Rank Variance: Tempo-Included Against Tempo-Free

It's all a matter of how each action -- the shot and the defense -- is measured. via assets.sbnation.com

At this point, you probably have no clue what the hell I'm talking about with these tempo-free lacrosse statistics.  Sure, I touched upon it a little bit, but your eyes are likely crossed, wondering what the hell all these values with decimal points mean in relation to performance on the field.

Rather than providing a dissertation on the theoretical underpinnings of tempo-free stats (it's truly mind-numbing and boring), let's work with this premise: Per game statistics have a lot of noise; tempo-free statistics try to eliminate this by parsing out identifiable pieces to reflect actual performance on a possession-basis.

In other words, you can look at a building and say, "That's a fine looking building!"; or, alternatively, you can watch a contractor construct a building and have a greater understanding of why the building is fine looking.  Tempo-free statistics is the contractor-ogling methodology. 

The easiest way to show the disparity between per-game statistics and tempo-free statistics is through rank variance.  Each has a specific purpose: To compare teams as to a specific metric.  The difference, however, is that tempo-free statistics give us a better understanding of how teams are performing on a possession-to-possession basis, eliminating all that "noise" associated with per-game values (i.e., the per-game doesn't tell us how a team got to its per-game mark, only that it happened). 

Let's look at three per-game metrics -- Scoring Offense Per-Game, Scoring Defense Per-Game, and Scoring Margin Per-Game -- and compare it to three tempo-free metrics -- Adjusted Offensive Efficiency (goals-for per 100 possessions, adjusted for competition), Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (goals-against per 100 possessions, adjusted for competition), and Adjusted Efficiency Margin (the difference between adjusted offensive efficiency and adjusted defensive efficiency). 

From this, we'll pick three teams with the greatest rank variances -- both as an overstated tempo-included value and an understated tempo-included value.

RANK VARIANCE: SCORING OFFENSE V. ADJUSTED OFFENSIVE EFFICIENCY

TEAM PER-GAME RANK ADJ. OE RANK VARIANCE
Sacred Heart 23 48 -25
VMI 33 55 -22
Dartmouth 8 28 -20
Princeton 52 24 28
Notre Dame 31 5 26
Lafayette 37 18 19
QUICK POINT: The biggest reason for Notre Dame's rank variance?  The Irish only have about 28 offensive possessions per game (fourth-fewest in the country).  So, it's not surprising that their per-game rank is signficantly lower than their possession-based rank.  There's nothing flashy about Notre Dame, but the Domers are getting it done.   

QUICK POINT II: Sacred Heart and  VMI's variances are due in large part to the efficiency adjustment each is receiving for strength of schedule (each team's strength of schedule (opponent defenses) is around 50th in the country).  Dartmouth, however, is seeing a large variance even when considering raw offensive efficiency (raw is simply unadjusted offensive efficiency).  There's a 19-position difference between the raw rank and Dartmouth's per-game rank.  The Big Green, I think, aren't as good offensively as we're lead to believe (Hello, Mercer and Holy Cross games!).  This is something that will need to be monitored as the Ivy League season heats up.

RANK VARIANCE: SCORING DEFENSE V. ADJUSTED DEFENSIVE EFFICIENCY

TEAM PER-GAME RANK ADJ. DE RANK VARIANCE
Villanova 19 47 -28
Quinnipiac 14 32 -18
Rutgers 2 19 -17
Syracuse 27 5 22
Detroit 43 24 19
Delaware 38 20 18
QUICK POINT I: There's two things impacting Rutgers in the variance: (1) Similar to Notre Dame, Rutgers is in a deflated possession position (the Scarlet Knights have played the fourth-fewest defensive possessions per outing); and (2) Only six schools have played a schedule featuring worse opponent offenses.  Superficially, Rutgers isn't yielding goals, but when you adjust for competition, you realize that the Scarlet Knights are all smoke and mirrors.  The recent loss to Army -- a team ranked 14th in adjusted offensive efficiency -- helps highlight this fact.

QUICK POINT II: Nobody in the country has faced more potent offenses than Syracuse this year.  Importantly, the Orange is also playing about 35 defensive possessions per game, 35th-most nationally.  This Orange defense is legit and getting it done, regardless of what an NCAA per-game ranking says.

RANK VARIANCE: SCORING MARGIN V. EFFICIENCY MARGIN 

TEAM PER-GAME RANK ADJ. MARGIN RANK VARIANCE
Harvard 13 35 -22
Rutgers 7 22 -15
Dartmouth 27 41 -14
Princeton 42 18 24
Penn State 46 26 20
Towson 39 20 19
QUICK POINT I: I can't say this enough: Watch out for Penn State.  The Nittany Lions have played the most difficult schedule in the country and Jeff Tambroni can coach rocks to turn into boulders.  This is a team that is starting to find its stride.
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