January 31, 2014

What's with that Crouch?

One of the big mysteries last season was the struggles of freshman sensation Nate Kirby. Prior to arriving at Virginia, Kirby was billed as one of the top pitching prospects in the country, and Virginia was getting its next great arm. But Kirby struggled to settle into a role on the team, and it was Brandon Waddell who rose to prominence as a freshman. Does that mean it’s time to give up on Kirby entirely? No, not at all. Kirby’s struggles are based on his adjustment to the mechanics taught by Coach Kuhn.  Have you ever notice how every single pitcher we have does that crouch before they start their windup. That is very different from the conventional way pitchers are taught in America, and if you’ll allow me to get really nerdy for a minute, I’ll explain why.

This is Tom House, legendary pitching coach for the USC Trojans, and the father of the mechanics that Coach Kuhn teaches at UVA. The mechanics are based off of changing one very drastic thing that makes it very controversial in the baseball community, how to properly use the mound. Traditionally, pitchers are taught to stand tall on the mound and use the added height on the mound to throw the ball downhill, generating extra torque along the way. Torque is the key for this method, and it is generated by increasing the amount of rotation your body goes through delivering the ball to the plate. The House method is completely different. This method employs the “drop and drive” technique which all but eliminates the height of the mound from the equation. The House method is all about getting all your momentum going towards the plate linearly, instead of rotating about your plant foot to generate torque. That being said, there is still a good deal or torque involved in the House approach, but it is not the focal point that it is in more traditional approaches.

So back to UVA, I think it is appropriate to compare Nate Kirby, and really most of our staff, to international students. They’re making a tremendous adjustment to a completely different way of pitching, a different culture if you will. Some will pick it up faster than others. But does that mean that those who adapt slower still aren't talented? I have four years in engineering school that can tell you that isn't the case. If there is one person I think you can expect a huge jump in production from this season, it’s Nate Kirby. Because once that light comes on mechanically, he’s still got all the lights out stuff he came in with.


Virginia Baseball: What's Not To Like?

Article from earlier in the week, but if you missed it, READ IT NOW.


We don't have a true, #1, ace-type lock-down Friday night starter.  We don't have any one player emerging from the cloud of smoke as our flame-throwing killer closer.  We have question marks at 1st and 2nd base.  But this team is loaded.  It is absolutely L-O-A-D-E-D.  (I spelled that out in caps to emphasize the fact that we're loaded.)  It's hard to say we'll be better than those Hultzen-led teams, but the talent is stacked up on the mound and in the lineup in a way I've never seen before at UVA.  Loaded.  Did I mention that we're loaded?

If you've held Virginia Baseball at arm's length to this point, I encourage you - nay, I implore you - pull it in tight, embrace it, love it, caress it.

Here's the reason:  Nobody in the outside world really gives a shit about national championships in Swimming, Cross Country, Twiddly Winks, Tennis, Midget-Tossing, or even Lacrosse or Soccer.  But people notice baseball.  It's the clear #3 collegiate sport behind Football and Men's Basketball.  And this season, more than any other in history*, your Cavaliers are poised for a legit run at a national championship in a sport that actually matters.

(Sorry to the Tennis, LAX, and Soccer teams -- we still love you guys.)




GO HOOS!



* Other than maybe the Ralph Sampson basketball teams.


PS -- I didn't mean to slam those other sports or any of our 22 national championships.  We're really proud of those!  Each and every one!  But look, a baseball national championship would mean... to me at least... about as much as those 22 championships combined.  (Minus maybe the 2011 Lacrosse championship, when we went undefeated.)

January 28, 2014

Virginia Baseball: Preseason #1

Virginia Baseball Ranked No. 1 Nationally by Baseball America and Perfect Game
Cavaliers earn top preseason ranking for first time in program history

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – For the first time in program history, the Virginia baseball team has earned a No. 1 preseason national ranking, as Baseball America and Perfect Game each have tabbed the Cavaliers atop their polls heading into the 2014 season.

This marks the third time Virginia has earned a No. 1 national ranking. UVa also claimed the nation’s top spot in the polls for 13 weeks during the 2010 season and 12 weeks in 2011.

“We are honored to be ranked as the preseason No. 1 team in the country,” said Virginia head coach Brian O’Connor. “We are excited about the experience, depth and talent of our 2014 team. The college baseball season is a long grind and we are looking forward to getting started.”

Virginia returns 22 letterwinners, including eight key position players, off its 50-12 team from the 2013 season. UVa won a regional championship last year and made its fourth trip in the last five seasons to an NCAA Super Regional. UVa returns eight position players who competed in at least 47 games last year as well as seven pitchers who tossed at least 30 innings apiece.

Five of the returnees have been named preseason All-Americans by at least one national outlet – infielder Branden Cogswell (Jr., Ballston Lake, N.Y.), outfielder Brandon Downes (Jr., South Plainfield, N.J.), outfielder Derek Fisher (Jr., Rexmont, Pa.), infielder/pitcher Nick Howard (Jr., Olney, Md.) and outfielder/first baseman Mike Papi (Jr., Tunkhannock, Pa.). Papi was a first-team All-American last season. He was joined on the 2013 All-ACC Team by Howard and Cogswell.

The Cavaliers also welcome in a freshman class of nine student-athletes which was rated 14th nationally, giving UVa one of its deepest rosters in program history.

Virginia began its official practice schedule last Friday and starts its 2014 season on Feb. 14 against Kentucky at the Hughes Bros. Challenge in Wilmington, N.C. UVa’s home opener is Feb. 18 versus William and Mary, followed by a weekend series with East Carolina (Feb. 21-23).

The Cavaliers own the most wins in Division I baseball over the last five seasons with 245 victories.

Season tickets, 10-Game Mini-Packages, single-game tickets and Sunday ACC Family Packages are on sale now through the Virginia Athletics Ticket Office. Customers may purchase tickets by visiting VirginiaSports.com, calling (800) 542-UVA1 or by visiting the ticket office in Bryant Hall during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

January 27, 2014

The Straight Scoop

As of this morning, I have it on very good authority...

Mike London must win at least six games in 2014.  If he fails, "EVERYONE" is gone.  This includes members of the athletic administration, specifically Jon Oliver and potentially Craig Littlepage.


As you'd expect, I have some thoughts on this.


#1 - I'm a little bit disappointed by the number six.  As Pierce said in one of our recent comments sections:

I want to comment here on something I've seen around twitter/boards. It's a thought summed up well with this tweet:

"Looking at the sked based on last year and who's coming back... Should #UVa make a bowl in '14, Mike London would deserve COY consideration."

To this I reply: Hellllllllllllllllllllllllllll no.

The only reasoning for this is because he'd be taking a 2-win team and then winning 6 games against a admittedly-difficult schedule. But this completely ignores the fact that COACHING is the reason we were a 2-win team last year. He's not inheriting it. Coaching took a team with 6/7 win talent and won 2 games. In his 5th year leading the program, no matter the schedule, 6/7 wins should be the average minimum expectation.

Were we to win 6 wins and make a bowl next season, then Mike London will have done an adequate job.


Exactly, Pierce.  Exactly.  And six wins doesn't erase the failure of going 4-8 in Year Three and 2-10 in Year Four.  London should have been canned in December 2013.  2-10 is inexcusable.  Retaining a coach who just went 2-10 is an absolute joke for any program with ambition beyond leeching a share of TV money from its conference (see also: Duke Football from 1996-2010).

In any case, a 6-6 season isn't nearly enough to win back the hearts and minds of die-hard fans like myself, who have soured on the program being run by London, on his systems (or lack thereof), on his ability to lead Virginia Football where we think it should be able to go.  A 6-6 season does nothing but cast this whole thing into some weird sort of static-type stasis.  It's neither progress nor regression.  It's just... nothingness.  I need 8+ wins in order to buy back in, and I'm not alone in that sentiment.

Again, he should have gotten canned after the 2013 season.  I think the reason London wasn't fired this past December is, simply, money.  As in, the total $11.6 million the school would have owed to these coaches in order to clean house, and that's hot on the heels of the $13 million shelled out for the George Welsh Indoor Practice Facility.  There just wasn't enough BMDs (Big Money Donors) lined up to pay for a coaching staff to NOT coach the team this coming season.  That's a tough sell, I don't care how rich you are.



Anyway, here we are, aiming agonizingly low.  Six wins.  That's not even a good season.  That's a merely competent season.  Show some competence to save your job.  I guess it makes sense, but if we go 6-6 and get shellacked in a bad bowl game, I'll have a really hard time swallowing the idea of London returning in 2015.


#2 - It's exciting to me that Jon Oliver is included with this "EVERYONE" being gone.  It's pretty clear to most who closely follow Virginia Football that Oliver's influence on the program has been the administrative equivalent of poison.






#3 - I'm not sure how I feel about Craig Littlepage potentially being on the outs if Virginia Football fails to win six in 2014.  On one hand, he's the man ultimately responsible for the mess that Oliver and London have made.  But on the other hand, 'Page has done really well with the non-revs, and recently with basketball.  Is firing him a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater?  I'm not sure.  I'm just not sure.


#4 - Take another look at the 2014 schedule.

Aug. 30 -- UCLA
Sept. 6 -- RICHMOND
Sept. 13 -- LOUISVILLE
Sept. 20 -- at BYU
Sept. 27 -- KENT STATE
Oct. 4 -- PITTSBURGH
Oct. 11 -- bye
Oct. 18 -- at Duke
Oct. 25 -- NORTH CAROLINA
Nov. 1 -- at Georgia Tech
Nov. 8 -- at Florida State
Nov. 15 -- bye
Nov. 22 -- MIAMI
Nov. 28 (Fri.) -- at Virginia Tech

There is no way in hell we're going to win six of these games.  Richmond, yes.  Kent State, probably.  Beyond that?  I guess I could see us beat Pitt, maybe UNC.  We don't beat Duke.  Miami is going to simply outclass us.  We don't have a prayer in the UCLA, Louisville, BYU, or FSU games.  That leaves two road games, against the two Techs.  I just don't see six wins here, no matter how hard I squint.

But here's the fucked-up thing.  I'm not sure I want to see six wins.  I'm so convinced that Oliver and London are the wrong guys to be leading Virginia Football, I don't want to waste another year delaying the inevitable change we need to make in order to get things moving in the right direction, toward some form of sustainable success.

These guys need to go.  And if it means 7+ losses to get us there... then... ugggghhhhhhhhhh.

I can't pull for us to lose, but this situation at least allows the losses to add up to something that could be considered constructive in the long term.

What a shitty situation.


Anyway, there's the scoop.  Discuss.

January 26, 2014

CALI SWAG

Courtesy of Friend of Wahooze Jacob P. by way of Friend of Wahooze Andrew A.  Thanks guys!  This is freaking awesome.


January 24, 2014

UVAMBB Power Rankings -- 1/24/2014

I did it all season last year, and it's time to dust it off and bring it back!



I'll admit it.  I was extremely butthurt over losing that home game to VCU.  But finally - after lots of awesome winning - I'm over it.  I'm over it and ready to really sink my teeth into Virginia Basketball again!

Here's how the UVAMBB Power Rankings work:

At regular intervals during 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.  After the player rankings, I'll share my power rankings for the 15 teams in the ACC.  (Also, don't forget to look to the right to see the frequently-updated Virginia's NCAA Tournament Résumé!)

On with it...



#1 - Joe Harris
He struggled early in the season, deferring too much to his teammates, playing too passively, not hunting his shot.  But now, finally, he's back.  And the steps he took as a leader after the Tennessee game (showing up at Tony Bennett's house for a one-on-one meeting, leading a team meeting to rally the guys around Bennett's system) really entrenches him as the #1 guy for this year's team.  The best news, however, is that we have proven ourselves able to win without Joe.  Since the concussion, Joe has poured in 11, 16, 15, 18, and 16 points including 14-for-27 (52%) from behind the three-point arc.  That's the work of a confident, aggressive sniper.  And his free throw shooting has improved a little bit, too (16-for-21, 76% over the last five games).  Joe Harris is our star.

#2 - Akil Mitchell
I know the free throw shooting has turned atrocious (currently 43%), and I know he suddenly kills us when he tries to do too much offensively (scoring average now 6.7 ppg, down from 13.1 last season).  But lately, he has settled into full ownership of his role -- defender, rebounder, and garbage scorer.  And in that very specific role, he is an awesome player.  One of our best ever.  I worry about next season, not because we'll lose Joe, but because we'll lose Akil.  His toughness and ego-less athleticism will be very difficult impossible to replace.  In any case, I'm just focused on enjoying the last half of the senior season of one of my favorite Wahoos ever.



#3 - Malcolm Brogdon
Let's talk about finding the right role for specific players, seeing them embrace that role, and seeing their effectiveness take off.  That's Brog at the 2, attacking the basket.  He's the only guy who can do it really effectively (other than Justin Anderson when he's under control), and Brog's the only guy who is money from the line once he gets fouled.  Add that to solid defense, and we have a rising star on our hands here.  Brog is ice cold efficiency, poised to assume lead dog status for this team once Joe graduates.

#4 - Justin Anderson
He gives us two things that nobody else on the team can provide -- overt emotion, and into-the-rafters athleticism.  My wife and I have started calling them "Justin plays."  You know what I'm talking about.  The baited layups, rejected.  The insane putbacks.  The matrix-style pursuit of loose balls.  Justin plays.  "When he's in the game, something is going to happen."  That's what I usually say about him now, and it's so totally true.  That "something" isn't always good, but it's always a helluva lot of fun to watch.  Justin's falling in love with his perimeter jumper right now, and shooting 32% from deep, that love affair isn't a good thing.  But otherwise... he's the straw that stirs the drink.  (Sorry that I overuse that expression on Justin, but it's completely apropos.)  He's a kind of player I don't think Tony Bennett will be able to recruit into this system very often, so I'm just trying to really enjoy Justin Anderson for what he is, while we've got him.


Fuck yeah.
#5 - London Perrantes
8 points, 9 assists, 2 boards, 2 steals, with only 1 turnover and 1 foul.  For my money, Perrantes was our MVP against UNC.  He's really coming into his own, and showing the world how good Bennettball can be when there's a real point guard running the show.  Some Hoofans knock London's lack of pure footspeed, but I contend that guile and cunning, moxie and chutzpah can compensate for any lack of quickness.  The sky isn't the limit for Perrantes --- he's got a ceiling somewhere up there --- but I think he can be a very, very good ACC point guard, and easily our best since Sean Singletary.  For this year's team, he is indispensable.  We're not the same team when he's on the bench.

#6 - Anthony Gill
"The Janitor" (thanks Mike) continues to grow on me, especially as he gets more and more confident and comfortable in creating his offense.  He's still a garbage man, but there's definitely some finesse-style upside there.  I love him coming off the bench, facing our opponents' backup bigs, who are generally too raw to contend with Gill's quickness off the floor and well-rounded array of low post moves.  Like everyone else, he's kind of settling into his role, and the team is much better because of it.

#7 - Mike Tobey
I'd really like to have Mike Tobey - a starter and rightfully so - ranked a little bit higher right now.  He's not playing poorly.  He's a part of the offense, and he's become surprisingly good on the offensive glass.  But here's why he's #7 on this list: 43% from the field.  He's become a black hole, and his poor shooting around the basket hurts what is the single most important trait of Bennettball offense -- its efficiency.  I still love Tobes, and I still believe he has legit NBA upside, but since the Tennessee game he has gone 0-4, 3-11, 6-11, 2-9, 4-11, and 2-4 from the field.  That's 17-for-50 from the field.  That's 34%.  A horrible number for anyone, and especially horrendous for a big man who gets a mass majority of his shots from in close to the basket.  What excites me is that we all know that Tobey is better than that... so imagine how much better the team will be when he gets it back up around 50-55% (he shot .530 as a freshman).  We're playing great basketball right now, but the ceiling is higher and a big part of that potential lies with Mike Tobey.




#8 - Evan Nolte
Nolte is carrying a bit of a mercenary sniper role right now.  As in, come into the game and hit a three, usually when Joe's on the bench.  And that's okay, that's a role.  That's 5-10 minutes per game, and Nolte is shooting 57% from deep since we started playing well after the Tennessee game.  Sometimes the matchups dictate that he doesn't play at all (he's a defensive liability, not quick enough to guard the 3, not big or strong enough to guard the 4), but for all intents and purposes, he's the third guy off the bench and thus, #8 in this ranking.

#9 - Darion Atkins
I wish I knew what in the hell is wrong with Darion, and why in the hell he hasn't been able to develop past his crippling inconsistencies.  As the season moves along, his role is being further minimized.  The tightening of the rotation has been a boon to the team's performance, and someone had to hit the pine to make it happen.

#10 - Teven Jones
Right around 5 mpg in Perrantes/Brog relief and as part of the flood of scrubs when we're running out the clock at the end of blowouts.  That's a sad destiny for our scrappy little point guard, but just like with Atkins, Teven never seems able to work through his weaknesses.  Now he's been recruited over (twice, if you count Devon Hall), and he's pretty close to sharing the same fate as Solomon Tat as a four-year guy who was a great teammate but ultimately never a contributor to the team's on-court success.




BONUS! -- ACC Team Rankings

At this point, I have seen all 15 ACC teams play at least once, and following the conference as closely as I do, I feel at least somewhat qualified to share this ranking.  This is a ranking of how good I think the teams are, not based in any way on wins/losses/RPI/etc.

#1 - Syracuse
Easily the cream of the crop in the new-look ACC.  I have Cuse @ UVA circled on my calendar -- March 1st, bitches.

#2 - Duke
That's right.  #2.  Just because I know they'll be playing 8-on-5 in an obscene number of games, and because I think the collection of parts is going to gel as a team as the season drags along.  Fuck Duke!

#3 - Pitt
The way they dominated a good Clemson team... It's clear these guys are for real.

#4 - Virginia
5-1 today, 13-5 at the end of the ACC schedule.  Book it.

#5 - Florida State
Size, athleticism, defense.  That's the Leonard Hamilton recipe, and this year's FSU team is no different than any of the others, other than a general lack of impact guard play.

#6 - Clemson
I knew Brad Brownell would be a success at Clemson.  Right now, they're winning in a way very familiar to Virginia fans -- by grinding it out.  Littlejohn gives them a nice home court advantage.

#7 - North Carolina
Too much talent not to pull it together at least a little bit.  Roy can't coach his way out of a wet paper bag, but these guys will find a way to run around and attack the basket enough to get to a .500 record in the conference.  UNC on the Tournament bubble?  Should be fun to watch.  (Of course, they'll get in.)

#8 - NC State
That this team is so close to being in the top half of the conference is a testament to how down the ACC is this season.  State isn't very good, they're super erratic, but they have the talent to bubble up and beat anyone they play.

#9 - Maryland
Talented, but dysfunctional.  It's good to see them fade away into meaningless nothingness as they pack their shit for the move to the Big Ten.

#10 - Wake Forest 
I buy their nice start... to a certain extent.  The "Bzdelik Factor" is naturally going to doom them, though.  Also, these guys just cannot win on the road (other than in Blacksburg).

#11 - Notre Dame
Going nowhere fast with Jerian Grant out.

#12 - Georgia Tech
They look like a 6-win ACC team to me.  There's talent on this roster, but I'm not convinced Gregory is anything other than one of the three worst coaches in the ACC.

#13 - Miami
They have some pieces and parts, but it doesn't fit together very well.  Switching to the matchup zone was smart, but they still can't score.

#14 - Boston College
I still believe in Olivier Hanlan.  Frankly, I'm shocked that they are as bad as they are.  But losing is losing, and BC is doing a whole lot of it this season.

#15 - Virginia Tech
They suck.




The Chip, revisited

Virginia has a kindred spirit in Vanderbilt.

Check this out, from a week and a half ago, just after James Franklin jumped ship at Vandy to head to Penn State.



That piece is short, but it really resonates with me.  I encourage you to read it!  It's short, I promise!


For fifty years we were prisoners of Coach Art Guepe's "no way you can be Harvard six days a week and Alabama on Saturday" line. Sound familiar, Hoofans?

Nine wins in back to back seasons, back to back wins over an archrival, back to back bowl victories – it may sound pretty damn modest elsewhere, but it’s literally as good as it’s ever been for Vanderbilt. Sound familiar, Hoofans?

This is the chip. No one wishes us well. Nobody else has our best interests at heart. Nobody thinks we deserve anything more than to be their easy automatic W.

Fuckin-a.

I've talked about the "White Meat" plight of Virginia football and basketball.  Vanderbilt has exactly the same issues.  James Franklin was the right coach at the right time for the 'Dores, but he vanished in a puff of smoke just as quickly as he appeared.  I think they rebounded nicely; the Derek Mason hire was a hone run in my [fairly educated] approximation.

If Mason is a home run and Franklin was a grand slam for Vandy, then Mike London has been a slow-rolling dribbler directly back to the pitcher for us.

All we need to do is find the right coach when we step back to the plate.  Until then, let's try to find that chip for our shoulder, and let's try to find some kind of fighting spirit.  We're good fans, dammit.  We're good fans and we deserve better.  Virginia has money to spend and all the peripherals to support a winning football program.  Some people may laugh at the term "sleeping giant."  I don't laugh.  Instead, I believe it with every fiber of my being.  That's the chip on MY shoulder, and that's why I get so pissy when we underachieve so disastrously.

Podcast... coming soon! (?)

Received this via the "Give a Yell" anonymous feedback form:

You guys do a great job, but I was just wondering why there hasn't been a podcast in so long. I really enjoy them. I know you all have lives outside of this blog, but I hope to see another one soon!

If Pierce is still willing to play in the sandbox with me after I just told one of our readers to go f*** himself, then I promise we'll have a new podcast soon! Next week?


January 23, 2014

My Thoughts on Football Scheduling

Thanks for sharing this, Anonymous!  It sums things up pretty perfectly.


I'm going into this season just like I go to the doctor to get a Tetanus shot. I know it'll hurt, but I also know that once the pain is over I'll be healthier because of it.


Here's the 2015 schedule our new coach will be facing:

@ UCLA
Notre Dame
Boise State
William & Mary
Duke
Georgia Tech
Syracuse
Virginia Tech
@ Louisville
@ Miami
@ North Carolina
@ Pittsburgh

I don't know if there's six winnable games there, unless we somehow find a QB (Turtle?) and the defense gets - and stays - solid. Who knows? Competent coaching can go a long way, and our roster is not devoid of talent.

2016:
Richmond
@ Oregon
@ UConn
Central Michigan
Louisville
Miami
North Carolina
Pittsburgh
@ Duke
@ Georgia Tech
@ Wake Forest
@ Virginia Tech

A bowl game seems pretty possible after the 2016 season. Realistically, we'll need to find the patience to wait at least that long, maybe into 2017.

For gits and shiggles, 2017:
William @ Mary
Stanford
UConn
@ Boise State
Duke
Georgia Tech
Virginia Tech
@ Louisville
@ Miami
@ North Carolina
@ Pittsburgh

Not sure who our Atlantic cross-over opponent will be that season, but we know it's a home game and we know it won't be WF, FSU, Syracuse, or Clemson. So... NC State or Boston College?

God, these OOC schedules suck! UCLA, Stanford, Boise, Oregon, BYU... WHY, WHY, WHY??? UConn makes sense, but the rest is freaking idiotic. We should be scheduling AAC schools, C*USA schools, MAC schools, Sun Belt schools, Kansas, Iowa State, Purdue, Indiana, Illinois (we do play them in '21 and '22), Army, Navy, Kentucky, Vandy, and maybe Ole Miss/Miss. St. Don't try to play big boy football until you're at least approaching adolescence as a football program. We're a toddler who got into dad's liquor cabinet right now. Wobbly and vomiting.

I mean, I can understand scheduling one marquee OOC game each season. "Marquee" being, like, Tennessee. Not a guaranteed loss like against Oregon or Stanford.

GWWAAAAARRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHH!


January 22, 2014

UVA Football Schedule Released

The ACC released the UVA football schedule today. It is below:

Aug. 30                 UCLA
Sept. 6                  RICHMOND
Sept. 13                LOUISVILLE*
Sept. 20                at BYU
Sept. 27                KENT STATE
Oct. 4                    PITTSBURGH*
Oct. 11                  BYE
Oct. 18                  at Duke*
Oct. 25                  NORTH CAROLINA*
Nov. 1                   at Georgia Tech*
Nov. 8                   at Florida State*
Nov. 15                 BYE
Nov. 22                 MIAMI*
Nov. 28 (Fri.)      at Virginia Tech*

There isn't really much to say here. This year in all likelihood is going to be a trainwreck. We could very well be 2-4 or even 1-5 heading into the first bye week. If that's the case, that should be the weekend the hammer drops on Mike London.

January 21, 2014

Quick Things to Say Quickly

Let's chat real quick about our 5-1 ACC start - in sloppy stream of consciousness note format:

By god - it's a WINNING UVA REVENUE SPORT

-WHO SAW THIS COMING? after the UT game? I'm going to assume no one. Oh you did? You're a liar.
-We're a lucky bounce or three from being 6-0. SIX AND 0. UVA hasn't started 6-0 in the ACC since the Harding administration.*
-London Perrantes has been a revelation. Loved hearing Van Gundy on primetime ESPN gush about him.
-Really I could list all the contributions from everyone in this stretch as positives, but outside of the team getting back to playing their unified-top-notch defense, real quickly: Joe shooting more, Anderson as the 6th man, Akil rebounding, Gill finishing, Brogdon starting at the 2, Brogdon driving over shooting, Nolte hitting big time shots in limited minutes, Tobey being really tall.
-How about that offense? 20 point leads over the majority of our ACC opponents. Whaaaaaaat? Apparently it's a throwback to the sets we ran with Mike Scott. Yeah, let's keep those.
-I said this a few weeks ago:

Basically, unless the team loses tonight, regardless of the Tennessee game, my opinion of the conference games is that 10-8 would put the team squarely on the bubble - and probably on the wrong side of it. 11-7 would absolutely be tournament worthy team - though it might not put us in a favorable position to win more than one game.

-Hey look how right I was. And by that I mean, the UT result did not matter - though one could say, the game itself has been our most important, as a catalyst for the performances following. 
-11-7 would not only be a shoe-in for the tournament, but it should be our ABSOLUTE bottom floor worst case scenario at this point. I mean, check the remaining games:

VPI
@ND
@Pitt
BC
@GT
UMD
@Clemson
@VPI
ND
Miami
Cuse
@Maryland

Piece of cake - right?

-Do you see 7 losses there? Outside of my standard beaten-down UVA fan pessimism, no way. I see a maximum of 5 losses, considering things are going to go wrong in some games at some point. Free throw shooting could cost a close game. Shooting slumps happen, etc... And were that to even happen, 13-5 in the ACC is a great place to be.
-THAT SAID. WHY NOT MORE? DON'T WE DESERVE MORE? DON'T WE DESERVE TO STRIVE FOR THE BEST? Well, yes I think it's fair to set our sights higher. Pitt and Cuse are both really really good, so before playing either, it's tough to think UVA has anything but the darkest of horses' chance to win a conference title. BUT that should at least be the goal. Before conference play, I thought top 4 in the ACC should be the goal - I didn't think it was what they'd achieve, but made sense as a where-we-want-to-be after the Tennessee loss. We're there already, if we keep it up.
-It doesn't bother me when fans say "we" for a team they support- I really don't get why it bothers others. I think it's a trendy-cynical thing to bitch about. Like the show Girls.
-JONTEL EVANS. Good to see you at the FSU game. GREAT to hear the ESPN studio guys talk about you on primetime TV for 5 minutes a year after your graduation. 
-A thousand "you're an asshole"s to the guy sitting behind me in my section who loudly boo'd when the JPJ showed Jontel on the screen.
-Even more "you're an asshole"s to the same individual who loudly boos anything Akil does poorly, but remains oddly silent when he does something well. If you're too stupid to understand how important Akil Mitchell is to this team - or recognize the exceptional defense he plays - you should stay at home. Or at least shut your mouth.
-To everyone that's not a point guard. FREE THROWS ARE NOT THAT DIFFICULT.
-Only real concern recently? Letting offensive rebounds turn into open 3 pointers. Happened last night. Happened, what, 15 times vs Duke.
-That's all I got. Leave comments. Let's talk.




*this is not true. 

January 8, 2014

Now THAT'S More Like It!



I have a few quick things to say:

-- I think the drubbing Tennessee gave us [finally] woke us up.  And I'm not just talking about the players, either.  Tony Bennett has tightened up his rotations, and clearly found some things that are working offensively.

-- Beating Florida State in Tallahassee had to have been huge for this team's confidence.  When we reflect back upon this season, we might just mark that game (and the week of practice between the Tennessee game and the FSU game) as the true turning point of the campaign.

-- I'm not sure how good Wake Forest is, but they were #63 in the RPI prior to tonight's game, so I'm chalking this up as at least a "solid" win.

-- Saturday at NC State looms large.  Infinitely winnable, and we could really use a 3-0 start to the ACC season before we head into Cameron Indoor on Monday night.

-- I'm not quite ready to place our NCAA Tournament résumé on the sidebar of the blog, but I will say that I think our magic number for an NCAAT appearance is now 10.  Ten more wins, and we lock up a bid without any consternation.



Some player-by-player notes...

London Perrantes -- Him starting at the 1 with the green light to shoot might just be the key to everything.  He didn't do anything remarkable tonight, but allowing Brog to exclusively play shooting guard improves this team's offense exponentially.

Malcolm Brogdon -- It was a failed experiment, him starting at point guard.  But I think he's fine in short relief at the 1, and he's a revelation as a starter at the 2.  Easily one of our best / most effective players right now.  And did you see him shatter that dude's jaw?

Joe Harris -- Tonight was exactly how Joe needs to play for this team to be the best it can be.  If he can settle into the role of smart, aggressive, confident sniper... well, we'll be in good shape.  He brushed off that concussion like it was no big deal.  Great game from Joey Buckets tonight.  I kinda like this grizzled, jaw-set, goatee-growing, "don't give a fuck" version of Joe that we saw tonight.



Akil Mitchell -- Tonight (like in the 2nd half against FSU), we've seen the real Akil.  Running and athleticism and strong D and authoritative rebounding and opportunistic stickbacks.  When he tries to do more than that is when he (and the team) gets into trouble.

Mike Tobey -- He had a rough game tonight, but I love him as a starter.  He's still learning his way and he's a little too much finesse and not enough power, but those skills are intoxicating.  Tonight, I thought he was a little tentative with his offense.  He's battling through a slump, but things seemed to calm down and come together for him during 2nd half junk time.

Justin Anderson -- He was our best player against FSU, and scored 11 points in 17 minutes tonight.  It was a quiet 11 points (6 from the free throw line), but Simba is the straw that stirs the drink for Virginia these days.  That's an incredibly important role.

Anthony Gill -- "The Janitor" continues taking out the trash and doing the dirty work, and he's quickly growing on me as one of my favorite players on the team.  He's not the world's best rebounder, but he's got real guile in the paint.  Moxie.  Chutzpah.  THE JANITOR!



Evan Nolte -- I'm a little bit surprised that he has bubbled up above Darion Atkins and Teven Jones in the fight for playing time, but he seems to be embracing the "instant offense" role coming off the bench.  He's shooting with confidence, and that perimeter threat was always the upside for him on this [seemingly loaded] team during his sophomore season.

Darion Atkins -- He's now officially the 4th big and the 9th man in the rotation.  It's a little bit disappointing, but he can't seem to work past a penchant for ticky-tack fouls and offensive mistakes.  He mixes in a few great, athletic, savvy plays, but the bright spots are too few and far between.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that he's consistently inconsistent.  How weird will it be when Darion is our only senior next season?

Teven Jones -- I love him, but it's now clear that he's an oil-and-water fit with Bennettball.  He's always incredibly enthusiastic cheering on his teammates, and he always hustles and plays hard when he gets in the game, so he's an easy kid to like.  He's just not really part of the rotation right now, nor should he be.



All in all, I feel about 100x better right now than I did a week ago.  It's awesome what a pair of wins can do, right?

GO HOOS!

January 7, 2014

L'Ville Coaching Search

IN MY OPINION, Virginia Football will not be successful under Mike London, and it's only a matter of time before we embark upon a head coaching search here at UVA.  We should have dodged a lame duck 2014 season by biting the bullet and eating the big buyout in order to fire London after the Virginia Tech game a month ago, but alas...

So while I wait for countdown clock to hit zero, I have set my football energies toward exploring possibilities for our December 2014 coaching search.  You can see The List and The List, Part II by clicking the links.  Unfortunately, those posts are already a bit outdated.  Meanwhile, I have been doing a little bit of living vicariously through Wake Forest fans (they hit it out of the park with the Dave Clawson hire, I think)

With news breaking this weekend that Louisville's Charlie Strong (the guy I really wanted when UVA hired Mike London without giving anyone else an interview) had accepted the job at Texas, the Louisville job popped open.  Now the Cardinals are embarking on their own coaching search, giving me another chance to live vicariously.  The L'Ville job is not the same as the UVA job, but I sincerely believe the two are in the same ballpark.  L'Ville is the more attractive post, but it's close, given the fact that both teams are in the ACC, both sit outside of the fertile recruiting territory of the Deep South / California, both have great financial backing behind the football programs, and both have similar facilities (actually, UVA's facilities might even be better, when you consider the new IPF and the size of Scott Stadium).  Louisville obviously has more recent on-field success, but the football history is pretty similar between these two programs.  Anyway, I don't think it's totally crazy to believe that some of L'Ville's candidates might end up being some of Virginia's candidates a year from now.



So here's some reading for you to tackle, knowing that there are true and obvious overlaps between what Louisville is doing now and what we're going to be doing in 11 months.




And finally, for those keeping track at home, here's the 2013 coaching carousel overview.  It's not done spinning just yet, with more trickle-down positions popping open, potentially at Miami and/or Vanderbilt, among others.



327 more days, Hoofans...



One last thing:

I want to go ahead and put pen to paper on this.  I have a short list of four guys that I'm most interested in as *realistic* possibilities for UVA in December 2014...
  • Ball State's Pete Lembo
  • Fresno State's Tim DeRuyter
  • Louisiana-Lafayette's Mark Hudspeth
  • and Michigan State's Defensive Coordinator Pat Narduzzi




January 6, 2014

I love football...

...and I love UVA and the Cincinnati Bengals.  Maybe that dooms me to a future of never-ending disappointment and despair, but I've gone on too long (26 years and counting) to jump ship now.

Dark times for the Virginia Football program, trying to maintain interest amid what is a near certainty to be a lame duck season for Mike London.  But here I am, tracking the coaching changes, following recruiting, set to renew my season tickets for God knows what reason.  2014 is sure to be a complete fucking disaster, but there's always the next coach, the next QB, the next chance to rise from the ashes like a glorious phoenix and write the best football story ever told.

Today feels like a funeral for the Bengals.  8-0 at home in the regular season, stars aligned to face what appeared to be [by far] the NFL's weakest playoff team in the Chargers, and then shit the bed in Paul Brown Stadium.  Now, after what has to be considered a wildly successful regular season, there is very real, very scary existential debate over our head coach and "franchise" quarterback.  That loss is on Andy Dalton (well, maybe a little bit on Gio Bernard for that fumble and A.J. Green from that drop.)  But it's just like with UVA -- we have no choice but to embrace what we have at quarterback, because there are no real alternatives.  I'm ride or die with the Red Rifle just like I'm about to be ride or die with Greyson Lambert.  (And if the starting quarterback is David Watford, well, I guess that's a fate worse than death.)

Today, I'm just trying to recover.  I wish I didn't wager so much of my own personal happiness on the success or failure of two football programs I have zero impact upon, but that investment is no longer within my sphere of control.  Guess I'll just set my chin for the furneral in Cincinnati and the next 11 months of lame duckness in Charlottesville.


January 5, 2014

who dey

Perhaps it's due to recency, but I just absorbed the most painful football loss in my long and sordid history of absorbing painful football losses.


I just don't even know what to say anymore.  My kingdom for a quarterback, I guess.

FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!

January 3, 2014

Dex to UConn

I have it on *very* good authority that Anthony Poindexter is headed to UConn to serve as the Defensive Coordinator under Bob Diaco.

(I also have it on similar authority that Vincent Brown will be joining Dex in Storrs.)


This is bad news for Virginia Football, but it makes perfect sense.

If it does work out, I'm really happy for Dex.  Dodging the mass firings that are coming in 11 months is cause enough, but to do it while also taking a step up in the coaching ranks? Pretty awesome.

Seeing Poindexter exit stage left via accepting a job at another school allows us to avoid the unseemly business of firing him (along with the rest of the staff) after the 2014 season, or from feeling the need to force him onto the staff of the new coach we hire a year from now.

Anthony Poindexter is a UVA legend.  He had some ups and downs as a coach at Virginia, but he showed promise and improvement.  I'm happy for him, and also sad to see him go.



Best of luck at UConn, Coach Dex!



White Meat



"Virginia? That's the white meat of our schedule."

~ Clemson Coach Frank Howard


During his time at Clemson (1940 to 1969), no Howard-led team ever lost to Virginia.  Nor did the teams of all the coaches before him, or after him all the way through the Danny Ford era, as Clemson won the first 29 meetings in the series.

I have no doubt that Howard isn't the only opposing coach who found Virginia football to be soft, supple, succulent, and ripe for the picking.  In fact, I'd say "soft" is probably the prevalent adjective that opponents attribute to Virginia football.  That's what "White Meat" means --- soft.

Here's the now-famous Colin Cowherd rant.  Please, humor me and listen to it - really listen to it - from start to finish.



Wanna know why that hurts so much to hear?  I mean, it's pretty obvious, isn't it?  It hurts, because it's true.

Deep down, I've known it all along.  But this week, I've had a new, startling, extremely painful realization:  It's not just football.  It extends to basketball, too.

Hoofans, our teams are the White Meat on everybody's schedule.

There's absolutely nothing we can do about it, other than refuse to accept the product UVA is putting on the field and on the court.  [Please note that I just said "refuse to accept," not "fail to support."  There is a subtle yet important difference there.]

Our fanbase has a terrible rep, as well.  His take was fat with hyperbole, but Cowherd nailed it.  It's unrealistic to think that anything will change with our fanbase until they see a sustained period of winning on the field and on the court.  So I won't touch this one right now.  But know -- if you are a UVA fan, you're off the hook for now.  Once we start winning, however... well, you've got to do better.  We've all got to do better.

Meanwhile, football needs to find another version of George Welsh, the only guy who was able to make us not-soft.  He was a Navy man, military-bred, hard-nosed to a fault.  That's what our next coach needs to be.  No more rah-rah players' coach candyassed clown college mickeymouse bullshit.  Mike London is the polar opposite of what we need to turn things around.  His coaching style epitomizes White Meat.



Basketball...?  The crew-cut Bennett-style packline system might be what we need in order to be able to achieve an acceptably high floor for performance.  But we [very obviously] lack a streetball-type edge to our game that can take us over the top.  There's no killer instinct.  There's no ability to deliver a proper curb-stomp, nor is there firepower for proper woodshedding of opponents.  Our players don't play with any sort of swagger, and just like all other Virginia teams, we have a glass jaw.

White Meat, baby.

I will say this: There's a little bit of chicken and egg with Bennettball, and by extension the packline. Do we run this system because we can't get the athletic 5-star recruits to run and go pressure man to man? Or do we run this system because it's just what Bennett runs, and we recruit [less athletic players but who maybe have more size / skill / shooting ability] into it, making our style of play a never-ending self-fulfilling prophecy? I suspect it's the latter, and I suspect that's the REAL reason for the frustration some UVA fans are experiencing (maybe myself included).  We currently have too much substance, not enough style.  We currently have too much thunder, not enough lightning.  We currently have too much math, not enough art.

But here's the thing. Just like Hoos500 so excellently pointed out on the 247 message board, Packline : UVA :: Flexbone : GT. As in, the Bennettball packline's what we run, and under this coach we will not run anything else, ever. We're going to have substance, style be damned.  Thunder will rumble, but lightning never strikes.  Numbers get crunched, but the canvas never gets colorful.

So we have a choice -- embrace the coach and his system, or reject the coach and his system completely. There's no in-between. Tony Bennett won't suddenly say "holy crap" and start mixing up defenses and allowing the team to run and gun, just like Paul Johnson won't ever start throwing the ball all over the field via no-huddle shotgun spread.

Tony Bennett is our coach. If you want to support him as our coach, you have to embrace the slow pace and methodical play inherent to his system and scheme. Otherwise (and at risk of oversimplification of my point), you cannot support this coach.

Meanwhile, is Tony Bennett and his system only going to perpetuate the lack of toughness that feeds into the White Meat persona that is Virginia Athletics?  Personally, I think the jury's out.  How the team bounces back from the sputtery start to this season amid great expectations is going to tell me a lot.  I do, however, have faith in this coach.  I have faith in the defense-first mentality.  And as much as I find it aesthetically unpleasing, I have faith in Bennettball.  I think we need that substance, I think thunder can give a nice rumble, and I trust the math.

White Meat?


At the end of the day, I think it's healthy to be self-aware, because only then can you begin working toward change.  Guys, our football team, basketball team, and fanbase are White Meat.  No need arguing that point.  Our mission now is to find ways to set our jaws and begin adding a little gristle to the White Meat mix.