NCAA Lacrosse Tournament Participant: Johns Hopkins

via images.lax.com

Tournament Seed: 3

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

2011 Record: 12-2

Conference: Hopkinspendent

Last Tournament Appearance: 2010

NCAA Championships: 9

Four Notable Players: Pierce Bassett (G); John Ranagan (M); Matt Dolente (M); Zach Palmer (A)

Downloadable Tempo-Free Profile: Johns Hopkins 

I know that Hopkins has claimed somewhere north of 75 titles in its program history (estimated), but it doesn't really matter.  I'm going with nine.  Deal with it.

Hopkins is no joke this season, even though I like to joke about Dave Pietramala's haircut and such.  They're primed to take a run at the title this season and if they meet Cornell in the national semifinals, you can go ahead and call it the game of the year.

WHAT HOPKINS DOES WELL

I'm going to punt a little bit on this profile only because I've covered this ground previously.  I've adjusted the values in the blockquote to reflect the Blue Jays' current performance.  The discussion, however, still holds true: Johns Hopkins is a bit of a defensive machine and they really force opponents to play their game:

  • 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 its construct is more than Bassett's 58.6 save percentage.  Here's a quick chart to provide some background:

    THE BASSETT EFFECT
    METRIC VALUE RANKING AVERAGE
    Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 22.75 4 28.22
    Shots Per Defensive Possession 0.9738 22 1.00
    Defensive Effective Shooting Percentage 24.53% 6 28.83%
    Defensive Assist Rate 13.81 19 15.41
    Extra-Man Reliance (Defensive) 0.1546 47 0.1266
    Saves Per Possession 0.3190 24 0.3104

    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 79 caused turnovers on the year, about 18.80 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 65.45 37 67.92
    Offensive Possessions Per Game 35.73 17 33.56
    Defensive Possessions Per Game 29.72 7 33.73
    Possessions Per Game Margin 6.01 2 -0.1640
    Face-Off Percentage 65.23% 3 49.79%
    Clearing Percentage (Offensive) 84.31% 24 82.69%
    Clearing Percentage (Defensive) 80.73% 17 82.76%

    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 their 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).
  • WHAT HOPKINS DOES POORLY

    I'm going to punt a bit again here, but only because the discussion is the same as offered in the previous essay -- Hopkins does have a bit of a man-down deficiency, but it isn't the worst thing in the world as the Blue Jays are rarely in those scenarios.  As opponents are relying on personnel imbalance scenarios to score, however, it remains a concern but not a particularly scary one.

    The values, again, have been adjusted to reflect Hopkins' up-to-date performance.  The biggest difference between the March 31st essay and this one is: A) the Blue Jays have done a better job at not taking penalties; and B) the team's man-down conversion rate has worsened, mostly due to the fact that Pierce Bassett's save percentage has moved from almost 66% to the aforementioned value.

    • Personnel Imbalance.  I wouldn't say that Hopkins is necessarily bad . . . in the man-down, but [this is] a weaker spot for the team.  Here [is a] chart that I think show[s] a vulnerability, although the squad is[n't miserable] in [the] scenario:


      MAN-DOWN: HOPKINS
      METRIC VALUE RANKING AVERAGE
      Extra-Man Conversion Rate 34.88% 42 31.48%
      Extra-Man Opportunity Per Possession 0.10 20 0.11
      Extra-Man Opportunity Reliance Rate 0.15 47 0.13
      Penalties Per Possession (Taken) 0.05 12 0.06

      There are worries with respect to the man-down, but they're not catastrophic.  There was a feeling 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.

    I think that mostly holds true.  You'd like Hopkins to be a little stronger on the personnel imbalance, but the 'Jays aren't taking a signficiant amount of penalties so as to exacerbate the issue.  I don't think that it's the difference between Hopkins being a title contender and not being a title contender.

    OUTLOOK

    With this defense and the multiple-look offense that Hopkins has, the Blue Jays could really make a run at Memorial Monday.  The offense is getting production from both the attack and the midfield and can really fill it up when they get cooking.

    There's only one problem, though: They're going to have to go through Cornell.  And Cornell looks like either the meanest or second-meanest dog in the yard.

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