Big City Classic Participant Profile: Johns Hopkins

March 24, 2012; Charlottesville, VA, USA; John Hopkins Blue Jays goalie Pierce Bassett (33) makes a save against the Virginia Cavaliers in the first half at Klockner Stadium. The Blue Jays won 11-10 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE

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

We end where the polls start: Johns Hopkins. (Oh, my God! That internal monologue right now where you rehashed the lines from Step Brothers about doing illegal things with Johnny Hopkins and Sloan Kettering? That was genius stuff. You should be pretty proud of yourself, smart guy. Maybe I can get you 15 minutes at the Apollo on Saturday night. You'll knock 'em dead, I tell you.)

Anyway, here's the heat on Johns Hopkins.

JOHNS HOPKINS BLUE JAYS (HOPKINSPENDENT)

Here's the thing about the Jays: They started the season as one of the two or three best teams in the country and they're getting better. That's kind of like a serial axe murderer on the loose who takes a bump of cocaine to give himself a second wind. I don't know if Johns Hopkins runs the table this season -- does it really matter, though? -- but this is still the last team you want to see in May when everything is escalated to maximum pressure.

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

JOHNS HOPKINS BLUE JAYS
BIG STATS PACE STATS
Record 8-0 Clear % 91.08% (3)
Adj. Off. Efficiency 30.37 (25) Opp. Clear % 76.05% (2)
Adj. Def. Efficiency 19.29 (1) Faceoff % 57.23% (11)
Poss. Percentage 53.63% (3) Pace 66.57 (31)
Off. Poss./60 min. 35.70 (14)
DEFENSIVE STATS Def. Poss./60 min. 30.87 (16)
Save Percentage 59.1%
Saves/Def. Poss. 0.27 (47) OFFENSIVE STATS
Opp. Sht. %. 21.36% (2) Goal Differential +37
Opp. Effective Sht. % 21.90% (2) Shooting % 28.87% (31)
Def. Assist Rate 12.05 (6) Effective Sht. % 29.55% (34)
Man-Down/Def. Poss. 0.11 (33) Assist Rate 15.63 (40)
Man-Down Conversion % 25.93% (11) EMO per Off. Poss. 0.10 (41)
Man-Down Reliance 0.15 (45) EMO Conversion % 42.86% (16)
C/T per Def. Poss. 0.21 (30) EMO Reliance 0.14 (21)
Turnovers/Off. Poss. 0.36 (2)
Opp. Saves/Off. Poss. 0.32 (36)

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

  • Let's start with the defense: It's basically a guillotine inside an iron maiden. The fact that this the top-ranked unit in adjusted defensive efficiency isn't the entire story; it's how the unit has achieved that spot that's noteworthy. Only five teams yield fewer assists per 100 defensive possessions than Johns Hopkins, and that's a testament to how well the unit works as a whole: the poles don't get beat and Marshall Burkhart is a matchup nightmare. It's a complete focus on the scheme and execution that yields very few good looks from opposing offenses. To beat the Hopkins defense you either need a heroic individual one-on-one effort or a bean-in-the-ear pass that the defense wouldn't be able to stop no matter how well they executed. What this has done is drive down the number of shots the Jays' defense needs to face (only nine teams see fewer shots in the defensive end) and has allowed goalie Pierce Bassett to see more stoppable shots than unstoppable ones. The end result? The lowest raw defensive shooting percentage in the country, one of the lowest save rates to end defensive possessions in the country, and an overall goalie save percentage just under 60 percent. Hopkins doesn't generate a ton of caused turnovers but it doesn't have to: The defense can sustain itself in the approach without forcing the opposition into mistakes.
  • Hopkins really does a good job at dictating tempo in its outings, and while the Jays are playing at a tempo a bit quicker than in recent seasons, this is still a team that is generally pragmatic in its pace. Johns Hopkins has been able to do this in three ways: Mike Poppleton is dominating the dot, pushing the Blue Jays' face-off percentage right around the top ten in the country; only two teams clear better than Hopkins, crushing the opportunities for unsettled and frenetic offensive-defensive possessions; and Hopkins has driven its ride to the point where opponents are clearing at only a 76 percent clip, creating preferential offensive opportunities that result in tallies. When you add this all up Hopkins is playing about five more offensive possessions per 60 minutes of play than their opponents. This has allowed Johns Hopkins to volumize its offense and cover some of the inefficiency inherent in its maturing offensive attack. This is going to be a key for the Jays on Sunday against North Carolina: The Heels are equally adept at dominating the possession percentage game (Carolina is second nationally in possession percentage), and it's going to be a slap fight to see who can control this aspect of the game. I wouldn't be shocked to see Hopkins really take their time offensively to try and drain every ounce of opportunity out of their offensive possessions to control the game and keep the bean out of Carolina's hands.
  • To dovetail the "maximize offensive possessions or death!" point immediately above (admittedly, there will be no death; just maybe goals or something), Hopkins simply doesn't commit turnovers. Like, ever. Only one team turns the ball over less than the Jays, which really shows the discipline of this team. Carolina hasn't exactly caused a bunch of miscues this season -- only 16 teams create fewer turnovers per defensive possession than the Heels -- so it'll be interesting to see how North Carolina attacks Johns Hopkins if the Jays are able to possess the ball (and, to be sure, they'll possess it like the key to eternity). Johns Hopkins doesn't make its offensive possessions easy on opposing defenses because of the way that they value the bean, but if Carolina wants any chance at generating transition and giving the ball to its offense (in a means other than winning the draw), they're going to have to hope that Hopkins plays uncharacteristically loose with the biscuit.

For more on Johns Hopkins' opponent -- North Carolina -- check out the Tar Heels' profile here.

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