November 28, 2016

Bitterly Disappointed...

...but patient. I recognize the depth of rot Mike London allowed to perpetuate within the program. Gotta rebuild both lines from scratch; find some QBs and playmakers. Year one of a three to four year rebuild.

Where do we go from here?

1) Bronco's end of season presser needs to be detailed and encouraging. He needs to convince skeptics that he "gets it."

2) Anae's offense needs to be very critically examined and vetted. That'll happen behind closed doors and we won't hear anything about it, but it needs to happen.

3) Three more OL in the 2017 class. Becton, Hunt, Swoboda, hopefully.

4) At least one more DL in the 2017 class, preferably two or three.

5) Playmakers. Darius Wise is a must-get, imho.

6) Get a head start on 2018 and 2019 recruiting. No bowl game, so use that time wisely.

7) Build some actual toughness in spring ball. Find guys who want to kill Hokies. Major focus on getting Jordan Ellis ready for the bellcow role.

8) Work the transfer market for big uglies and a mobile QB, along with whatever WRs with actual speed you can find. Bring Tim Harris back as a medical redshirt.

9) Choose a QB early in training camp. I hope it's Cross or a mobile guy who transfers in.

10) Install read option stuff heavily in camp. Anae's offense has to be spread-to-run, that's his wheelhouse.

11) Work miracles to get an offensive line that can pass for below-average instead of comprehensively awful.

12) Find a way, hell or high water, to feature Olamide Zaccheaus in the offense.

13) Get another wave of youngsters ready to play on defense. Trucilla, Brooks, Simmons, Stalker, Sharp, namely.

14) Be ready to start the season and not shit the bed against an FCS team.

15) Find a fucking offensive identity early in the season.

16) Win some games. At least four. FOUR IS BARE MINIMUM.

17) Meanwhile, deliver the goods on a top-40 2018 recruiting class.

At that point, the arrow begins pointing up.

Gonna be a grueling offseason. Glad Bronco wanted a challenge.

Why'd it go so bad this season?

I fully expected, at worst, 6-6. My call was 7-5.

Our o-line as a whole was worse than I thought it'd be. Disappointed in Smith, Matteo, English, and McDonald, none of whom were as good as I thought they'd be.

The poor OL doomed the running game. Too often plays decayed into Mizzell generating his own yards, which were never enough, and never reliable. He was plenty shifty, but not big, strong, or fast enough to serve as a true bellcow. For his part, Reid ran tough, but there weren't enough holes, or carries.

We never found a consistent go-to weapon at WR. Oz showed the potential, but lacked consistency/reliability. Other guys flashed at times, but couldn't keep it going. Drops were a problem. Again. So was a general lack of speed.

Benkert's arm talent was exciting, but poor pocket presence (unwillingness to step up into the pocket to deliver throws) and terrible pass pro ended up shattering his confidence. He clearly has a fragile psyche; a microcosm for the entire team.

DL was meh. Wilkins ate blocks, rarely made plays. Brown was inconsistent. The other guys battled, but were green and/or typically outclassed.

Kiser was a beast all season. The OLBs were young and played like it too often, even though they made some great plays at times. I wasn't impressed with Bradshaw, wanted more Word.

Blanding was hurt the first 2/3rds of the season, struggled to make the big plays we needed out of him. Rainey sucked.

Our top two corners missed the season. I thought Thornhill and Hall progressed well, but their youth held them below a glass ceiling. Injuries killed us at cornerback; we never had enough bodies.

Kicker was obviously a friggin disaster.

Conte was great, he'll be missed.

Overall, I thought ST play was much improved (other than the kicking). Hamm was a revelation returning punts. I was impressed by how the staff built longsnappers from scratch.

I expected much more this season, I'll admit. Main culprits of disappointment: offensive line, injuries in the secondary, youth across the roster, kicking, lack of psychological toughness (especially at QB).

But mostly, I just don't really want to talk about it right now.

November 21, 2016

Austin Nichols Dismissed, Major Loss for UVA Basketball

We can't have nice things.

My thoughts...

First, and most importantly: Go to hell, Austin Nichols.  Took up a scholarship for two seasons, put yourself in a position where we were really counting on you for this season, and... you did whatever it is you did to get yourself kicked off the team.  So, go to hell.

Second, I hope he gets whatever help he needs, and/or I hope this was the wake-up call he needed to get his head out of his ass.  I'm mad as hell, but I'm still pulling for you, Austin Nichols.

Second, it's good to know that our general righteousness is hard-earned and deserved.  I really don't see this happening at Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, UConn, UNC, etc cetera.

Fourth.  It's Mamadi Diakite time, bitches.

Dunk you very much.

(I'm going to stop with the numbers, and just give it to you free-flowingly.)  It's shit or get off the pot time for Jack Salt, Jarred Reuter, Devon Hall, and Darius Thompson.  For the record, I have my doubts about Devon Hall and Jack Salt.

Wondering aloud: Are we a bubble team now?  Jesus, I kinda think we might be.

My expectations were already lower than most Hoofans'. I was thinking 21-9, and a 5-seed, with Elite Eight upside (this was never going to be a 2017 Final Four team). I was trying to be realistic.  Without Nichols, I think this is now a fatally flawed team.  We'll work around it with the Bennettball systems, the Pack Line, and with grit, maybe with guys like Shayok and Wilkins taking the next step, maybe with young guys getting it done... but I've adjusted my expectations.  Now I'm thinking 6- or 7-seed, Sweet Sixteen ceiling.

Take last year's team and trade Brogdon, Gill, and Tobey for Guy, Diakite, and Jerome.  Assume improvement from the returnees (especially Shayok), but I still think a ~20% slide is fair to expect.  The ACC is tougher and our OOC schedule is a bear.  Last year's 24-6 (13-5 ACC) regular season becomes this year's 19-11 (11-7 ACC).  I really really really hope I'm wrong, but Austin Nichols was a huge part of our predicted success this season.  Our ceiling has lowered.  Choosing to underestimate this loss is choosing to stick your head in the sand.

Considering the potential silver linings, I hope Nichols' dismissal opens things up for the following to occur:
-- Kyle Guy accelerating his ascension to stardom.
-- Marial Shayok taking the reins as our top scorer and lead dog.
-- Isaiah Wilkins proving and improving his offensive game.
-- Jack Salt steadying into a consistent physical force in the low post.
-- Jarred Reuter carving out a reliable and important role.
-- Mamadi Diakite emerging as a captivating future star.

I'm actually more excited about this season than I was before. Overcoming this struggle is going to be a very interesting, entertaining storyline.

Tony Bennett already had the world's respect.  He's doubled it by booting Nichols.  Now he has to prove his coaching chops, and it's going to be fun as hell to watch.

Bottom line: With Nichols, Virginia was a bona fide Final Four contender in 2016-2017. Without him, I don’t think that case can be made right now.

November 17, 2016

My humble observations from UVA 72, St. Francis 32

I wanted to get this post out yesterday, but alas... work... stupid work...

Emptying my notebook after basking in the glorious 2016-17 home opener against St. Francis...

This team - St. Francis - sucks ass.  So take everything with a grain of salt.  JACK SALT, BITCH.

J/k, but the Terriers were bad.  Like, really bad.  They didn't help their own cause at all.

That being said, I think I heard somewhere that this is the 4th-lowest point total allowed to Virginia's opposition in the modern era.  So that's pretty good.  St. Francis is a D-1 team, so, you know... our defense is pretty good.

Other defensive notes from the post game notes:

SFB’s 13 first-half points marked the fewest allowed in a half by UVA since Georgia Tech’s 12-point second half on Jan. 22, 2015 (fewest in a first half since Harvard’s 8-point first half on Dec. 21, 2014)

UVA held SFB scoreless for 10:02 in the first half, extending a 15-11 lead to 35-11

UVA held SFB without a field goal for the final 12:48 of the first half and 14:29 total

UVA held an opponent to fewer than 40 points for the 15th time in Tony Bennett’s eight seasons

UVA is now 56-2 under Tony Bennett when limiting to opponents to fewer than 50 points

“Virginia is very disciplined in what they do. They don’t let you get to the basket, they trap the post, and they pressure the ball. For their offense, there is an argument of less is more. They don’t do a lot, but the things they do, they are great at.”  ~ St. Francis Coach Glenn Braica

I think I hit the nail on the head before the season when I used the phrase "ensemble offense."  After years of watching Mike Scott and then Joe Harris and then Malcolm Brogdon sort of dominate the shot count, it's refreshing to see a team that views multiple guys - anyone/everyone on the court - as potential go-to scorers, depending on matchups, situations, and the proverbial hot hand.  I kinda wonder if the ensemble effort is going to end up being a blessing (balance spreads opponents too thin), or a curse (lack of go-to scoring dooms us in close games), or both at different times.  I also wonder if Marial Shayok is actually going to allow this to be an ensemble effort, or if he's going to rise to the level of being out go-to bucket-getter.  (If he's not there already.  He has the look.)

My ongoing hypothesis is that trading Brogdon's elite-level perimeter defense for the presence of true live-wire shotblocking in the form of Austin Nichols, Mamadi Diakite, and an empowered Isaiah Wilkins is a net gain for the defense.  Of course, it doesn't hurt that we have so many upperclassmen on the perimeter now.  London Perrantes, Devon Hall, Marial Shayok, to a lesser extent Darius Thompson... these guys haven been percolating in the Pack Line for YEARS.  That experience matters.  It makes a difference.  Regardless, it's early, but I think our defense just might be better this season.

This is the deepest Virginia Basketball team I've ever seen.  I'm talking about QUALITY depth.  Tony will only go eight or nine deep in real games, but he could easily go 11.  Or burn the redshirts on Jay Huff and De'Andre Hunter and go 13.  Crazy, stupid amounts of depth.

Player-by-player observations and thoughts, in no particular order...

Austin Nichols -- He didn't start, and then when he got into the game he picked up two quick fouls and had to sit til the second half.  Once he was back in and eased into a bit of a rhythm, it was easy to see why he's been so highly regarded.  He's tall, strong, quick-footed, athletic, smooth, versatile.  I think his game is a bit more finesse-based that a lot of Hoofans have been expecting.  (We spent a lot of time watching Anthony Gill develop into the rugged badass he was last season, and Austin Nichols doesn't have that sort of game.)  Nichols likes to use his hook shot, a lot... maybe too much.  He's really animated on the court, and even during dead balls.  Kinda goofy, in a lovable sort of way.  He's a lot of fun to watch.  He hit the boards hard, like 'hit the boards hard' has been the primary decree pushed upon him by the coaching staff.  Aggressive defensive rebounding seems to be a primary focus for him right now.  I think he played well with both Jarred Reuter and Mamadi Diakite, showing good chemistry with both.  It's that ability to sort of fit in and mesh with his frontcourt mates (other than Isaiah Wilkins, none of the other guys really have that meshability that at this stage in the season) that will buoy Nichols' early PT, as Tony gets his rotations settled.  Nichols' game is very complementary to most of our other pieces and parts.  At the end of the day, I think there's little doubt that Nichols is out best overall big man, but I want to try to temper Hoofans' expectations here --- Nichols is not a star, at least not yet.  He'll score, rebound, block shots, defend, help us win, et cetera, he'll perfectly complement our other bigs, but he's not the kind of player to whom we can dump it down to in the post and trust to battle through doubles to go get tough buckets.  He's not that guy, at least not yet.  (And yeah, I got all of that from watching him play for 16 minutes against a shitty mid-major.)

London Perrantes -- He's the same London we know and love.  Don't worry about his 0-for-5 performance from deep, but maybe worry slightly about his 0-for-2 performance from the free throw line.  He's still a motherfucker, and it looks to me like his motherfuckerness has only grown during this past offseason, as he boiled over the Syracuse loss while realizing that it's his team to lead now.  Here's a short piece from Chris Graham that I think you should read, actually: "London Perrantes is the kind of guy you want leading you into battle."  There will be a handful of games this season, five or six of them, at least, in which a key London Perrantes shot is going to determine the winner.  It goes in, we win, it rims out, we lose.  He was 0-for-5 from deep against St. Francis, but I'm still expecting London to drill four of those six key, game-deciding shots this season.  Not to mention providing the perfect quarterbacking for this ensemble offense as the season moves along.

Marial Shayok -- Streaking the Lawn hinted at it, but let me go ahead and say it.  I'll even make it big and bold.  Marial Shayok is our best player.  He's the best pure scorer on the team.  He's a better defender than either Perrantes or Nichols.  He's one of two guys on the team who can consistently create his own shot (the other is Kyle Guy).  He came off the bench a little bit into the first half, and proceeded to score at will and bother the SFB offense.  I contend that between the wrist injury and the concussion(s?), Shayok was never right last season.  Now he's right... and man is he a weapon for us on both ends of the floor.  He'll either prove me right or wrong as the season grinds along, but I'm getting it out there now.  Marial Shayok is our best player.

Jack Salt -- Salt saw 16 minutes against St. Francis, hit a couple of layups and a dunk off of really good feeds from the ball handlers, and pulled down two rebounds.  Meh.  I really don't want to come across as a hater, but... meh.  He's big, he hustles, he rebounds, he can score when he's not bumped too much, he's becoming fundamentally sound... but he's limited.  I count four bigs that are better than him: Wilkins, Nichols, Reuter, and Diakite.  So any playing time Salt gets comes at the opportunity cost of a better player impacting the game more profoundly.  I like him as an end-of-bench 5th big who, when needed, can spell the guys in front of him, but that's about it.  His best potential utility in 2016-17 is to embrace the "five hard fouls" mentality and get in there and throw his body around in [very] limited minutes, but he seems hellbent on developing his game and trying to become a well-rounded, skilled, versatile big man.  Respect to him, I guess.  I just don't think he's going to help the 2016-17 Hoos very much.  (And then next year, we have Jay Huff coming off the redshirt, so Salt slides down one more seat and becomes the 6th big.)  I'm not bashful about pitching hot takes, so the windup... and the delivery... Tony made a mistake redshirting Salt in 2014-15.  The program would have been better served cycling through his scholarship more quickly, and/or giving him the option to transfer and sit out a year (if he transfers now, he'll lose a season of eligibility because he already redshirted.)  Salt played 16 minutes against SFB, but in a serious game with Austin Nichols not coming out of the doghouse, those 16 minutes should be closer to 6... or 3... or 0...

Jarred Reuter -- I sat next to a guy who didn't have this right, and it drove me nucking futs throughout the game, but I didn't want to be a dick by saying something to the dude... so let me vent that frustration now.  His name is "ROID-er," not "ROOT-er" or "RUDE-er."  It's "ROID-er."  Get the pronunciation right, dammit.  Think of hemorrhoids or steroids if it helps you, but get the fucking pronunciation right.  (I'll handle Diakite in a minute.)  So, Jarred Reuter... He's good, y'all.  Sneaky good.  Crafty.  Sound.  (That's a Tony Bennett word, "sound" and "soundness.")  Look, let's call a spade a spade; Reuter is short for a power forward.  He can't play much center, if any at all, just due to his vertically-challenged stature.  He's got a knack for using his low center of gravity and his big ass to his advantage; he clears space to operate, he's got good instincts on how plays develop, he gets open down low, he's got good, soft hands, and he's skilled at putting the biscuit in the basket.  He's a fine rebounder, maybe nothing special in that regard, but he boxes out like a champ.  Defensively, he'll struggle from time to time, but it's okay if/when he's playing alongside any of the shotblockers (Wilkins, Niochols, Diakite).  You probably don't want to see too much of the "Bang Bros" Reuter/Salt combo frontcourt, I suppose.  Against SFB, Reuter was our leading scorer in the first half (9 points), and easily could have gotten to 20 in this game if we didn't feature Nichols and the freshmen in the second half.  Reuter will sneak up on you -- he's skilled, and he can score.  I still struggle to envision a consistent game-in and game-out role for him this season, but I think we'll see him play and play well (read: score) when needed.

God damn right.
Mamadi Diakite -- "DEE-uh-KEY-tay."  Not {and I wince whilst typing this, embarrassed for those of you who have fucked this up til now} "DEE-uh-KITE."  Yeah, uh, um, this dude is legit.  Maybe a bit raw, but athletic as hell, aggressive, instinctive.  I don't want to gush, but he's just awesome.  14 minutes in his first game, 3-for-3 from the field (you can see a dunk, above), 4 rebounds, and a block into the stands.  The four fouls are reason for hesitation, but know this: he's going to be a star.  I get goosebumps thinking about the possibility of having him in orange and blue for the next four years.  His best is ahead of him, but it's pretty good already.  His challenge this season is cultivating a bit of fluidity in his offensive game.

Devon Hall -- In this game, he was steady-eddie, even-steven.  Nothing spectacular, but he was solid.  Important to note that he ran the point at various times when London was off the floor, and the offense didn't miss a beat.

Darius Thompson -- I think I might be guilty of under-estimating DT coming into this season.  He definitely brings an element of athleticism and physical play that we lack elsewhere in the backcourt.  He brings a certain edge, a certain swagger.  His shot looks better, more pure.  He hit the boards hard against St. Francis.  Maybe most importantly, he's clearly earned Tony Bennett's trust, so expect the ~20 minutes he played to be the norm for the season (unless Kyle Guy simply will not be denied playing time.)  DT is probably our best finisher on the break.  Wait, nope, that title belongs to...

Isaiah Wilkins -- I don't have a whole lot to say that I haven't said already.  Check it:
All the peripherals suggest that he's ready to take off this season. We already knew that he's a defensive force, and now it seems like his offense is catching up. He's kind of a positionless forward, but at this point in his development, he might be matchup-proof. I'm now looking for major minutes and flirtations with double-digit scoring this season.
I will note that Zay seemed to play more of an iron man role in this game.  I think he's in line for major, major minutes this season, as he supplies a lot of 'glue guy' stuff that we won't get anywhere else on the roster.  Like DT, it's clear that Wilkins has earned Tony's trust.

Kyle Guy -- Weird to say this in just second game of his UVA career, but it was a quiet game for Kyle Guy.  He looked good off the curl, hitting a pair of mid-range jumpers in the second half.  He's active, always moving, which is great to see.  I don't think he used his screens exceptionally well, but he's getting there.  2-for-4 from the field in 21 minutes of action constitutes a quiet game for Kyle Guy, I think.  Physically, he's small, but so clearly explosive and confident.  I am not tempering my expectations for him whatsoever... except to say that Shayok is going to lessen the need for Guy to handle so much of the scoring load.  There will be games where get 10 minutes and just a few points from Guy, and it'll be okay.  There will be other games where he plays 30 and scores 15-20.  I just wish people would build a fucking bridge and get over the man bun.

Ty Jerome -- His arms are short.  I never noticed that before, but he has kind of a T-Rex build.  Otherwise, I think he looked much better than he did in the scrimmage and against UNC-Greensboro.  I won't make any parallels with London Perrantes, except for saying that you can tell that Jerome has a similar kind of 'feel for the game' that Perrantes exhibited during his freshman season.  Jerome flashed a great eye for playmaking in this SFB game, and dropped a couple of truly nasty dimes.

Justice Bartley / Trevon Gross / Jeff Jones -- Doesn't really matter with a team this deep, but it bears mentioning that this is the best Green Machine we've had in Bennett's time at UVA.  Both Bartley and Gross seem capable of playing actual minutes, if needed.  (They won't be needed, of course.)  I do think the Green Machine will score points this season at the end of blowouts; like, they'll score more points than the backups and walk-ons usually score.

That's it!  GO HOOS!  BEAT YALE!

UVAMBB Preview...

...from Whitelaw Reid.

November 11, 2016

Wahooze 2016-17 Hoops Preview -- Part III

The season starts tonight!

Here's a loose track train... of thought!

The Rotation

Here's how I'm going to attack this thing, position-by-position, minute-by-minute.

The 1) London Perrantes averaged 33.2 minutes per game last season.  Let's call it 34 for this season, which leaves 6 minutes at point up for grabs.  I get the feeling the staff really wants Ty Jerome to get that time, so he's not totally green when he's asked to take over at point next season.  HOWEVER, there will be close games when Perrantes needs a break, and that's when Devon Hall slides over to handle things.  Break it down like this: Perrantes 34, Jerome 4, Hall 2.

2) I think Devon Hall draws the start tonight, and goes on to log the most minutes of anyone in the scrum for this position.  He was at 21.9 last season, let's say he bumps it up to 24 this season, leaving 16 up for grabs.  I'm guessing Darius Thompson and Kyle Guy split that right down the middle, 8 minutes apiece.  Hall 24, Thompson 8, Guy 8.

3) Marial Shayok is likely the main man in this spot, expanding last season's 15 mpg to somewhere around 20.  That leaves another 20 to be split up... again by Thompson and Guy (either of them at the 2 with Hall sliding down to the 3 when we go small).  So for overall minutes calculations, call this: Shayok 20, Thompson 10, Guy 10. (I'm saying De'Andre Hunter redshirts.)

4) Isaiah Wilkins is my pick for *breakout player of the year* and I think his PT rises from last season's 21.4 to a solid 25 this season.  That leaves 15 mpg for Jarred Reuter, Mamadi Diakite, and Jay Huff.  Lots of mouths to feed.  Give each one of those baby birds 5, I guess.  Wilkins 25, Reuter 5, Diakite 5, Huff 5.

5) Austin Nichols matches Wilkins' 25 mpg, leaving another 15 on the table for Salt and Diakite.  I suppose we could also go small with Reuter/Huff stealing some time here, as well.  Okay, 2 mpg for each of them, 9 for Diakite, and 2 for Salt.

starter: Perrantes -- 34 mpg
starter: Hall -- 26
starter: Shayok -- 20
starter: Wilkins -- 25
starter: Nichols -- 25

6th man: Guy -- 18 mpg
7th man: Thompson -- 18
big off the bench: Diakite -- 14

the rest:
Reuter -- 7 mpg
Huff -- 7
Jerome -- 4
Salt -- 2
Hunter -- redshirt

The playing time battles:

  • Tug-of-war between Kyle Guy and Darius Thompson for those combined 36 minutes on the wing.  (I'm hedging my bets here early, but ultimately I favor Kyle Guy in that duel.)
  • Hall vs. a hard-charging Guy for time at the 2.  Hall has to be able to score a semi-reliable 10 ppg.  If he struggles to do that, Guy has an opportunity to eat into Hall's 26 mpg.  I think it happens, especially later in the season, when 'buckets generation' is at a premium.
  • Reuter vs. Diakite vs. Huff for minutes backing up Wilkins.  If Diakite fits at the 5 and can force Salt to the bench, then it opens things up for the other two guys.
  • Diakite vs. Salt for time behind Nichols at the 5.  I already laid out the parameters for a Diakite victory over Salt, but that could be premature.  I'll admit, there is some appeal to a "Bang Bros" frontcourt of Reuter/Salt (which we'll see tonight!)
  • Jay Huff vs. Jarred Reuter, just in general.  They'll be fighting over the same chunk of minutes.  And if Reuter wins that battle, then we're looking at...
  • Jay Huff vs. the redshirt.  Some believe he's a future NBA early entry candidate.  But at this moment, he's still a raw, springy, skinny pogo stick with some shotblockery skill and a yoohoo-sweet stroke from deep.  I'm not sure how much he can help this season, and if we can get four years out of him, then we should redshirt him this season.  Stay tuned tonight, and see if he plays against UNCG.

UNCG?  Yeah man, UNC Greensboro, tonight's opponent.  Which brings us to...

The OOC Schedule

I'll kinda divide our schedule up into sections.  It'll be fun.

Happy Birthday, Keondre!!!


UNC Greensboro (in Greensboro) -- This is a tougher season-opener than you think.  It's essentially a road game, Nichols and Diakite are out, and UNCG has a deadly 3-point sniper (Francis Alonso) and a big-assed banger (R.J. White).  Cupcake?  Hoos win after a nice battle from the Spartans.

We need to tenderize this piece of meat by
hammering him with Salt tonight.

St. Francis (NY) -- Cupcake.  Hoos chow down and pull to 2-0.

Yale -- Their Round-of-32 squad has been decimated by graduation and injury (Makai Mason).  What once looked like a potentially tough game now looks like a sweet, soft, delicious, fattening cupcake.  Yum.  3-0.

Grambling State -- They have a lot back from a shitty 7-win team.  Not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.  Cupcake.  4-0.

White Meat

Iowa (in Florida for the Emerald Coast Classic)-- The Hawk Guys have some talent, but they're young.  Virginia will probably have begun to gel by this point, and I actually see us winning this game fairly easily.  5-0.

Memphis or Providence (in Florida for the Emerald Coast Classic) -- Bring it on, chumps.  We've simply got you outclassed.  6-0.

Ohio State -- Fuck the Big Ten, and fuck playing this game for the second year in a row.  We deserve Michigan State, Wisconsin, Indiana, or Purdue.  Still, the Fuckeyes have the goods to give us a stern test on our home floor.  Has the feeling of last year's Cal game, but I think maybe we don't get so lucky this go-round.  Loss.  6-1.

West Virginia -- Man.  Glad it's at home.  How about this: We drop one of these two games, OSU/WVU, but not both.  So I'm calling this one a win.  I like London vs. Press Virginia.  7-1.

In any case, if we get out of these first eight games with seven wins on the résumé, we'll be doing pretty well.

Happy Holidays!

ECU -- Meh.  Typical MAC-level trash, except they are in the Big East American Athletic Conference.  Who wants a 40-point "it all comes together" type of blowout on December 6th?  8-1.

Robert Morris -- A middle-tier mid-major.  We crush them on our home court.  9-1.

@ California -- Our first true road test, and I think we come up short 'gainst the revenge-minded and Rabb-fueled Golden Bears.  9-2.

After that, it's the ACC season, with a weird OOC game at Villanova at the end of January.  Predicting a loss there, which puts us at 9-3 in the OOC.  Hey, that rhymed.

The ACC Slate

In ACC play, we get home-and-homes with Louisville, Pitt, UNC, and of course, Virginia Tech.  We get FSU, Wake, GT, Duke, and Miami at home and Clemson, BC, ND, Syracuse (grrrrrrrrrr), and NC State on the road.  That's 18 games, right?  Right.

My expectations, in some fucked-up, non-chronological order...

Sweep Pitt.  2-0.

Split with Louisville, UNC, and VT --- 5-3.

Beat Wake and GT at home.  7-3.

Split the toughies against FSU and Miami at home.  8-4.

Coin flip, Duke @ UVA, February 15, 2017.  I say we beat those motherfuckers this year.  9-4.

On the road, we drop that revenge game to Syracuse.  Grrrrrrrrr.  9-5.

But we do work at BC, ND, and NC State.  12-5.

That game at Clemson on January 14th is a big one, in my approximation.  That's often a tough game for us, and now they're back in renovated Littlejohn, with Blossomgame raining points and Brownell coaching for his life.  I'm saying we drop that one, guys.  12-6.

21-9 regular season?  That sound about right?

It wouldn't earn us the 2-seed so many are predicting.  It's more like a 4- or 5-seed, really.  I'm comfortable predicting that, actually.

Bold Predictions

  • 21-9 regular season
  • 12-6 in the ACC
  • 4th place in the ACC
  • loss in the ACCT semis
  • 5-seed in the NCAA Tournament
  • advance to the Sweet Sixteen
  • Jay Huff DOES NOT redshirt.
  • De'Andre Hunter DOES.
  • Isaiah Wilkins is our breakout player this season, pushes for 3rd team All-ACC.
  • London Perrantes struggles under to pressure of trying to be our go-to guy...
  • ...but then settles down once a new go-to guy is found: Kyle Guy.  Kyle Guy ends up being our most reliable scoring option in the backcourt.
  • Austin Nichols doesn't become a star for us until his senior year in 2017-18.  This season, he battles through some up-and-down play.
  • Mamadi Diakite picks up Nichols' slack and captivates our hearts and minds with his dizzying potential.
  • Darius Thompson transfers after this season, as an immediately-eligible graduate transfer.
  • The 2018 recruiting class ends up being the best in UVA history.
  • We go to the Final Four and win the national championship in 2020, when the Guy/Jerome/Huff/Diakite core are seniors and the 2018 guys are sophomores.
Go ahead and book tickets to Atlanta, Hoofans.

November 10, 2016

ESPN Loses 621,000 Subscribers; Worst Month In Company History

Gotta read this to understand the current climate.

ESPN Loses 621,000 Subscribers; Worst Month In Company History

The foundation is being built.

We're in a hole, and it's dirty and ugly...
but dammit, something is finally being built.

A quick excerpt from:

With a bowl game that had long been a remote possibility now a mathematical impossibility, one might wonder what’s at stake for 2-7 Virginia over its final three games. 
Center Jackson Matteo is glad you asked. 
For Matteo, a fifth-year senior, the stakes are nothing less than continuing to lay the foundation of a program that can thrive long after he and the other seniors are gone. It’s a process that, this season, anyway, is about more than wins, he said Monday. Virginia hosts Miami on Saturday.

This is a complete and total reboot of University of Virginia’s football program,” he said. “And that starts with the culture. That starts with building good habits and setting a good foundation for the future of the program. That’s what’s at stake.” 
Despite U.Va.’s record, Matteo said he’s confident a foundation is being built. He points to the selflessness of this team compared to recent years, and said players have wholeheartedly bought in to new coach Bronco Mendenhall’s approach. 
I think in the past, the type of guy that we had in our locker room, generally speaking, (were) kinda ‘me’ guys, and it’s really tough to be successful when you’ve got those guys,” he said. “This year, and I’ve told you guys this, I haven’t been tighter with a group of guys in my life in a locker room, and we’re 2-7. 
Remember that. This locker room, the habits that these coaches are building here, it’s going to carry and it’s going to break through.” 
Even if that breakthrough happens after Matteo’s gone, he’ll feel as though he played a part, he said. Although those outside the team might not understand it, there’s more to play for than a bowl, Matteo said. 
I’m not going to a bowl. I’ve never been to a bowl at the University of Virginia. And it’s not going to change the way I’m doing anything,” he said.

November 7, 2016

Wahooze 2016-17 Hoops Preview -- Part II

Take a peek at Part I, HERE.

Now we're just a few days away from the start of the season, and I've seen the Blue/White scrimmage and dug for notes from the two closed-door scrimmages, and I'm ready to reshuffle the UVAMBB Power Rankings, as follows...

#1 London Perrantes
If he can hold steady above 40% from three and keep doing all of the things he always does, he'll play the most minutes, provide us with reliable double-digit scoring, give us "good-enuff" defense, and lead the team to wins.  He might not be the best player on the 2016-17 team, but he's the most important player.  The most valuable player.

We're just a better team with the ball in his hand.

#2 Isaiah Wilkins
YES!  SERIOUSLY!  All the peripherals suggest that he's ready to take off this season.  We already knew that he's a defensive force, and now it seems like his offense is catching up.  He's kind of a positionless forward, but at this point in his development, he might be matchup-proof.  I'm now looking for major minutes and flirtations with double-digit scoring this season.

Wilkins is ready to explode this season.  Watch and see.

#3 Austin Nichols
He didn't do anything to really excite me during the B/W scrimmage, and now he's suspended for the first game.  Still, it's pretty clear that he's at least our second-most important frontcourt player, as Diakite is still really raw and the other guys are limited.  That said, I am officially tempering my expectations for Mr. Nichols (while allowing my expectations for Wilkins to skyrocket.)

Nichols is still more of an exclamation point than a question mark.

#4 Kyle Guy
The rumor is that he missed only two shots in scoring 27 points in the closed-door scrimmage against VCU.  It's going to be an ensemble effort on offense this season... unless - and this is a big UNLESS - unless Kyle Guy is ready for big minutes and is able to produce big points on a consistent basis.  He's the only player on the roster (other than maybe Shayok) that I would consider to have the potential of a scoring average over 13 ppg this season.  Realistically, he'll be closer to half that, but the upside is real.  Defensively, however, he has a lot to prove.

Guy is our future leading scorer, the only question is when that future arrives.

#5 Marial Shayok
I remain bullish on Shayok's potential this season, as both a quality defender and a go-to scorer.  But his minutes will have to be earned, and the competition on the perimeter is intense.

He was never fully healthy last season, so hopefully things click for him this season.

#6 Devon Hall
#2 to Wilkins in the "most improved" department, I'd say.  He looks like a real plus defender now, which is important as we try to replace what we lost in Brogdon.  He also seems comfortable running the offense.  Scoring is always going to be the big question mark with Hall, but he seems less passive and more attack-minded this season.  Fingers crossed that the light has really come on for him, in his fourth season in the program.

A big-time breakout is still very possible if he can develop some confidence.

#7 Mamadi Diakite
He's raw, but he's ready to play.  A bit indecisive and mechanical on offense, but the ability is so clearly there (clean, fluid shot).  And his shotblocking is something special.  Great instincts on timing his jumps.

Unlimited upside.

{A quick aside: With Wilkins/Nichols/Diakite rotating in the frontcourt, our perimeter defenders will be able to take more risks.  Also, the hard hedge stuff should be much improved over what Gill and Tobey were able to deliver with their limited footspeed (our new bigs are QUICK).  How quickly this trio is able to master the aggro post double is going to dictate a lot of success/failure early in the season as we attempt to defend elite-level low post scorers.  My guess is that we surrender a lot more easy buckets than we're used to seeing, but also generate a lot more pure turnovers and corresponding fast break opportunities.}

#8 Darius Thompson
Speaking of fast break opportunities, DT is our best open court finisher.  He's also our best perimeter defender from a pure quickness / risk-taking / steal-generating perspective.  So in a lot of ways, he's a really good fit with the Wilkins/Nichols/Diakite frontcourt rotation.  Thompson takes risks, and if he fails, the erasers behind him can clean up.  In the set offense, his shot does not demand respect, so defenders will sag off and gum up the works down low.  There's not a great counter for that, which is why I have Thompson ranked #7 and not higher.  He's strictly a limited role player, until/unless that shot improves and until/unless he becomes a more reliable "textbook" defender.  I just don't see where his minutes are going to come from -- Perrantes is going to play 32+ at the point, and Guy/Shayok/Hall are - or should be - ahead of Thompson in the pecking order at the wings.

I hope to see this more often in 2016-17.

#9 Jay Huff
I've become convinced of a few things:
1) Huff is not going to redshirt.
2) Huff is a future NBA player.
3) Therefore, Huff is going to play as a true freshman, even if his frame is not ready for the pounding of college basketball.
4) Huff can block shots, so even if he gets pushed around and bullied in the post, he still fits with that Wilkins/Nichols/Diakite core.
5) Huff is going to stretch defenses and drill some key threes this season.

No way he slips out of the regular 9-man rotation.

#10 Jarred Reuter
He's just too damn short for the kind of game he needs to play.  And it's a shame, because he brings some very good skills to the table.

#11 Jack Salt
After the scrimmage, some people declared Salt to be "much improved."  I disagreed, as he was victimized, again and again, by getting his shit packed by Diakite and the gang.  Fundamentals are great, but at some point you have to have athleticism to produce against D-1 talent, and I think Salt lacks that.  I wish Tony, Jack, and all of us could embrace the upside of 'FIVE HARD FOULS.'

#12 De'Andre Hunter
Maybe it's the lingering ankle injury, but Hunter just does not seem to be ready to play at this level.

#13 Ty Jerome
"Who is that walk-on, number 11, why is he playing so much?" ~My wife at the Blue/White scrimmage.

Random Musings at 2-7

Bad o-line.

Sputtering, skittish, mistake-plagued QB having a bad game.

General lack of speed/dynamism at WR.

Inexperience all over the field.

It limits what you can do.

In my humble opinion, Saturday's loss was 100% on the fumble and two picks.

Wake has a good defense, and they're in year three of their rebuild.

Right now, I'm most interested in seeing what changes are made now that a bowl game is off the table. I think it's time to bench some seniors and really use these last three games to develop Benkert by putting the ball in the air 40+ times per game.

I think it's also important to remember how close we are.

Handle our shit against an FCS team.

Successfully kick a chip-shot 20-yard field goal.

Get a finger on that 4th down pass by Lamar Jackson.

Avoid coughing up those three turnovers against Wake.

We'd be 6-3 right now.

However, those bounces did not go our way, and we are what our record says we are.  We're 2-7.  We're a bad football team.

It's definitely been tough.

I came into the season fully expecting six wins and a bowl game; fully expecting at least one win during our three-game homestand; fully expecting Bronco to deliver a signature win by this point in the season. 2-7 is tough to swallow.

BUT, there are three things I still think I know:

1) If Bronco Mendenhall can't do it, nobody can do it. If Bronco can't win at Virginia, then Virginia Football is a lost cause.

2) This is year one in what is going to be a 3- or 4-year rebuilding process. Both lines and the quarterback position must be rebuilt from scratch. Playmakers must be found and developed on both sides of the ball. Most importantly, the "whipped dog" psyche surrounding the program must be overcome.

3) Nobody is going to want to hear this, but the schedule is soft in the next two seasons. 2017: W&M, Indiana, UConn, @ Boise, Boston College; 2018: Richmond, @ Indiana, Ohio U, ODU, @ NC State. I think that if we haven't seen improvement in terms of win/loss record and bowl appearances by the end of the 2018 season, we'll know.

November 2, 2016

$12.8 million Davenport Field Expansion

Pretty awesome:

Virginia Baseball and UVa. Athletics is excited to announce plans to expand Davenport Field. The University of Virginia Board of Visitors has approved the $12.8 million project, making it the largest stadium project in the history of Davenport Field. The planned expansion will continue to allow the baseball program to recruit the nation’s best student-athletes, while significantly enhancing the game day experience and fan amenities.

Groundbreaking for the project will occur as soon as the baseball team completes its 2017 home season, which includes the potential to host NCAA Regional and Super Regionals. Work will take place through the remainder of the 2017 calendar year, with a target completion date of February 2018.

Click HERE for the full scoop.

Up next: Scott Stadium facelift and update (to include wifi), and a mack daddy football facility east of the McCue Center.

Enjoy game seven tonight, Hoofans.  GO CUBBIES!  (But also, go "La Piñata," Brandon Guyer.)