, an above-average ACC starter, then we'll be able to rise quickly. Take a look at Maryland, NC State, and even Duke to some extent. UNC with Yates. Et cetera. You can be a decent team in this conference with a good QB and an average supporting cast.


London is recruiting the horses for defense. That side of the ball will improve steadily under his watch, I believe. The o-line should be stable. We're young and relatively talented at RB, and it seems like WR has become a priority also.

It's all about the quarterback. That's the key to everything for Mike London. Is Metheny or Rocco that guy? Maybe, but this year's play from those two leaves some doubt. Can Strauss or Gooch rise into the role? Perhaps. Is David Watford the answer? Could be, and he's a dual threat, which I really like. Is there a transfer on the way? God, I hope so...

Find the right quarterback, improve quickly. It's not rocket science.


Yesterday's loss was bad, but the sky is not falling.  Coach London is selling playing time, the chance to contribute to a program's rebirth, and a top-notch education at an elite school in a beautiful area steeped in history. None of that changed yesterday. It's our job, as fans, to do everything we can to blindly support this rebuilding process and avoid the typical meltdown that follows a loss to the Hokies, lest we derail some of what the coaches are doing.



I'll have more later, including a more in-depth look at the roster for the 2011 season.  For now, just know that this turnaround was never going to be easy, and take comfort in the fact that we have a fantastic 2011 recruiting class on the way.

GO HOOS!

November 24, 2010

Wahooze ACC Picks -- Lucky Week Thirteen

Last week was another in what is becoming a beautiful pearl necklace of bad picks.  But I did pick the Virginia Tech/Miami score perfectly, so I'm giving myself propers for that.

Last Week: 4-2 (2-4 ATS)

Season: 65-28 (42-43 ATS)



Sorry Cowgirls, but I have to get in a soft jab on the Hokies prior to our inevitable annual beatdown.


It's RIVALRY WEEK!

Boston College @ Syracuse (-3.0)
I don't know if Montel Harris is going to play in this game, after we rolled up on his ankle late in the game this past Saturday.  It might not matter...  The Orange is one of this season's most improved teams, and I kinda like them at home in this game.  These are two defensive-minded teams, and I think this game will be a bit butt-ugly.  19-13, Syracuse

Virginia @ Virginia Tech (-23.5)
*sigh*  Bet the Hokies, give the points.  42-10, VT

South Florida @ Miami (-11.5)
South Florida is just not very good.  Miami wins the game fairly easily, but I'm not sure about the spread.  Ah, what the hell?  38-14, Miami

Florida @ Florida State (-2.5)
I used to love this game back in the '90s.  Spurrier vs. Bowden, two of the top glamour teams in college football, duking it out.  As a closet FSU fan and GatorHator, I'll always be pulling for the Noles in this game.  This year, I think they actually have a decent chance to win.  Vegas agrees, apparently.  But my gut is saying that Florida still has the better athletes (though the gap is closing), and I think they'll win a slugfest.  28-24, Florida

NC State (-2.5) @ Maryland
I hate, HATE Maryland football (and Maryland basketball, and the entire state of Maryland pretty much), but they are displaying a good blueprint on how to rise from the ashes in the ACC.  Schedule for success, and build a defense that will create and capitalize on turnovers.  I think 2010 Maryland pretty closely resembles what we'll see with 2011 Virginia.  That being said, winning this game wins the ACC Atlantic for NC State.  They have the better team, the better QB, and more on the line.  30-19, NC State

North Carolina (-9.5) @ Duke
After beating Navy and then UVA, Duke has been able to give BC and Georgia Tech stern tests.  They are an improving team.  I don't think UNC will take this game lightly, but it could be surprisingly close... and although I'm not picking it, a Duke upset wouldn't shock me.  31-24, UNC

South Carolina (-2.5) @ Clemson
Have you seen South Carolina freshman Marcus Lattimore run?  If not, you really need to tune in to this game.  Dude is a BEAST.  It's weird to see a Steve Spurrier team playing great defense and pounding the rock with a big back, but that's exactly how the Cocks have been winning this season.  Clemson has a decent team, but they don't seem able to beat anybody good.  I think SC pummels the Tigers on Saturday.  36-14, South Carolina

Wake Forest @ Vanderbilt (-6.0)
Two of my favorite college football programs in the nation.  I love that they are playing each other, and I really wish UVA would get involved with a series against Vandy (or Kentucky).  This year's Wake/Vandy matchup pits two bad teams against one another.  Like, really bad.  I guess I like the Commodores at home here.  21-14, Vandy

Georgia Tech @ Georgia (-12.5)
Georgia is playing much better after a terrible start to the season, and they need this win to get to bowl eligibility.  GT just hasn't been especially good this season, and the Dawgs have the athletes to contain that triple option.  35-17, Georgia


*** BONUS PICKS! ***

Auburn @ Alabama (-4.5)
Iron Bowl, in Tuscaloosa, with Nick Saban hellbent on regaining some good juju, and all of the good will Boise and Fort Worth can muster being sent their way.  I'd say Auburn is ripe for a loss.  A big loss, actually.  41-17, Alabama

Michigan @ Ohio State (-17.0)
Ohio State is the most boring college football superpower of all time.  Ho-hum.  30-10, Ohio State

Oklahoma @ Oklahoma State (-2.5)
This Oklahoma State offense is one of the best I've ever seen.  But Oklahoma is a complete team that suffered through a couple of hiccups this season.  There are usually no hiccups in the Bedlam Series.  42-35, Oklahoma

Notre Dame @ USC (-4.0)
Screw Notre Dame.  31-18, USC

November 20, 2010

Beat BC!

More of this, less of what we saw in the 4th quarter against the Terps.


Today in Chestnut Hill, our Hoos will wrangle with the Eagles of Boston College.  Our season essentially ends today, for all intents and purposes --- we cannot attain bowl eligibility, and anyone who thinks we stand a chance against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg next Saturday needs to put down the crack pipe.

I don't want to see the season end with four straight losses, after what looked like a potential breakthrough victory against Miami on October 30th.  But the deck is certainly stacked against us today.  Consider:
  • Virginia has struggled to stop the run all season long, and especially since the Florida State game.  Boston College's stud running back Montel Harris leads the ACC in rushing yardage (1129 yards, 112.9 per game, 4.6 ypc, 7 TDs).
  • Virginia's top runner and arguably its biggest weapon on offense (and arguably its best player overall), Keith Payne, is OUT of this game with an injury.  Boston College leads the ACC -- and the nation -- in rushing defense.
  • In four tries, Virginia has never beaten Boston College.
  • Virginia has lost its last 11 games in the month of November.  (The last November win for the Hoos was in 2007, helping Miami to shut down the Orange Bowl by handing them their asses in a 48-0 romp.)
  • At 5-5, BC needs this win to become bowl-eligible.  Their last game, at Syracuse, looks much tougher than it did earlier this season.  The Eagles will come into this game hungry for the win.

So yeah, the deck is stacked against us today.

A loss would send us to an inevitable 4-8 record, with losses in the last four games and in five of the last seven.  It's hard to sell the fact that the program is headed in the right direction if recruits don't see some tangible results (read: wins) on the field.

It's a big game.  I had a gut feeling we'd beat Maryland last week.  I have no such feeling today.  And I'll take that as a good thing.  My gut is a filthy, rotten liar.

Let's hope the Hoos play some inspired football today, that Marc Verica has one last upset in that right arm of his (because we'll need to move the ball through the air), that Perry Jones can channel his inner Mikell Simpson circa 2007, that the team finally moves past its penchant for picking up stupid penalties, that the D finds a way to stop or at least slow down the run, and that we can somehow pull out the W.  It would be a big one if we can get it done.  Huge.

Beat BC!

GO HOOS!

November 17, 2010

Wahooze Bball Power Rankings -- 11/17/10

Each week this basketball season, I will unveil the power rankings for all of the players on the basketball team.  This is essentially a relative measure of how they've been playing in recent games, coupled with an in-order listing of each player's value to the team moving forward with the season.  (I'm only including players that are receiving regular minutes in the games, thus no James Johnson... even though I think he's wildly valuable to the program, and no Sammy Zeglinski... even though I think he'll probably be one of the three or four most important players on the team once he returns to action.)


Billy Baron has been the early-season sparkplug for the Hoos.


#1 -- Mike Scott
Scott is clearly the Hoos' best player.  With 18 points and 9 rebounds against William & Mary and 19 & 12 against SC Upstate, he's certainly proving his value.  So far, he's been great... but still not quite "on" at all times.  To use a cheesy cliché, his motor hasn't been running particularly hot during these early season warm-up games.  In order for UVA be a relevant team this season, we need Mike Scott to be playing his best.  Thursday's game against Stanford and next week's games in Maui will prove just how much he wants it this season.

#2 -- Jontel Evans
The little bulldog hasn't scored a ton (16 points total in the two games) but he's setting a tone with his tenacious defense, he's making plays, and he isn't turning the ball over (8:1 assist-to-turnover ratio).  He's clearly the straw that is going to stir the drink for the Hoos this season.

#3 -- Billy Baron
I don't want to overrate the guy, but he has been instant offense -- and provided a tremendous lift -- for the Hoos coming off of the bench.  Against W&M he drilled five threes on six attempts.  Against Upstate, he nailed 2-for-3 behind the arc, and poured in 14 game-changing points.  When Baron has been paired with Evans in the backcourt, opposing guards have looked very uncomfortable.

#4 -- Mustapha Farrakhan
Mu hasn't been playing poorly per se, but his impact on the first two games has been quietly felt.  His outside shot has been decent, his ballhandling has been okay, and he's played solid D.  Mu is a guy who will always look to push the envelope a tad too far, and he's gotten himself into some bad plays as a result.  Still, his veteran presence is crucial to this otherwise green backcourt.

#5 -- KT Harrell
I'm still waiting to see the real KTH.  He's had his bright moments, but he hasn't really shown me that sparkling "star-in-the-making" level of play that I expected to see.  Watching him, you can tell that he's maybe pressing a little bit right now, and it can't help to see Baron lighting it up so quickly out of the gates.

#6 -- Joe Harris
There is a very captivating completeness to Harris' game.  He's steady on the perimeter, has shown a beautiful shooting stroke on his outside shot (that, unfortunately isn't really dropping right now), and is surprisingly good at getting into the low post and mixing it up.  He was a big part of the second half run that allowed us to pull away from Upstate, and you get the sense that it's only a matter of time before that shot starts dropping with increased regularity.

#7 -- Akil Mitchell
I am ranking him ahead of Assane Sene and Will Sherrill because frankly, I think he has outplayed them in far fewer minutes.  His athleticism is as advertised --- he's bouncy and quick, and looks like a very natural rebounding force.  His minutes jumped from 5 against W&M to 11 against Upstate, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them settle in around the 12-16 area.  He hasn't been scoring, but I bet he'll get his share of garbage points once his role is settled in the rotation.

#8 -- Will Sherrill
Averaging 22 minutes per game so far, it's pretty clear that he has earned Bennett's trust, and will play a consistent 20 minutes in every game until Mitchell and/or Sene step up.  He's not a great rebounder, and he doesn't offer much on offense when his shot isn't falling (and it hasn't been so far), but he gives steady effort and still sets the best screens on the team.

#9 -- Assane Sene
I'm very disappointed with the big man so far this season.  He's mistiming his jumps for rebounds, being drawn out of position on defense, and hasn't registered a single blocked shot in two games against teams much smaller than what he'll face in the ACC grind.  It's a slow start for Sene... he'll either get it going, or he'll fade back into a spot player role.  Still, with Johnson redshirting, he's the only true center on the team, so we need him to play better.

#10 -- Will Regan
He played 6 minutes against William & Mary, played scrappy in the interior, and knocked down a gorgeous three from the top of the arc.  His reward for that effort?  He didn't step on the court against SC Upstate.  It's clear that Tony Bennett wants to whittle things down to a tight 8- or 9-man rotation, and it doesn't look like Regan has a role for this season.  However, that could change quickly if Sene continues to struggle or if Akil Mitchell regresses.


Upcoming games:
Thursday, Nov. 18, 10:30 PM -- @ Stanford, FSN
Monday, Nov. 22, 11:59 PM -- Washington (Maui Invitational), ESPN2
Tuesday, Nov. 23, time TBA -- Kentucky or Oklahoma (Maui, second round), ESPN or ESPN2
Wednesday, Nov. 24, time TBA -- Opponent TBA (Maui, third round), ESPN, ESPN2, or ESPNU

November 16, 2010

Wahooze ACC Picks -- Week Twelve

I'll have some stuff about the football loss to Maryland, the importance of the BC game, and my observations from the first two basketball games, but first we gotta roll out the picks for this week...

Last Week: 4-2 (3-3 ATS)

Season: 61-26 (40-39 ATS)


Not sure if the Semenholes are #1, soul sista.


Virginia @ Boston College (-7.0)
Ugh.  I'd like to think we can win this game against BC, but we won't if we continue to play shoddy defense, rack up penalties, and turn the ball over.  At this point, I'm in 'hope for the best, expect the worst' mode.  Boston College is into the part of their season where they grind out victories.  They aren't scoring a lot, but they're running the ball well and not committing turnovers.  I think it's a fairly good matchup for us, but I just don't see us winning this game on the road.  24-14, BC

NC State @ North Carolina (-2.5)
I really do think this is a coin-toss sort of game.  Carolina will be tough at home, but I think top to bottom, State has the better team.  Both are playing .500 ball here in the second half of the season.  I'm going to give the [slight] edge to the home-standing Tarheels.  28-24, UNC

Duke @ Georgia Tech (-13.0)
Georgia Tech, reeling from three straight losses, needs this win to get bowl eligible.  Duke's defense sucks, and will have no answer for the triple option.  I think this game will unfold like a weird sort of shootout, with the Wreck taking a double-digit lead, and Duke making a rally by putting the ball in the air.  In the end, Georgia Tech's superior talent and home field advantage will win out.  45-31, GT

Clemson (-13.0) @ Wake Forest
Even with as bad as Virginia has played lately, Wake has been worse.  Clemson isn't a great team, but they aren't bad either.  They, like Georgia Tech, need this win in order to gain bowl eligibility, and they can't count on beating South Carolina next week for that sixth win.  The Tigers will come out hungry and a little bit desperate.  Bad news for the Deacs.  38-13, Clemson

Virginia Tech (-2.5) @ Miami
Here's a big game in the grand scheme of things.  A win, and the Hokies lock up a spot in the ACC championship game.  A win for Miami keeps them alive.  This game being played in Miami makes it interesting, but I don't think the Canes have an answer for Tyrod Taylor's legs, the VT running game in general, or that playmaking Hokie defense.  They are old rivals, but I think Tech rolls in this one.  31-17, VT

Florida State (-4.5) @ Maryland
Maryland has designs on winning the Atlantic Division, and they play co-leaders Florida State and NC State down the stretch.  The Terps have a solid little team, scrappy and opportunistic.  But big bad FSU has all of the talent.  If Christian Ponder is back (and he should be back) from his bursa sac injury, this one won't be especially close.  (Maryland's home field advantage is not overwhelming.)  However, it's pretty cheesy to pick all chalk, and this is my strongest gut feeling for an upset.  Ponder isn't at 100%, and we are left with... 30-20, Maryland

Hard-Luck Season Ends for Dowling


From Jeff White's Cavalier News Beat:

Hard-Luck Season Ends for Dowling

November 10, 2010

Why is the Defense so Bad?

Georgia Tech's triple option is tough to defend... but allowing 477 rushing yards?  Sheesh.


We have been blown out in three games this season -- against FSU, at GT, and against UNC.  Last week, we lost to Duke for three reasons:  1) Turnovers.  2) Penalties.  3) Bad defense.

Heading into this season, with Mike London and Jim Reid at the controls, I was pretty certain that if the Hoos had a team strength, it would be the defense.  Despite strong efforts against Richmond, USC, and Miami, that clearly has not been the case --- if anything, the defense has been the damning weakness of the team.

Cumulative National Rankings
Stat -- National Rank (out of 120) -- Actual Value
Rushing Defense -- #111 -- 210 yards/game allowed
Pass Defense -- #23 -- 187 yards/game allowed
Total Defense -- #80 -- 397 yards/game allowed
Scoring Defense -- #68 -- 27.00 points/game allowed
Sacks -- tied at #81 -- 1.67 sacks/game
Tackles For Loss -- #46 -- 6.22 TFLs/game

So you can see, it's pretty bad.  Especially the rush defense.  But why is the defense so bad?

I have a few theories.

Theory 1: Lack of Talent
We have one sure-fire future NFL player on the defense -- Ras-I Dowling.  He hasn't played much at all, and never at 100% this season.  Chase Minnifield looks like he might be on an NFL trajectory, but beyond he and Ras-I, do any of our other defensive players jump out at you?  It's no secret that Al Groh's recruiting tapered off badly as he entered lame duck status here at UVA, and it's also no secret that Mike London's recruiting focus has been on the defensive side of the ball so far.  Out of 22 current commitments for the 2011 class, 15 project to the defense.  That reads to me like a coaching staff desperately trying to restock a unit that has fallen behind the curve in terms of pure talent.  You can see it on the field.  We struggle to generate a pass rush, and we struggle in pursuit.  These are two areas where pure talent tends to bubble to the surface, and where a lack of talent can be exposed.

Theory 2: A Dearth of Discipline
Of the 20 players who have seen regular action on defense, only 8 had played extended reps prior to this season.  8 of the 20 are working through some sort of position change.  And the entire unit is working through the change in scheme from the 3-4 to the 4-3.  That's a lot of potential for break-downs.  Instead of fine tuning the players and teaching them how to make proper reads and reinforcing proper tackling technique, the coaches have had to be focused on installing their basic system and philosophies.  As a result, the basic fundamentals have likely fallen behind the curve.

Theory 3: Playing Fast
The new emphasis on playing fast included the publicly-stated caveat "it's okay to make mistakes, as long as you're playing fast."  Well, I think it's pretty clear that the defense has been faster... and also that it has made a lot more mistakes.  I assume (read: hope) that as the team gains experience in the system and gets more comfortable with the "play fast" philosophy, those mistakes will begin to decrease in number.

Theory 4: Not Enough Numbers
Bluntly, I don't think we have enough players on the defensive side of the ball.  Or a least, we don't have enough game-ready players on D.  As a result, when a starter makes a mistake that he shouldn't make, he's forced to play through it, instead of facing the consequence of leaving the game and receiving in-game coaching on the sidelines.  The lack of reserves has hurt the defense as a whole.

Theory 5: Mediocre Play at the Mike
The key to an effective 4-3 defense is always going to be having a stud middle linebacker.  Entering the season, we had high hopes in Steve Greer, but he has visibly struggled with the scheme change after he missed spring ball rehabbing an injury.  Aaron Taliaferro has been a nice story, but this season marks the first extended game action of his career.  He's green.  And frankly, I think he's only a marginal talent.  Mike London is recruiting his ass off, looking to find that stud MLB.  For now, we just have to hope that Greer has the light flicker on.

Theory 6: No Free Safeties
Rodney McLeod and Corey Mosley are both good players who have shown flashes of brilliance.  But both are better close to the line of scrimmage, playing in the box, playing more of a strong safety role.  We sorely lack the rangy centerfielder type of free safety.

Theory 7: Need More Turnovers
A defense that purposefully gets smaller in an effort to get faster is obviously relying on one thing: creating turnovers.  In fact, forcing turnovers is usually the entire premise of a run & hit style of defense.  When the turnovers have come, our defense has been good, and we've won games.  Look at the win against Miami.  Other than in that game, we haven't generated enough turnovers.  With Dowling not on the field, with no centerfielder-type free safeties, and with almost the entire linebacking corps learning on the fly, we just haven't had enough people in the right spots to make these game-changing plays.  Only Chase Minnifield has been able to produce a steady supply of turnovers, but it's not enough.  He needs help.


These are just theories.  But I bet I'm hitting on some truth in one or more of them.  Add it up, and our defense just isn't very good right now.

But reinforcements are coming.

Give 'em four years, and I bet we'll be back to the level of defense we have come to expect in the orange and blue.

Saturday's game against Maryland could be the beginning of the turnaround...

GO HOOS!

November 9, 2010

Exhibition Notes -- UVA vs. Roanoke College

Time to empty the ol' Wahooze Moleskine...


(Photos courtesy of my friend Jon Monceaux.  Thanks Jon!)



I was only able to halfway pay attention to the scrimmage, as I had a two year old to wrangle at the game.  But I still have a ton of notes, after my first glimpse of the team.  Do keep in mind that this exhibition was used by the coaching staff as a way to get all of the freshmen loads of minutes.  I'm sure we'll see a tighter rotation once live bullets start flying on Friday night against William & Mary.

Ready for another bulleted list?  I sure am.  I always am.
  • With Sammy out, it's pretty clear what our best starting five is going to be: Jontel Evans at the point, K.T. Harrell and Mustapha Farrakhan on the wings, Mike Scott and Assane Sene in the frontcourt.
  • I think James Johnson could push Sene, but he's not ready to start yet.  He's impressive on the boards, but his positioning was often bad and his offense looks like a work in progress.  The sky is the limit, but he looks a little bit raw at this point.  (Not freshman Assane Sene raw, but maybe freshman Norman Nolan raw.)
  • The main rotation will consist of the six players mentioned above, along with Joe Harris, Billy Baron, and Akil Mitchell.  I'm sure Will Sherrill will weasel his way in there with his veteran presence.
  • The backcourt trio of Bub, K.T., and Mu will be very, very good defensively.
  • Assane Sene is MUCH improved.  I was very impressed with what he did on Saturday --- he caught the ball well, played sound defense, blocked shots, and actually showed off a few nice low post moves.  He played with confidence.  I'm now officially excited about the big man heading into this season.
  • Jontel Evans is also MUCH improved.  At one point he pulled up in rhythm and drained a 15-footer.  Silky smooth.  That was the single most encouraging thing I saw on Saturday, because if Bub can hit that shot with regularity, defenses will be forced to play him honest.
  • On the down side, Bub was sloppy with the ball at times and got a little bit wild in transition.  We really need him to be consistently reliable and minimize those mistakes and limit those turnovers..... but honestly, I can live with that stuff as long as they are mistakes of aggression.
  • Get ready for Mike Scott to ascend to stardom this season.  He looked like the complete package to me on Saturday, including an incredibly nice mid-range jumper and a spin hook that will terrorize defenders.  His problem has always been his up-and-down play.  Historically, if he wasn't scoring, he wasn't able to play well in any phase of the game.  Now that's he's taken on the clear leadership role on this team, I hope he's past that phase of his career.  Because if we're not getting rebounds and strong defense from him, we're not going to win.
  • I love Mustapha Farrakhan.  He plays hard, plays good D, and contributes offensively.  However, the Mu I saw on Saturday looked about the same as the Mu I saw at the end of last season.  His development might have plateaued.
  • Will Regan is a try-hard, blue collar guy.  But his role will be minimized this season, I think.  He really is like a mirror image of Will Sherrill, maybe a slightly better rebounder.
  • Joe Harris is as advertised --- heady, with a shot as sweet as Yoohoo.  I was really impressed with him.  He's got a career 6th man role firmly in his sniper's sights.
  • Billy Baron... I was not impressed with.  He was nervous with the ball in his hands.  Against lesser competition like Roanoke College, that does not bode well.  He made a lot of mistakes in his ballhandling.  I think Zeglinski's return could push Baron down the bench in a big way.
  • Akil Mitchell was a bit of a mixed bag.  On one hand, he didn't really show any discernible skills.  He was like a positionless athlete.  But on the other hand, his athleticism really is off the charts, and I can see him becoming a great lock-down defender early in his career if he focuses on that part of his game.  Also, he's probably the 4th best rebounder (behind Scott, Johnson, and somewhat surprisingly, Sene) on the team, right now.  I think he needs to be developed as a power forward, by the way.  He's got too much "big" in his game to be playing on the wing.  His jumper was a little off on Saturday, but you can tell it's something that will quickly come around.
  • I was prepared to be completely awestruck by K.T. Harrell, but I wasn't.  He's a good player; sound offensively, solid defensively.  But he didn't really wow me at any point in the game.  He's got a nice shooting stroke and fits the Bennett systems like a glove, but he didn't look like a freshman superstar to me.  I've begun to temper my [admittedly unfairly high] expectations for him this season.
  • With veterans (Mike Scott, Mu, Bub, Sene, Sherrill) on the floor, the pack-line looked much improved over last year's version.  But when the freshmen came into the game, the holes started to appear.  We need these young guys to learn the defense quickly, or it will be picked apart again this season.  Harrell and Harris seemed like the most "developed" pack-line defenders of the frosh, so hopefully they'll be 100% ready to go before too long.
  • The offense flows through Mike Scott, and benefits from the influx of guys who can knock down a spot-up shot from the perimeter.  Farrakhan, Harrell, Harris, Baron, and Sherrill can all excel in that role, and with those numbers it will be easy to find the hot hand and ride it.  Once Sammy is back, even better.
  • Sometimes I'm overly obsessed with the longview.  So I'm already thinking ahead to the 2011-12 season, and how our new recruits -- versatile wing Malcolm Brogdon, shooter Paul Jesperson, and athletic 4 Darion Atkins -- will fit into the team.  Farrakhan and Scott are the two big losses to graduation, and I think Brogdon and Atkins are pretty direct replacements for those two.  Tony Bennett is getting the program into a recruiting rhythm, and it's looking a lot like what they do at Wisconsin.  Lots of shooters, bouncy bigs, and a few explosive guards to stir up the mix.
  • I honestly still don't know how good we're going to be this season.  Mike Scott is going to be a player.  Farrakhan, Harrell, and Zeglinski will be solid parts.  Sene, Evans, Johnson, and Harris are all x-factors.  If three of those four play well, we could be relatively decent.  But I'm prepared for another season in which no wins appear easy.

November 8, 2010

Wahooze ACC Picks -- Week Eleven

Wow.  Just wow.  It was a disastrous week of picks last week.  Don't worry, loyal reader.  We will bounce back this week!

Last Week: 4-5 (1-7 ATS)  Yikes.

Season: 57-24 (37-36 ATS)  Barely keeping the head above water against the spread.  Damn you, Las Vegas!


Uhhhhhh...  I think your jeans have a hole in them.


Miami (-3.0) @ Georgia Tech
Very interesting game here.  It sounds like Miami is involved in a little bit of a quarterback controversy.  Jacory Harris has been up and down (and then down without getting up after the JKD hit), and freshman Stephen Morris has been very good in relief.  Georgia Tech played a pretty good game in Blacksburg, but with Josh Nesbitt out, can Tevin Washington run the triple option with as much efficiency?  He looked pretty good against the Hokies, and my pick is Georgia Tech at home.  33-30, GT

Boston College (-3.5) @ Duke
One of these two teams will emerge from this game on a three-game winning streak and with realistic hopes for a bowl appearance.  I like BC's defense and running game, but you can't discount Duke's passing game.  Both teams are sort of hitting their strides after dismal starts to the season.  Should be a fairly entertaining game from a parity standpoint.  I think Boston College will ultimately handle business in Durham a little bit better than Virginia was able to.  38-27, BC

Wake Forest @ NC State (-19.0)
Easy enough pick here, NC State will win this game.  But a 19-point spread?  Why not?  40-13, NC State

Virginia Tech (-4.0) @ North Carolina
The Tech fans I know want this win really, really bad.  But make no mistake, this game in Chapel Hill marks by far the toughest challenge they've faced since the JMU loss.  Carolina has developed into a scrappy type of team, kind of playing up the "us against the world" mentality.  I just think Tyrod Taylor, that trio of running backs, and the explosive, opportunistic defense of the Hokies will be too much for UNC to handle.  31-17, VT

Maryland (-1.5) @ Virginia
Ralph Friedgen wants to win no other game more than this one.  And time and time again, no matter how bad UVA gets, we still have their number.  I think he presses his team too hard in preparation for this game, and the Terps go into their shells because they're too scared to make mistakes.  Meanwhile, Virginia has to have a bad taste in its mouth after the Duke debacle.  It's the last home game of the season, and I'm expecting a valiant effort from the Hoos, including massive defensive improvement over the mess we saw in Durham.  27-18, UVA

Clemson @ Florida State (-7.0)
Clemson might have saved its season with that narrow 14-13 win over NC State.  Playing in Tallahassee after two last-second losses in back-to-back weeks for the Noles?  That's a recipe for disaster.  FSU will be looking to bounce back in a big way, and I think they'll steamroll the Tigers.  37-13, FSU

November 6, 2010

Duke 55, UVA 48

It was a weird, weird game today.  I don't have a ton of thoughts fleshed out, but here's what I could scrape together...

  • Penalties, turnovers, and poor defense doomed us today.
  • Rebuilding a foundation, there are going to be head-scratching days like this.  Days when so much goes right... and so much more goes wrong.
  • I'm not going to lie --- losing to Duke pisses me off.  And to lose to Duke for the third year in a row?  It's shameful.
  • Congratulations to Dontrelle Inman, who broke Herman Moore's single game UVA receiving record (234 yards).  Inman had 10 receptions for 239 yards and a TD today.  And you know what?  I think he looks like an NFL receiver.  5th/6th rounder, maybe?
  • We've been missing Ras-I Dowling all season, and today playing without Chase Minnifield, the secondary was just a mess.
  • Our defense is a big problem.  But I'm totally willing to suspend judgement until after next season.  It takes time to switch defensive schemes and transition so many players to new positions.  I just hope my fellow Virginia fans can keep the same level of patience I'm achieving with this process.
  • Shame on everyone who, after the Miami win, dared to mutter the "B" word in reference to this year's football team.  (The "B" word = "bowl.")  We're not nearly good enough to even consider the possibility of seven wins.  Right now, I'm just praying we get to five.
  • If you feel anger over today's loss and need to direct it somewhere, please allow me to suggest you direct it toward Al Groh.  He's the one who dug this bottomless pit that Mike London is trying to pull us out of.
  • I never thought I'd see the day when UVA rang up 643 yards of offense in an ACC game.  I'm waiting to pass judgement on Jim Reid, but I'm willing to be hasty with Bill Lazor.  The dude can flat create and lead a college offense, and I'm stoked to have him calling plays for the Hoos.
  • Mobile QBs kill us.  Tyrod Taylor is licking his chops.
  • Another week, and another nice trick play on special teams.  This week, it was a fake field goal that produced a touchdown.  I love it!
  • I was really happy to see Perry Jones finally get into the end zone.
  • I don't like that we lost this game, but I'm proud of the team for battling back from a double-digit deficit, twice.  Especially on a day where we were clearly flat, and our opponent was fired up.
  • This might sound crazy, but I think losing today might help us beat Maryland next weekend.  We should come out angry and looking to make a statement in our last home game of the season.


Chin up, guys.  Rebuilding is a roller-coaster.  And we lost... but at least we lost with style.

GO HOOS!

November 4, 2010

Slicing the 200 Minute Pie, Part II



Back on April 4th (not a month after the conclusion of the 2009-10 season) I posted THIS:

Here's my guess at how the 200 minutes per game will be distributed next year. (2009-10 minutes per game average in parentheses.)


Mike Scott (27.4) -- 30 minutes per game in 2010-11
Sam Zeglinski (29.0) -- 25
Mustapha Farrakhan (21.0) -- 20
Jeff Jones (18.3) -- 20
K.T. Harrell (Fr.) -- 18
James Johnson (Fr.) -- 15
Jontel Evans (16.5) -- 15
Assane Sene (12.6) -- 13
Billy Baron (Fr.) -- 12
Joe Harris (Fr.) -- 12
Will Regan (Fr.) -- 10
Will Sherrill (15.4) -- 10
Akil Mitchell (Fr.) -- redshirt

Thoughts generated by this exercise:
-- It probably won't be this way at the beginning of the season, but the five players I expect to see starting the majority of the games are Evans / Zeglinski / Harrell / Scott / Sene.
-- I think Will Sherrill will cede minutes to Will Regan. The two are very similar players, except Regan is more athletic and has more upside.
-- James Johnson needs to be able to assert himself in the low post early and often.
-- Farrakhan and Jones coming off of the bench together could be a wonderful way to push the tempo and manufacture scoring bursts.
-- Jontel Evans vs. Billy Baron will be a very interesting battle. One of those two guys will run the point... but I fully expect to see Sammy slide into that role in crunch time until/unless Evans develops a somewhat reliable shooting stroke.
-- There will be a lot of pressure on K.T. Harrell to assume a big chunk of Sylven Landesberg's vacated scoring. It will be interesting to see how the youngster responds.
-- I think Joe Harris will play an important role on next year's team: sniper.
-- I still have high hopes for Assane Sene. He's never going to be a scoring threat, but if he can "get it" as a pack line defender, our overall team defense could be really tough. Having a shot blocker on the floor can really allow the pack-line to flourish.
-- I don't actually expect to see a 12-man rotation next season. Coach Bennett will find an 8- or 9-man rotation that works, and then will stick with that. Of the 12 players I gave minutes to above, the three most likely to be excluded from the rotation are Will Regan, Will Sherrill, and Assane Sene.
-- A three-guard look is almost a certainty. But with the makeup of this roster, we could be looking at some heavy doses of a Marquette-esque four guard look. Can Mike Scott handle the pivot in such a system? I have my doubts.
-- No matter what, next year should be fun. I love watching freshman receive their baptism by fire in the ACC, and we'll be seeing that big time next season.
 
 
Of course, Jeff Jones left the program and Sammy Zeglinski went down with an injury that will hold him out for the first four or five weeks of the regular season, but otherwise I stand by most of what I said six months ago.  I have to re-slice that pie, though.  Here goes...
 
(2009-10 minutes per game average in parentheses) [April's guess in brackets] My new guess in BOLD


Mike Scott (27.4) [30] -- 31
Sammy Zeglinski (29.0) [25] -- 0
Mustapha Farrakhan (21.0) [20] -- 27
Jeff Jones (18.3) [20] -- 0, obviously
K.T. Harrell (Fr.) [18] -- 30
James Johnson (Fr.) [15] -- 22
Jontel Evans (16.5) [15] -- 22
Assane Sene (12.6) [13] -- 15
Billy Baron (Fr.) [12] -- 16
Joe Harris (Fr.) [12] -- 10
Will Regan (Fr.) [10] -- 6
Will Sherrill (15.4) [10] -- 6
Akil Mitchell (Fr.) [redshirt] -- 15

Thoughts generated by this exercise:
  • My expectations for Mustapha Farrakhan, James Johnson, Jontel Evans, Assane Sene, Billy Baron, and especially K.T. Harrell and Akil Mitchell have risen dramatically over the course of the last six months.
  • I think I've nailed the frontcourt rotation here.  Scott and Johnson will combine for 50+ minutes of the 200 minute pie, while Mitchell, Sene, Sherrill, and Regan will fight over the 30 minutes worth of scraps.
  • One of Billy Baron or Joe Harris MUST step up in the backcourt, or the team will struggle to survive Zeglinski's absence at the beginning of the season.
  • Who will cede minutes when Sammy returns?  I think Mu gives up 4, Harrell 2, Evans 2, Baron 4, Harris 2, and Mitchell 3.  That gives Zeglinski 17 minutes... enough to tiptoe back into action but not enough to disrupt whatever rhythm has developed in the backcourt.
  • I took a cowardly approach by predicting Will Sherrill and Will Regan receiving matching 6 minute burns.  I actually think it will look more like Sherrill at 10 minutes and Regan at 2, but will slowly swing the other direction as the season drags along.  Regan has more ability than Sherrill, and as he "gets it," he'll start to steadily eat into Sherrill's minutes.
  • In so many ways, Akil Mitchell is the x-factor for this team.  The 15 minutes I project could be waaaaaay too many.  But I've got a gut feeling about this kid.  In fact, toward the end of the season I think the 'primary' lineup will look more like Zeglinski/Harrell/Mitchell/Scott/Johnson. If Mitchell forces his way into the regular rotation early in the season, it will be a good thing for the team because he brings unmatched athleticism into the game.
  • If Jontel Evans really has developed a semi-reliable jumper, these 22 minutes I project are way too low.  But how often do you see a player go from having no shot whatsoever to being able to hit on a consistent basis?  I guess I have a subconscious doubt about Evans' ultimate viability at point guard.
  • It's too bad Jeff Jones felt the need to transfer for his senior season.  We could really use him this year.
  • Joe Harris has a golden opportunity to carve out a specific role on this team.  I don't think he'll play much this year, but when he's in the game my eyes will be glued on him.  If he really can be the designated sniper, it bodes extremely well for his UVA career.

This Saturday's exhibition against Roanoke College will answer many of these questions.  I'll be there, and will provide a full report on Wahooze.  I can't wait!  Basketball season is here!

GO HOOS!

Trifecta Box: Centers

If I'm betting a trifecta box on UVA's center position this basketball season, here's how I'd structure the bet...



Can a bigger, stronger, more sure-handed Assane Sene contribute
more than just blocked shots?


WIN: James Johnson, freshman
Nicknamed "The Beast," Johnson was set for a pretty big role on this team from the minute he gave Coach Bennett his commitment to play for the Hoos.  Johnson is 6-foot-9, 240 pounds worth of beef on the blocks, but it's his endless energy level that has earned him his monstrous reputation.  Like all non Blue Devil or Tarheel freshman big men, I'm sure Johnson will be saddled with plenty of bad calls from ACC refs... I'm just looking forward to seeing him make his five fouls count by playing fearlessly around the basket and by providing a physical, aggressive presence in the paint.  By all accounts, he has a very well-rounded game for a big man --- he's a great rebounder, a sound low post defender, and knows how to play offense with his back to the basket.  If he can fit well into the pack-line and contribute some points from the low post, Johnson should quickly assume starter's minutes at the 5 this season.  I especially like the fit with him and Mike Scott playing together --- it's an athletic, versatile, dangerous combo.

PLACE: Assane Sene, junior
A legit 7-footer, Sene has shown plenty of potential as a dominant shot-blocker at the college level.  The problem is, he has been a massive liability in every other facet of the game.  He's an inconsistent rebounder, struggles to play in position on D (a totally damning quality to posses as a pivot in the pack-line), and has an extreme inability to catch or handle the ball on offense.  In fact, other than a few stickbacks here and there, he's been an albatross on the offensive end of the floor.  Worse, he's been bodied up and pushed around at times in the past, because despite his imposing 7-foot frame, he had only been able to carry around 220 pounds and not much muscle.  He huddled up with strength and conditioning coach Mike Curtis this offseason and forced himself to scarf down peanut butter and jelly and Chipotle in order to add mass and strength.  In addition, he has worked with assistants and caught over 300 football lobs each day, in order to improve his hands.  Early reports are that these two efforts have paid off, and that Sene is a much better player for it.  We'll see...  But the best case scenario is that he's a more sound pack-line defender while retaining his explosive shot-blocking ability, and is no longer a complete liability on offense.  I'm looking for him to take his biggest steps forward when it comes to rebounding, just due to the added size and strength alone.  You can do much worse than having a 7-foot backup center who plays hard, blocks shots, and rebounds.

SHOW: Mike Scott, senior
He played the 5 out of necessity at times during the last two seasons.  Scott is severely undersized for that role, and he tends to wear down significantly when he has to carry major minutes at center.  That said, I can see him playing at the 5 when Coach Bennett decides to go small/fast in order to exploit matchups or keep up with teams that like to run and gun.  A three-guard look with Mitchell and Scott in the frontcourt would really be able to get up and down the court.

ALSO RAN:
  • Will Regan, freshman -- Many thought he would be slotted at center from the beginning of his career, because he excels at doing the dirty work down low.  I think he's probably too small for that role, though I do like his potential to be able to pull his defender away from the basket with his effective mid- and long-range jump shot.

ANTE POST:  It's tough to say that this group will be a strength of the team without knowing what we've got in James Johnson.  But there's a reason he was a nationally relevant recruit, and there's a reason so many teams wanted him.  The kid is big, he's active, and he knows how to play.  He'll make his mistakes, but they will be mistakes of aggression, and I can always live with that when it comes to young big men.  Assane Sene will be asked to provide 15+ minutes of relief work each game, and I think he'll be up to it.  The numbers are still way too thin for my liking (I don't want to see either Mike Scott or Will Regan at the 5), but I like the two main centers on our roster, and I think both have the potential to be solid role players in support of K.T. Harrell and Mike Scott.  Good ACC teams will be able to boast more quantity and experience at the center position, but bad ACC teams and mid-majors will struggle to match these two twin towers on the UVA roster.  To me, that's the very definition of "middle of the pack."

Position Grade: C

Trifecta Box: Power Forwards

If I'm betting a trifecta box on UVA's power forward position this basketball season, here's how I'd structure the bet...


Is Mike Scott ready to be "the man" for the Hoos as a senior?


WIN: Mike Scott, senior
12.0 points and 7.2 rebounds in 27.4 minutes on the floor.  Those were Mike Scott's averages during the 2009-10 season, one in which he rode a veritable roller coaster of ups and downs.  Most of his struggles came on the defensive end, where he tended to have trouble knowing and understanding his role in the pack-line.  He also had some hiccups on the offensive end, where he tended to settle for too many jump shots and was an inconsistent finisher around the rim (the bricked breakaway dunk against Virginia Tech immediately comes to mind).  So why are so many people heaping so much hope on this guy to emerge as Virginia's star player this season?  I think the reason is pretty simple --- In his flashes of good play, he has been truly GREAT, and the talk surrounding him is that he's stepped up his game several notches, improved defensively, and has stepped up his role as a vocal leader on the team.  We're going to need his rebounding and low post scoring this season, and we're going to need those things to be reliable, game in and game out.  With a roster mostly in flux, Mike Scott is the one player with a chance to serve a stabilizing role.  When he's on, he's an above-average rebounder, an above-average scorer, and a presence on the defensive end.  I'm expecting big things from Scott this season.  15.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 32.0 minutes per game.  Book it.

PLACE: Will Sherrill, senior
He's a walk-on, and he is what he is --- a high-effort guy who will set hard screens and play hard on defense.  Sherrill isn't the kind of guy who can put his back to the basket and operate on the blocks, he's more of a face-up 4 man who can fade out to the perimeter and knock down the occasional jump shot.  I'm not going to spend a lot of time on him, because you all saw him play last year, and what you see is what you get.  He's a solid player who tends to get eaten alive by bigger, stronger, and more athletic forwards.  But he's a hustle guy who can provide five fouls, a handful of nice screens, and a big body in the lane, along with an occasional 3-bomb.

SHOW: Will Regan, freshman
He's described as a "glue guy," which is often a nice way of saying "an undertalented big man who will work hard."  But I think Regan is more than that.  For one, he is said to be a rebounding specialist.  That's definitely something we need on this team, especially with Jerome Meyinsse graduated.  Second, scouts claim that he has a nice ability to put the ball on the floor and attack the basket, and the requisite jumper to keep defenders honest.  He sounds a lot like Will Sherrill, but I don't think their skill sets are totally redundant.  If Regan can offer up a more athletic, better-rebounding version of Sherrill, then I think he'll be able to provide some positives and be able to make an occasional impact as a freshman.

ALSO RAN:
  • James Johnson, freshman -- I have this guy penciled in at center, but there could be times when he plays the 4 with Assane Sene on the floor alongside him.  Johnson is probably our second-best post player behind Mike Scott, so expect to see him in action quite a lot this season.
  • Akil Mitchell, freshman -- He's a 3/4 hybrid, but I'm personally hoping he develops into more of a true 4, because he has plus athleticism for the position.  I think he's a big x-factor for our frontcourt this season, as I can envision a world in which Mitchell establishes himself in the rotation ahead of both Sherrill and Regan.

ANTE POST: I've always been a Mike Scott fan, as I think he's got the complete package at the 4 when he's at the top of his game.  Sometimes his most important trait is the ability to knock down free throws (71.9% last year), so when he's tuned in and active, he can get opposing bigs in foul trouble and make them pay at the stripe.  I don't like weighing players down with expectations, but I'm expecting a lot from Mike Scott this season.  Behind him, I'm less enamored with Will Sherrill, and am hoping that Regan and Mitchell force their way onto the floor and start eating into his minutes.  I think at least one of those two freshman will emerge as a reliable presence at the 4.  And one thing can certainly be said for Sherrill, Regan, and Mitchell -- they won't be outworked.  I like the way our power forward rotation sets up for this season, especially if Scott can handle 30+ minutes per game.

Position Grade: B-

November 3, 2010

Big East Expanding?


Where there's smoke...

(Big East Looks to Add Two Football Teams)

(Big East Makes Smart Move Forward)

...there might be fire.


TCU, Villanova, or and/or UCF.  Nova makes sense, but they have to build a brand new stadium to do it.  UCF fits like a glove.  TCU?  It's geographically "goofy," but it does make sense from strictly a football standpoint.

Could get interesting...

Wahooze ACC Picks -- Week Ten

Last Week: 4-4 (2-6 ATS)  Yep, it was a bad week for the Wahooze picks.

Season: 53-19 (36-29 ATS)  Hanging in there on the season totals, however.


Sorry FSU Cowgirls... but this scoreboard is much more beautiful.


Georgia Tech @ Virginia Tech (-13.0)
ESPN will rue the day they picked this as the Thursday nighter.  Virginia Tech owns Al Groh's defense, and everybody knows it.  Besides, the Hokies owe the Yellow Jackets a debt of revenge after last season's 28-23 loss.  It's odd (being that I usually dislike seeing VT win), but I can't wait to watch this blowout unfold.  UNTUCK YOUR EFFING SWEATSHIRT!  42-13, VT

Virginia (-1.0) @ Duke
What?  We're road favorites?  I guess the Miami victory gave us a little bit more traction in the realm of popular opinion... and you know what?  I welcome it.  Al Groh's Virginia teams would not fare well in this situation, but I have a feeling Mike London's team will rise to the occasion.  Duke QB Sean Renfree is white-hot after a 28-of-30 passing day against Navy, but I think our [suddenly burgeoning] pass rush and [suddenly ballhawking] secondary will be able to slow his roll just a touch.  We need to win this game for two main reasons: 1) a loss would basically render the Miami win meaningless, and 2) I cannot handle a third straight loss to the shitbag Blue Devils.  This game will be close, but I like the Hoos.  27-23, UVA

NC State @ Clemson (-3.5)
The Wolfpack win over FSU last week was a big one.  Meanwhile, Clemson pissed down their leg against a mediocre BC team.  These are two similarly-talented teams heading in opposite directions.  I hate to beat this drum again, but I'm just not sold on Dabo Swinney as Clemson's head coach.  I give the clear coaching edge to State, the clear momentum edge to State, and the quarterbacking edge to State (Russell Wilson > Kyle Parker).  All of that seems logical, right?  Well, I'm going to employ the Constanza rule on this one.  Clemson wins and I don't really know why.  33-28, Clemson

Maryland @ Miami (-8.0)
With Jacory Harris set to miss this game thanks to the concussion from the "the hit" JKD laid on him, Maryland likely gets to face the Canes with true freshman Stephen Morris at the controls.  Seems like the perfect opportunity for a big Maryland victory in Miami, right?  Not so fast.  Morris is a good QB.  I saw it with my own two eyes.  And with a full week of game prep as the team's starter, I bet he has a breakthrough performance.  And the rest of this Miami roster is still littered with NFL-level talent.  I think the Terps are walking directly into a trap.  30-20, Miami

North Carolina @ Florida State (-10.0)
FSU opened as 7-point favorites, but have been bet all the way up to 10.  And it's still rising.  I think the betting public senses the same thing I do: Carolina is ripe for a loss, and the Seminoles are due a big bounce-back performance after that ugly loss to NC State.  Plus, I think FSU is the more talented team, with the better quarterback, and playing at home.  I don't know about this 10-point line, but I like the Noles a lot here, so I'll give the points.  38-24, FSU

Boston College (-3.0) @ Wake Forest
Wake might just be the worst team in the ACC this year.  Yes, I know they beat Duke, but that game was at home and it's been pretty ugly ever since.  The Deacs came close against Georgia Tech and Navy, but otherwise are giving up well over 40 points per game.  BC is finally getting its defense and running game on track, and I'm looking for the Eagles to roll through Winston-Salem on Saturday.  40-17, BC


I'm always better at making ***BONUS PICKS***

#3 TCU (-4.5) @ #5 Utah
One of these teams is going to gain some serious credibility in the BCS race this weekend, while the loser will unfairly just fade back into the non-AQ white noise (these are two great teams, and neither should leave the nation's consciousness).  It's a minor upset, but I like the Utes at home.  I think they're just a bit more dynamic offensively.  24-20, Utah

#6 Alabama (-6.0) @ #10 LSU
It's the story that nobody wants to see happen: one-loss Bama rolls through the rest of its schedule and leadfrogs undefeated Boise/TCU/Utah for a place in the national championship game.  Roll Tide.  35-14, Bama

JMU @ Richmond
Both teams are at 4-4 and on the bubble for the FCS tournament.  It's likely a de facto playoff game for these two teams, though Madison might be able to survive a loss due to the cred it earned by beating Virginia Tech.  Richmond has experienced some serious injury problems at the QB position, but JMU's entire roster is beaten up.  This is a big rivalry game (compared to UVA/VT at the 1AA level), and should be a heated affair.  I'm a quarterback guy, and thus I like Drew Dudzik and the Dukes.  19-16, JMU

BIG Win



By now, I'm sure you've had a chance to read up on the Hoos' big victory over Miami.  If you're one of the lucky few, you were there to witness the feat.  Or maybe you watched it on ESPN?  Whatever the case, if you're a UVA football fan, I'm sure the smile hasn't left your face since Saturday.  I know my cheeks still hurt today.

For the last three days, I've been struggling to find an angle with which to tackle the magnitude of this win on this blog.  It was a BIG win for so many reasons...

  • BIG because of the fact that it was Mike London's first ACC win, and first win over a ranked opponent.  It's potentially a watershed moment in the Mike London era, and it was definitely a "signature" win.
  • BIG because Scott Stadium was getting emptier and emptier, with fan apathy at all-time highs.  Hopefully, this win will begin to reverse that trend.
  • BIG because the game was on ESPN, and the entire nation had a chance to get a glimpse of what Mike London's Virginia teams can look like.
  • BIG because there were no fewer than 20 truly big-time recruits on hand to see it.  (For some odd reason, London picked this game against Miami as the official visit weekend of the 2010 season.)  The 2011 recruits in attendance included four-star cornerback Demetrious Nicholson, four-star linebacker Travis Hughes (both from the 757), three-star Texas defensive end Horace Arkadie, three-star Georgia linebacker D.J. Hill, and three-star wide receiver Demetri Knowles.  Nicholson probably sits atop the wish list of prospects to close out the 2011 class, and by all accounts he had a tremendous visit.
  • BIG because so many of our maligned players had great games and can now attack the remainder of the season with renewed confidence.  I'm especially talking about Marc Verica, Corey Mosley, John-Kevin Dolce, Perry Jones, Rodney McLeod, Mike Parker, LaRoy Reynolds, Darnell Carter, Devin Wallace, and Morgan Moses.  It was a total team effort, and many players played their best games of the season to this point.
  • BIG because the defense came together and [finally] showed that it can be a strength of the team.  Five interceptions, big hits, and controlling the Miami running game -- it was an impressive display.
  • BIG because of this hit, a hit that was mean and clean, a hit that neatly and succintly summarizes what our defense is going to be about -- physicality and swagger, and a hit that might just be the moment that defines a team and catalyzes the rebirth of a successful program:
I honestly cannot watch this enough.


Okay, so it's a brief Wahooze look at the program's biggest win since 2007.  But honestly, I think the rags covered everything pretty darn well.  Here are shome choice nugs:

London is a Breath of Fresh Air, Chris Wallace, CavsCorner.com

London Gets First Signature Win with Hoos, Jeff White, virginiasports.com


Dolce Hit May Fuel Virginia Revival, Tom Robinson, Virginian-Pilot

A Milestone Win for UVA, Steve Yanda, The Washington Post



Yeah, it was a pretty big win.