NCAA Lacrosse Tournament Participant: Notre Dame

via laxbuzz.files.wordpress.com

Tournament Seed: 4

First-Round Opponent: Pennsylvania (May 14, 2:30)

2011 Record: 10-2

Conference: Big East

Last Tournament Appearance: 2010

NCAA Championships: 0

Four Notable Players: John Kemp (G); David Earl (M); Zach Brenneman (M); Westy Hopkins (A) 

Downloadable Tempo-Free Profile: Notre Dame  

It's not that I don't respect Notre Dame.  I do.  In fact, the Irish do what they do better than anyone in the country.  They are a great monument to pragmatism.

The problem, though, is that I hate what Notre Dame does.  I hate their style and I hate that they never change it, regardless of who they play. What I hate even more is that the Irish have been successful with this style, and a lot of teams are starting to emulate their methodology.

I hate 'em, but I respect 'em.  That makes me a hater, I guess, and I'll go to my grave comfortable with that fact.

WHAT NOTRE DAME DOES WELL

In the first instance?  Piss me the hell off.

In the second instance? Defense, babycakes, and there are only two or three defensive units in the country that are as good as the Irish's stoppers.  The unit is anchored by defenders Kevin Ridgway, Kevin Randall, and Sam Barnes while receiving underwritten support from keeper John Kemp.  Together they form the core of a unit that is hell bent against letting the opposition get a good look on cage.

DEFENSE AND DEFENSE AND DEFENSE AND. . . .
METRIC VALUE RANK AVG.
Defensive Possessions Per Game 30.71 15 33.73
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 20.37 1 28.22
Shots Per Defensive Possession 0.97 21 1.00
Defensive Effective Shooting Percentage 22.24 1 28.83
Defensive Assist Rate 10.57 2 15.41
Saves Per Defensive Possession 0.03 16 0.06
Penalties Given Per Possession 0.33 1 0.31
  • Even though Notre Dame doesn't particularly need to given the acumen of their defensive unit, the Irish do a great job of limiting defensive exposure.  Only 14 teams in the country play fewer defensive possessions per 60 minutes of play than the Irish.  A lot of this is attributable to the Notre Dame offense, which would hold the ball for 59 minutes and 59 seconds if it could.  You can never underestimate the importance of fresh defensive legs.
  • Now, on this defensive unit's performance.  The Irish's strategy is a bit of a saggy-zoney-man-to-man thing that is designed to insulate Kemp between the pipes and control the crease area.  Notre Dame isn't too worried about causing turnovers; rather, the Irish want to: A) maintain good defensive position and eliminate an opposing player's opportunity for a shot, thereby extending the defensive possession; or B) yield a shot from distance and let Kemp make a save.  This two-fold approach has reduced the number of shots the team's defense has faced while simultaneously rendering crease and off-ball players roaming into space to an impotent status (you can see this in the deflated defensive assist value and the shots per defensive possession value).
  • Of course, on the back end, Notre Dame has Kemp to clean everything up.  The guy is only holding a 60.7 save percentage, which is, you know, disgustingly good.  The real kick in the nuts for the Irish opposition is that Kemp doesn't even need to make that many saves per defensive possession: Only about a third of the Irish'sdefensive possessions have ended with a Kemp save this year. Only 15 teams see fewer defensive possessions end with a save.  Never having to play in a man-down scenario sure helps as the Irish give the fewest penalties in the country.  The total result is a Notre Dame defense that has held opponents to the worst effective shooting percentage in the country (only about 20%).

WHAT NOTRE DAME DOES POORLY

As good as the Irish defense has been, the Irish offense has been painful to watch. While the unit has improved the last few weeks with the emergence of Hopkins and the continued play of Earl and Sean Rogers, the Notre Dame attack is nothing to write home about.  (Unless you're writing a horror letter to your mother.)

PEW! PEW!: FINGER GUNS
METRIC VALUE RANK AVG.
Offensive Effective Shooting Percentage 27.67% 37 28.64%
Offensive Assist Rate 14.02 43 15.37
Offensive Extra-Man Opportunity Conversion Rate 27.78% 43 31.87%
Offensive Extra-Man Opportunity Reliance 0.09 54 0.13
  • Right off of the top: Earl and Brenneman -- Notre Dame's leaders in shot usage -- are shooting 25.4% and 21.5% on the year.  Pathetic.  That's exactly how a team gets an effective shooting percentage around the bottom-third in the nation.  It's a tough spot for the Irish as Earl and Brenneman are arguably the team's best two offensive players, with Rogers close behind.  While Rogers, Colin Igoe, and Hopkins are holding better shot conversion rates -- 45.9%, 54.2%, and 38.2%, respectively -- their abilities are muted because so much usage is running through the two aforementioned guys.  Yikes.
  • The biggest problem for the Irish's offense is that it is relying heavily on guys to make individual plays. Their offensive assist rate is the pits, especially for a team with as much raw offensive talent as Notre Dame has.  Hell, Georgetown had a better offensive assist rate than the Irish, and the Hoyas' offense was basically a two man show with Davey Emala and Ricky Mirabito.  There's just too much reliance on Brenneman and Earl to get their own shots from the midfield position, mostly on the dodge.  The opposition knows this and isn't afraid to aggressively slide to the ball because the Irish are just incapable of delivering the bean to other weapons.
  • The most hilarious aspect of this moribund offense is how bad the team is with the extra attacker.  Now, this isn't surprising: Bad offensive teams are usually bad offensive teams whether they're in the personnel imbalance or otherwise. 
  • In the overall, though, this isn't the worst offensive team in the country.  The Irish is 14th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency.  It just takes forever for this team to generate a tally.  Because they can't shoot, Notre Dame is among the nation's leaders in shots per offensive possession (sixth at 1.13). When you combine this with Notre Dame's desire to really draw out offensive possessions and drive the pace of the game square into the ground, you end up watching a rough offense waddle around until they score or end up screwing the pooch.  That's the antithesis of fun.

OUTLOOK

I hope they lose on Saturday.  They probably won't, though, because I apparently pissed off someone important upstairs.

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