NCAA Lacrosse Tournament Participant: Delaware

via i.turner.ncaa.com

Tournament Seed: Unseeded

First-Round Opponent: Duke (May 14, 5:00)

2011 Record: 11-6

Conference: THUNDERDOME! (CAA)

Last Tournament Appearance: 2010

NCAA Championships: 0

Four Notable Players: Eric Smith (A); Grant Kaleikau (A); Pat Dowling (LSM); Nick Elsmo (M)

Downloadable Tempo-Free Profile: Delaware

If you're new around these parts, you probably have no idea why we call the Colonial Athletic Association "THUNDERDOME!"  Part of the reason is that the league is basically a post-apocalyptic nightmare, leaving schools in the dust while the survivors stand victorious holding detached limbs as the spoils of war.  Another reason is that this league, unlike others, embraces chaos like no other.  Even when things are supposed to play out as anticipated, some dude with a chainsaw jumps out from the shadows and starts a one-man massacre campaign.

That man for THUNDERDOME! this year was Delaware.  The Blue Hens walked into the THUNDERDOME! Tournament as the four-seed -- fresh off of a two-game losing streak -- and left as the league's champion after beating a solid Hofstra outfit and holding off Massachusetts in Amherst.

This makes perfect sense in THUNDERDOME!'s universe given the fact that THUNDERDOME! doesn't make any damn sense at all.

WHAT DELAWARE DOES WELL

This is going to sound odd, but I don't care: What Delaware does best is that the Blue Hens do nothing spectacular.  They are right around average in just about every metric and measure possible.  It's almost like they hail from Lake Wobegone, except that there isn't anything exceptional inherent in the Blue Hens' performances.

Save for Delaware's ability to limit the number of shots that keeper Noah Fossner has to face on a per-possession basis*, the following chart details just how vanilla Delaware lacrosse has been on the season:

DELAWARE: STANDING OUT IS NARCISSISM
METRIC VALUE RANK AVG.
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 26.10 43 27.92
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 26.17 21 28.22
Adjusted Efficiency Margin -0.07 31 -0.30
Shots Per Offensive Possession 1.02 30 1.00
Shots Per Defensive Possession 0.90 9 1.00
Offensive Effective Shooting Percentage 25.94% 47 28.64%
Defensive Effective Shooting Percentage 30.35% 44 28.83%
Offensive Assist Rate 15.57 29 15.37
Defensive Assist Rate 14.33 25 15.41
Face-Off Percentage 52.45% 22 49.79%
Offensive Clearing Percentage 80.94% 41 82.69%
Defensive Clearing Percentage 83.85% 39 82.76%

It's just not how Delaware performs as a team that fails to separate them from Joe Division I Lacrosse School, though.  The Blue Hens' two most-productive offensive players -- Eric Smith and Grant Kaleikau -- are 91st and 104th, respectively, in the country in individual points per offensive possession. 

Where's the "Delaware does this as good as anyone" or "This guy is as good as anyone"?  It just isn't apparent with the Blue Hens this season.

* Admittedly, Delaware does a nice job getting their defenders out on the opposition (note, as well, that Delaware isn't too bad at limiting helpers).  This is a big reason why the Blue Hens are in the top-third in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency.  If the Blue Hens weren't doing this, they'd be in really tough shape (just take a look at their defensive effective shooting percentage). 

WHAT DELAWARE DOES POORLY

This is not a team that excels with an extra-attacker nor does it play with a personnel imbalance all that much.  Here's a quick illustration:

IS THIS REALLY AN ADVANTAGE?
METRIC VALUE RANK AVG.
Offensive Effective Shooting Percentage 25.94% 47 28.64%
Offensive Extra-Man Conversion Rate 21.15% 56 31.87%
Offensive Extra-Man Shot Rate 0.02 61 0.04
Extra-Man Opportunities Per Offensive Possession 0.09 56 0.11
Offensive Extra-Man Scoring Reliance 0.07 59 0.13
Opponent Penalties Per Possession 0.04 58 0.06
  • Kind of weird to see a team that relies on the dodge so much, especially from the midfield, have so few extra-man opportunities, right?  Well, Delaware extends its middle finger to you and your silly assumptions on reality.
  • Delaware is doing itself no favors with the personnel imbalance.  On the whole, the Blue Hens are 43rd nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency.  Only two teams are relying less on man-up to score goals.  Consequently, Delaware has relied on a six-on-six and transition-based offense that is among the bottom-third of the country to actually put points on the board.  I still can't understand how this team won 11 games, including knocking off Hofstra twice.  Well, I sort of can: They beat six teams with losing records on the year.  That has to help.
  • It's almost like Delaware knows that they're not going to get much out of their extra-man unit. The Blue Hens aren't firing at the cage with the personnel imbalance and when they do, they can't beat the opposing keeper. The patience that Delaware shows with the bean isn't paying dividends at all.  Maybe an instructional video from a Tom Emanski-type guy is in order?

OUTLOOK

Can you say with a straight face that Duke will absolutely crush Delaware?  I mean, there's no reason that the Blue Devils shouldn't beat the Blue Hens, but then again, Hofstra and Massachusetts should've beaten Delaware last week in the THUNDERDOME! playoffs.

If Delaware can contain Justin Turri, Zach Howell, and Jordan Wolf, the Blue Hens have a chance.  Unfortunately, that's a tall task for a Blue Hens team that has been all over the map this year.

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