Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Game by Game Predictions 2014-15

Well folks,  it's awfully hard to turn the page. Last season was without question one of the best in the history of the program. Not only did we rack up the W's, but we did so with a selfless and beautiful brand of team basketball.  This upcoming season, one thing is for sure. We are now the hunted.  We will get the best out of our opponents night in and night out, and we are expected to be a force in conference as well as a contender on the national scene.  How good can we be?  Really damn good.  But this is a different team and it remains to be seen how it will come together.  Gone are two guys that literally built the program and played a ton of minutes.  The offense will have to learn to operate in tighter space and the defense will have to gel without one of the better team defensive players in school history.  Who knows what will happen? For shits and giggles.. let's take a look game by game.    Tweet me your thoughts!  @WahooBasketball

11/14 (A) - James Madison – WIN – 65 - 57  Do what?  The ACC regular season and tournament champions open the season on the road in-state?  Just bizarre.  JMU was not good a season ago, 6-10 in the CAA, but they will be amped to get a shot at the Hoos at home.  JMU will be missing Andre Nation and Tom Vadonovich - Hoos will be missing London Perrantes and Evan Nolte.  Our remaining players are better than their remaining players.  They will keep it closer than we want though.  (1-0)

11/16 (H) - Norfolk State - WIN – 77-43  We only beat Norfolk State by 10 last season.. the game before Tennessee simultaneously embarrassed us and saved our season. NSU is always sneaky tough because they are sneaky athletic.  But it's our home opener folks, we have sold nearly 10,000 season tickets, and fans will want a glimpse of those banners.  Should be a fun one.  See you there.  (2-0)

11/18 (H) - South Carolina St. WIN – 71-41  The Bulldogs went 5-11 in the MEAC last season and actually lose a lot from that team.  (3-0)

11/21 (H) - George Washington – WIN – 61 - 57  Dangerous team, size inside with Kevin Larsen and dynamic scorer in Kethan Savage.  Picked to be runner up in A10. Will be a true early  test.  (4-0)

11/25 (H) - Tennessee State – 
WIN – 71-39  Probably the only real RPI plummeting schedule fail.  5-25 last season out of the OVC.  (5-0)

11/28  (N) – LaSalle -  WIN – 69 – 49  LaSalle loses 3 key seniors from last years pesky team.  A ton of UVa alum will make it over to Brooklyn.  Hoos win big.   (6-0)

11/29 (N) – Rutgers/Vanderbilt - WIN – 71 – 58  Both teams are rebuilding and picked near the bottom of their respective conferences.  I think we likely play Vandy, and I just think we match up well with everyone in this event.  Hoos win two straight preseason tournaments. (7-0)

12/03 (A) - Maryland –
LOSS – 65 - 64  Pains me to type this.  So much.  There are few things in life I detest more than Maryland.  But we won't be perfect in the non-conference, and despite all of the attrition, Maryland will have a competitive team.  Dez gets inside late to steal one.   (7-1)

12/6 (A) – VCU - WIN – 67 – 59  This game.  Oh this game. I want this one bad.. and I really believe Tony and the team does too.  Just imagine for one second if we had gotten VCU late in the year at home last season?  Or if Tony would have exploited that Mike Tobey mismatch more.  I'm not sure it would have been close.  That's an insanely tough environment to play in and their fans will be going absolutely apeshit.  But we have better players top to bottom and we and are better coached.  Sorry Shaka lovers, its a fact.  Hoos win.     (8-1)

12/18 (H) Cleveland State – 
WIN – 69 – 64  Cleveland State is always one of those teams that makes you play harder than you wanted to.  Classic trap game, after a huge one and before a big one.  Too close for comfort.  (9-1)

12/21 (H) Harvard – WIN – 71 – 67   This is a well coached NCAA caliber team with experience and talent.  Two schools with a lot of pride.  Glad they scheduled this one.  We are just too tough at home to let it go.  (10-1) 

12/30 (H) Davidson – WIN – 59 – 52  I think this is a sneaky dangerous game.  Speaking of well coached, I have a lot of respect for Bob McKillop. Davidson makes a huge jump to the A10, and get us after a 9 day break.  We did enough to win against them last year, but at times they had us out of our game.  I think it will be a relatively tight game.  (11-1)

1/3 (A) Miami –
LOSS  – 75 – 74  Uh-oh.  Message boards melt down.  Panic ensues.  I like this Miami team to be sneaky good.  Transfer PG Angel Rodriguez from Kansas St. was awfully good in the Big 12.  Remember the name Deandre Burnett, a redshirt freshman who scored an absolute TON in high school.  Maybe not the front court depth they've had, but well coached and talented.  They make a dagger late and steal one.  Folks, these things happen.  (11-2) (0-1)

1/7 (H) NC State – WIN – 70 – 54   No reason why I have this such a blowout. Don't like their slime ball coach?  Feeling a Cavalanche?  Who knows.  I do like transfer Trevor Lacy from Alabama, he can fill it up.. is Cat Barber ready to take a major step forward?  (12-2) (1-1)

1/10 (A) – Notre Dame -
LOSS – 64 – 59  Look, we are much more talented than this team top to bottom, but I just really think Notre Dame is much better than they were last year.  Jerian Grant, who no one is talking about, might be an ACC POY contender.  Connaughton and Vasturia can shoot the ball.  Auguste's development inside will probably be the biggest key to how good they can be, and I'm not sure about depth.  But they will be better, and at home they could steal one.  (12-3) (1-2)

1/13 (H) - Clemson -
WIN – 69 – 52  KJ McDaniels leaving early really hurt the momentum Brad Brownell was building.  I keep waiting to see a recruit or two that tells me he's on the verge of something.  And then it doesn't happen.  (13-3)  (2-2)

1/17 (A) - Boston College –
WIN – 72– 59  New era in Chestnut Hill.  Jim Christian will have his notepad out trying to figure out how Tony Bennett turned a struggling ACC program into a contender.  (14-3)  (3-2)

1/22 (H) - Georgia Tech –
WIN – 70 – 50  Just really lacking punch and star power.  Robert Carter dipped out on them.  What's to like?  (15-3)  (4-2)

1/25 (A) - VPI – WIN – 73 - 68  I used to like Buzz.  Then he came to Blacksburg.  Then he stole Seth Allen at the last minute.  I really, really don't like Buzz anymore.  He will have this program back on the map, and the cupboard isn't bare.  But it's too early to beat the machine that is UVa basketball. (16-3)  (5-2)

1/31 (H) 
Duke - WIN - 71-69 -  Guys, I had typed a loss in here.  This Duke team has scary athleticism and enough talent to really be special.  Jones and Okafor will star immediately.. but you know what?  This is the first top 10 type game to be at JPJ all season.  On a Saturday.  Atmosphere will be off the charts and I'm going to give the edge to you the fans.  We are good enough to win this game.   (17-3)  (6-2)

2/2 (A) - North Carolina 
 LOSS – 77 – 72  At UNC 2 days after hosting Duke.  Nice.  I am a firm believer that our system is an absolute nightmare for Roy.  Like custom designed to beat the type of players he recruits and the style he employs.  But sometimes talent is talent, we will be a little wore down, and I think Marcus Paige is the POY in the league.  (17-4)  (6-3)

2/7 (H) - Louisville - WIN – 77 – 66  I think Louisville has as dangerous a starting 5 as anyone in the league, and Harrell is a monster.  I just don't know about their depth.  And I don't care how legendary their coach is, your first experience against our system, in our building where we play it at another level.. I am confident picking a W here.  (18-4) (7-3)

2/11 (A) - NC State– 
 LOSS – 70 – 59  I don't think this is a particularly good NC State team.  I don't think they are particularly bad.  We just came off a physically and emotionally draining run against elite teams in college basketball.. and its a road game in the ACC.  We are humans after all.  (18-5)  (7-4)

2/14 (H) - Wake Forest – 
WIN – 64 – 44  Danny Manning has a chance to turn that thing around.  He can recruit.  Not happening yet though.  (19-5)  (8-4)

2/16 (H) - Pittsburgh – 
WIN – 55 – 49  Some think this Pitt team will be better than expected.  Meh.  I just don't see much that stands out.   (20-5)  (9-4)

2/22 (H) – Florida State - WIN – 67 – 62  Aaron Thomas is legit and again the Noles will have size, athleticism, and some young talent.  They are a couple years away from being back in ACC contention.  I think they would be tough in Tallahassee..we will take care of business at home.  (21-5)  (10-4) 

2/25 (A) – Wake Forest - WIN – 71 – 53  We usually really struggle in Winston-Salem.  Better not be the case this year.  (22-5) (11-4)

2/28 (H) Virginia Tech– WIN – 70 - 54  Get used to losing in this building Buzz.   (23-5)  (12-4)

3/2 (A) – Syracuse - 
WIN – 65 - 62  I also initially put this one down as a loss, but I just think we are a much better team and frankly we match up very well against them.  Yes. it's our first trip to a very difficult place to play - but I just don't see how on earth this team is nationally ranked in the preseason.  They lost clearly their 3 best overall players in Grant, Fair, and Ennis. They bring in two real talents in top 25 type guys Kaleb Joseph and Chris McCullough, but is that enough as freshman?  I don't know.  I am just not on the Cuse wagon.  I think we win.   (24-5)  (13-4)

3/7 (A) – Louisville – 
LOSS - 68 – 63  Very tough way to end the regular season, but hell, we just won 6 in a row in the league.    (24-6)  (13-5)


First round bye in ACC Tournament. 1 win, lose in semifinals (25-7)  

3 wins in NCAA Tournament - Elite 8 - (28-8)

FINAL RECORD:  (28-8)  

And you know what's crazy friends?  We lose one senior.  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tempering expectations. Let's get back to earth a little bit people.

Our head coach is a master of tempering expectations.  He has literally done it since his introductory press conference, warning of the "process" and the rewards of patience.  Every subsequent season has come with some level of hesitation from Tony.   Yet at this years ACC media day, even Bennett noted "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited about this year".

He isn't the only one.  The fan base is hungry for a winner, starving even, and coming off two of the more successful seasons in recent history, expectations are soaring for this years team.  Include the national media that has hopped on board, a predicted finish of fourth in the new and deep ACC, a bonafide star in Joe Harris, well... folks are down right giddy.  And rightfully so.


I think things are getting a little out of control.  Jay Bilas is calling us a final four contender.   Tweeters and message board posters are acting like they expect an undefeated non-conference schedule.  I've seen people hint that the VCU game will be the real barometer of the season.  Message board posters increase their expectations daily, what was once an NCAA bid is now a Final Four apperance or ACC Championship.

Folks.  Pump the brakes a little bit.

Yes, our team is deep.  Yes, our team is talented.  But it still has to come together on the court.  There are new pieces to plug in, including primary ball handlers.   Our system, while it does a tremendous job of keeping us in games against the highest levels of competition, occassionaly allows lesser opponents to hang around.  We've improved, but we haven't been the best at closing games.  Injuries and other forms of adversity are sure to arise.  Of course, as the talent and depth improves these types of deficiencies are supposed to be easier to overcome or more easily absorbed.  But I will believe it when I see it.  We will still have to battle, scratch, and claw our way to victories, especially inside the ACC, and there will be bumps along the road.

No one is more excited about this season more than I am.  No one sees the potential that exists for a special year more than this guy.  But I implore you to respect the big picture of what Tony Bennett is building here, how far we have come in a few seasons and how bright the light is moving forward. Understand that a season is a marathon and not a sprint.  There will be periods of poor play, we will probably even lose a few games we shouldn't.  It will sting, leave your stomach in knots, but you move on.  This team has the ability and experience to bounce back from losses and will grow stronger as the year progresses.

I thought a preseason ranking of 24 and 25 made all the sense in the world.  Can we be better?  Absolutely.  But don't set yourself up for a season in which an NCAA bid is a disapointment. 
Keep your hats on people.  It's basketball. A lot can happen.  Support this team win or lose, watch it grow, and lets see if we can do some damage come March. The program's direction is clear.  Don't be that guy that hops off the train at the first sign of adversity or posts some really dumb stuff on social media.  These guys, coaches and players included, have earned more from you.

Monday, October 28, 2013

@WahooBasketball's Game by Game Predictions - 2013/14

I've stated many times on my twitter account that while I feel the potential is great.. I am withholding some optimism until I see the product on the court.  I sat down and went through the schedule and did my game by game predictions.. based on very little other than some slight knowledge off the top of my head on the opponents, a lot of knowledge on our team, and the general ebbs and flows of college basketball seasons.  Just went with my gut and didn't edit anything.  I did this two years ago and was pretty damn accurate.  I'd like to think most of this is pretty reasonable.. I got a little carried away at the end because we just need to taste some postseason success.. but I still think its all plausible.  Tweet me your thoughts!  @WahooBasketball

11/8 (H) - James MadisonWIN – 72 - 58  This game actually scares me a touch. Just because it's game one and JMU won't be god awful.  Yes, they graduated four from their NCAA team a year ago, but Andre Nation is a good player and Andrey Semenov can shoot it.  They've had a taste of success.  I'm sure it's just pressure building for an anticipated season, we should win easy, but just a hair nervous.  (1-0)

11/12 (H) - VCU - WIN – 68 – 64  Have you heard?  We play VCU this year.  Not sure if you knew about it.  I still don't think we are good against the press, despite improvements last year... but VCU will have to play our game a lot more than we will have to play theirs.  In fact, I find it hilarious that their fans seem to think they will have us running up and down the court.  We win a tight one.  (2-0)

11/16 (N) - Davidson - WIN – 66 – 60  Davidson will own the SoCon again in their last season before moving to the A10.   They lose 3 starters, but return their best player, add a talented transfer, and add Mr. Basketball in Ohio.  We win easily at home, but this will be a battle in Charlotte.  (3-0)

11/19 (H) - NavyWIN – 78 - 55  Despite the Midshipmen getting really fired up by the quote we have etched into our building, we lay down our first good ole fashioned spanking.    (4-0)

11/23 (H) - Liberty
WIN – 66 - 51  Ritchie McKay was the head coach here.   He preferred to be an assistant for us.  (5-0)

11/26  (H) – HamptonWIN – 69 – 47  We win.  (6-0)

11/29 (N) – SMU - LOSS – 71 – 65  This may not be a popular pick.  But Larry Brown has an athletic team that returns a lot of scoring and adds some serious young talent.  They are a borderline NCAA tourney team according to a lot of prognosticators.  I expect us to stumble somewhere, and with our history in these lower tier early season tournaments, I thought this was a good spot.      (6-1)

11/30 (N) - Missouri St.WIN – 61 - 48  We miss out on A&M by losing to SMU.  Hurts our RPI.  Doesn't matter.   (7-1)

12/4 (H) – Wisconsin - WIN – 57 – 55  Wisconsin will be better.  Virginia will be better.  What gives?  Our post shows why many are calling them one of the deepest in the country and set the tone for our win despite hot Wisconsin shooting.  (8-1)

12/7 (A) Green Bay
WIN – 69 – 52 Inside the building the Bennett's built and Coach was setting NCAA shooting records.  Nostalgic.  Joey Hoops will show Tony he can rain jumpers here also.  (9-1)

12/21 (H) Northern IowaWIN – 58 – 46  First game after break and its a tough opponent.  Our athleticism shuts down these bracket busters. (10-1)

12/23 (H) Norfolk St.WIN – 83 – 51  They try to get us up and down the floor, and fail miserably because we are good.  (11-1)

12/30 (A) Tennessee
LOSS – 66 – 65 Tennessee's arena seats a million people for some reason and they will be pumped because they are good and the football team is not very good.  Sound familiar?  We lose at the buzzer on the road.  (11-2)

1/4 (A) Florida StateWIN – 61 – 54  We play better than them in their building and then seem to lose.  Not happening this time.  We are too good. (12-2) (1-0)

1/8 (H) – Wake Forest - WIN – 68 – 48  Bennett is to Bzdelik as Kate Upton is to Roseanne Barr.   (13-2) (2-0)

1/11 (A) - NC State -
LOSS – 73 – 67  A game we should win.  But alas, it just doesn't always work out that way especially on the road.  Gottfried is slime, for the record.  (13-3)  (2-1)

1/13 (A) - Duke – 
LOSS – 69 – 61 Playing against a team I think we match up poorly with on one day rest.  Thanks ACC.  (13-4)  (2-2)

1/18 (H) - Florida StateWIN – 67 – 49  Might be tight at their place, we win going away at ours.  (14-4)  (3-2)

1/20 (H) - UNCWIN – 73 - 68  I love how we matchup with Roy.  I don't care about his personnel.  No way we lose our cool and play their game at home like we did at their place last year.  (15-4)  (4-2)

1/25 (H) 
VPI - WIN 60 - 40  We play down to their level and still win by 20. (16-4)  (5-2)

1/28 (A) - Notre Dame
LOSS – 67 – 64  This one will be a battle.  I see a lot of similarities, but Notre Dame can spread the floor on offense and really wear you down defensively, especially in their building (16-5)  (5-3)

2/2 (A) - Pittsburgh - WIN – 67 – 64  Pitt will be better than some think.  Metric based systems like them.  They also like us.  I think our ability to take our game on the road and make you play it guts this one out.  (17-5) (6-3)

2/5 (H) - Boston College – 
LOSS – 75 – 71  What?  Lose at home to BC?  I really like Donahue, I think their style is tough to defend, Hanlan is the real deal, and teams that can essentially shoot right over top of the pack-line scare the hell out of me.  Plus short turn around after a battle at Pitt.  This is the one home loss that REALLY hurts.  (17-6)  (6-4)

2/8 (A) - Georgia Tech
WIN – 64 – 54  I think Gregory is building this thing a bit.  They are a physical team that is finding their way.  Golden is over-rated.  We are better.  Key road win that sparks a run.  (18-6)  (7-4)

2/10 (H) - Maryland
WIN – 65 – 61  Anderson is on the ticket.  He doesn't like Maryland.  I think he plays good angry.    (19-6)  (8-4)

2/15 (A) – Clemson - WIN – 70 – 55  I think Brownell is a good guy and a good coach.  Problem is, he is an AWFUL recruiter.  Not easy to win big on the road in the ACC but it happens here.  (20-6)  (9-4)

2/18 (A) – Virginia Tech - WIN – 63 – 55  This would mean we win 3 of 4 on the road in the ACC.  I really like our chances in this circumstance.  (21-6) (10-4)

2/22 (H) Notre DameWIN – 70 - 54 Another battle with Notre Dame, but this time, our home crowd will be AMPED off this winning streak and we LAY DOWN THE LUMBER  (22-6)  (11-4)

2/26 (H) – Miami -
WIN – 75 - 62  They graduated like 8 5th year seniors and lost Shane Larkin.  (23-6)  (12-4)

3/1 (H) – Syracuse
LOSS - 68 – 63  We don't practice against a zone.  Ever. They run the best in the business.  They provide some matchup problems.  A sell out home crowd goes home unhappy.  (23-7)  (12-5)

3/9 (A) - Maryland -  LOSS - 68 - 67  Everything tells me will lose this game.  Because I want to beat them SO BAD on their senior night before they finally get their couch burning asses out of our league.  Because Akil brashly predicted it at ACC media days.  It's damn near impossible to win 5 consecutive road ACC games.  And only because I want it so bad, I just can't shake the feeling they will win on some total BS late in the game.  There is some real technical analysis for you.  (23-8)  (12-6) 


For the purpose of this I am going to assume the 12-6 record nets us 4th in the conference, giving us the bye until Friday in the newly restructured ACC tournament format.  

A win on Friday puts us in the semi finals puts us at (24-8).

I say we WIN our semifinal game to go to (25-8).  Yep, heard it here first!

Lose in the Finals to go to (25-9)

Four seed in the NCAA's.  Win two, lose in sweet 16.

FINAL RECORD:  (27-10) 


Monday, March 11, 2013

A letter to Jontel Evans

Bub -

Some may see this letter as a little cheesy, a little sappy, and a little over the top.  Maybe it is.  But I felt compelled to write it, whether you read it or not.

Over the last four years, you have earned a very special place in my heart.   You immediately got my attention with the effort you gave from the first minute of your first game.  Quite frankly, I felt UVA basketball  lacked fire the year before you came on board, and that it continued more or less through your freshman and sophomore campaigns.  I'm not saying your teammates didn't play hard, I'm not saying they didn't care.  But as I sat in the stands with a great view of the bench, I really only saw one guy that in the huddle and on the floor tried to will his team out of a funk.  I only saw one guy, that in my opinion, noticeably ramped up the effort in times where it was easy to be deflated.  It wasn't an upperclassmen, it was the guy wearing #1. 

I would comment early in your career to my friends that we needed more guys like that - not to get all crazy and be out of control - but to wear it on their sleeve just a little bit more.  To try and infect the guys around them and the energy in the building.  You were, in my opinion, the heartbeat of the team for 4 years.  You were the first to greet the ball on defense, the first to touch it on offense, and the team had no choice but to try and match your intensity.

"Fans" can be extremely fickle.  It happens everywhere.  But despite all of the things you did to help the team win games, at times both the message boards and the press would love to point out your deficiencies.  Specifically, the oft-discussed jump shot.  Look, in a perfect world you would stretch defenses by shooting like JJ Redick.  This isn't a perfect world.  I know you worked hard on it.  The summer between your freshman and sophomore years immediately comes to mind.  It was evident you had spent hours and hours in the gym, and you came out early in the year and shot it with confidence.  After a few didn't fall - you became a little timid again and the more they dared you to shoot it the more hesitant you seemed to be to do so.  I really wonder how much your jump shot would have progressed had you not had so much pressure and negativity surrounding it during your career, or what would have happened if you shot more when you wanted to, instead of when you had to.  Would it have become more of a weapon?  Who knows.  But I know no matter what, you still hit some big shots in your career Jontel.  Let the hater's hate.

In reference to those haters - please understand they represent the minority.  It's similar to how you will read more negative reviews on the internet than positive ones.  People love to bump their gums or their keyboards about things that bother them, but then when you play well, just act like its expected.  Message boards couldn't thrive without incessant negativity and over-reaction.  Most fans feel the way I do about your overall play, without question.  More should see what you did provide for the offense - throughout your career and most notably in your junior season.  You averaged 7.3 point per game, 3.9 assists, and added an array of floaters to your game and dramatically improved your finishing around the basket.  You were, without question, the only guy on our roster that could consistently break a defender down off the dribble.  Lost in Mike's magical season was the facilitator.  Imagine that you were just a flat footed shooter that season.  The offense would have been downright putrid at times, despite Mike raining mid range jumpers.  You had a stretch late in the year where you pretty much took over games, and I'm talking offensively, with your ability to get to the paint.  The UNC game in Chapel Hill comes to mind, where I'm pretty sure Kendall Marshall had images of you streaking by him in his nightmares.  Roy Williams knew after that game who was unstoppable, and it wasn't Mike Scott.

This season, to be honest, I had huge expectations for you.  I was so glad that the emotional leader was now going to be the only senior, and based on some of your late season play I expected another step forward offensively.  Then, the foot injury and subsequent surgery happened.  I'm sure it was a combination of trying to get back in game shape, frustration for missing time, and eagerness to make up for lost time that caused your play to suffer a little bit upon your return.  Boy do I wonder what might have been if the surgery was never necessary.  Alas, it was, and as the season progressed, and you logged more minutes both in the games and in practice, we started to see the real Jontel.  Performances against VT and sheer brilliance at home against GT this season showed me what I had come to expect.  You registered 9 ACC contests with at least 6 assists and finished in the top 10 in school history in that category. 

To this point I have somehow failed to mention the fact that on a team that builds its entire identity on defense, you have earned two all ACC defensive team accolades, and become known as one of the best on ball defenders in the country.  On ball pressure, as you well know, is the straw that begins to stir the entire pack line.  This isn't lost amongst most fans - and your commitment to that end of the floor has without question had an impact on the youngsters.

I don't miss senior nights.  In fact, yours was one that I had told myself for a long time I would never miss.  Unfortunately, I have been living at the hospital with my wife for 24 days as we try and keep our unborn twin babies from arriving far too early.

I wasn't able to be there to show my support, so I will tell you now.  First of all I am proud of you for the way you have handled yourself through adversity, through all of the ups and downs.  Thank you for every game, every practice, every film session, every "Let's Go", every "C'mon", every ounce of passion and effort.  Thank you for instilling what it means to be a Hoo in the youngsters and helping set this program on a path to greatness.  Thank you for acting with class in victory and defeat.  For representing the University of Virginia and helping facilitate two of our better season in recent memory.

Tony has been talking about how you have earned a special place in his heart.  He isn't the only one.
#Thank You  #Wahoowa

PS. The season is not over yet.  Far from it.  I am excited about the ACC tournament, the NCAA tournament, and you finishing your career on the note you deserve.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Game Notes: Winthrop

* Gotta open today's notes with more love for Jontel Evans.  The guy is 9 for 11 from the field, 5-5 from the line, 2-2 from 3 on the season.  Do I expect that sizzle to continue? No.  But that jumper really does look more natural, even in pre-game warmups.  Outside of providing a little scoring punch he continues to do the other things that Jontel does, set the tone with on ball defense and just work hard on both sides of the ball.  Kudos to him on a great start to the season.

* What does it all mean when Sammy returns?  Not sure.  Initially I didn't think you would see that much of the Jontel and Sammy backcourt this year, with all of the different options available.  Now I suspect you will see Sammy off the ball and Jontel at the point at times, with Malcolm being interchangeable at any of the guard spots at anytime.  It's crazy to have depth like we do right now.  It's been a really long time.

* I saw some people were concerned about Malcolm's 'flat' shot.  It's something I noticed even in his high school footage.  I wouldn't lose sleep over it.  What I like about his jumper is that it is quick and very controlled.  There is nothing herky-jerky about it, and while it is a little flat, he makes up for it with a sort of calm repetitive demeanor.  He's not a guy that will miss many shots terribly, but he will have some rim outs.  Malcolm in general, you can't help but be impressed and optimistic about his play.

* Not trying to scare people but I am concerned about Mike's surgically repaired ankle.  I watch him and at times it is evident to me that he is not completely comfortable.  He played another solid game regardless, finished much better, and continued to be the real glue for our offense.  Something in the back of my mind just isn't sitting right about that ankle.  Hope it's just unwarranted nervousness.

* That awful stretch in the first half (1 for 15 shooting) was mostly due to really poor shot selection and our guys "settling" instead of working hard to get good looks.  Mike was not getting touches and we ignored the post like we were forced to do last year.  It's these type of stretches that obviously we HAVE to avoid this season, and getting our post guys touches in threatening positions is absolutely key to avoiding them.  I remember watching Bennett's teams at Washington St. and marveling at the shot selection, how patient they were to make sure they really got a high percentage look.  I haven't always had that feeling with his teams here, and I hope we don't hit long stretches this year where we try to "shoot" our way out of a slump other than working hard for a high percentage look.

* The second half was actually more of a beating than the scoreboard even reflected.  I re-watched the game tape and thought we actually played a stronger defensive half the second half, despite Winthrop scoring more and shooting 20% higher than the first.  By my count, 7 of the 10 made FG's by Winthrop in that half were highly contested low percentage shots that went down.  In all 7 situations I think Tony Bennett was more than OK with the look that defensive set produced, but alas they were making them.  Happens sometimes.  We still outscored them by 18 in the half, could have been a lot more. 

* Yes, it was a little sketchy when they took a 2nd half lead, but I really never felt we would lose that game.  Winthrop is a team that will get after it on defense and it affected us in the first half.  Couple that with some timely shooting and they were able to stay in it.  It was only a matter of time before we imposed our will, we were much better at every spot on the floor.

* Akil had another positive night.  He will be a very important role player for this team.  Successful Bennett teams always had a versatile big man like him coming off the bench.

* 19 for 19 from the free throw line?  Cue the drums.  Gotta love that.

* I guess I just have to accept that there will never be good or even decent crowds for early season games, even if you are supposed to have your best season in a decade.  Tough pill for me to swallow.

* Joe Harris has put up 16 threes through two games.  He's on pace for 248 this season.  I'm cool with it, as long as his percentage is closer to what it was last year instead of where it sits now.  I kid.  He will be just fine.  He is not lacking for confidence I'll tell you that.

* My season picks still looking good.. had us winning by 18, won by 21.  2-0

To wrap it up, this was not our best effort but once again you can't be too upset with the result.  I think it's a good thing that we actually had a little adversity and had to battle back against a defensive minded team.  Think it puts us in a better mindset as we travel to paradise.  Through two games, there is very little to take with us as concrete data towards how we will play all season.. but what intrigues me is that we didn't play a complete game or put it all together AT ALL in either contest, and still won in blowout fashions.  I know it's what were supposed to do, but even last year we struggled to win some of these types of games.  I can't wait to see what we look like when we do put it all together.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Game Notes: South Carolina State

* You certainly can't read much into this game.  South Carolina State is a very bad team.  They weren't particularly adept at offense, defense, or rebounding.  Quite frankly one of the least effective all around teams I have ever seen come into the JPJ.  Would love to give all the credit to the ol' pack line, but this team was significantly over matched at every spot on the floor and not well coached.

* Loved the pre-game video.  Really made me feel nostalgic.  Not a fan of the substitute PA guy.  Hope there wasn't a permanent switch, the other guy brings more energy.  Lord knows someone in that building needs to. 

* Was sad to see Sammy not in uniform.  He came out early on with a heavily taped ankle and took a few shots, but ultimately decided he was not ready.  I don't expect you will see him tomorrow night either.  Just a shame, with his history, would have loved for him to be in uniform for the opener of his final campaign.

* That meant more playing time for Jontel, and he made the most of it.  Played with "controlled aggression" on both sides of the ball.  Finished well, was smart with the ball, continued to be the emotional leader of the team.  Sometimes I wonder why other guys don't share his enthusiasm.  I thought it was a really strong performance from Jontel.  

* Outside of finishing issues, I thought Mike played well.  He was all over the boards, looked to set up other guys on every touch, even worked hard on defense.  Those shots he missed will most certainly fall with regularity on most nights.  Was glad to see a well rounded game elsewhere.  Even yesterday, it is remarkably obvious how much more things open up on offense with him on the floor.  Curious how that ankle is feeling today.  We need him all season.

* KT and Mike both looked quicker to me.  In KT's case, his lateral quickness may be due to increased confidence as much as it is the physical change in his body.  The team in general really did look to be in great shape.

* Malcolm Brogdon is as advertised.  First two minutes or so it was obvious he was a little shell shocked.  Just in body language, you know, not exactly sure how he should stand even during a dead ball.  I noticed only because I had floor seats and was literally right next to him.   As the game progressed, he looked more and more comfortable and did some nice things.  Physically, he looks the part from day 1.  His jump shot is smooth and effortless.  I can certainly see his ability to take some lead guard reps, but the jury is still out on how he will defend ACC point guards if asked to do so.  Regardless, he will have a significant role on this team.

* James Johnson came out to a great applause.  Kind of a reward for putting in the extra year of work.  He had an up and down performance, showed a few flashes of that athleticism and some decent touch from the line, but also got beat baseline twice (NEVER supposed to happen in the pack-line) and looked a little uncomfortable out there at times.  You could tell his teeth weren't completely sunk into the game itself as he was trying to process a lot of things.  He has got all kinds of ability, if we can get him mentally prepared, he could help for sure.

* Akil will be the first 4 off the bench.  He looked strong and active, with an entirely different level of confidence.  His finishing is improved.  He drained his two free throws, and the form on his shot really does look a lot better than a season ago.  Hopefully fans will start to realize that not all recruiting classes can be judged on "stars" from recruiting services.

* Joe Harris is a big boy.  First time I've ever stood next to him, and he is just bigger than you think.  Made more sense to me why he played so much 4 last year.  Shot was looking extra silky in warmups.  Ended with a great stat line at 13 pts, 6 boards, and 4 assists.  I just love this kid one of my favorite players in some time.

* The big news after the game was that the plan is to redshirt Jesperson.  I already heard one moron say he "must not be that good".  Bottom line is the kid is not physically ready and with the limited minutes available on the wing this season, why waste a year of eligibility on a couple minutes a game.  If Paul really commits to this, and works his tail off, it really could be one of the best decisions he will ever make.

* Darion Atkins, the other freshman, violated team rules and is suspended for 3 games.  I do NOT think this will be a recurring problem for this young man.

* I sure wish more people would have came to support the team.  I know it's a bad opponent, but the boys have put in too much work to not get acknowledged the first time out.  I won't spend a lot of time on that, because most of you know how I feel, no reason to beat the horse.

* The dance team is the strongest group of talent in that department than we have had in some time.  There were new faces yesterday that really upped the ante.  And I'm not even talking girls that just look good from a distance.  These actually were doing quite well for themselves from up close.  Really excited about this development.

* My score prediction from below I had us winning this game by 34.  We won by 37.  Not too bad.

Overall, I left the game with no altered expectations.  I thought there was plenty to like, but more so to do with how guys are developing individually than the results of the game.  The competition level was just far too low to render any type of opinion on how it will all translate to wins and losses.  Finishing obviously was a problem, there were a lot of looks in tight that should have gone down, but when you win by 40 and shoot nearly 50% even when you aren't finishing well, its tough to be too upset.  I thought the starting 5 moved the ball well and took quality shots.  Again, poor defense tends to help that, but there wasn't as much stagnation and guys waiting for someone to make a play.  Mike would get a touch and things would open up.  Defensively, the execution was solid and guys are obviously more comfortable in the pack-line.  I don't mean for everything to be positive, but there just wasn't a whole lot to complain about.  I suspect when the competition ramps up, I will start whining a bit more.  Wahoowa.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Schedule Prediction Time: This one feels a bit optimistic..

I sat down last night and did my pre-practice game by game predictions for the season.  I feel like it came out a bit on the optimistic side, I think I may be a little sucked into all of the preseason hoopla right now.  The fact remains I think the talent level, depth, and experience this season is by far the best blend we have had in recent memory.  We will see if I start to curb some of this enthusiasm as the season approaches.  Would love to hear your thoughts here or on twitter @wahoobasketball.

South Carolina State – WIN – 88 - 54  Bulldogs can’t hang in the home opener in an arena brimming with anticipation. (1-0)

Winthrop - WIN – 78 – 60  Oh Gregg Marshall where have you gone.  (2-0)

(n) Texas Christian - WIN – 69 – 53  You may have won the Kyan Anderson contest, but you will not win the actual basketball one.  (3-0)

(n) Drexel – WIN – 69 – 64  A solid CAA team that returns most everyone will be no gimmee.  Will need to earn this one.  (4-0)

(n) Marquette – LOSS – 75- 64  No more Jimmy Butler, but the grit of Marquette outlasts the hoos in the first real high talent test.  (4-1)

Green Bay – WIN – 83 – 63  Coach Bennett gives Joe Harris the green light so he can reminisce when he was draining jumpers for GB.  (5-1)

Michigan – WIN – 71 – 65  Energy in the building will be palpable for this, the first marquee home game.  It’s enough for us to earn a close win. (6-1)

Longwood – WIN – 85 - 50  We win by 35 and our RPI slips significantly.  Thanks Longwierd.  (7-1)

George Mason – WIN – 65 – 64  I don’t like this matchup for the same reason most AD’s don’t.  I do think we win.  (8-1)

@Oregon – LOSS – 71 – 62  On the road in the PAC-10 has not been our forte.  Oregon improving.  (8-2)

@Seattle – WIN – 83 – 73  Will have to score to beat Cam Dollar’s boys.  Should have plenty of motivation.  (9-2)

UMES – WIN – 80 – 49   They usually have one crazy small white dude that can drain 3’s.  Jontel eats those for lunch.  (10-2)

Towson – WIN – 66 – 51 Towson is in serious rebuild mode. (11-2)

@LSU – WIN – 61 – 54  LSU also still in rebuilding mode, Mike Scott scores 20+ in our first major conference road win. (12-2)

Miami – WIN – 55 – 49  A defensive struggle to start the ACC season, but Larranaga can’t overcome our desire for rematch.  (13-2)  (1-0)

@Duke – LOSS – 81 – 67  Hang with them for a lot of the game, close poorly as the unattractive women slowly drain our souls.  (13-3)  (1-1)

@Georgia Tech – WIN – 64 – 59  Brian Gregory will need some adjustment time to the pack line. (14-3)  (2-1)

Virginia Tech – WIN – 55 – 52  Because Uncle Fester is the god damn devil.  (15-3)  (3-1)

Boston College – WIN – 68 – 61  Hard to believe the Eagles lost 9 players from last season.  Not a typo. (16-3)  (4-1)

@NC State – LOSS – 59 – 58  History says we will lose one on the road we have no business losing.  Lots of rim outs. (16-4)  (4-2)

Clemson – WIN – 71 – 69  This one will be a battle.  (17-4)  (5-2)

@Florida State  - WIN – 81 – 75  Doesn’t make much sense right?  Neither did @ Maryland last season.  (18-4)  (6-2)

Wake Forest – WIN – 78 – 67  Mckie is a stud.  Bzdelik is not.  (19-4)  (7-2)

@North Carolina – LOSS – 71 – 61  The pack line will always give Roy Boy fits.  A matchup nightmare for them scheme wise.  But they have more talent than the Bobcats.  (19-5)  (7-3)

@Clemson – LOSS – 65 – 61  Not a fun place to play, and Adrian Joseph won’t be there to pull us out of a double digit deficit.  (19-6)  (7-4)

Maryland – WIN – 54 – 50  Some people think Turgeon/Bennett battles will be the ultimate snooze fest.  I personally can’t wait!  (20-6)  (8-4)

@Virginia Tech – WIN – 63 – 55  I know they have some young talent, but DeFloppy was the go to everything.  Also, Uncle Fester is the god damn devil.  (21-6)  (9-4)

North Carolina – WIN – 70 - 68  YEP, you read that right.  Marquee Bennett era win right here. (22-6)  (10-4)

Florida State – LOSS – 74 –73  Riding the momentum of a huge win streak late, we fall flat at home with our first home loss.  (22-7)  (10-5)

@Maryland – WIN – 68 – 63  I like the way we match up with the post Jordan Williams terps.  (23-7)  (11-5)

POSTSEASON – 1 ACC Tournament Victory - 1 ACC tournament Loss - Final record for selection committee consideration (24-8) (11-5)

I certainly think this result would get us into the dance.  What is scary though is if you tweak things just a little bit, add one out of conference loss and one ACC loss (22-10) (10-6)  and with our weak schedule and a down ACC, I would not call it a lock.  Just ask the hokies.  And the truth is, that record is a lot more realistic.