February 28, 2014

All the Marbles


Here it is.

Biggest game of what?  The last decade?  The last two decades?  The last 30 years?

Streaking the Lawn calls it "The Game of the Century."

I'm of the opinion that nothing really matters in college basketball until you get to the Big Dance; that the regular season is merely a means to an end, the "over the river and through the woods" before you get to Grandmother's house.

The Bengals' humiliating defeat at the hands of the Chargers in the wildcard round of the playoffs was my most recent (incredibly painful and frustrating) reminder that the regular season don't mean shit.  The 2011 season of Virginia Football was the same sort of thing.

But the reality is that this game against Syracuse is our first chance to make this super-special season actually mean something.

It's a chance to hang a banner in the JPJ rafters.

I don't care how unbalanced the schedule has become, or how fat and soft the conference midsection has grown, an ACC regular season title means something.  The last time Virginia won an [outright] title was 1981.  That's a long freaking time.

If you believe the reports, a UVA/Syracuse ticket is the most valuable ticket we've seen in the Commonwealth, maybe ever.  From the Daily Press report:

SeatGeek, one of those secondary-market ticket brokers, revealed Thursday the average ticket price has more than quadrupled in the past month, going from $79 on Jan. 26 to $339, thus making it more expensive than the cost of a U.Va. full-price season-ticket package and the most expensive ticket the broker ever has recorded in the state of Virginia.

I wonder if UVA fans have been hungry for a winner in one of the "big-two" revenue sports.

Yeah, this game against Syracuse is a pretty big deal.  It's for all the marbles in the ACC, in the ACC's first season as a 15-team conference.

It's a huge game.

And I think we'll win it.  God damn it, we're due.  We've paid our karmic debt.  It's time for us to cash in.  We have a date with destiny; we're aiming for history.

If, that is, our team and fans can find the... ahem... marbles... to go out there and deliver the goods and take this fucking thing away from the Orange in favor of the orange and blue.

Go Hoos.

Virginia 59, Syracuse 51

February 27, 2014

Should Kendall Buy Football Tickets?

We just got our tax return.

Typically, I'd set aside a chunk of that money to renew our season tickets for football, when they go on sale... whenever they go on sale.

I get faculty/staff tickets, which had dipped down to $99 each (before fees), but rebounded up to $150 or whatever ahead of the season that featured eight home games, including Oregon and Virginia Tech.  After going 2-10 in 2013, I'm sure 2014 tickets (featuring precisely zero "sexy" games unless you have some sick fetish for Kent State or Pitt) will tumble back down under the $100 threshold.  [Hell, they need to be giving the fuckers away, along with free warm lotion handjobs and a basket of Hardees chicken tenders.]

Anyway, the price of the tickets isn't the issue.  I can swing $300-400 for family entertainment in the fall.

What I don't know if I can swing is expending the time and effort and energy necessary to be a season ticket holder in 2014, when return on investment is likely to be yet another season of the fans having their teeth kicked down their throats by an incompetent football team.

So I'm weighing the pros and cons of buying season tickets for this season.  And I'm enlisting YOUR help.  Vote in the poll, submit anonymous feedback, or post in the comments section and tell me what you think I should do!

Here are the arguments for and against buying tickets for the 2014 season of Virginia Football...

The argument FOR buying the tickets
-- Tailgating is fun.  And not to sound like an ego-maniac or anything, but I fear if I bailed out on the tickets and tailgating, our tailgating group would fall completely apart.  I don't think it's a stretch to say that I'm the linchpin.  (But should saving the tailgate be enough motivation to buy the tickets and subject myself to another season of torture?)
-- I want to support the University I love, and the football program I care about as much as a member of my own family.
-- Maybe somehow, someway, we'll be good in 2014.  I don't want to miss the turnaround, if it happens.
-- I want my kids to love Virginia Football, and that won't happen if we aren't attending the games.
-- I love, LOVE, our current seats, and I don't want to lose them.  If I don't renew this year, and then get tickets in 2015, we won't have these same seats.
-- It's a simple equation.  I love college football.
-- If I don't get tickets, I think I might feel bad and then wish I had gotten them.  I don't want to have regret.  And if I do have regret, I'd rather regret buying the tickets than not buying the tickets.
-- I want to go to the games with big-ass "HIRE LEMBO" signs.  Maybe even a banner.
-- I feel like I'll be stripped of membership as a card-carrying Virginia Football die-hard if I ditch out on season tickets.
-- C'mon man, these tickets are really cheap!  I have the freedom to skip games if I want to.
-- I want to see Quin Blanding, Andrew Brown, and a healthy Smoke Mizzell, live and in person.
-- A good chance to read a book?

The argument AGAINST buying the tickets
-- I hate the message that renewing these tickets would send, that we're okay with the sub-mediocrity and downright incompetence we're seeing on the field.  The only real statement I can make is with my checkbook, and I'm not too keen on stroking a check that eventually goes to support the ridiculous $2+ million per year contract our asshat administration handed to our clown car of a head coach.
-- I live in Richmond now.  An hour drive in each direction may not sound like much, but I can tell you that after making that trip five days a week for work, it fucking sucks to do it on football game Saturdays.
-- Add to the trip the process of loading and unloading the car, the hangovers, dealing with the grease-dripping grill and the wet leftover beer from the cooler, etc.  I've been wrangling this shit for over a decade, and I'm tired of it.
-- Seven gorgeous fall Saturdays, suddenly free to do things that don't cause me intense personal rage and/or crippling depression.
-- Collecting money from the group, worrying about handing out tickets, selling tickets when we have extras, dealing with scalpers, all that shit.  Wouldn't miss any of it.
-- It's Virginia Football.  We fucking suck.  We can get tickets on StubHub for two or three bucks.  Seriously.
-- I love our seats, but they're right next to the opposing fans' section.  That's tough when you're absorbing lopsided loss after lopsided loss.
-- I think about gearing up to head to the game against UCLA on August 30th, and I'm already dreading it.
-- Speaking of August 30th, I fucking hate football games in the dead heat of summer.  Five of our eight home games this season happen on or before October 4th, so it's going to be hot.  I hate that shit.  Sweaty, nasty taint, fucking sun blasting me in the eyes, chafed grundle, soggy nifkin, sunburn, uncomfortable Virginia humidity.  Fuck it.  Hate that shit.
-- If I don't buy season tickets, I could potentially reallocate those funds into purchasing NFL RedZone, making my Sundays delightful.
-- It's frankly a shitty home schedule.  UCLA, Richmond, Louisville, Kent State, Pitt, UNC, Miami.  The only one that moves the needle for me on a fundamental level is UNC.  If we had a decent team that might win the games, I'd love to see the UCLA, L'Ville, and Miami games, but...  Well, we already know how those are going to go, don't we?
-- The administration needs to see an empty stadium in order to get it through their thick skulls: we will not accept 2-10.  Not under any circumstances.

So what do you think?  Should I buy the tickets or not?  Vote in the poll, submit anonymous feedback, or post in the comments section and tell me what you think I should do!

February 22, 2014

Your University of Virginia is in First Place ACC Standings Update

Celebrate accordingly.

Cuse/Duke call should've been a no-call/flop, if you ask me - but I'll take it.

Good lord, VPI, 2-12? That's 2 losses worse than we are at football.

Baseball and Lax also won today. Rejoice, Wahoos.

February 20, 2014

UVAMBB Power Rankings -- 2/20/2014

Earlier editions:

Here's how the UVAMBB Power Rankings work:

At (semi-)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. Also, don't forget to look to the right to see the frequently-updated Virginia's NCAA Tournament Résumé!

On with it...

#1 - Malcolm Brogdon (previous rank: #3)
I had a hard time getting away from the idea that Uncle Malcolm was not our best player, but simply our most opportunistic player.  But the longer the season goes, the more clear it becomes that Brog's our best player, gross mouthguard chewing and all.  (Patent pending: "The Brogdon Chomp.")  It's his solid defense, strong rebounding (5.7 rpg), ability to hit free throws when nobody else on the team can, improving 3-point shot (now up to 39%), and never failing to notch a double-digit scoring effort in conference play (seriously, take a look, 14 games: 11, 14, 13, 17, 16, 16, 18, 16, 16, 17, 14, 14, 14, 12, average: 14.9 ppg).  I'm waiting for a 25+ point explosion, and I bet it's coming at some point down the stretch this season.  Brog's our best, most important player.

#2 - Joe Harris (previous rank: #1)
Quasi-slump aside, he's still a 43% shooter from deep.  He does all of the little things you need from a star player, and he seems to be comfortable with this role this season.  We know he's capable of an explosive scoring game when we need it the most, and I suspect he'll be the engine that drives us deep into March.

#3 - Akil Mitchell (previous rank: #2)
I'm bullish on Akil.  We'd be sunk without his toughness, hustle, rebounding, defense, and grit.  And the Hack-Akil strategy hasn't hurt us yet, as Tony has been good with his offense/defense subs in endgame situations.  As an added bonus, Akil is scoring a bit more lately.

#4 - London Perrantes (previous rank: #5)
I don't care about the 31.5%, you just need to shoot more of your open looks, London!  If we can find a #3 perimeter shooter for this team, we'll be... really tough to beat in March, let's just say that.  The yin to the yang here is that teams have learned to dribble-drive right at young London Perrantes (officially "PAIR-on-tays"), so I think we'll see a bit more of Brog (and Justin Anderson) on opposing point guards.  It creates weird matchup issues for us on defense.  Still, London's steady, effective, mature-beyond-his-years play has been a key to this season's success, and we really need him to knock down whatever freshman wall might appear before him.

#5 - Anthony Gill (previous rank: #6)
We've noticed, Mr. Gill.  We've noticed.  As Mike Tobey struggles and Akil Mitchell settles into his complementary role, a new go-to low post scorer has emerged.  THE JANITOR.  Gill has scored in double figures in three of the last five games, and is settling in at over 20 minutes per game.  Being able to bring this kind of firepower into the game from off the bench is a pretty big deal.

#6 - Justin Anderson (previous rank: #4)
I hate - HATE - having Justin ranked this low, especially after he bagged those two critical threes and the highlight reel dunk late against Tech.  The thing is, Simba has become consistently inconsistent, just like many/most 6th men in the country.  He's been settling for way too many threes (and shooting 13.6% from deep over the last month, including the two he made against VT -- it was 6.3% before that, 1-for-16, horrendous).  I want to see more of those runaway freight train takes to the basket, and less jump shots.  JA's hustle and defense are still bright spots on the team, but I can't in good conscience rank him any higher than 6th on this list right now.

#7 - Mike Tobey (previous rank: #7)
He's been a liability on defense, with teams killing us with the pick and roll against him.  With his scoring (except against Clemson) and rebounding down, he's ceding minutes to Gill and now Darion Atkins, who is a much better defender.  All of this being said, Tobes will still have a really good game or two down the stretch, and he's the kind of offensive player we might be able to saddle up and ride a little bit in the postseason.

#8 - Darion Atkins (previous rank: #9)
~13 minutes per game lately, with good rebounding, defense, a block or two, and some sweet hook shots.  He's still an end-of-bencher, but he's earning playing time and being productive with it.  I do think we'll begin to see Mike Tobey's 19 mpg and Darion's 13 mpg get closer to an even 16/16 split between the two.

#9 - Evan Nolte (previous rank: #8)
He's getting stuck to the bench, which is kind of sad to me, given our need for additional perimeter firepower.  I hope Nolte realizes the opportunity to claim a big role on the UVA team next season and doesn't start to get wanderlust during the offseason...

#10 - Teven Jones (previous rank: #10)
DNPs in three of the last six games, and nothing more than a few minutes of action in any given game.  I like the idea of Teven being the defensive-minded counterpart to London Perrantes, but that works better in theory than reality.

Notre Dame on Saturday, Miami next Wednesday, then the big one against Syracuse.  Big three-game homestand for the Hoos.  Let's bring it on home and put a ACC Championship banner in the rafters at the JPJ.

February 19, 2014

A Bulleted List!

I find myself stuck with a shit-ton of ideas for blog posts, and not enough time/energy to actually make it happen.  So here's a fucking bulleted list!  Enjoy!

-- I got the following text last night, from a person close to me but who will remain nameless, currently struggling with the fact that he might be becoming a UVA fan:

I'm either a Virginia fan, or I just had a heart attack.

-- I've heard some alarmist scuttlebutt about the fact that we're suddenly winning basketball games close, and no longer blowing our opponents out.  HELLO?  We're winning games.  Tough games.  Against teams that are better than you think.  On the road!  So before you dive into questioning the free throw shooting or Mike Tobey being soft or Joe deferring to others too much or London Perrantes looking tired and not playing defense or whatever, ask yourself this question: Are we winning tough games on the road?  We just absorbed Virginia Tech's best shot, after absorbing Clemson's best shot, after absorbing a pretty good shot from Maryland, and from Georgia Tech... and we just keep winning.

-- Rule 2b tells us that we, as Virginia fans, cannot have nice things.  But you know what?  This year's basketball team is a pretty nice thing.  And it's a pure joy to watch.  My advice is to sit back and enjoy the ride.

-- WTF is up with Malcolm Brogdon chewing on his mouth guard?  It's getting to be a bit much, Brog.  Get some Big League Chew or something, breh.

-- An incredibly salient point that a poster named StLouHoo made on the Wahoos247 board this morning:

Just reviewed the schedule, and letting it sink in how exhausting the last ~three weeks must've been, having to travel to South Bend, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, South Carolina, and lastly Bleaksburg. The team hasn't bad back-to-back home games in almost a month. (And yet we still went undefeated in that stretch.)

And now we have a whopping 18 days before we have to play a road game again. That's two and a half weeks the boys don't have to get on a bus or a plane, don't have to crawl into bed at 3AM after an evening of ball and a night of travel, get to have a normal practice/game/recovery routine, spend a little quality time with their girlfriends and get on track with their homework and studies.

Great points.  But these 18 days represent the last bit of rest before the end-of-season postseason push.  We head to Maryland on March 9th, then to Greensboro for the ACC Tournament, then to who-knows-where for the NCAA Tournament.

-- That's right, I just said the NCAA Tournament.  No jinx, because we're now a lock for the Big Dance.  Coming into the season, I said we'd need to win 12 in the ACC to secure a bid, 13+ for a favorable bid.  Last night was lucky #13.

-- And hey, maybe some confusion about this, so HERE'S A LINK to the wacky, wild ACC Tournament bracket, new for 15 teams in 2014!  The happy news is that with last night's win, we secured a double-bye to Friday's quarterfinal round!  I wonder if we can find a way to do the very un-Virginia thing and actually win a game in the ACCT and actually advance to Saturday's semifinals?

-- I know Syracuse losing at Duke this weekend would help our cause in trying to win the ACC regular season and get the #1 seed in the ACCT... but I don't care.  I want the Cuse to be undefeated when we play them in the JPJ on March 1st.  WE ARE GOING TO WIN THAT GAME.  (And with Pitt now sucking, we need a new "signature win" four our Tournament résumé.)

-- Plus, I don't mind if we finish the season as the ACC's #2 team, because I want another crack at what figures to be the #3 seed, Duke.  We'd have a lot of that crowd in Greensboro behind us in that game on Saturday, March 15th.  My freaking birthday.

-- You might not have noticed, but Joe Lunardi released his latest Bracketology on Monday.  I've been waiting for it, as all the peripherals (RPI, KenPom, BPI, Sagarin) were in place... but we're now a 3-seed.  Wow, a 3-seed.

-- By the way, here are the 1st/2nd round host sites (I refuse to call the play-in games in Dayton the 1st round): Buffalo (MAC), Milwaukee (Marquette), Orlando (Stetson), Spokane (Washington State), Raleigh (NC State), San Antonio (Texas-San Antonio), San Diego (San Diego St.), St. Louis (Missouri Valley Conference).  Fingers crossed for Raleigh, right?  Rule 2b: We get shipped off to Siberia Spokane.

-- By the way, if you don't mind following me down the rabbit hole for a second, here are the capacities of those arenas:
  • First Niagara Center (Buffalo): 18,690
  • BMO Harris Bradley Center (Milwaukee): 19,000
  • Amway Center (Orlando): 20,000
  • Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena (Spokane): 14,000
  • PNC Arena (Raleigh): 19,772
  • AT&T Center (San Antonio): 18,581
  • Viejas Arena (San Diego): 12,414
  • Scotttrade Center (St. Louis): 19,260
It stands to reason that our glistening jewel of a facility, our beloved John Paul Jones Arena, could handle hosting an NCAA Tournament 1st/2nd round pod, right?  Our 14,593 capacity outpaces two of this year's host sites.  The reason UVA won't be hosting anytime soon?  According to Craig Littlepage, whom I e-mailed about the subject a few years ago, there are not enough hotels in and around Charlottesville.  I guess that makes sense, but jeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeez.  How cool would it be to host in CVille?

-- This post isn't just about basketball, mind you.  In light of THIS REPORT that the ACC is exploring a football scheduling partnership with the SEC, to go along with existing ACC/SEC matchups Florida State/Florida, Georgia Tech/Georgia, Clemson/South Carolina, and Louisville/Kentucky, (and also a possible rekindling of Wake Forest/Vanderbilt), I've been thinking about what ACC/SEC matchups should be formed for a) the almighty television dollar, and b) the good of UVA.  Here's my plan for the additional pairings:
  • Virginia Tech/Tennessee - This one's obvious, isn't it?  Put all the insufferable mouthbreathing rednecks together and let them work it out.  Maybe they could even play it on a NASCAR track or something.  *snicker*
  • Miami/Alabama - Miami will enjoy getting their asses kicked by the players they used to be able to afford to buy back in the early 90s.
  • North Carolina/Auburn - Classic 7s who think they're 10s.  Need to put the delusional fanbases together on the field of battle.  (Note: Carolina is a ctually just a 5.  Really, a 4.5 if I'm being honest.  Still thinks she's a 10, though.)
  • Duke/LSU - Just because I want to see Dook endure a brutal, Medieval-style torture every season.
  • Pitt/Texas A&M - I feel like these conference-hopping, ungrateful shitsippers deserve each other.
  • NC State/Mississippi State - West Virginia is the obvious runaway #1, but these schools are #2 and #3 in the rankings of the number of fans who shit and piss themselves in the stands during football games.  (I don't know this to be true of Mississippi State fans, but having met a few of them during last season's baseball super regional, I think it's an extremely safe assumption.)
  • Boston College/Arkansas - A good, ole fashioned Who Gives a Shit? game.
  • Syracuse/Missouri - Look, not all of these are going to be goldmines.
  • Virginia/Ole Miss - We gon' have us a sundress party up in here!

-- Speaking of the SEC...  Given the incredible suckitude of Virginia Football right now, and the way that it tends to completely mangle my mood all fall into December into getting salty with Santa Claus because of how bad the Hoos suck, I have decided to adopt another team and put another dog in the fight.  Specifically, I want to put another Dawg in the fight.  That's right, Hoofans, along with dying hard as a Virginia die-hard, I will also be a fan of "big boy football" via the University of Georgia.  HUNKER DOWN YOU HAIRY DAWGS!

-- Last item on the list, and it's back to basketball.  Blasphemy that the ACC is the #5 conference by way of RPI, right?  But there it is.  And with Virginia now having its best season in decades, I no longer live in a glass house when I throw this stone.  The following traditional powers need to step the fuck up on the hardwood:

  • Georgia Tech - Last Tournament appearance: 2010.  Last Sweet 16: 2004.  Current RPI: 151.
  • Wake Forest - Last Tournament appearance: 2010.  Last Sweet 16: 2004.  Current RPI: 102.
  • Boston College - Last Tournament appearance: 2009.  Last Sweet 16: 2006.  Current RPI: 195 (woof).
  • Maryland - Last Tournament appearance: 2010.  Last Sweet 16: 2003.  Current RPI: 68.
Now, trading Maryland for Louisville is a slam dunk gain for the ACC in terms of basketball heft.  But part of the premise that the ACC was building the elitist of the elite basketball conferences in the history of roundball was based at least partly on the concept that UVA, NC State, GT, Wake, and BC would be solid performers to go along with Tobacco Road, 'Cuse, Pitt, ND, and L'Ville.  We're doing our part right now along with the shitbags at NC State, but the Yellow Jackets, Demon Deacons, and Eagles are dragging the conference down.  The ACC is soft in the middle, and that's why the conference sucks from an RPI perspective.  Virginia Tech will never be good at basketball, but with FSU and Miami sort of outperforming their basketball destiny in recent seasons, the ACC should be the creme de la creme de la creme.  Instead, we're looking up at the fucking Big Ten.  It's time for GT and Wake to fire their staffs and get moving in the right direction, as Brian Gregory and Jeff Bzdelik are just awful college basketball coaches.  BC... I'm not really sure what the problem is.  But you three programs are officially on notice.  Wahooze says step the fuck up!

Start by firing this clown.

-- Bonus bullet!  Baseball.  It's [extremely] early in the season, and the loss to Kentucky was a bummer.  But it looks like we have some real studs in sophomore weekend starters Nathan Kirby and Josh Sborz, and in (6-foot-4!) freshman shortstop Daniel Pinero.  I'll be watching to see if we properly hammer William & Mary down in Williamsburg this afternoon, and if we can get out the broom against ECU this weekend.  If Derek Fisher can keep swinging a hot bat, and Brandon Downes, Joe McCarthy, Branden Cogswell, and/or Kenny Towns can battle out of their early season slumps, we should be sitting pretty at 6-1 in short order.  GO HOOS!

February 13, 2014

Wahooze Baseball Preview: Position Players

If you still need to read the pitching half of the preview slap it here. I’ll wait for you to get back.

Good? Ok great. Your optimism should be pretty high, but prepared to have your minds blown. The lineup is stacked top to bottom, and not with the names you expect. All-American level talents Mike Papi, Derek Fisher, and Joe McCarthy return as the meat of the lineup, and reliable veteran bats Kenny Towns, Brandon Downes, and Nick Howard return as well. But the UVA lineup really gets its juice with some fresh faces and the return of a player lost to injury last season. We’ll go position by position:

Center Field: Brandon Downes has a stranglehold on this position. With his stellar defense he should be expected to play at an All ACC level. Rumor out of fall camp is that Downes may also see some time behind the plate. I’m not in love with that prospect, but they’re not paying me to coach. I suspect Downes will hit fifth in the lineup this season.

Left Field: I think this will be a rotation of Mike Papi and Derek Fisher. Papi can play a variety of positions, including right field and first base, but I think will primarily be in left. Fisher on the other hand plays left field only.  My guess is whoever is not in the field will be DHing. Fisher had an incredible season in the Cape Cod League over the summer and expectations are that he should continue that success this season. I expect him to hit in the 3 spot. Papi is coming off an All-American season and should be primed to continue that trend. Indications are Papi will lead off again this season.

Right Field: This spot belongs to the Red Menace, sophomore Joe McCarthy. Coming off a very strong freshman campaign where he won ACC freshman of the year, McCarthy is expected to anchor the lineup this season. McCarthy has power for days and the athleticism to steal some bases as well. I expect McCarthy to bat fourth to break up the lefties we have and excel in that spot.

First Base: Nick Howard has been pegged as the starting first baseman/closer for the upcoming season. Howard shifts from third/short stop to first in an effort to not only save his arm, but allow Kenny Towns to play every day at third base. When Howard comes in to pitch, you will either see Towns slide to first and John LaPrise enter the game at third, or have the DH (Papi/Fisher) enter the game and have Papi play first. I expect Howard to hit in the lower third of the lineup, which is impressive considering the talent he has at the plate.

Third Base: As stated above Howard moving to first allows Kenny Towns to slide in to start at third base. Towns burst onto the scene last season with two grand slams in the season opener. It will be hard from him to have the start this year, but Towns should have another great season. I suspect Towns will hit 6th for the Hoos, but that is subject to change depending on how the season progresses.

Second Base: This is the first major surprise of the preview. Second Base will welcome Branden Cogswell back to the field. Before his injury last season, Cogswell was excelling from the leadoff spot and playing very well defensively at shortstop. Well it looks like when he returns this season, he will be in a new spot on the field and in the lineup. Cogswell is the best base stealer in a very athletic lineup, and will use that athleticism out of the two spot. Cogswell bats left-handed, meaning his pull side will be wide open if Mike Papi is occupying first base. You should expect to see a ton of hit and runs from this combination to try and exploit this. This lineup has the chance to become Coach O’Connor’s wet dream in terms of being able to run, hit, and bunt. That begs the question, who is playing shortstop.

Shortstop: Enter Daniel Pinero. A 6 foot 6 true freshman from Toronto who from all indications is an absolutely beast in the field, Pinero enters the season as a real wildcard. For Coach O'Connor to trust him to slide the sure handed Cogswell over to second base means this kid must have the goods to produce. I am certainly very intrigued to see him in action this season. I suspect he will start the season batting ninth to get his athleticism on base for the top of the lineup.

Catcher: We've saved the most interesting position battle for last. I’m going to go back and reference a point I made when Nate Irving was struggling as a true freshman two years ago, and that is that I believe adjusting to catching in college is a similar learning curve to point guard or quarterback. Irving struggled with past balls his freshman season because he had little experience catching pitchers of that caliber, Specifically Branden Kline that season. I strongly believe catchers need to be eased into their every day role, similar to the transition from Franco Valdes to John Hicks. In an ideal world this season would see Irving catch Friday and Saturday and then his freshman backup would catch Sunday. However Irving’s backup Matt Thaiss might just blow convention out of the water.
I mentioned in the pitching post the Connor Jones was the second most impressive new player we saw at the orange and blue world series. Matt Thaiss was the player that beat him out for that title. Thaiss’ bat is very advanced for a true freshman, and his handling of the pitchers we saw him catch seemed to be solid. Thaiss will push Irving for playing time, and I think his bat is what is going to  put him over the top. I suspect you will see the staff move Irving around to try and get him some more reps, but Thaiss has the talent to demand playing time. I think both catchers will bat eighth, but while I suspect Irving will stay in that spot, I wouldn't be surprised to see Thaiss move up if he can show the talents he had in the fall.

Projected Order: If I had to guess your opening day lineup would look like this
LF-Mike Papi
2B-Branden Cogswell
DH- Derek Fisher
RF- Joe McCarthy
CF- Brandon Downes
3B-Kenny Towns
1B- Nick Howard
C- Nate Irving
SS- Daniel Pinero

Season Expectations: I think it is safe to say this is the best UVA baseball team we've ever had. I think it is also safe to say this could be the best UVA sports team we've ever had. Expectations are high this season and rightfully so. I think UVA should go into every game they play expecting to win. This lineup is going to hit like crazy, and the pitching staff should shut people down. Do I expect us to go undefeated? Not in the slightest. But I think getting Omaha should be the bare minimum of what you should expect this season. That’s a big statement, but it’s one that I don’t think is unreasonable considering this team. I hope this season drives even more interest in baseball in Charlottesville, and I wouldn't mind seeing those first base bleachers become a more permanent situation. A perennial powerhouse program is in full bloom at Davenport, enjoy it.

February 12, 2014

Wahooze Baseball Preview: Pitchers

Despite the massive snow storm approaching Charlottesville, and the fantastic run the basketball team is on, it's time to start paying attention to what will be the best Cavalier team of this year, the baseball team. The aforementioned snowstorm will allow me to hopefully get this out in two pieces today and tomorrow. This first piece will focus on the pitchers, and tomorrow's piece will focus on the hitters. If you aren't excited about this team yet, you will be after tomorrow, I promise.

Aces: Virginia has incredible depth in the rotation that hasn't been seen from this program...well ever. The staff has announced that Brandon Waddell will start Friday in the season opener against Kentucky. He will be followed by Nate Kirby and Josh Sborz. This might be a surprising threesome for the first weekend, specifically Nate Kirby's inclusion, but these three have proven they have the stuff to compete. Coach O'Connor has said Kirby has looked dominant in the scrimmages, and played very well over the summer, which has done enough in their eyes to overcome the inconsistencies he showed last year when he posted a 6.01 ERA. Brandon Waddell is back into his familiar Friday night role where he excelled as a true freshman last season, before appearing to succumb to the length of his first collegiate baseball season. With a summer in a college conditioning program, I expect we will see a consistent, top shelf Friday night guy for the entire season. Sborz is also coming off a solid 2013 campaign where he pitched well, but struggled to really find his perfect role on the team. My high school coach, who has been coaching in Northern Virginia for going on 20 years, says Sborz might have the best stuff of anyone he's ever seen. But while these three are very talented and could be in the rotation of any team in America, they will be pushed by some equally talented newcomers and veterans that are hungry to steal one of their spots.

Wiley Vets: The Hoos have two players who have become to the Virginia baseball program what Tyrese Rice was for the BC basketball team. The guys who you hear announced and say, "Wait he's STILL on the team?" Those players are Artie Lewicki and Whit Mayberry. Both players are coming off of Tommy John surgery in 2012. Mayberry made a significant contribution last season, but this season will mark the true return of Artie Lewicki, who had grown into the Friday night starter at the end of 2012. Both these players will not only push the young arms in the rotation and provide excellent innings in relief, but will also be a steady source of confidence, as they have experience with a team that has been to Omaha. That's a very valuable asset to have on a team with such lofty goals and high expectations.

Newcomers: The Hoos have two prominent freshman arms coming in in Jack Roberts (you may remember his brother Will) and Connor Jones. While Roberts is good, I'm going to focus on Jones as he has a very real chance to become the next Danny Hultzen to come through this program. That's high praise for a kid that has thrown exactly zero innings in college at this point, but all indications are that this kid has the goods to become the Friday night starter for the Hoos sooner rather than later. Considering how stacked the staff is this season, that is extremely high praise. I saw Jones throw in the orange and blue world series with friend of Wahooze Tripp Eason and he was very impressive, I would say he was the most impressive, but a position player beat him out, how's that for a teaser. Jones is currently set to start the midweek game by all indications. His ceiling will be set by how quickly he can adjust to Coach Kuhn's style and assimilate himself into the college game. I will tell you one thing, I would hate to be Bill and Mary or VMI, our first two midweek games.

Bullpen: We've already referenced the two vets that will start in the bullpen, but there are three more prominent names to keep your eye on for the upcoming campaign. It looks like Nick Howard will start this season as the team's closer, with Austin Young working in the setup role. Howard was our Sunday starter, third baseman, and short stop last season. Where he will fit into the lineup is going to be an interesting problem for the coaching staff, but I think he will be the next in a line of great closers at UVA. I've always loved Howard's stuff and I think this is the role that can balance his position playing and pitching. Austin Young will most likely also see some work as the closer, especially if Howard has been playing the field in previous games. I think their one two punch pretty much ends games after the 7th.

Another familiar name for Hoofans is my man David Rosenberger. I tried to make the pitching version of Keith Werman stick last year, but it didn't. Consider this my second attempt. Rosenberger will not blow you away, he will out think you on the mound and cut his fastball and drop in enough off speed stuff to drive you insane. I think Rosenberger will be the first lefty out of the pen, as we have more than enough pitchers to find another long man, but I also wouldn't mind seeing him get a start to see how good he can be.

The Rest: That sounds a little disparaging but there are some players that have a chance to make their names this season if the opportunities present themselves. Brett Lisle has always intrigued me with his massive 6-9 frame. As a lefty there is a real chance for him to get some relief appearances if Rosenberger has already been used, or needs a break. Cameron Tekker was a highly touted kid coming in last season, I'm interested to see how he will do in his opportunities as well.

Outlook: This staff is insane. Not only do I think this is probably the best group we've had in a while, but I am fairly certain this is the best staff we've ever had here. Coupled with the lineup we will be previewing tomorrow I think we are in for a very special season. I think Coach O'Connor will be able to not only field a dominant team, but keep them well rested thanks to a combination of big leads and a depth of quality arms. This will be a good year. The only concern I have is a constant shuffling of arms leading to us dropping some early games we shouldn't, similar to the struggles basketball faced early in the season, but our lineup will hopefully cover that period.

February 9, 2014

Sunday Slog Thru the 2014 Recruiting Class

I ended up being a bit busier than expected with the kids and with some of my other hobbies this week, and never got around to unleashing the series of posts I had planned to review the 2014 recruiting class for Virginia Football.

The fact that I've probably never been colder on Virginia Football probably didn't help, either.  It puts blog posts like this a little further down the totem pole, for sure.  It also makes them harder to write.

Anyway, I'm sure that you've read newspaper articles or whatever about the recruiting class at this point.  If you want an excellent, comprehensive, player-by-player look at the class, I'll steer you in the direction of Streaking the Lawn.

If you'd prefer a slightly more cynical, biting, realist view of the class in a sweetened condensed format, I'd recommend From Old Virginia.

Of course, I have my own comments to add to the mix.

First, a quick player-by-player look at the class.  Because I'm keen on lists and rankings, the players are ranked in order of what I perceive to be their quality and ability to [positively] impact the program.  And naturally, they are organized into tiers.  You're welcome.

Tier One -- The Headliners

#1 - Quin Blanding, safety, 5-star
Anthony Poindexter 2.0 -- except Blanding probably isn't quite the hitter Dex was, but he's probably better in coverage.  In any case, this is the best safety prospect we've had since Dex (and Dex wasn't all that highly recruited), and Blanding has the chance to impact our defense the way Ahmad Brooks did in the early 2000s.  We've got a senior returnee at safety in Brandon Phelps, but I'm expecting Blanding to step right in this summer and eat Phelps' lunch.  London will be desperate to put talent on the field this season, and Blanding has "game-changing playmaker" written all over him.

The Mighty Quin

#2 - Andrew Brown, defensive tackle / defensive end, 5-star
He was one of the highest-rated prospects in the class of 2014; a real top-10 type of talent.  He's more of an under tackle than a strongside defensive end, but he should be able to play either position to great effect.  As a freshman, he'll likely challenge Mike Moore for starting privileges at SDE.  My expectations for Brown are pretty high, but I don't think he'll make the impact Quin Blanding will make a true freshman.  Still, Brown is the kind of player around whom you can build a defensive line - if not an entire defense.

Big Bad Brown

Tier Two -- Top Shelf

#3 - Jamil Kamara, wide receiver, 4-star
I like the term Brendan used on From Old Virginia: "feature-potential."  Kamara has #1, go-to receiver status in his future, but we won't see that during his true freshman season.  Instead, we'll see him battle against Darius Jennings for the right to start alongside Keeon Johnson.  Might not matter for much, given our sucking lack of a quality (read: competent) quarterback.  Anyway, Kamara is the kind of player who will emerge as a real offensive playmaker, once he gets a little experience, physical development, and seasoning.  He's got the complete package -- size, speed, hands.  He should be a good one for the Hoos.

Jamil Kamara makes a circus catch

#4 - Steven Moss, offensive line, 4-star
He has the physical tools and size to be an above-average OL recruit.  Moss should be able to step right in and battle (against a bunch of walk-ons) for a spot on the two-deep OL as a true freshman.  By the time he's done at UVA, he'll likely have been a three-year starter.  Some critics knock a lack of "killer instinct," but I've heard mixed reports on that.  Some others think he has the nasty streak that all great linemen possess.  I guess we'll see if he's a little soft or not; my guess is that he's pretty legit.

Tier Three -- Meat and Potatoes

#5 - Corwin "Turtle" Cutler, quarterback, high 3-star
He's riding in on a tidal wave of hype among the UVA message board crowd, but facts are facts: He's coming off of a serious injury, and he struggled to get eligible out of high school (never a good sign for a player at the most "cerebral" position on the field).  I'm working hard to take the Turtle hype with a grain of salt.  Expecting him to step right in and take the reins of this team as a true freshman is... well... it's expecting too much.  Maybe he'll be a good QB for us down the line - the physical tools are there! - but inexperience + rust = not a freshman starter.  All of this being said, we already owe Turtle a debt of thanks for helping to hold this class together and for mining the talent of his good friend, Jamil Kamara.

The hopes and dreams of Hoofans everywhere ride on Turtle's back.

#6 - Jeffrey Farrar, cornerback / wide receiver, high 3-star
He's a physical marvel, projecting as a "power corner" in our defense... which is exactly what Tenuta wants.  My only problem is that with the addition of Farrar, Latimore, and Blanding in this class, we'll have 18 scholarship defensive backs on the roster in 2014.  EIGHTEEN.  Kinda shitty when we're looking at just 12 scholarship offensive linemen.  But that's not Jeff Farrar's fault!  He's got a lot of potential, and I'm sure he'll be a good player for us someday, if he can survive the extreme roster scrum in the secondary!

#7 - Jordan Ellis, running back, mid 3-star
The comparison I've heard and really like is Wali Lundy.  Kind of a bellcow/workhorse/other barnyard metaphor kind of back.  A productive grinder.  KP2.  That's exactly what we need to replace Kevin Parks in 2015 and complement Smoke Mizzell.  As for 2014, a redshirt is definitely in order here.  We don't need him on the field yet, but I have no doubt that he'll be a good player for us in time.

Jordan Ellis: Wali Lundy clone?

Tier Four -- Solid Adds

#8 - Jacob Fieler, offensive line, high/mid 3-star
Big o-lineman who has been compared favorably to Austin Pasztor by FUMA's John Shuman.  Fieler seems like a fine prospect.  My problem - and it's a BIG fucking problem - is that he's just the second of two recruits on the OL in this class.  That's negligence on the part of the coaching staff.  NEGLIGENCE.

#9 - Darious Latimore, cornerback / wide receiver, mid 3-star
Another big corner, whose film is pretty darn impressive.  He's a fast, instinctive natural at the position, and has a better-than-average chance to bubble up as a starter during his UVA career, despite the numbers crunch in the secondary.

#10 - J.J. Jackson, pass rusher (OLB/DE), mid 3-star
I think he looks pretty positionless at this point, but he can certainly get after the passer.  To me, it's a mirror image of Max Valles, for better and worse.  My hope is that JJJ bulks up and forces his way into the defensive end discussion, because he'll be a liability in coverage at linebacker.

#11 - Evan Butts, tight end / long snapper, mid 3-star
Probably a ho-hum talent, but at a position of absolute need (given the fact that Mike London has landed precisely ZERO natural tight end prospects since Zach Swanson in 2010, and he fucked around with Black Swan at fullback for a while).  Butts looks pretty decent, and he's also a long-snapper... always a huge bonus!  (Not being sarcastic, long-snappers are important.)

Tier Five -- Sleepers

#12 - Cory Jones, defensive end, low 3-star
He just started playing football a year ago, so he's understandably raw, but he notched 26 sacks in that one season.  TWENTY-SIX.  That's a fuckload of sacks, people.  So I see Cam Johnson and maybe Darryl Blackstock upside here, but that's after he develops as a football player under the proper tutelage.  We've had pretty good luck turning basketball players into football players (*cough* *cough* Branden Albert), and Jones' film is freaking unbelievable.

#13 - Darrious Carter, defensive end, low 3-star
Temple decommit.  Will need to add some serious weight in order to cut it at defensive end (like, he makes Eli Harold look stout).  He's got great potential as a rush end, but he'll need major development.  Penn State was sniffing around late in the recruiting game, which is the one thing giving me hope that this wasn't just another reach at a position of need.

#14 - Chris Peace, outside linebacker, not rated
He didn't have any other D-1A offers, but he's the kind of athlete who was able to bounce around from safety to linebacker to the defensive line during his prep career.  I listed him on the "sleeper" tier instead of the "reach" tier because I think his athletic ability is good enough to warrant some hope and patience in what could eventually emerge as a starting-caliber player.  But the line between sleeper and reach is blurred and hazy sometimes.

Tier Six -- Reaches

#15 - Donovan Dowling, wide receiver, low 3-star
He's the kind of low-upside possession receiver that FCS programs turn into productive players.  Problem is, we're not an FCS program, and we don't need to be tying up scholarships on players with ceilings so low they might never see the field (see also: Kevin Royal, Bobby Smith).  Dowling has some nice film, but I have serious doubts about him ever making a dent in the wideout rotation at UVA.

#16 - Canaan Brown, outside linebacker, 2-star
He fits what Jon Tenuta wants in his OLB prospects -- long athletes who can move.  I'm good with that, but how long will Tenuta be around to mold Brown into his vision?  Meanwhile, Brown is exactly the kind of kid who succeeds at UVA... or ends up quitting football in order to play lacrosse.

But for some reason, I have a really
good feeling about this kid.

#17 - Michael Biesemier, defensive end, 2-star
Biesemier had one other offer: JMU.  Maryland was showing some interest at the time of his commitment to UVA, but this one screams "reach at a position of need!"  That's fine, we absolutely do need defensive ends in the 2014 class.  I have no problem with a guy or two like this at the bottom of the class, similar to Jack English last season.  My only fear - and it's a legitimate fear - is that we end up with too many of this level of player at a certain position group, and we paint ourselves into a corner when it comes to upside on the field.  85 scholarships seems like a lot... until you find the need to start recruiting over guys at 2, 3, 4 different positions.  Defensive end is on its way to becoming one of those scholarship black holes for UVA.

What I like about this class:
-- It's extremely top-heavy, but it did end up ranked inside the top-25 of most prognostications.
-- Quin Blanding and Andrew Brown are two of the highest-rated recruits in UVA history.
-- Quantity at defensive end.
-- Top-level playmakers on both sides of the ball in Blanding and Kamara.
-- A high-upside QB added to the mix.  A high-upside QB with certain leadership skills, I should add.
-- The recognition of the need for a true bellcow type running back.
-- Finally, a real-life tight end!
-- Cory Jones' insane upside.

What I don't like about this class:
-- Way too many sleeper/reach type players.  Of course, when things went south on the field, our options became very limited.
-- Continued overrecruiting of defensive backs.
-- Too many projections at linebacker, not enough actual linebackers.
-- Capping at 17.  I guarantee that attrition drops us below the 85 scholarship limit for 2014, and recruiting for a massive 2015 class with a lame duck coaching staff is going to be like passing kidney stones.
-- We added quantity at DE, but did we add quality?  If none of these sleepers wake up, we could be in trouble.
-- The fact that we only beat out schools like Toledo, Temple, JMU, Citadel, UMass, Delaware, Army, Miami (OH), WKU, Ohio, and ODU for about half of these kids.  There aren't nearly enough solidly-recruited 3-star types here.  It's either elite-level talent, or it's low-level sleepers.  Not enough in-between, really.
-- We have officially recruited over wide receivers and defensive backs that we brought in less than two years ago, during the Mike London era.  Wasted scholarships on guys who will now never play.
-- Way too much recruiting to fit Jon Tenuta's vision on defense.  This would be fine if the staff were on stable footing.  But with odds better than average that we'll have a whole new coaching staff by this time next year... it's a dangerous fact that could lead to a "bottoming out" on defense, in terms of a functional depth chart.
-- We enter the 2015 class recruiting cycle with absolutely no momentum.  Anti-momentum, really.  We didn't finish the 2014 cycle with a flourish or anything.
-- 17 kids, and I really only see about ten future starters for a winning team.
-- I already know we're going to see some redshirts needlessly burned.

What I fucking hate about this class:
-- Only two offensive linemen, when we really needed triple that amount in this class.

Now, the question of the week, and the one you pretty much have to ask as you review this recruiting class (and grab your ankles and lube up in preparation for the 2015 recruiting class, which is going to be akin to squeezing blood from a stone for the coaching staff):
Will Mike London get to coach any of these kids beyond their first season in the program?

I have to answer this question with a shitload of my own questions...

Will we [ever] develop a competent quarterback?

Will our offensive line block anyone?

Will our wide receivers be able to catch the damn ball?

Will the defense get stops? Will it generate some turnovers and points to help out what is certain to be a popgun offense?

Will the special teams not lose us games?

Will the timeouts be called smartly and appropriately?

Will the team avoid making numerous boneheaded penalties?

Will redshirts be applied intelligently? Will there be a clear and focused plan for the ongoing development of the team, in terms of roster management?

Will the substitution patterns make sense?

Will the position slotting decisions make sense?

Will the players develop their skills? Will the team end up being greater than the sum of its parts?

Will I feel renewed faith in Mike London's coaching ability? In his competence as a BCS conference head football coach? In his ability to ultimately take UVA to a level of sustained success (7+ wins and a bowl game every season)?

I need to see 7+ wins and a bowl game in 2014, along with all of these questions definitively answered "YES" before I jump back aboard the Mike London bandwagon. Until then, I'm spending my time not focusing on the 2014 season or 2015 recruiting, but instead on coaching and AD candidates Virginia may (and should) explore in December 2014.  Time to hit reset on the Playstation and start that Dynasty mode from scratch.

I am assuming 2014 will be a lost year, in terms of both on-field performance and recruiting, until/unless I see something totally compelling to convince me otherwise.  Sorry guys, just where I am right now as a Virginia Football fan.

To me, this 2014 class is only just the raw building blocks the new coaching regime will have to work with as they attempt to get this sinking ship buoyed and floating again.

I traded in my "orange and blue" tinted glasses for "Mike London is about to get shitcanned" tinted glasses.

February 5, 2014

It's Signing Day!

As much as I'm down on Mike London's abilities as our head football coach, and as much as I'm annoyed about the lack of offensive line recruiting in this class, London is still delivering a fairly decent crop of incoming freshman.  It's a good 2014 class.  (2015, on the other hand, will probably be a different story.)

Anyway, check in on Wahooze throughout the day (and week), as we'll be spotlighting many of the new additions to the Virginia Football family!

February 4, 2014

This is the post that jinxes everything.

(Unless, of course, you don't believe in jinxes... or unless you think that Bennettball is unjinxable.)

Okay, so the 2013-14 season turned on a dime after the Tennessee game, and things are going swimmingly.  We're playing well, and frankly, we're kicking some ass.  We're poised for a 4-, 5-, or 6-seed in the Tournament, and will be locked and loaded for an extended run.  Feels like a Sweet Sixteen kind of team to me.

NEXT SEASON, 2014-15, we'll be replacing Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell in the starting lineup with Justin Anderson and Anthony Gill.  We'll replace Anderson and Gill on the bench with B.J. Stith and Isaiah Wilkins.  Not saying we won't miss a beat after losing Joe and Akil, but it should be a pretty strong team with a lot of experience on the floor.  Feels like a Sweet Sixteen kind of team to me.

But here's where things get really crazy.

THE SEASON AFTER NEXT, 2015-16.  Think about this.

  1. London Perrantes -- JUNIOR
  2. Malcolm Brogdon -- REDSHIRT SENIOR
  3. Justin Anderson -- SENIOR
  4. Anthony Gill -- SENIOR
  5. Mike Tobey -- SENIOR
Off the bench:
  • Evan Nolte -- SENIOR
  • Teven Jones -- SENIOR
  • Devon Hall -- redshirt sophomore
  • B.J. Stith -- sophomore
  • Isaiah Wilkins -- sophomore
  • Jack Salt -- redshirt freshman / sophomore
Now, this assumes no attrition, it assumes no NBA early entry.  But look at that team.  Think about how good these guys are right now... and then dare to imagine how good they'll be in two years.  That's two years of experience, of physical development, of playing together and gelling together as a unit.  And it doesn't even include whatever awesome freshmen we'll bring in as part of the 2015 recruiting class (another shooter, plus another big).

2015-16 is when Tony Bennett really turns five fingers into a fist.

And that's when we punch our way into the Final Four.

Hell, given that team top to bottom, I like our chances at winning a national championship.  A NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP.  IN MEN'S BASKETBALL.

SWISH, motherfucker.

(I told you this would be the post that jinxes everything.)


Virginia Lacrosse opens the season on Thursday against Loyola Maryland.  Pierce is cooking up a lax preview for the blog, but to tide you over, here are a few tasty links.

Scott McWilliams anchors a tough Virginia defense. - Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

February 3, 2014

Quick Thought on the Super Bowl

I have two people I love who are HUGE Broncos fans -- my brother-in-law Andy, and my good friend (and fellow Hoofan and Friend of Wahooze) Nathan.  So I'm sad that those two guys didn't get to taste the sweet nectar of victory last night.

That being said, and coming from a die-hard Cincinnati Bengals fan (with the Carolina Panthers as a goomar), I want to say:

This morning, I woke up feeling happy that I now live in a world where the Seattle Seahawks win the Super Bowl, and where a no-name 7th round linebacker is named Super Bowl MVP.

It's February, and all things seem possible.

February 2, 2014


Signature shot.  Signature win.  The sky is now officially the limit, Hoofans.

(Gotta guard against the letdown vs. BC on Wednesday!)