Lazy blogging! A unorganized list of thoughts! Fire the hot takes!
-- Let me get this out of the way first: The 1-seed is an honor, but I think I speak the secret fear of Hoofans everywhere when I say that everybody knows a 16 will eventually beat a 1 at some point in history. And when it happens, I think we all know it'll be Virginia playing the role of the unlucky 1-seed. So there's that.
-- The 1-seed is an honor, but it's also a curse. You have that target on your back. And if you don't make it to the Final Four, you will have under-performed your seed. It's tough!
-- Of course, the big thing on everyone's mind is Michigan Fucking State as the 2-seed in our bracket. We KNEW the fucking committee would do this, didn't we? We just knew it. But I thought we'd be the 2 to Sparty's 1. Somehow this is worse, because they'll have that "we got disrespected" chip on their shoulder.
-- Add it all up, and I wish we could throw this 1-seed back and go fish again. I would have loved the 2-seed in the West [Oklahoma's spot] or the 2-seed in the East [Xavier's spot]. But the die is cast, we gotta go to work.
-- If the Hoos play like the hunter instead of the hunted, we'll make it far in this tournament. Hampton is the toughest 16-seed by my approximation, but that doesn't matter. We should trounce those clowns. It'd be good to set that 'hunter instead of hunted' tone in the 1st round. Just pounce on them and rip their throats out.
-- Texas Tech / Butler is (in my humble opinion) the weakest 8/9 pairing in the field. St. Joe's/Cincy isn't that tough either, but I like our draw for the 1st and 2nd round. I like it a lot. Sweet Sixteen in a veritable cakewalk.
-- Oh, and playing these games in Raleigh is a blessing. Thanks committee!
-- The Sweet Sixteen is when things get hairy. Playing Purdue in Chicago seems unfair. But maybe Iowa State is who we'll face. I think that's probably what America wants, so we can see what it looks like when two contrasting styles clash. I'm about 60% confident of a win over Purdue, 70% confident against Iowa State, just because I think the substance of Bennettball would overwhelm the style of Cyclonemania. But make no mistake, either of these games would be dangerous indeed.
-- Little Rock and Iona might have something to say about all of this. If I had to make a list of double-digit seeds capable of advancing to the Sweet Sixteen, both of those teams would make the top-5. (The list, by the way, in order: Wichita State, Northern Iowa, Stony Brook, Temple, Iona, VCU, Pitt, Gonzaga... hey that's eight! Chattanooga and Stony Brook would both make the list if they weren't facing Indiana and Kentucky in the 1st round.)
-- So, once we get past Hampton, TT/Butler, and ISU/Purdue/Little Rock/Iona, there lies Michigan Fucking State. Middle Tennessee ain't beating 'em. Dayton/Syracuse sure as hell ain't beating 'em. Utah, Seton Hall, or Gonzaga might have a chance, but I doubt it. So it's the showdown with Sparty to make it to the Final Four. Great script. And wow, what a compelling revenge tale. I just don't see us being able to win that game in front of a 90% partisan crowd in Chicago, in front of a sea of green. I hope I'm wrong.
-- You're going to be discussing this shit with other Hoofans this week and next week, and I want to remind you of this quick talking point: Only the NCAA Tournament matters. The regular season and conference tournament might as well be called the "preseason," because only the NCAA Tournament matters. Disagree? Sorry, but you're just wrong.
-- Okay, last thing I want to get into before I head out for the day: a little bit of pre-tourney self-scouting...
Virginia's Strengths for NCAA Tournament Play:
- Veterans. Four seniors in the regular rotation, including two 5th-year seniors. Plus, a junior point guard who has started close to 100 games.
- Tournament experience. The game against Hampton will be the sixth NCAA Tournament game these guys have played. That means something. I hope it means a lot!
- Malcolm Brogdon's defense. Any opposing scorer who plays the 1, 2, 3, or stretch 4 can be effectively negated by Brog's defense. So if/when we face a team with one predominant scorer who plays on the wing, we'll win.
- Malcolm Brogdon's offense. The shots not falling against UNC in the ACCT final made me very nervous. It was shades of the dead legs we had in 2015, and gave me a bit of indigestion. But otherwise, we have no reason to feel anything other than extreme confidence when it comes to Brog's ability to carry our team on offense.
- The Pack-Line. It's playing better now than it has at any point this season, give or take. That's good news, because if an opponent has to find its scoring predominantly in the paint, we'll just go ahead and shut that the fuck down.
- London Perrantes for 3. Maybe he's streaky, maybe he's pass-first, and maybe he's hesitant to take on too much of the scoring responsibility, but his cold-blooded shooting and penchant for delivering daggers is probably my single biggest reason for optimism in the Big Dance. Teams who win in March are the teams who see a guy get supernova hot from the perimeter, and London is that guy for us.
- Anthony Gill (and to a lesser extent Mike Tobey) down low. A good low post offense is like having a good between-the-tackles running game in football. If you want to grind opponents to death (and Virginia wants to grind opponents to death -- that's our game!), then you need reliable low post offense. We've got that.
- Role players stepping up. Devon Hall is playing better and better (two stupid passes against UNC aside) and Marial Shayok seems to be grooving at the right time. Plus we have Evan Nolte making shots, Mike Tobey playing a little bit more assertively, and Isaiah Wilkins doing all of the good glue guy stuff. The supporting cast is surging at the right time.
- Depth. We go a legit 9-deep, 10 if you count Reuter (I don't). Many/most teams cap it at 7. So if we end up fighting a war of attrition, we might have a better chance.
- Free throw shooting. .754 as a team is pretty good.
- Tony Bennett. He's a good coach.
Virginia's Weaknesses for NCAA Tournament Play:
- Relative difficulty in slowing down TWO perimeter scorers. Translation: Perrantes, Hall, and Shayok aren't defensive difference-makers.
- Abysmal weakness against opposing stretch-4s who can shoot the J. You know this to be true. You've seen it all too many times.
- A general lack of top-end talent. We've got good players who are well-prepared and who have been developed into fine college basketball players, but the raw talent is a 3.25-star caliber, not a 4.75-star caliber like we could face against a few of the teams in the bracket. (See also: our ACCT loss to North Carolina.) We don't have NBA talent on our team, Brog's longshot at a cup-o-coffee with the Association notwithstanding.
- The mind-fuck of potentially playing Michigan State in the tourney for the third consecutive season. You know it's a thing. Maybe the guys relish the opportunity to get some revenge, but vengeance-lust seems outside of our DNA.
- A lack of comfort playing catch-up if we get behind in a game.
- Scoring weakness outside of the 'big three;' two of our STARTERS average less than 5 ppg. That's unique... and it's not a good unique.
- Only two guys with more than 20 made 3s. We lack a third shooter who can get hot off the bench. HOWEVER, Shayok has knocked down 42.4% of his 33 attempts (14-for-33) and Devon Hall has hit 36.4% of his 55 attempts (20-for-55). I wish we had found a way to get these guys more shots in the regular season, but at least they have proven themselves as relatively capable. (I actually think that Shayok might be our Ron Mercer-esque secret weapon in this Tournament.)
- No rim protection. It's possible that a penetration-heavy team with the capacity to drive and dish could cut us to ribbons.
- Playing our regional in front of hostile crowds in Chicago. The committee really screwed us with this 1-seed in the Midwest.
- A lack of motherfuckers. Yeah, I'm being serious. We have nice guys on this squad, and that's great. They are a joy to watch play and fantastic representatives of this fine University. But other than MAYBE London Perrantes, none of them are junkyard dogs. None of them are stab-you-in-the-face motherfuckers. And you need some motherfuckers to win these wars in March.
And finally, I'll leave you with this for today: My expectations for our dance is to hear the music end in the Elite Eight with a three-peat loss to Michigan State. I hope I'm wrong. Fuuuuuuuuuuck, I hope I'm wrong.