Look: I'm going to make this really easy for you. If you're a fan of Syracuse University, you need to follow its lacrosse team. Lacrosse is so intertwined with the Orange's athletic history that it's just as important as the university's successes and failures on the gridiron and hardwood. I think there are two circumstances that have relegated the lacrosse team to "second-class citizen" status among many fans: (1) People just don't understand the nature of the game; and (2) Fans are watching noncompetitive or boring games.
Luckily, there are people here to help you. With the entire tournament being broadcast on ESPN or its sister stations, you have the luxury of commentators explaining the game to you in very digestible pieces. So, rejoice: You no longer have to wonder why getting popped in the grill results in a stoppage of play.
Secondly, I've put together a quick formula that assesses the watchability of a lacrosse game. For realsies! The machines are going to be running our lives in the not-too-distant future anyway, so why not let a computer tell me which games will be the most interesting?
(Note: Robot lacrosse will become our national sport in 2035. Get on the New York 0100101's bandwagon now.)
The formula considers aspects of the game that I like best -- fast tempo, lots of scoring, great shooting, and general competitiveness. Defensive battles are fine sometimes, but let's face facts: I want to see scoring and running and unmitigated goalie abuse.
So, what you're going to do this weekend is pick out one of the games listed below and watch it. You're not going to play with your kid because all children do is poop and want things. That's not fun. In fact, even being aware that you have a child is the direct opposite of fun. Instead, you're going to crack open a beer, park your ass on the sofa, and thank the Lord and Internet that I exist.
Tell the wife or girlfriend or whatever else you're sticking it to on a regular basis that you have plans on Sunday afternoon at 2:30.
Stony Brook-Virginia has all the makings of a monster lacrosse game: Big stars with big guns (you need to see Kevin Crowley), the small school-big school dichotomy, and a national curiosity surrounding both schools. While that should be enough to watch the game, there's more: This should be a fun game to watch!
The pace of the game should be around 70 possessions, which isn't incredibly quick but it is pretty good. Where this game really shines is the offensive prowess of both teams: Virginia is first in offensive efficiency and Stony Brook is fourth; the Seawolves are the most effective shooting team in the country and the Cavaliers is sixth. While Virginia's defense (and Stony Brook's lack of defense) could muddle the picture a little bit, the competitiveness rating for this game is pretty close to the other games on the board.
So, break out your Sunday pajamas and watch someone punch the final ticket available to Baltimore on Memorial Day Weekend.
My gut tells me that this should be the best game of the weekend, but who am I to argue with a computer? A computer can do fractions really well; I just cross my eyes and pray for whole numbers.
What separates this game from Stony Brook-Virginia is that North Carolina isn't nearly the offensive team that the other three teams are. The Tarheels are eighth in offensive efficiency and only 27th in effective shooting percentage. If you want an easy analogy, North Carolina is similar to Syracuse in terms of offensive efficiency and shooting -- good, but not spectacular.
Still, it should be a hell of a game. The pace will be slightly quicker than Stony Brook-Virginia (about three possessions faster), but it features a couple of elements that the Seawolves and Cavaliers can't put on the field -- both Duke and Carolina are terrific on extra-man opportunities (each is in the top-four nationally) and both love to share the ball on offense (each is within the top-six nationally).
Remember: Sharing is caring, and both teams do it well.
If you're scheduled for surgery or something equally stupid on Sunday afternoon, make sure that you embrace the loving glow of your television on Saturday at 2:30 so you can watch this funfest.
If you want to tell a lacrosse game that you can't watch it because you'll be washing your hair, these are the games that are getting the cold shoulder. Don't get me wrong, these games should be good. But if you want to ignore a comparatively average game for the opportunity to date a better one, these two fit the bill.
Syracuse jumped out to an early lead with two goals from Cody Jamieson back to back. Army then got on the board and Syracuse added another to put Syracuse up 3-1 at the end of the first quarter. Syracuse then added two more unanswered to take a 5-1 lead. Army then closed it to a three goal lead. Syracuse with :32 seconds in the half stretched the score 6-3. However Army scored with one second left on the clock to make the score 6-4. Syracuse was only able to score two goals in the second half due to Army’s defensive changes at the half, while they were able to score two goals per quarter to tie the score at eight with 6:49 remaining. Finally, Army was able to score the game winning goal with five seconds left in the second overtime. Army advances in the NCAA Tournament to face Cornell with a final score of 9-8.
Cody Jamieson was the leading scorer on the day with three goals. Stephen Keogh and Jovan Miller each added two goals, with Kevin Drew adding one. Four players had assists in the game. Joel White led in groundballs for the Orange with seven. Syracuse was atrocious at the X on Sunday. Gavin Jenkinson was 2-10, Tim Harder was 1-2, and Jeremy Thompson was 4-7. Finally John Galloway had 16 saves on the day and allowed nine goals.
Army and Syracuse were even on the day with shots at 40 a piece. Both teams were fairly even in groundballs as well with Syracuse just getting the edge 36 to 32. Army blew Syracuse away on faceoffs winning 12, with Syracuse only winning seven. Both teams cleared well with Army clearing 21-24 and Syracuse clearing 20-23. Army was also able to take advantage of extra man opportunities converting 2-3, while Syracuse was 0-3. Army had 13 saves, with Syracuse making 16. Army also won the turnover battle only committing 17 and Syracuse committed 19. The complete box score can be found here.
Cody Jamieson played a great game especially considering it was his last for Syracuse. Unfortunately the Army defense finally was able to limit him after his third goal at the start of the second half and double teamed him effectively and kept him from getting near the crease for almost the entire second half. He was only able to pass around the perimeter. This was one huge reason that Syracuse’s offense was stalled in the second half. Additionally Chris Daniello was never able to break free and create a scoring opportunity for himself. Additionally it seemed when the score was within one goal and then tied Syracuse played apprehensively and all of the offensive players seemed to not want to take shots and were likely to make and force bad passes that usually resulted in turnovers to which Army would then take long possessions with the ball. Syracuse’s defense was outstanding all day. The real problem was that Syracuse turned the ball over too much, failed to win more faceoffs like they have most of the season, and couldn’t convert on extra man opportunities.
As for some other intangibles, Syracuse fans have given the theory that the weak Big East slate failed to prepare Syracuse for this game. Simply not true. Syracuse has traditionally played a tough slate, and this season was no exception. They played Virginia, Princeton, Cornell, traditional Upstate rivals Hobart, Albany, and Army, and sadly John Hopkins was weak this season. However They also played Georgetown and Notre Dame in the Big East slate. Additionally Villanova was a ranked team for most of the year and was in the running for an NCAA at large bid. Not every game can be against Virginia. The schedule was hard enough and seeing as the NCAA awarded Syracuse the #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the strength of schedule, or even RPI did not effect Syracuse negatively whatsoever. They simply failed to play better than Army in this game. That is as simple as it gets.
Finally, big props to the Syracuse faithful in the Carrier Dome on Sunday night. While there were only just over 5,500 people at the game the crowd was into the affair, especially when Army closed the gap to one and then tied the game. Everyone in the Carrier Dome was basically standing for the entirety of the overtimes. It was a great atmosphere to see the game despite the ending, as the Carrier Dome has always been and has been all season.
On paper and through the old fashioned eyeball test I thought that Syracuse was superior to Army almost across the board. Even in the preview I penned I didn't wholeheartedly believe that the Cadets would pull the upset, even though I begrudgingly wrote a focus that emphasized what the Black Knights could conceivably do to win the game. The game wasn't a stone-cold lock in my book (that went to Mount St. Mary's-Virginia), but it was pretty close.
And then last night happened. I'm still a little shocked at the outcome and it has nothing to do with Syracuse losing in May. This month has always been Orange for the better part of my lifetime and it is a little odd to see Syracuse watching from the their couches at this point in the tournament. What is truly shocking to me, though, is how the Orange went about its business against Army.
After taking some time to think about the game and run some numbers, I think that there are three items that ultimately impacted the outcome and a myth that doesn't bear out in the statistics. Some of these items are no-brainers, but some may have been lost in the shuffle over the last 12 or so hours.
Offensive Possession Margin
I've been saying it for a few weeks now: Syracuse is not a very efficient offensive team; the Orange has built a season of victories on pure offensive quantity, not quality. In order to achieve this end, Syracuse necessitated offensive possession volume in order to sustain its offensive viability. That metric for the Orange simply wasn't present against Army.
Over 15 games this season, Syracuse generated more offensive possessions than its opponents in 13 contests (the Orange lost the possession margin game to Providence by two and had as many offensive possessions as the Cavaliers when they traveled to Charlottesville). On the season, Syracuse averaged 7.29 more offensive possessions than their opponents.
Against Army last night the Orange had six fewer offensive possessions than Army. This is after dominating the possession margin metric against the Black Knights in February (Syracuse was plus-15 in this measure the last time these two teams met). For Syracuse, this meant three things:
- It was allowing Army to play above its head (the Cadets were -2.93 in possession margin this year). When you allow a team to overachieve at generating offensive possessions, the opponent can hide some of its offensive deficiencies as it's now allowed to employ the volume-offense methodology that Syracuse rode to success all season.
- It wasn't even allowed to have about two personal goal-scoring offensive possessions. This is scary to consider. The Orange was scoring about 31 goals per 100 offensive possessions this year. When you break down the rate to a per possession basis, it meant that in six offensive possessions Syracuse would pace itself with 1.8 tallies.
- It yielded about two Army goal-scoring defensive possessions. In the same vein as point two, the Cadets were registering about 29 goals per offensive possession. When you break the rate down on a per possession basis, it meant that in six possessions the Black Knights would pace itself with 1.6 scores.
It is pretty clear to see, therefore, that Army played above its head and capitalized on the opportunities. Syracuse only maintained a single victory on the season where it underperformed in this metric (against Providence, and honestly, it didn't even matter against the Friars as Providence is such a poor offensive team), and it came back to bite the Orange last night.
Generating Offensive Possessions
If offensive possession margin was the biggest problem for Syracuse last night, the obvious residual question relates to why the margin discrepancy occurred. As I've noted previously, there are three ways to generate an offensive possession: (1) Win a faceoff, (2) Maintain a clearing opportunity, and (3) Force the opponent into a failed clearing opportunity. Syracuse was abysmal in two of these three metrics against the Cadets -- faceoff percentage and opponent clearing percentage -- and it is shocking how much these performances may have impacted the final outcome.
On the season Army was 59th nationally in faceoff percentage at 39.39%. Only Wagner was worse in the country on the draw. Syracuse, conversely, was more than competent at the faceoff "x" with Thompson and crew coming away with 56.71% of their opportunities. That is a major disparity between these two teams in such a vital area of the game. This should've been a huge advantage for Syracuse, an advantage the Orange desperately required in order to hide their shooting accuracy.
When the dust had settled last night, Army won 12 out of 19 draws, good for 63.16% from the dot. If each team had played to their season mean last night, Syracuse would have walked away with 12 offensive possessions to Army's seven. That would have resulted in a four possession offensive margin from faceoffs alone, potentially yielding about one more goal-scoring offensive look for the Orange.
That's bigger than huge. It's superhugebig.
The other piece of this analysis turns on Syracuse's ride (or lack thereof). The Orange was tremendous on the ride in 2010, holding opponents to only a 76.51% clearing percentage. In turn, Army was only converting on 79.17% of their clearing opportunities. This should have been easy money for Syracuse, sticking hard to its ride, creating offensive possessions in potentially unsettled situations, and making the Cadets defense continue to work without a breather.
This, unfortunately, didn't happen. Army cleared at an 87.5% rate last night. Unreal. Even Syracuse, which was 10th in the country in offensive clearing percentage this year at 85.89%, didn't match that rate on the evening (the Orange cleared at 86.96% against the Black Knights).
I don't know why Syracuse's ride (when it was even in force) was so poor against Army. It was very effective in their first meeting with the Cadets in February (Army cleared at only 65.22% rate the last time the teams met in the Dome). Whether you want to chalk it up to good coaching by Joe Alberici or stick it to the Orange's riding effort you come to the same conclusion: Syracuse was dismantled in a metric it should have dominated.
Amidon, Thompson, and Daniello Were Missing in Action
2010 did not feature a particularly menacing Orange offense. Syracuse was functional in the offensive end (17th-best in the country in offensive efficiency), but the unit was constituted so as to win games for the Orange. When three of the six cogs that really made the unit go turn in poor performances, Syracuse is forced into an uphill battle.
Cody Jamieson, Stephen Keogh, and Jovan Miller were excellent last night playing well above their heads (although, you can argue where Jamieson and Miller went after the half). Jamieson was was the best of the bunch, holding a 9.1 individual offensive efficiency value and an effective shooting percentage of 60%. That's quite good. Keogh and Miller were close behind Jamieson and helped set the pace: Keogh had an effective shooting percentage of 40% and an individual offensive efficiency rating of 6.1; Miller also had a 6.1 offensive efficiency rating but was more accurate than Keogh through a 50% effective shooting percentage.
These three players weren't the problem last night. The issue lies with Chris Daniello, Josh Amidon, and Jeremy Thompson.
Daniello, the team leader in assist rate was just below his average last night, so it's hard to wag a finger at him for failing to provide helpers. What was especially frustrating about Daniello last night was his shooting: zero goals on seven shots.
Coming into last night's contest, Daniello was second on the team (tied with Jamieson) in offensive efficiency. He literally had not efficiency last night (0.0). Moreover, Daniello exacerbated his offensive deficiencies last night by taking so many more shots than he traditionally takes: On the year, Daniello was taking about .1596 shots per possession; last night he took .2121 shots per possession. He became the focal point of the Syracuse offense which wouldn't be a problem if Daniello was shooting well (his effective shooting percentage was around 28% on the season, which was third-best among the Orange's six primary offensive weapons), but he was atrocious in shot conversions against the Cadets.
When you combine these factors -- Daniello took more shots per possession, shot worse than he generally does, and really attempted to shoulder the offense when he couldn't carry the load -- one must question Daniello's actual impact on the game. Last night it was pretty deficient compared to what he can do.
As for Thompson and Amidon, both had a forgettable game. Both were a bigger part of the Syracuse offense than they traditionally have been (this is partly attributable to Army doing a good job on Jamieson and Keogh from the second half on), and neither rose to the occasion. Neither player is a very accurate shooter (Amidon had an effective shooting percentage of 22.55% on the year; Thompson was at 18.23% for 2010) and when both players combine for eight shots on the night, it isn't surprising that Syracuse is going to struggle to convert shots.
In the end, when the chips were down and the Black Knights locked up Syracuse's best three offensive players on the night, Daniello, Amidon, and Thompson could not pick up the slack. Daniello's performance was probably the most disappointing of the trio, but there's plenty of blame to go around.
Don't Blame the Defense
There was a bit of a discussion last night after the game that Syracuse didn't play its best defensive game of the year and it had a huge impact on the game. I just don't see that. Aside from a handful of boneheaded plays and garbage goals (White's in-between slide that lead to Army's game-winning goal is almost unforgivable), the Orange played almost as well last night on defense as it did all year. In the end, most defensive lapses will wash out for Syracuse anyway as it is so good at generating offensive possessions.
That comment aside, let's take a quick walk through Syracuse's defensive statistics last night:
- The Orange's defensive efficiency played almost exactly at it's average last night (Army clocked in at an offensive efficiency rate of 23.08; the Orange defensive efficiency on the year was 21.08). As a group and in totem, Lelan Rogers' defense just about did what it does.
- Army's effective shooting percentage was only 18.34% last night. On the year, the Cadets' effective shooting percentage was 25.99%. This is especially important when you consider that Army was ripping off just over a shot per possession, which is above Army's offensive average and Syracuse's defensive average. This shows me that the Orange was yielding tough shots and getting their sticks on the Black Knight's hands. It also shows how well John Galloway played in the cage last evening (he had 16 saves and stopped 64% of the shots he faced, well above his average).
- Despite Army winning the overall assist game, the Orange defense actually limited the Black Knight's ability to provide helpers. On the year Army had a team assist rate of .1630. Last night Syracuse held them to a .1538 rate. Of course, the ultimate tally came via the assist, but otherwise, the Orange did a good job of stopping Army's two-man game and making the Cadets relatively one-dimensional.
That's a pretty good defensive performance and it shouldn't be lost in the current conversation. In the end, though, none of this takes the sting out of the loss last night, but it does provide a little context.
UPDATE: I royally fucked up the individual effective shooting percentages for both Notre Dame and Princeton. Like, really, really fucked them up (they are hopelessly deflated below). In the end, though, the principle is the same: Notre Dame is horrendous offensively and Princeton is significantly better and really relies on McBride and Chanenchuk. Apologies and whatnot.
You can argue until you're blue in the face whether Georgetown should have taken Notre Dame's slot in the field of 16 but it won't do you any good. The fact of the matter is that the Fighting Irish is slated to play Princeton on Sunday and there's nothing you can do about it. Plus, Georgetown can go to hell.
So, as potential opponents for Syracuse in the Quarterfinals, what's the story with these two schools? On to the profiles and focus.
What Notre Dame Does Well
- None shall pass. This needs to be considered in two contexts: First, in the most literal way possible, and second, in the most esoteric way possible.
Let's start with the literal consideration. Assist rate generally tracks assists per possession, which is a fine indication of whether a defense is making an opposing offense look one or multi-dimensional. Notre Dame is fifth nationally in assist rate with only about 12 possessions out of 100 resulting in an assist that leads to a goal. For illustrative purposes, Syracuse -- which has been a wall on the defensive end of the field this year, making good teams look impotent -- is only about half an assist better than Notre Dame. When the Fighting Irish can trot out a close defense constituted with players standing around 6'4", you can see why Notre Dame has done such a good job at limiting helpers and easy goals.
The esoteric consideration is a bit more layered. Notre Dame is fourth in the country in defensive efficiency (23.32 goals per 100 possessions), but the underlying metrics that generally impact this efficiency are missing: The Irish is 36th in defensive effective shooting percentage (.27) and 56th in shots per defensive possession (1.1). Odd, right?
Well, here are the answers. Notre Dame is solid in the cage with Scott Rodgers who holds a 56.8% save percentage. The fact that the Irish is yielding so many shots doesn't really matter as Rodgers is stopping them. The second explanation is that Notre Dame has done very well in man-down situations holding opponents to only a 27% conversion rate (11th best nationally). So, when you consider all the annotated factors -- teams aren't converting on assists, opponents aren't converting on the man-up, and Rodgers is stopping a ton of shots -- where the Irish is yielding goals is on even strength situations and, more likely than not, those situations have been unsettled conversions as well. Any team would have a hard time being efficient in those scenarios anyway so you need to consider them with a grain of salt. In short, the Irish are getting beat on defense by exemplary individual performance and effort rather than standard team outputs.
And that, I guess, is new math. Or no math at all. I don't know.
- Compete. Notre Dame is all of 7-6 and a big reason for that are the items indicated below under "What Notre Dame Does Poorly." However, the Irish do compete very well despite their deficiencies. Notre Dame is 19th in efficiency margin (3.81) and a big reason for that is the strength of its defense. What is most indicative of a competitive team, though, is possession per game margin. The Fighting Irish are 20th in this metric (1.54 more offensive possessions per game than their opponents) in spite of the fact that they are only 17th in faceoff percentage (54%), 27th in clearing defense (80%), and 30th in offensive clears (81%). That's simply intangible mettle, and Notre Dame does it pretty well.
What Notre Dame Does Poorly
- Roll out game-changing offensive players. Notre Dame does not have much punch on offense (the Fighting Irish is only 35th nationally in offensive efficiency (27.19 goals per 100 possessions) and a big reason for that is that Notre Dame just doesn't have offensive players with impact on that end of the field. The Irish have three players with at least 24 points on the season: Zach Brenneman, Grant Krebs, and Neal Hicks. These are the primary cogs to the Notre Dame offense.
Unfortunately, they aren't exactly exemplary when you look through the veneer. Brenneman leads the pack with an effective shooting percentage of 20.67% which is actually below the team's effective shooting percentage (23.44%). Hicks and Krebs are even worse than Brenneman holding 18.17% and 16.00% effective shooting percentages, respectively. That's pretty weak on its own, but it is exacerbated even more when you look at their individual offensive efficiencies. Brenneman leads the group at 4.96 goals per 100 possessions with Krebs clocking in just behind at 4.53 and Hicks bringing up the rear at 4.09.
For contextual purposes, Princeton's two big guns -- Jack McBride and Mike Chanenchuk -- are about two to three goals per 100 possessions better than Notre Dame's primary three weapons. That is not good.
So, if you want to know why Notre Dame is so poor on offense, it's because they don't have hammers to drive in the nail.
- Function on the advantage. It shouldn't be all that suprising that a bad offensive team like Notre Dame is pretty poor in extra-man opportunities. The Fighting Irish are 43rd in the country on the EMO (the team is holding about a 30% conversion rate in extra-man situations) and it's attributable almost exclusive to two items. The first is that the team's effective shooting percentage is in the tank (as noted above). Notre Dame's most frequent man-up goal scorers are actually two inefficient and poor shooters: Brenneman (4 extra-man tallies) and Krebs (6). When you consider that Brenneman's and Kreb's effective shooting percentages are actually weighted in favor of their man-up tallies, you start to clearly see not only how bad the Irish are on the man-up, but also how ineffective their supposed extra-man specialists are.
The other piece of the puzzle considers Notre Dame's assist rate. As a team, the Irish are toward the bottom of the country with a .13 assist rate (51st in the country). Not good for a number of reasons, but mostly as it allows opposing defenses to focus on the ball handler. When you also consider that the team's most frequent assist men hold an individual assist rate of only .03 each (Brenneman and Hicks), things become even more dire.
The short of the long here, then, is that Notre Dame's primary man-up guys simply can't shoot and the guys that they need creating opportunities: a) aren't doing it, and b) are the guys they need to shoot (circular, I know, but that's the takeaway point, no?). This creates a huge problem that remains unresolved and sticks as a point of deficiency.
What Princeton Does Well
- Play their game. Princeton is the slowest team in the country (shocking, right?). With a pace of 62.13 possessions per game, the Tigers are solidly the 60th ranked team in this metric (Marist even plays quicker than Princeton at over a possession per game clip). The thing about Princeton's pace isn't tedium, though. The primary focus is that Princeton, no matter who they are playing, is going to play slowly and grind down the pace of the game. In short, the Tigers are hell bent on controlling the pace of play, and no team is going to take them out of their strategy to do so. That's simply an imposition of will.
- Pepper the cage. Nobody shoots more than Princeton. With an astonishing 1.25 shots per possession (1st in the country), the Tigers are letting fly and recovering in each of their interminably long offensive possessions (remember: Princeton has the slowest pace in the country, which means that they generate the longest offensive and defensive possessions in the land).
Where are these shots coming from? You would think with such a high shots per possession rate that Princeton would be sharing the load in the shooting department. That's not the case. Three players are primarily handling the shooting load: Jack McBride (24% of offensive possession shots), Mike Chanenchuk (20%), and Chris McBride (17%). That is a really focused shot priority strategy. In the end, it is genius as Jack McBride's and Chanenchuk's effective shooting percentages and offensive efficiency are quite good: Jack McBride has an individual offensive efficiency of 7.11 and an effective shooting percentage of 31.16%; Chanenchuk is a shade behind with a 6.03 individual offensive efficiency and has a 25.50% effective shooting percentage.
When you aggregate these circumstances, it is clear why Princeton is 9th in the country in team offensive efficiency (34.9).
- Maintain defensive superpowers. If you're going to play slow, you better play strong on the defensive end. Princeton's overall defensive efficiency isn't all that great (19th nationally at 26.59 goals per 100 defensive possession), but it doesn't seem to matter (well, it mattered significantly when Princeton played Syracuse, but that's a story for another day). Nobody has been able to shoot against the Tigers (Princeton is third in shots per defensive possession at .83 shots per possession) and even when teams are shooting they're not canning the bean (the Princeton defense has held opponents to an effective shooting percentage of about 22% which is eighth best in the country).
Why has this happened? Well, Tyler Fiorito is a maniac in the cage, stopping 57% of the shots he's seen this year. That helps. Having John Cunningham and Long Ellis also helps significantly. (Aside: Cunningham is the groundball machine, but Ellis is the standout guy on that defense to me. That guy can straight play and is ridiculous dangerous when in one-on-one scenarios.)
What Princeton Does Poorly
- Create possessions. This hasn't been a huge problem for Princeton this year as the Tigers have been fairly efficient on both ends of the field. The problem comes, however, when Princeton isn't clicking on either or both ends of the field (See, Syracuse-Princeton). Princeton does not clear the ball all that well (32nd nationally at 80%), does not force teams into clearing failures (only 34th nationally in opponent clearing percentage at 82%), and doesn't win faceoffs (30th nationally at 51%).
The end run here is that if Princeton gets behind, it doesn't have the tools to forceably create offensive possessions for themselves and turn the tide (this is borne out in Princeton's offensive possession margin per game, which is actually negative and in the bottom half of the country). This is especially scary as Princeton refuses to play at an accelerated pace. It obviously burned them against Syracuse. Will it happen again?
- Shoot effectively. Outside of Jack McBride and Mike Chanenchuk (noted above), this team just doesn't shoot all that well. The team is clicking at only a 25% rate in offensive effective shooting percentage, good for all of 34th best in the land. Two of it's "Big Four" offensive weapons (Rob Engelke and Chris McBride) actually shoot worse than the team as a whole, registering individual offensive effective shooting percentages of 15.00% and 13.33%, respectively. Their individual offensive efficiencies follow this thread, holding rates of 3.23 and 3.44, respectively.
The biggest problem with this lack of shooting prowess, however, is that it's killing Princeton on the extra-man. Princeton is 58th (19%) in extra-man conversions. You have to be better than that. You just have to in the playoffs.
This may be the most unwatchable game of the first round, but let's walk through the focus anyway.
- The game may turn almost exclusively on the play of Rodgers and Fiorito in the cage, moreso Rodgers play. Princeton is going to grip it and rip it and Notre Dame yields a ton of shots per defensive possession. This should play into Princeton's favor but if Rodgers stands on his head, this could be a long game for the Tigers given Princeton's shooting woes. In the end, whoever stops more shots between the pipes is going to play a huge factor in the game.
- Generating possessions is monumental. With Princeton's snail-like pace, this is going to be a slow game. Notre Dame is better than Princeton at generating possessions (specifically at the faceoff "x") and it is immensely important for the Irish to hold an advantage in this metric as Notre Dame is so poor on the offensive end. If Princeton keeps the offensive possession margin close, Notre Dame is a walking corpse.
- Notre Dame defense against Jack McBride and Mike Chanenchuk. The Irish are solid on the defensive end, but McBride and Chanenchuk are game changing offensive players that can erase Princeton's extra-man and general shooting woes. Notre Dame needs to focus on these two players and if the Irish can limit their opportunities, Notre Dame has a chance at victory.
So, what's the outlook for Saturday's game at Schoellkopf Field? Let's take a look at each school's profile and set the focus.
What Cornell Does Well
- Catch and release. Cornell's offensive effective shooting percentage is only around the top-third of the country (25th nationally), but that isn't too much of a concern for the Big Red. Cornell's offensive picture is one dotted with the bean being hurled at the cage. Clocking in at 10th in the nation in shots per possession, Cornell is getting off about 1.1 shots per offensive opportunity. It's a volume approach to offense not dissimilar to Syracuse's offensive profile and it has served the Big Red fairly well this year: Cornell is 15th in the country in offensive efficiency (31.4 goals per 100 possessions). That should keep Jake Hagelin on his toes the entire game for Loyola.
- Create frustration. The two biggest reasons for Cornell's defensive efficiency (currently rated 12th overall) are that the Big Red make its opponents work on the clear and muck up the defensive end. Opponents are only clearing 78.9% of their attempts, greatly limiting the number of times Cornell actually has to effectively defend a defensive possession. Even when the Big Red is in a settled defensive possession, though, Cornell has performed well. Cornell is 11th in defensive effective shooting percentage and is limiting opponents to less than a shot per possession (25th nationally). Of course, having A.J. Fiore as a backstop is a good situation, but when you realize that opponents are registering assists on only 13% of their goals against the Big Red, the Cornell defensive unit becomes even more formidable from a statistics perspective.
What Cornell Does Poorly
- Convert on extra-man opportunities. In May when every possession counts, possessions in which an advantage overtly exists become even more valuable. Cornell has been atrocious on the man-up, converting on only 31.03% of their opportunities (40th in the country). This is exacerbated when you view it in the context of the Big Red's offensive effective shooting percentage, which is about 25th-best nationally (.26). Volume shooting doesn't necessarily translate to effective extra-man opportunities, and Cornell is epitomizing that in 2010. Moreover, Cornell has had 20 more extra-man opportunities than its opponents this year. That is the recipe behind the Big Red going 10-5 and grabbing a 7-seed rather than sitting a little higher up in the bracket and holding an unshared Ivy League championship.
- Hold strong in man-down situations. Cornell's man-down performance this year is perplexing considering its overall defensive profile. The Big Red is 42nd in the country in defensive extra-man conversation rate (38.46%). Maybe the best way to beat Fiore is to make him play with one less defender in front of him? Once again, every possession counts and when you can't turn the tide even when you're not supposed to, trouble looms in the distance.
What Loyola Does Well
- Give you a slow, boring death. For Loyola, it's all about defense. The 'Hounds are sixth nationally in defensive efficiency (23.9), winning the possession margin game by 5.2 offensive possessions a game (4th in the country), clearing the ball at a great rate (85.9%), and dominating faceoffs at a clip of 59.5% (4th-best in Division I). When you couple all of this with Loyola's pace -- 68.5 possession per game (35th slowest in the country) -- the Greyhounds are essentially suffocating teams to death. Once Loyola grabs a lead, they make it as hard as anybody for the scoreboard to flip as they don't implode on themselves with errors in metrics they can directly control.
- Defense, defense, defense. What was that about Loyola's defense? It's good? Yeah, it's really good. Loyola is yielding over a shot per possession to its opponents (44th nationally), but it doesn't matter. Teams have an effective shooting percentage of only .22 against the 'Hounds, good for ninth best in the country. Loyola is also creating one-dimensional looks from its opponents, holding the seventh-best assist rate in the land. Furthermore, Loyola has been respectable in man-down situations, holding opposing units to only a 30.23% conversion. When you can force opponents into taking bad shots and limit good looks, a defense (and team) can flourish.
What Loyola Does Poorly
- Anything associated with offense. Loyola is ranked 30th or worse in the following categories: offensive efficiency (34th), offensive effective shooting percentage (35th), offensive assist rate (33rd), extra-man opportunity conversion rate (37th). You can win championships with defense, but you need to score at least a little. This issue (lack of offense) has plagued the Greyhounds down the stretch and is the 800-pound elephant in the room when you talk about Loyola's 16th-ranked overall efficiency margin. This dovetails a previous point: Loyola can make it difficult for an opponent to mount a comeback due to its defensive acumen and pace indicators, but if the 'Hounds can't get on the board, it's a moot consideration.
It is without question that this will be among the slower games played this year (both teams are around 68 possessions per game). The following items may dictate the outcome:
- If Loyola gets anything out of its extra-man unit, it has a shot. Cornell is atrocious on its man-down and man-up units. If Loyola can squeeze out some goals from its extra-man chances, it's won a battle that would otherwise wash-out even.
- Cornell's ride against Loyola's clear is huge. These are both strengths for either team. With the game expected to be played at a slow pace, maximizing offensive possession opportunities are huge. This fact is heightened when you consider neither team is a particularly efficient shooting squad.
- The game will be decided on Cornell's defensive end. As noted, Loyola is a weak offensive club, and hasn't been anywhere near an efficient offensive unit as the regular season concluded. Cornell's defense, if Loyola continues to struggle at burying the bean, is the deciding factor for this game.
May Madness is here. The NCAA Selection Committee has done their work. The bracket is announced. It’s time to pontificate here at Orange::44. While Syracuse dispatched St. John’s in the final contest of the regular season but rather than focus on that, or the virtually meaningless Big East Championship they won for the regular season, it is now for more interesting to dive into the bracket. I spent a few hours this afternoon combing through all the lax knowledge the internet has to offer in filling out my bracket and trying to justify who I think will win this thing. Turns out I didn’t need to. I picked Syracuse. But it isn’t a homer pick. It’s science! If you are slightly unfamiliar, all seeded teams have a home game for the first round. To the analysis.
#1 Virginia v. Mt. St. Mary’s – Virginia could show up with only half their players and win this one easy. No analysis needed. Thanks for stopping by St. Mary’s. Congrats on the bid and the MAAC Championship.
Denver v. #8 Stony Brook – Denver is on a nine game win streak and Denver traveled to Stony Brook earlier this year to earn a one goal victory. On top of that, Denver has a pretty good attackman in Mark Matthews and a good goalie in Peter Lowell. Denver pulls the upset and Stony Brook doesn’t get to advance to the second round home game. This should be the most competitive game of the first round.
#5 Duke v. Johns Hopkins – While Hopkins had an RPI in the top 15, there 7-7 record and efficiency numbers didn’t necessarily warrant an inclusion. But here they are and they are talented. However they are not as talented, nor nearly as fast and athletic as Duke. Meanwhile Duke has been in the top 10 for most of the year. Despite a bad start to the season they have only lost four games total and have probably the best attack unit in the country with the duo of Quinzati and Crotty. I think Duke will win this one, although the final will be closer than it should be.
Delaware v. #4 North Carolina – North Carolina has one of the best players in the nation in Billy Bitter. Delaware had a great season winning the Colonial League, but they lost to some teams they shouldn’t have, and North Carolina has only lost two games, both to tough teams in Virginia and Maryland. North Carolina will easily advance.
#3 Maryland v. Hofstra – The Pride, much like Delaware, have had a great season. Their attack unit is where the derive most of their goals, but their most notable wins this season are against Hopkins and Army. After that, the resume isn’t great. Meanwhile Maryland is 11-3 and made it to the ACC “Tournament” Final versus Virginia. This is clearly the second best team in the ACC right now and have an absolutely solid attack unit of their own. Deep enough that the second string could start most other schools. Maryland should win this one. PS – Will Yeatman still loves booze I would bet.
Notre Dame v. #6 Princeton – P’ton may have been smacked by Syracuse, but Princeton came to avenge a regular season finale lost to Cornell by a goal by beating them by a goal in Ithaca for the Ivy League title. Notre Dame straight outta the Big East is representing with a 7-6 record and get the at large nod due mainly to their early win over Duke. They also beat Loyola and so they squeek into the dance. But this team, despite having some moderate talent, is no legacy or powerhouse like Princeton. History alone would probably carry Princeton, but they are playing some of their best lacrosse lately, so Princeton should advance.
#7 Cornell v. Loyola – The Greyhounds didn’t qualify for the ECAC automatic bid and even lost their last two games of the season to Denver and Hopkins. Meanwhile, Cornell only lost by a goal to Princeton and beat them in the regular season. They also almost beat Syracuse, avenged a earlier lost to Brown by beating them in the Ivy Tournament, and have consistently been a top ten team all season. Oh and they also have a great goalie in AJ Fiore, who played a hell of a game against Syracuse earlier in the year. Look for the Big Red to advance.
Army v. #2 Syracuse – Forget the RPI and the SoS nonsense, the committee seeded the Orange correctly at #2 as they have been the second best team all season. Another regular season rematch in the first round, Syracuse defeated Army 12-7 earlier in the season. While Army’s goalie Tom Palesky was outstanding with 21 saves, Syracuse’s offense was just too much for Army. Similarly, they only allowed seven goals from Army. Look for a similar result in this one. Maybe even by a bigger margin as it will be the evening after Commencement.
Those are the first round matchups. Again I have Syracuse advancing to the National Championship to face Virginia and walking away victorious. My full bracket can be seen below. Tune in next week for full postgame analysis of Syracuse’s first round match, along with analysis of the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Until then, enjoy some great lacrosse action, and Matt Glaude's continuing lacrosse analysis right back here at the blog that started all this SU nonsense.
What will Sunday bring? Let's take a look at each school's profile and set the focus.
What Army Does Well
- Share the ball. Army is 13th in the country in offensive assist rate (assists per 100 possessions) and it isn't an anomaly. For an institution that emphasizes the "team" approach to success, the Black Knights have epitomized that on the field this season. The Syracuse defense will need to keep its head on a swivel and really read its slides as Army can punish a team with its willingness to share the ball, especially on extra-man opportunities.
- Deny the easy look. As much as Army likes to move the bean on offense, it's even better at disallowing opponents the same luxury. The Military Academy is second nationally in defensive assist rate, which strongly hints at the fact that teams are simply beating the Cadets more in one-on-one situations. 200 years of teaching future officers how to divide and conquer is not lost on Lou Alberici's group.
- Limiting shots. This derives from the second point, but deserves its own treatment. Army is ninth in the country in defensive effective shooting percentage (this merely measures an opponent's shooting performance when weighted for man-up, man-down, and even-strength goals). It is no surprise that teams are registering frustrating shooting performances against the Cadets as Army is quite good at shutting down assist opportunities. As Syracuse isn't exactly putting on firing exhibitions these days, this is a major advantage for the Black Knights.
What Army Does Poorly
- Generate offensive opportunities. This is Army's Achilles' heel. On the year, the Cadets' opponents have three more offensive opportunities a game than Army. There are only ten teams in Division I that are worse than the Military Academy in this metric. This fact puts an incredible amount of pressure on Army's defense to carry the day and for its offense to put good shots on cage every time it possesses the ball.
- Win faceoffs. The Cadets are winning only 40% of it's draws this season. There is only one team worse from the faceoff "x" this year (Wagner) and that's not company you want to keep.
- Dominate the ride. There are three pieces of the possession puzzle: faceoffs, clearing the ball from your end, and denying opponents the opportunity to clear. We've already established that Army doesn't generate many offensive opportunities and it's due to failing to win draws (as noted) and its relative inability to ruin opponent clears. Clocking in at 38th in the country, opponents are clearing the ball against the Cadets at a 79% rate. Once again, a common theme appears: Army does a lot of things to itself to put pressure on its own defense.
What Syracuse Does Well
- Ride you like a mechanical bull. While Syracuse hasn't exactly put together 60 minutes of solid lacrosse this season, the Orange rarely takes a possession (or, to be more technical, a transition opportunity) off. Desko's charges are 8th in the country in opponent clearing percentage (77%). This ability to cause mistakes creates two issues: 1) Syracuse can play at the increased pace it desires (the Orange is 4th in the country in tempo); and 2) It creates greater offensive opportunities for Syracuse (the Orange is averaging seven more offensive possessions a game than its opponents).
- Create possession opportunities. Syracuse is eighth in faceoff percentage this year (56.7%) and 10th in clearing percentage (86%). This is especially important for the Orange as its offensive efficiency is only 17th-best in the land. In short, it doesn't matter how well Syracuse is necessarily performing on offense as it simply creates more offensive opportunities to succeed. It's a volume issue that's carrying Syracuse to success.
- Getting a stick on your hands. Like Army, Syracuse has done a great job this year in forcing opponents into bad shots (the Orange's defensive effective shooting percentage is only about 22%, good for seventh nationally). The more you see numbers like that, the more you have to believe that Joel White is the most important player on Syracuse's roster.
What Syracuse Does Poorly
- Grow the pie. I took a negotiation class in law school and one of the concepts was "growing the pie." The idea behind this was that zero-sum outcomes aren't always the most beneficial; sometimes, it's best to use cooperation to achieve desired ends. That isn't the case for Syracuse lacrosse this year. The Orange is only 29th in assist rate and is getting a large majority of goals on single-man dodge-and-scores.
- Shoot the ball. There's two areas of this point that are troublesome. First, Syracuse is firing off just under a shot per possession. This is only good for 27th nationally. Second, even when the Orange is shooting, it isn't burying the bean all that well. Syracuse clocks in at 20th in offensive effective shooting percentage. It isn't a coincidence that the Orange saw so many keepers with "game-of-their-life" performances. The fact of the matter is that Syracuse just isn't placing the ball all that well.
Having the luxury of Syracuse having already met Army this season, the following points of emphasis do maintain foundation when viewed in the context illustrated above.
- If Syracuse dominates the faceoff game, Army is sunk. It was proven in the first game (Syracuse won 65% of the draws) and there's no reason to believe that if Army continues to struggle at the "x" that it can topple the Orange.
- This will be a defensive battle. Neither team is a particularly good shooting team (the numbers indicate that Army is a little better as it holds down the 20th position in offensive effective shooting percentage), but both on tenacious on the defensive end. Whoever can solve the defensive riddle may simply win.
- If Syracuse sticks to its ride, Army will crack. Even though the Cadets are defensively strong, there's only so much a defense can take before wilting. Syracuse may beat the Army defense simply through offensive possession volume if the Military Academy can't get it out of its own defensive end.
- Army's best chance to win is to slow the pace and deliberately attack. Syracuse wants a track meet; Army wants to play around the national average (70 or so possessions per game). In the first game, the teams played 83 possessions and the Orange prevailed. With Army's slow pace and desire to generate easy goals through assists, the Cadets would be wise to sit on the ball and create opportunities through off-ball offensive movement rather than unsettled transition situations.
The items below aren't necessarily superlatives, but rather straightforward instances of peaks and valleys. As you'll see, there are two strands of constants: In the "most" or "best" categories, Syracuse dominated the game; in the "fewest" or "worst" categories, the Orange probably played Virginia.
Look: I never said that I was changing your universe. All I'm trying to do is define it.
Most Total Possessions: Albany (101)
This was an insanely fast game. To give a little context to this stat, Syracuse averaged a tempo of about 76 possessions per game. Albany was a little quicker at 78 possessions per game.
The national average? 70.
I haven't seen a game this quick involving Syracuse in a long time. The Orange's next-fastest game in 2010 was against St. John's (92 possessions), probably because Syracuse was attempting to flee Jamaica, Queens.
Most Offensive Possessions: Albany (58)
Here's the best part of that Syracuse-Albany game: Of the total possessions, 57% were Syracuse offensive possessions.
That's how you win ball games. You can thank the Orange's ride for this statistic, as Albany cleared at only a 63% clip in the game.
Most Defensive Possessions: Providence (44)
The Friars won 60% of the draws on the day. It's a good thing that Providence couldn't shoot or else this may have been trouble.
Fewest Offensive Possessions: Princeton (31)
Fewest Defensive Possessions: Princeton (25)
Regardless of what the numbers are showing me, this game still stands out in my mind as Syracuse's most complete performance on the year. Despite the fact that Princeton dictated the tempo (the Tigers were the slowest team in the country this year), the Orange dictated the performance.
Syracuse saw 10 fewer offensive possessions that it usually sees during a game. Didn't matter.
Best Offensive Efficiency: Villanova (42.5532)
Welcome to the Big East, Villanova. Here's a crushing demolition of your defense as a Welcome to the Neighborhood gift.
How did Syracuse run up this efficiency? Well, taking a shot per possession and holding a 41% effective shooting percentage helps.
Worst Offensive Efficiency: Cornell (22.2222)
Let's pretend this game didn't happen except for the last four seconds, okay? Good.
There is an important focus here, though. Remember that Stephen Keogh sat for most of this Cornell game. Just an interesting fact for contextual purposes.
Best Defensive Efficiency: Providence (11.3636)
Oh, Providence. You adorable scamps. Someday you'll learn how to play this game.
I am convinced that this efficiency peak has more to do with the Friars' offensive incompetence rather than the Syracuse defense doing anything more than maintaining life through breathing and having a beating heart.
Worst Defensive Efficiency: Virginia (33.3333)
The more I look at Syracuse's and Virginia's seasons, the more I think that John Lade's absence significantly impacted the Orange in their head-to-head meeting. There's another piece of the puzzle that is indicated below, but I think the ultimate doom for Syracuse against the Cavaliers was the Orange's defense, which Lade would've help bolster.
Anyway, let's not dwell on "what-if's" and "should've been's." That's the kind of stuff that Johns Hopkins is good at and it would be rude to steal their thunder.
Best Efficiency Margin: Princeton (25.9355)
I mentioned it above: Total domination.
Worst Efficiency Margin: Virginia (-3.0303)
The defense just wasn't there for Syracuse down in Charlottesville. That's your story.
Most Shots per Possession (Offensive): Hobart (1.4359)
I don't remember Syracuse bombing away at Hobart, but the Orange did.
What's even more interesting is that Syracuse almost took a shot more a possession than Hobart in that game. That's weird, especially considering it was a one-goal game/miracle.
Fewest Shots per Possession (Offensive): Notre Dame (.6818)
I'm going to chalk this up to two things:
- Miserable weather; and
- Notre Dame is pretty solid on the defensive end.
Best Effective Shooting Percentage (Offensive): Villanova (40.7809)
This was doorstep and transition offense all day for the Orange. When Syracuse shoots this well, it basically morphs into a lacrosse Godzilla that cares not of your restraining area or stall warnings.
Worst Effective Shooting Percentage (Offensive): Virginia (13.5698)
This is the other side of the Syracuse-Virginia "what-if" scenario. As I noted above, I think that Syracuse's primary issue against the Cavaliers was the Orange's defense as it played significantly worse that it had all season (about 12 goals per 100 possessions worse than its season average).
But Syracuse's shooting wasn't all that hot, either. I mean, this was an atrocious shooting performance. The Orange went 5-6 on the man-up and still only managed a 13% effective shooting percentage.
That's horrendous, especially when you consider that the Orange was throwing about 1.3 shots per possession toward the cage. Bury the bean, sons!
Best Effective Shooting Percentage (Defensive): Princeton (10.5567)
I think I just misspelled "Princeton." It should be "P-W-N-D."
Worst Effective Shooting Percentage (Defensive): Hobart (33.3333)
You can throw out the records when Syracuse and Hobart battle for the Kraus-Simmons Trophy.
Well, not really. You get the idea, though. Wait, what was that? You don't? Well, go to hell then because I don't like you and you smell like feet.
Everyone likes these "blind profile" exercises. I'm not really sure why -- Mystery! Intrigue! The excitement of the unknown! -- but I'll play the game and throw out some resumes.
Here are the parameters for the exercise:
- The teams indicated have no chance to earn an automatic qualification to the field;
- The teams indicated are purely bubble teams (I'm not going to throw out any red herrings, which eliminates fabricated mysterious drama);
- I'm going to utilize the efficiency data because, well, I want to.
The metrics I will utilize are as follows:
- Offensive efficiency national rank;
- Defensive efficiency national rank;
- Efficiency margin national rank;
- Strength of schedule rank (based on opponent's efficiency margin);
- Quality wins (wins are against teams with an efficiency margin in the nation's top 20);
For the purposes of our discussion, let's say that you can only pick two teams from those presented. Who do you pick? Why do you pick them? Leave your comments below. I'll reveal the teams tomorrow.
|Strength of Schedule||(20)||0.9173|
|Quality Wins||(2)||Brown, Hopkins|
|Strength of Schedule||(25)||0.2085|
|Strength of Schedule||(17)||1.1458|
|Quality Wins||(3)||Navy, Ohio State, Georgetown|
|Strength of Schedule||(19)||0.9482|
|Quality Wins||(3)||Duke, Loyola, Ohio State|
|Strength of Schedule||(45)||-1.0738|
|Quality Wins||(2)||Drexel, Notre Dame|
|Strength of Schedule||(11)||1.8777|
|Quality Wins||(2)||Navy, Notre Dame|
Team A: Hofstra
Team B: Brown
Team C: Loyola
Team D: Notre Dame
Team E: Villanova
Team F: Georgetown
Ignoring the N.C.A.A.'s selection criteria, the best two teams I'd take from these profiles are Hofstra and Loyola, but what the hell do I know.
So, let's take a closer look at the seven teams that comprise my personal nightmare. I'm going to focus on four items:
- The pace at which these schools play;
- The efficiency of each school (there are sub-conversations for offensive and defensive performance);
- The shooting performance of each school (once again, there are sub-conversations for offensive and defensive performance); and
- Strength of schedule (specifically, who the hell are all these idiots playing when they're not playing each other?).
As an aside, I took the position in a previous essay that I didn't think that Johns Hopkins was a particularly good team worthy of an N.C.A.A. invitation if the Blue Jays managed to get to .500.
I think that I've moved away from that sentiment. In fact, if Johns Hopkins beats Loyola on Saturday, not only do I think that the Blue Jays should be included in the field, I think that they may be a tough out in the tournament.
So, yeah. I hate myself for writing that, too.
Just a quick primer on the constitution of "pace": This is merely total possessions per game. I've alternatively called it "tempo" in the past, but you get the picture. The higher the pace value, the higher number of possessions. The higher number of possessions, the greater the opportunity for runnin' and gunnin'.
In other words, pace tells me whether you're playing like Syracuse under Roy Simmons, Jr., or if you're playing "Tierney Ball."
The fastest team in the Big East so far this year is Syracuse (currently fifth in the country); the slowest team is Rutgers (53rd nationally). What is scary is that Georgetown and Syracuse are the only two teams in the league playing about the national tempo average (the national pace average is around 70 possessions per game). Notre Dame is squarely on the average while four teams -- Villanova, St. John's, Providence, and Rutgers -- are below the mean.
This raises an interesting fact. Remember when Rutgers and Providence bored you Orange-loving mind when Syracuse played each team? Well, your boredom is validated! Congratulations! What you saw was reality. A very boring, elongated reality that probably resulted in you wanting to drink bleach to dull the pain forever.
It also signals that Rutgers and Providence may have imposed their tempo on the Orange. More on that next week (not a huge deal, at least in the Providence situation).
What's the takeaway from all this? Well, this isn't a rocket fuel league. It's kind of slow and it's probably attributable to some of these teams (I'm looking at you, Providence and St. John's) needing to play a measured pace because they don't have the personnel to run with Georgetown and Syracuse. I'd like to see more action on the field, but it's reassuring to know that these coaches are doing what they need to do to at least create a competitive situation.
Providence is the worst offensive team in the country. It's true! I have numbers to prove it and everything. But you don't need to see those numbers because you witnessed the Friars making a mockery of offensive lacrosse it the Carrier Dome just a few weeks ago.
But, to complete the picture of how bad Providence is on offense, I'll provide the following: Virginia isn't as far ahead of the offensive mean as Providence is behind the offensive mean. I'll provide another example: Virginia is around eight efficiency points ahead of the national mean; Providence is around 10 efficiency points behind the national mean and the second worst offensive team in the country (Air Force) is still two efficiency points better than Providence.
Horrendous. Pathetic. Sad. [Enter your own word from the thesaurus here.]
With respect to the rest of the conference, three teams are above the national average -- Georgetown (highest rated at 12th), Syracuse, and Villanova -- and three team are below the national mean -- Notre Dame, St. John's, and Providence. Rutgers is straddling the average.
That distribution feels about right, but it's a little deflating to know that the A.C.C.'s four teams are all in the country's top-11 in offensive efficiency. So, I think it's fair to say that the Big East has some good offensive teams, a couple of average offensive teams, and a handful of poor offensive teams.
Good, but not great. So this is a hell of a defensive league, right . . .
. . . not so fast, stupid. You'd think that the offensive efficiency would be influenced by an opponent's defensive efficiency, but in the Big East that doesn't appear to be the case.
- Syracuse and Notre Dame are so far ahead of the Big East pack in terms of defensive efficiency it's almost humorous. The Orange is second nationally (behind North Carolina) and the Irish are fourth.
- St. John's brings up the rear in the Big East (hold your head up high Providence!) clocking in at 51st in the country.
- The Big East also sees three other teams below the national average: Rutgers (which helps explains the Scarlet Knight's maddening season), Georgetown (ha ha, losers), and Providence (let's bring down that chin a little bit, Friars). These are terrifically bad defensive teams (Rutgers and the Hoyas are just below the mean, but they aren't impenetrable, either.
- Villanova is hanging out just above the mean. Good for them, though. The Wildcats are still operating without a full compliment of scholarships. That's kind of impressive.
So, this begs the question: Are Syracuse's and Notre Dame's defensive performances deflating the league's overall offensive efficiency? Honestly, I have no clue. This very well may be the case. The alternative is that defensive efficiency isn't impacting offensive efficiency in the conference because the league just doesn't have lights-out offensive teams.
I think that the alternative may be right.
If this shocks you, then you're probably a hell of a drooler. The Big East doesn't have a hell of a lot of good shooting teams.
Crazy, right? I know. It's nuts. I should win awards and stuff for this research.
The national average in in effective shooting percentage is .2583, which just happens to be Georgetown's rate. Two teams -- Villanova and Syracuse -- are above the mean with the Wildcats holding the highest overall position nationally (ninth). Once again, the league has a bunch of teams below the mean -- Rutgers, Notre Dame, Providence, and St. John's.
Remember when I said that the Big East wasn't a good offensive league? Well, a big reason for it is that nobody in this conference can bury the seed when they shoot it (except for Villanova).
What is infuriatingly frustrating is Providence. The Friars play slow, can't shoot, and are one of the worst overall offensive teams in the country. That is almost unwatchable. Almost.
Once again, I shouldn't be shattering your universe: The Big East has a bunch of inefficient defensive teams; the fact that they're allowing teams to score when they shoot isn't a magical circumstance.
Syracuse is the best in the conference in terms of stopping or creating bad shots from their opponents. Rutgers is the worst (56th nationally). All teams other than Syracuse are below the national average.
This . . . this is not good.
Georgetown should be especially chastised for their performance. The Hoyas have the talent, but are getting cooked when it comes to limiting good shots (or stopping them, for that matter). Georgetown is 52nd nationally, a fact that is full of schadenfreude and may spell doom for the Hoyas championship (or tournament invitation if you love cynicism like me) hopes.
Strength of Schedule
This has no bearing on anything other than the fact that I'm interested in this nonsense. Let's look at a couple pieces of the puzzle:
- Providence has played the toughest overall schedule in the Big East; Rutgers has played the worst. Accordingly, I can understand the Friars going winless on the season. Rutgers? Well, the Scarlet Knights have absolutely no excuse for their inconsistent season. They're playing nobody this year and only four schools have played worse schedules. Pathetic.
- Providence has played the toughest defensive teams this year; Rutgers has played the worst. Just copy and paste what I wrote in the last bullet point and apply it to offensive performance. Once again, shame on you, Rutgers.
- Georgetown has faced the best offensive teams this year (it probably helps explain why teams are shooting well against the Hoyas -- those are just good shooting teams); Rutgers has faced the worst. C'mon, Rutgers. The game isn't that hard to figure out.
- Overall, the league has three teams with schedules that are above the national mean in terms of difficulty: Providence, Georgetown, and Notre Dame. Two schools are hovering around the average: Syracuse and St. John's. Two schools are toward the bottom nationally: Villanova and Rutgers. There are three takeaways from this: 1) Georgetown should be given credit for this in their at-large debate; 2) Syracuse's seeding may (and probably should) take a little bit of a hit because the Orange has played a so-so schedule; and 3) Villanova should be given some discredit for playing a relatively lousy schedule this year in its at-large debate.
And that's all I have to say right now.