Big City Classic Profile: Johns Hopkins

Pierce Bassett: Straight HAM. via www.laxpower.com

Hopkins is going to tangle with North Carolina on Sunday at 4:00 down at the "Big City Classic."  Personally, I am less than amused with the Blue Jays.  This sort of thing happens when your blood runs orange and all you want to do is roundhouse kick people that say that Homewood Field is the Mecca of college lacrosse.

The real kick in the pants, though, is that Johns Hopkins is pretty good this year.  They may not be national champion good, but they're in the conversation for Memorial Day Weekend good.  And after the season that Pietramala went through last year with all that youth, that has to be a relief to all those Blue Jays fans that I would like to karate chop.

On to the profile.

JOHNS HOPKINS (6-2): HOPKINSPENDENT

What Hopkins Does Well

  • HAM Bassett.  Rob Pannell (Cornell) may be the most dynamic player in the country.  Brian Karalunas (Villanova) may be the most underappreciated player in the country.  Pierce Bassett, though, is probably the most important player in the country relative to his team's success.  That statement is colored in a lot of "DUH!", but it's construct is more than Bassett's 65.9 (!) save percentage.  Here's a quick chart to provide some background:

    THE BASSETT EFFECT
    METRIC VALUE RANKING AVERAGE
    Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 19.69 3 27.06
    Shots Per Defensive Possession 0.9837 31 0.9903
    Defensive Effective Shooting Percentage 21.21% 1 28.66%
    Defensive Assist Rate 12.20 12 14.94
    Extra-Man Reliance (Defensive) 0.1837 51 0.1300
    Saves Per Possession 0.3618 11 0.3124

    Right off the bat: When you're rolling with two sophomores and a freshman at close defense, you better have a solid backstop in the cage if you expect to massacre with high defensive efficiency.  Hopkins is doing just that.  What that chart is showing me is that the Blue Jays are seeing a relatively high number of shots on the defensive end and defensive possessions are ending with a Bassett save at a high rate.  This, to me, is saying that the Hopkins defense (outside of Bassett) isn't necessarily creating the high defensive efficiency through turnovers (the Blue Jays only have 46 caused turnovers on the year, about 19.91 per 100 defensive possessions), shot obstruction, and other means. 

    Rather, the high efficiency is greatly attributable to Bassett on the back-end to clean up the mess.  You can see this two ways: First, in the low defensive effective shooting percentage; and second, in Hopkins' opponents' high reliance on extra-man opportunities to actually score against the 'Jays (theoretically, Bassett would be in a deflated position to make those saves anyway as the defense in front of him is at a personnel disadvantage, so even if he's standing on his head, he'd have a tough time stopping those shots).  Now, the low defensive assist rate is strong indicia that the six guys in front of Bassett are getting the job done, but the large number of saves on a possession-basis mitigates this fact a bit.

  • Work and Grind.  Check this out:

    PLAY OUR GAME OR DON'T PLAY AT ALL
    METRIC VALUE RANKING AVERAGE
    Pace 65.92 38 66.93
    Offensive Possessions Per Game 35.44 19 33.44
    Defensive Possessions Per Game 30.48 16 33.49
    Possessions Per Game Margin 4.96 9 -0.0563
    Face-Off Percentage 64.24% 6 49.85%
    Clearing Percentage (Offensive) 83.89% 25 82.41%
    Clearing Percentage (Defensive) 80.98% 22 82.41%

    Sure, the clearing percentages aren't tremendous, but the other major pace factor -- strength at the dot -- is quite good. By controlling the pace, Hopkins has: a) ensured that its young defense that relies on Bassett isn't exposed to many possessions; and b) ensured that it will end the day with more chances to score than its opposition (look at the possessions per game margin).  Hopkins' style is a important factor to its success and you only need to look its Princeton game as evidence (the Blue Jays lost the possession margin battle by three, although there certainly were other factors that contributed to the loss).

  • Offensive Balance.  The numbers have changed (not drastically), but the analysis is the same as provided here (see, "Balance on Offense" subheading).

What Hopkins Does Poorly

  • Personnel Imbalance.  I wouldn't say that Hopkins is necessarily bad on the extra-man and in the man-down, but these are weaker spots for the team.  Here are two charts that I think show a vulnerability, although the squad is admittedly about average in each scenario:

    MAN-UP: HOPKINS
    METRIC VALUE RANKING AVERAGE
    Extra-Man Conversion Rate 29.41% 34 31.10%
    Extra-Man Opportunity Per Possession 0.1189 27 0.1183
    Extra-Man Opportunity Reliance Rate 0.1124 42 0.1309
    Penalties Per Possession (Drawn) 0.0677 18 0.0620

    MAN-DOWN: HOPKINS
    METRIC VALUE RANKING AVERAGE
    Extra-Man Conversion Rate 33.33% 39 30.68%
    Extra-Man Opportunity Per Possession 0.1098 24 0.1173
    Extra-Man Opportunity Reliance Rate 0.1837 51 0.1300
    Penalties Per Possession (Taken) 0.0545 21 0.0617

    With respect to the man-up, Hopkins isn't in that scenario a lot compared to other teams, and certainly isn't relying on those situations to score. You'd like to see the conversion rate higher (which would, in turn, raise the team's effective shooting percentage), but it's no big deal because the squad has been pretty efficient in six-on-six scenarios.  It's a weakness, but not a structural deficiency.

    There are greater worries with respect to the man-down, but they're not catastrophic.  There was a feeling then that Hopkins' man-down numbers were to be exploited by better offensive teams, thereby ruining the Blue Jays' overall defensive efficiency.  This didn't really happen against Syracuse, but Virginia did take advantage (however, Virginia has one of the best man-up units in the nation).  So, again, it may be a weakness, but it might not be a major structural deficiency (assuming that Hopkins can continue to stay out of man-down scenarios).  This is a "tweak" issue for Pietramala, not a "OH MY GOD WE'RE SCREWED!" situation.

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