Outside of the annual Hopkins game, there probably isn't a game on the Syracuse docket that is more exciting than the yearly early-season matchup pitting the Orange against Virginia. For whatever reason, when Syracuse faces the Cavaliers, things tend to be pretty damn exciting. One need only point to Casey Powell's miraculous effort in 1997 or the miracle at Rutgers in the 2002 national semifinal to highlight the drama of 'Cuse-Cavs.
Unfortunately, Syracuse didn't live up to its end of the bargain this year as the Orange dropped a tough decision to Virginia this past Saturday in Charlottesville, 20-15. The loss puts Syracuse at 1-1 on the season with Georgetown coming into the Dome on Saturday afternoon.
Outside of Syracuse dropping its second consecutive regular-season game to Virginia, there was an interesting storyline coming out of Charlottesville. As Donna Ditota writes, fans in Klockner Stadium were treated to some old school-style lacrosse:
Charlottesville, Va.- At one point Saturday afternoon, University of Virginia coach Dom Starsia, mindful of what he was witnessing on the Klockner Stadium grass, peered at the scoreboard and experienced a sudden revelation.
"You're thinking to yourself, 'Can this be 30-25?' "
But for fans of abundant offense, this was the game on which to feast.
And when it was finished Saturday, when all the goals had been tallied, when the breakneck pace had been subdued by the final buzzer, No. 3 Virginia had defeated No. 5 Syracuse 20-15 on a sunny springlike afternoon of lacrosse.
Even InsideLacrosse.com was effusive, dropping this tidbit:
"You know every year it's going to be wild with Syracuse," said Virginia senior middie Drew Thompson (3G, 1A). "It's the style they play. It's up and down, the way lacrosse is supposed to be played."When journalists write that a lacrosse game had a tremendous pace, I usually throw up the cautionary flag that too much emphasis was put on the number of shots taken. It doesn't take a genius to see that if a team is taking a lot of shots, the Bill Tierney-style of offensive regression isn't taking place. Ditota, however, appears to have appropriately characterized the nature of the play between Syracuse and Virginia as the numbers back up her assertion.
Utilizing my method of possession-based analysis, the 60 minutes of lacrosse action played in central Virginia were, at the very least, frenetic. Syracuse, long amongst the nation's leaders in total game possessions, amassed 38 possessions on the day, the same value the Orange averaged last season when it was amongst the nation's leaders in that category.
Virginia, a team that has taken on the Roy Simmons, Jr.-era mentality of peppering the cage with tons of shots and letting midfielders control the pace of play, generated an almost inconceivable 49 possessions.
In one game!
By one team!
Just for comparison, in the Hopkins-Princeton game this weekend (in which the Blue Jays had their 37-game home win streak snapped), the teams generated 34 and 37 possessions, respectively.
Aside: As incredible as Virginia's 49 possessions were on Saturday, seeing Princeton generate 37 posssessions is almost ridiculous. I don't have the data in front of me, but I'm willing to bet that's the fastest Bill Tierney has let his Tigers play since the days of Sims, Hubbard, and Hess.
Maryland and Duke (two teams that like to get up and down the field) only generated 32 and 26 possessions, respectively. Thus, with this backdrop, one can readily see how much fun the Syracuse and Virginia offenses were having Saturday in Virginia.
I guess the operative question now is how Virginia generated so many possessions. Well, the answer is pretty simple: dominance in the face-off "x" and efficiency clearing the ball from their defensive end. On the day, Virginia won seven more face-offs than the Orange and only failed to clear the ball from their defensive end once. That makes a great recipe for possessing the rock.
What is also interesting is the efficiency at which both offenses worked on Saturday. On just 32 shots, Syracuse deposited the ball past Kip Turner 15 times. That makes for a 46.9 shooting percentage. Not bad when you consider the Orange generated a .395 offensive efficiency on the day.
Virginia, not surprisingly, was an offensive machine, ripping off a mind-boggling 57 shots on Syracuse's two-headed keeper. While only comes to a 35.1 shooting percentage, Virginia made the most of their possessions by generating an terrific offensive efficiency of .408.
Fear the Turtle; Laugh at Hopkins
Inside Lacrosse released the latest edition of the Media Poll this afternoon. On the strength of its overtime victory against pre-season favorite Duke, Maryland takes over the top spot with Virginia and the Blue Devils following close behind. The top-15 in the poll looks as follows:
8. (Hate) Johns Hopkins
13. Notre Dame
The Coaches Poll looks a smidge different, with a huge logjam at the number 7 slot. The top-15 looks as follows:
7. (Hate) Johns Hopkins
12. Notre Dame