February 16, 2017

March Forward

Chin up, Hoofans.  We all said we'd take some lumps this year.  Last night was what taking a lump looks like.

I had an interesting exercise posed to me this morning:

1) What is the difference in level between us and Duke?

2) What do we have to do to reach their level?

3) And what do we mean when we talk about their "level"?

My response:

1) What is the difference in level between us and Duke?

Our level: Great, unique, cohesive (but limited) system fueled by above-average talent.

Their level: Good, quasi-unique, cohesive (unlimited) system fueled by the best talent in the nation.

Our level: Hoping to win.

Their level: Expecting to win. (I'm saying top-to-bottom program confidence is a pretty big differentiation between the two programs.)

Our level: Zero go-to scorers.

Their level: At least three go-to scorers, maybe as many as five depending on where you think their frosh are in terms of development.

2) What do we have to do to reach their level?

Honestly, I just think we need to keep knocking on the door for another 3-5 years and we'll end up getting as close as we ever could. Seasons like this one are the ones that will build up the baseline confidence level within the program and elevate that all-important yet intangible expectation of winning. We're rebuilding but we're still winning. We're rebuilding, but we're still a tournament team. Big picture, that really means something.

I also think Tony is fine-tuning his shopping list for what - exactly - he needs on the roster. Maybe his system is more static than dynamic, but roster construction is dynamic by nature. For example, would 2018 Virginia recruit Devon Hall like 2013 Virginia did? Would 2018 Virginia recruit Jack Salt like 2014 Virginia did? Knockdown shooters, dribble-drive combo guards, wings who can shoot, power guards / point forwards, stretch-4s, and pogo stick bigs... that's the shopping list now, and I don't think that specific recipe was in place four years ago.

Eventually, I think the blocker/mover has to evolve a bit, too. Just a bit. It's an effective offense against 80% of our competition. It just needs some wrinkles that can make it work better against the other 20%.

Lastly, we just need to get lucky on a kid or two. We need to find our Frank Kaminsky, so to speak.

3) And what do we mean when we talk about their "level"?

Short-term: Top of the ACC; Final Four.

Mid-term: National top-8 to 12 fixture, year in and year out. Destination school for top-40 talent who fit the system.

Long-term: True blueblood status, ala UConn's ascension from 1990-2010. (No reason Tony Bennett's 25 years at the helm can't look very similar to Jim Calhoun's... minus the general scumbaggery. This is a parallel I can draw out with a lot more detail, maybe someday.)

The bottom line for right now is that we have a program we can be proud of -- it's an NCAA Tournament fixture (never thought I'd be able to say that after the disastrous end to the Jeff Jones era, then Pete Gillen, then Dave Leitao), we recruit good kids, we play the right way, we run a good system and do unique things, and our guys generally don't do shit to embarrass the school.  We're in a good spot.  Nothing to be ashamed about here, just lots to be proud of now and excited about for the future.



  1. Why the pic of Sacha? He gone!

  2. Nice ending. Like an M Night Shymalan movie.