NCAA Lacrosse Tournament Participant: Maryland

via cdn.bleacherreport.net

Tournament Seed: Unseeded

First-Round Opponent: North Carolina (May 15, 1:00)

2011 Record: 10-4

Conference: ACC

Last Tournament Appearance: 2010

NCAA Championships: 2

Four Notable Players: Niko Amato (G); Owen Blye (M/A); Ryan Young (A); Brett Schmidt (D)

Downloadable Tempo-Free Profile: Maryland

With Joe Cummings and Grant Catalino, Maryland is in the mix for the national championship.  Without Cummings and Catalino, the Terrapins have a tough road to travel starting with North Carolina and then a potential meeting against top-seed Syracuse.

Unfortunately, nobody knows whether either guy is going to play on Sunday down in Chapel Hill.  Catalino, apparently, has a broken bone in his hand while Cummings is still smarting from a right arm injury incurred last month.  If the Terrapins are without one or both, a season of great promise could come to an abrupt end.

WHAT MARYLAND DOES WELL

I'm kind of in love with Maryland's offense (with Catalino and Cummings, of course).  I wouldn't send it flowers out of the blue or anything -- that'd be creepy -- but I'd definitely send it a Christmas card. 

The Terrapins offense is the model of efficiency in movement and approach: It values sharing the ball, it highlights great shooters, and it doesn't waste shot opportunities or offensive possessions.  Here's a quick illustration:

NEVER LET ME GO, MARYLAND "O"
METRIC VALUE RANK AVG.
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 32.05 11 27.92
Shots Per Offensive Possession 0.99 37 1.00
Offensive Effective Shooting Percentage 33.37% 8 28.64%
Offensive Assist Rate 20.51 4 15.37
  • There's two things building into Maryland's offensive effective shooting percentage.  First, their four biggest offensive weapons -- Owen Blye, Catalino, Cummings, and Young -- are all shooting above 31% on the season.  All but Catalino are right about the 40% mark or higher.  When you have great shooters -- especially shooters that can convert from range and in-close like the Terrapins have -- you're smooth as silk, son.
  • The second piece of the puzzle is that Maryland does a great job with helpers.  I know I've written this a thousand times, but when you can get the ball to guys in hands-free positions with room to shoot and in preferred positions, you're going to generate a lot of tallies.  Only three teams -- Drexel, Robert Morris, and Stony Brook -- have done a better job than the Terrapins in this regard.  Two guys -- Blye and Young -- are in the top-200 nationally in individual assist rate (assists per 100 possessions).  When those guys are chirping, the Maryland offense can really sing.  They are the primary factors that get Catalino going from distance and Cummings going from a finishing standpoint.  You can't undervalue guys like this.
  • Don't pay too much attention to Maryland's relatively low shots per offensive possession.  It's a canard.  The reason it's kind of low is two-fold.  First, the Terrapins are doing a good job of looking for the best shot available, usually via an assist.  It's part of John Tillman's offensive approach.  When the Maryland offense is running its stuff, it doesn't need to bury an opponent in a flurry of shots.  Second, who needs more than one shot per possession when a third of your shots find the back of the net anyway?  I'd ignore this and focus more on the Terrapins adjusted offensive efficiency: When Maryland has the ball, only 10 teams in the country are better at converting with the opportunity.
  • Finally, and this is a bit of an aside, Maryland is doing a lot of things to get the ball into their offense's hands.  The Terrapins don't play a lot of possessions per game (they're 50th in the country in the metric), but they dominate possession of the ball: Maryland is seventh in face-off percentage; third in the clearing game; and just about average on the ride.  Given how good the Terrapins' offense is, Maryland's domination of these pace factors are strong indicators as to how and why the Terrapins are 10-4 on the season.

WHAT MARYLAND DOES POORLY

I know there's some concerns about Maryland's consistency this year, but they've played a bear of a schedule.  You're going to give some away when you shouldn't and you're going to win some that you should've lost.  It's just a part of the game.

What I'm mildly concerned with (and this is totally nitpicking) is Maryland with the extra attacker:

DON'T OVERRACT TO THIS, STUPID
METRIC VALUE RANK AVG.
Extra-Man Conversion Rate 29.03% 40 31.87%
Extra-Man Opportunities Per Possesion 0.07 61 0.11
Extra-Man Opportunity Reliance 0.06 61 0.13
Opponent Penalties Per Possession 0.04 61 0.06
  • I lay this out there only because I think it's kind of weird.  How can an offensive that shoots as well as it does in the overall and shares the ball as well as it does on each offensive possession have such a poor extra-man conversion rate?  It's hard to explain.  I mean, wouldn't an offense with Maryland's attributes be tailored-made to dominate in a personnel imbalance?
  • Don't freak out about the extra-man reliance value.  Maryland does so well in six-on-six and when it chooses to run some transition that it doesn't need the extra attacker to score.  This stands in stark contrast to a team like Bucknell that really needs its extra-man unit to put points on the board.
  • Relatively bad extra-man units won't doom a team's title hopes, but is often the difference in burying and not burying an opponent when the opponent gets aggressive, loose, and plays with nothing to lose in order to get back into the game.  Also, if Catalino and Cummings can't go this weekend against Carolina, there is the possibility that the Maryland offense puts in another stinker like it did against Colgate last weekend.  Getting some tallies on the extra-man would relieve the pressure on the Terrapins' patchwork six-on-six offense to generate tallies.

OUTLOOK

It's plain and simple: Maryland can win the national championship if they have Catalino and Cummings.  If they don't, they could be in trouble and will rely on Niko Amato and the rest of the Maryland defense to keep them in games.  The Terrapins are built for this kind of situation -- Maryland is 13th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency -- but it puts a lot of pressure on that unit to keep tallies off the board.

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