Syracuse-Virginia: Hooray for College Lacrosse!

via media.syracuse.com

It's the "Game of the Week of the Year of Century in the History of the Galaxy!" Or, at least that's what people are going to write ahead of Syracuse-Virginia in newspapers that nobody reads. I can already see the headlines now:

  • Syracuse and Virginia: The Fastest Game on Two Feet! (That wouldn't be too bad if the headline writer would just add a simple "WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE!" at the end.)
  • Syracuse and Virginia to Duel at Dusk with Lacrosse Sticks. (Actually, that isn't terrible. Don't steal it, newspapers!)
  • Orange-Cavs: Important. (Deadline headline. The printing press waits for no man. We are slaves to the machine. The robots will rule us all!)

Syracuse and Virginia won't meet until Sunday at Klockner Stadium (4:00, ESPN), but there's already tons of juice on the game. Not only will Orange-Cavaliers showcase a top-ten match-up, but you're also putting some of the best Division I talent on the field together, as well as the potential for an up-tempo pace reminiscent of the way the game was -- and should be -- played.

There are three kinds of things that make Syracuse-Virginia so special:

  1. Pace: While the last 10 meetings haven't all been hectic, a vast majority of the games have seen total possessions significantly above the national game average. That kind of tempo is a welcome relief from most games that look like Panzer tanks on an agility course.
  2. Possession Percentage: Part of the beauty of Orange-Cavaliers is not just the pace, but also the relative parity in possession percentage. With only a few outliers, one team really hasn't had at least -- or more than -- 52 percent of a particular game's offensive possessions. Each team is getting shots at the net. Another fun piece of this puzzle is examining the last five games of this rivalry over the five that preceded it: Syracuse has had nine more offensive possessions than Virginia over the last five meetings; Virginia holds a 14 possession lead in the 10 most-recent contests (primarily due to a +13 margin that the Cavaliers put together with their undefeated ronin mercenaries in 2006 in which Virginia crushed the Orange twice). Nobody is ever out of it totally -- mostly because the offensive chances are fairly even throughout -- when the Orange and Cavaliers cross the streams.
  3. Scoring Margin: Offensive efficiency aside from both teams -- that's quickly addressed after the jump (because reading is fun!) -- this game is rarely a demolition either way. Over the last five meetings the teams are even in goal differential; over the last ten Virginia holds a +13 margin, but if you pull out the results in Virginia's 2006 campaign in which it could have won lacrosse games by 50 if played on the moon against the cosmos' best lacrosse teams, the margin actually moves to +2 in favor of Syracuse. Action! Drama! Excitement! (These are movie poster ideas. Don't steal 'em.)

Here's a little chart that summarizes the above. It's fancy, in a very "That's not fancy, stupid. It's basic HTML, moron!" kind of way.

'CUSE-CAVS: THE LAST 10

YEAR

PACE

SCORE

POSS. %

2011 80 12-10, SU 51.25% (SU)
2010 66 11-10, UVA EVEN
2009 84 13-12, UVA 52.38% (UVA)
2008 86.4* 14-13, UVA (OT) 51.11% (SU)
2008 58.9* 12-11, SU (2OT) 56.92% (SU)
2007 80 11-8, UVA 51.25% (UVA)
2006 87 20-15, UVA 56.32% (UVA)
2006 82 20-10, UVA 51.22% (UVA)
2005 90 12-11, UVA 52.22% (UVA)
2004 102 18-12, SU 51.96% (UVA)

* The pace figures in 2008 were adjusted to reflect 60 minutes of play. The raw pace for the first match-up was 90 possessions (overtime); the raw pace for the second match-up was 65 possessions (two overtimes).

More stuff on offensive efficiency between these two teams after the jump.

The numbers here aren't going to make your eyes act like a character in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? [insert GAZOOGA! sound effect here], but they are still pretty impressive. Virginia likely has the edge in the offensive marketplace on Sunday over Syracuse, but the Orange's defense -- it's calling card the last few years -- isn't exactly a sieve. In general, most teams in each year has been performed at or above the national average in the particular contest, which warms my heart and makes me want to frolic in a meadow whilst smelling dandelions:

OFFENSIVE EFFICIENCY: GAME-BY-GAME

YEAR

SU

UVA

2011 29.27 25.64
2010 30.30 33.33
2009 30.00 29.55
2008 28.26 31.82
2008 32.43 39.29
2007 20.51 26.83
2006 39.47 40.82
2006 25.00 47.62
2005 25.58 25.53
2004 36.73 22.64

Yee-haw! There's a reason that Syracuse-Virginia is one of the highlights of the season; the match-up rarely fails to live up to expections. Sunday should be party time as well (if recent meetings are any indication, of course). Are you wetting your pants in anticipation/ The comments, they are yours.

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