NCAA Lacrosse Tournament Participant: Hofstra

via cdn.newsday.com

Tournament Seed: Unseeded

First-Round Opponent: Johns Hopkins (May 14, 12:00)

2011 Record: 13-2

Conference: THUNDERDOME! (CAA)

Last Tournament Appearance: 2010

NCAA Championships: 0

Four Notable Players: Jay Card (A); Jamie Lincoln (A); Stephen Bentz (A); Andrew Gvozden (G)

Downloadable Tempo-Free Profile: Hofstra

I've never been in a gunfight witha man with one eye holding a loaded machine gun. If I had been, though, I'd say that's just about the most dangerous guy on the planet: He's got nothing to lose, he's not mortally wounded, he has a weapon that could obliterate you with just a pull of his finger, and he's really angry that you shot his eye out.

That's Hofstra: They're playing with house money and have all the tools to revoke their opponents' living privileges.  That is, of course, contingent on The Pride not bleeding out before they have a chance to fill their competitors full of hot lead.

WHAT HOFSTRA DOES WELL

This team does all sorts of things well, and simply highlighting Hofstra's balance seems like the easy way out of writing this profile.  Instead, I'm going to point the spotlight at The Pride's offense, a pick-your-spot beauty that never goes too slow or too fast and features five of the best offensive talents in the collegiate game.

First, a quick table:

HOFSTRA: BANG, YOU'RE DEAD
METRIC VALUE RANK AVG.
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 31.49 15 27.92
Offensive Shots Per Possession 0.99 36 1.00
Offensive Effective Shooting Percentage 32.21% 12 28.64%
Offensive Assist Rate 20.49 5 15.37
Offensive Extra-Man Conversion Rate 44.23% 5 31.87%

Some thoughts:

  • While Hofstra doesn't epitomize "Run and Gun," The Pride are the model of offensive efficiency.  They don't take tons of shots in the offensive end and they really pick their spots to push transition (Hofstra is 56th nationally in possessions per game). When they shoot, though, they do it the right way: Oftentimes with a helper, usually in space with hands free, and with guys that can really bury the bean.  That's straight value on every shot taken.
  • With respect to the helpers, everyone gets into the act.  Hofstra has five guys with double-digit assists on the season: Card, Lincoln, Bentz, Braddish, and Kevin Ford.  Everyone is a threat on the dodge and everyone is a threat to distribute.  That kind of offensive balance is invaluable considering the amount of pressure it puts on a defense to try and match poles and shorties to offensive players.
  • Of those five guys that are whipping the ball all over the attack box, four are shooting above 32% on the season; two of those guys -- Lincoln and Bentz -- are above 40%. The Canadians -- Card and Lincoln -- really seem to be rubbing off on the Long Island guys that they're running with.
  • It's not surprising that Hofstra is shining with the extra attacker. Even though The Pride isn't playing with a personnel imbalance often (they're 37th nationally in extra-man opportunities per offensive possession), they're taking care of business when given the chance.  What's especially important regarding this is that almost 15% of Hofstra's goals this season have come with an extra attacker.  Only 13 teams have a higher reliance rate.

WHAT HOFSTRA DOES POORLY

Play Delaware?

Again, Hofstra has great balance as a team; there aren't too many things that stand out as warts.  If there was something to note, however, it'd be this: This isn't a team that wants to dominate others on defense.  It's a team that forgoes defensive pressure to generate turnovers and, instead, emphasizes position and solid conceptual defensive strategies.

NO RIC BEARDSLEY DEFENSE
METRIC VALUE RANK AVG.
Defensive Shots Per Possession 1.04 42 1.00
Defensive Effective Shooting Percentage 22.29% 2 28.83%
Defensive Assist Rate 14.18 23 15.41
Saves Per Possession 0.34 15 0.31

Quickly:

  • It's not surprising that Hofstra looks a lot like Johns Hopkins in this regard.  The Pride's head coach -- Seth Tierney -- is a Dave Pietramala disciple.  This is a defense that will yield shots and assume that their goalkeeper -- Andrew Gvozden -- will make the stop. What is a little different between the Jays and The Pride is that Hopkins has done a little better job at limiting opponent assists.
  • There's a lot of pressure here on Andrew Gvozden to make a stop.  The junior goalkeeper has answered the bell this season, holding a 62.1% save percentage.  He's ending a lot of Hofstra defensive possessions all by himself (mostly attributable to the fact that The Pride aren't causing a lot of turnovers (only 85 on the season)) and he is arguably the most important piece to Hofstra's defensive puzzle.
  • The end result of this "long shot-Gvozden stop" methodology is a defensive effective shooting percentage right around the national apex.  Some better shooting teams may have the ability to exploit this strategy against The Pride (Hofstra's strength of schedule relative to opposing offenses faced is only 59th nationally), but the formula has worked thus far for Tierney.

OUTLOOK

Hofstra's game against Hopkins is probably the second-best first round match of this year's tournament behind only Maryland-North Carolina.  The Pride have had good success against the Blue Jays in the recent past -- they clobbered Hopkins last year -- but will have their hands full against the Blue Jays this weekend. 

If Hofstra can manage to win the face-off battle (The Pride are fifth nationally in face-off percentage; Hopkins is third), Hofstra will have a really good chance to control pace and pick their spots to shoot.  These are, in a lot of ways, mirror-image teams and the margins for error are slim.

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