NCAA Lacrosse Tournament Participant: Siena

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Tournament Seed: Unseeded

First-Round Opponent: Syracuse (May 15, 7:30)

2011 Record: 13-4

Conference: MAAC

Last Tournament Appearance: 2009

NCAA Championships: 0

Four Notable Players: Bryan Neufeld (A); Tom Morr (G); Danny Martinsen (A); Kevin Cotter (D)

Downloadable Tempo-Free Profile: Siena

Congratulations, Siena!  You won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament!  You're prize? An automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament and the chance to to run with the biggest, meanest dog in the yard -- Syracuse.

Ay-yi-yi.

Asking any team to walk into the Carrier Dome and beat the Orange is a tough task. The mission becomes even more difficult in the month of May where, for the last 30 years of so, Syracuse has all but owned its competition (save for the 2005 and 2007 seasons). 

Regardless, the Saints have an opportunity to pull the biggest upset in the history of the NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championships, even if the likelihood of that happening is similar to my chances of being named "Most Valuable Person in the History of Persons."

WHAT SIENA DOES WELL

This isn't all that bad of an offensive team.  Led by attackmen Bryan Neufeld and Danny Martinsen, Siena has the ability to can the bean at a pretty reasonable rate.  Here's a chart that illustrates some of the Saints' better offensive qualities:

THE SIENA OFFENSE: NOT TERRIBLE 
METRIC VALUE RANK AVG.
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 29.13 22 27.92
Offensive Shots Per Possession 0.89 52 1.00
Offensive Effective Shooting Percentage 35.47% 1 28.64%
Offensive Assist Rate 18.24 10 15.37
Offensive EMO Conversion Rate 36.59% 17 31.87%

This is showing me a few things:

  • Siena isn't blowing through possessions with bad shots, as evidenced by the low shots per possession value.  This is imperative for Siena's success, given that they will be outmatched talent-wise in every NCAA Tournament game they will play this year.
  • The team's offensive effective shooting percentage is greatly impacted by the Saints' ability to find and take good shots.  Siena's patience on the offensive end is paying off with the bean getting buried at the best clip in the country.  Getting the ball in spots where the ball can be converted easily is helpful as well.  The team's offensive assist rate shows that the Saints' are doing a good job of sharing the ball and finding open men that can get their hands free for a solid shot.
  • It is also important to note that Siena is getting a big chunk of their offense while on the extra-man.  The Saints are 15th nationally in extra-man reliance and only 17 teams in the nation are playing with the extra attacker more than Siena. With a patient offense built on finding open guys that can bury the ball in the net at a high rate of conversion, it's not surprising to see that the Saints have one of the better extra-man units in the country.

WHAT SIENA DOES POORLY

In the overall, the Saints aren't the worst defensive team on the planet.  They are, however, going about their business in ways that increases defensive exposure and put their goaltender -- Tom Morr -- in a tough spot to succeed.  Here's a quick table:

THE SIENA DEFENSE: YIKES 
METRIC VALUE RANK AVG.
Defensive Possessions Per Game 35.06 40 33.73
Defensive Shots Per Possession 1.08 48 1.00
Defensive Assist Rate 12.75 8 15.41
Offensive Clearing Percentage 78.97% 47 82.69%
Defensive Clearing Percentage 83.54% 38 82.76%
Man-Down Per Possession 0.13 50 0.11
Siena Penalties Per Possession 0.07 54 0.06
Siena Saves Per Possession 0.36 5 0.31

This is showing me a few things

  • Siena is playing a boat load of defensive possessions per 60 minutes of play.  The primary reasons for this is that the Saints' ride is fairly impotent and they are having a dog of a time actually clearing the ball out of their defensive end. It's tough to find success when a defense that is ranked 30th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency is asked to play so many defensive possessions per game, especially against the competition Siena will face in the NCAA Tournament.
  • The Saints really need learn some discipline.  Only 11 teams are in a man-down situation more than Siena. This is putting a lot of responsibility on Tom Morr's shoulders to make saves in the personnel imbalance, which really isn't going to result in a lot of good situations. While Siena has done a nice job of mitigating the amount of ball sharing that is happening in man-down scenarios (as evidenced by the team's defensive assist rate), but Morr is still being asked to make tons of stops (as evidenced by the saves per possession rate).  In the end, good teams don't make stupid mistakes; Siena has gotten away with it during the regular season but this could be the team's Achilles' Heel as tournament play starts.
  • The defensive strategy for Siena appears to be as such: We'll yield shots and let our goalie make a save, as long as that shot isn't on the doorstep or in open space.  This may work in the MAAC where there is a relative dearth of individual offensive talent. Come Sunday in the Dome, it might not work so well when the Saints have to deal with the likes of JoJo Marasco, Josh Amidon, Stephen Keogh, etc.

FIRST ROUND OUTLOOK

Bleak.  In fact, Siena's best chance for victory is if Syracuse has to forfeit due to an outbreak of malaria among the Orange squad.

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