Big City Classic Participant Profile: Notre Dame

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 29: The Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrate goal against the Cornell Big Red during the 2010 NCAA Division 1 Lacrosse Semifinal Championship game on May 29, 2010 at M & T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

The Big City Classic is ready to almost / kind of / probably not take over New York City this Sunday as six schools descend upon MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, for a massive tripleheader starting at 1:00 P.M. ESPN3 will have the broadcast of the opener and ESPNU will have the last two games of the day. As I need the pageviews and you need the skinny on the participants, College Crosse is going to profile each of this weekend's combatants.

Do you like offense? Do you like excitement? Yes? Well, tough nuts, friend. This ain't the Internet posting for you. No siree.

Notre Dame is a lot of things: Tougher than beef jerky on a blustery winter morn' (which is something that no person not named Grizzly Adams has ever experienced), disciplined, and gruff. "Pretty" probably isn't one of those things, unless you really like beards and dehydrated meat. The formula has worked like a charm over the last few years, though, and you have to give the Irish a gold star for its consistent adherence to their plan. (Which, I think, is to make me go bonkers. ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED, KEVIN CORRIGAN!)

Anyway, here's the heat on Notre Dame.

NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (BIG EAST)

Here's an abbreviated chart of Notre Dame's production this season. For a more complete, mind-bending picture, here's a .pdf of the complete report.

NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH
BIG STATS PACE STATS
Record 6-1 (1-0) Clear % 87.94% (13)
Adj. Off. Efficiency 26.03 (50) Opp. Clear % 85.50% (44)
Adj. Def. Efficiency 19.59 (2) Faceoff % 45.90% (43)
Poss. Percentage 50.23% (28) Pace 59.34 (56)
Off. Poss./60 min. 29.81 (54)
DEFENSIVE STATS Def. Poss./60 min. 29.53 (8)
Save Percentage 65.6%
Saves/Def. Poss. 0.37 (6) OFFENSIVE STATS
Opp. Sht. %. 17.65% (1) Goal Differential +10
Opp. Effective Sht. % 17.79 (1) Shooting % 22.71% (58)
Def. Assist Rate 11.21 (2) Effective Sht. % 22.93% (59)
Man-Down/Def. Poss. 0.08 (10) Assist Rate 10.65 (58)
Man-Down Conversion % 11.76% (1) EMO per Off. Poss. 0.07 (59)
Man-Down Reliance 0.05 (2) EMO Conversion % 20.00% (56)
C/T per Def. Poss. 0.19 (15) EMO Reliance 0.06 (58)
Turnovers/Off. Poss. 0.46 (25)
Opp. Saves/Off. Poss. 0.36 (53)

Three pieces of incredibly important information from my brain to your eyes via your Internet computing machine:

  • Notre Dame is the best defensive team in the country. Period. (Disagree? No? Good. I didn't want to smack you in the teeth with a lead pipe.) With big, rangy guys like Stephen O'Hara, Matt Miller, and Kevin Randall, the Irish close defense is constructed like an iron curtain of pure menace. Then, of course, there's the nation's best keeper -- John Kemp -- in between the pipes to clean up any mess that may come his way. Notre Dame is among the nation's top ten (and, in many metrics, among the top five) in every significant defensive statistical category short of "The Offense Just Quit and Went Home Very Frustrated and Sad." It's a testament to the disciplined system that the Irish run and their almost cultish adherence to the method. St. John's isn't necessarily a bad offensive team -- they're pretty much hovering around the national average in many legacy metrics -- but it takes more than an average offensive team to crack Notre Dame's defense; it takes a merciless offensive that even zombie George Patton would have a hard time getting to punch through the scheme.
  • As good as the Irish's defense has been this year, Notre Dame's offense has been inversely anemic. A bit of this may be attributable to the defenses that the Irish have played this season -- only four teams have played a schedule featuring more efficient defenses -- but the fact remains: outside of Sean Rogers (who has been Zeusian lightning in the final breaths of games this season) and Jim Marlatt, Notre Dame has been poor at the offensive end. (Like, "please give me a hat with a free bowl of soup" kind of poor.) There are two things that stick out here. First, even with a personnel imbalance, Notre Dame isn't getting the ball in the back of the net (as evidenced by their extra-man reliance rate and extra-man conversion rate). (That isn't a huge issue to Notre Dame, though, as they're rarely playing with an extra attacker (as evidenced by the extra-man opportunity per offensive possession rate). Second, without a volume offense (Notre Dame isn't dominating the possession percentage or playing tons of offensive possessions per 60 minutes of play), the Irish are content with getting what they can get and relying on its defense to pull out victories. That's fine, I guess, but the imbalance is dangerous in the overall and is arsonist theory: In Notre Dame's seven contests this season, the Irish have played five games with a one-goal differential at the final horn. Playing with fire and not running away from the house as it burns to the ground is exciting, sure, but also induces heart palpitations that could kill you.
  • As is the Irish's desire, it wouldn't surprise me if Notre Dame drives the pace of their game Sunday square into the turf. Only five teams play fewer possessions than the Irish on a 60 minute basis, and with St. John's having the likely advantage at the dot this weekend with Jordan Rothman, it's likely that the Irish are going to try to control possessions in two potential ways: Not pressuring St. John's offensive players while the Johnnies are in the attack box or on the clear (as evidenced by Notre Dame's caused turnover and ride rates), patiently allowing the Johnnies to press and make unforced mistakes; and maintaining protracted offensive possessions while attacking (or, in better terms, kind of attacking) St. John's while in the offensive box. Jeff Lowman is a pretty good stopper for the Red Storm, and given the Irish's shooting woes this season -- in terms of accuracy, not volume -- I wouldn't be shocked if Notre Dame really picks its spots while handling the bean. This has all the makings of ground warfare, slugging through the turf, and there aren't many teams that are more adept at that then Kevin Corrigan's charges.

For more on Notre Dame's opponent -- St. John's -- check out the Red Storm's profile here.

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