Face-Off Classic Participant Profile: North Carolina

R.G. Keenan: Boss. via images.lax.com

The Face-Off Classic is dynamiting your lacrosse universe on Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. Six teams are set to square off in a triple-header starting at 11:00 A.M. Get your brain full of all kinds of delicious information with College Crosse's profiles of each of the festivals' participants.

I don't know what to think about you, North Carolina. You were sexy -- really sexy, actually -- with those curves and "come hither to take an offensive beating" smile. Then we started hanging out a little bit and you changed. It was a struggle to watch you, even from afar, and when we all got together for a thing with Lehigh it was, like, "What the hell did I get myself into?"

I'm willing to see where this goes, Tar Heels, but don't expect me to return all of your text messages until you start to get your act together.

Here's the heat on North Carolina.

NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS (ACC)

When Carolina does something well, it does it very well; when it does something poorly, it does it impressively poorly:

NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS
BIG STATS PACE STATS
Record 4-2 Clear % 91.38%
Raw Off. Efficiency 31.51 Opp. Clear % 76.80%
Raw Def. Efficiency 27.81 Faceoff % 64.14%
Poss. Percentage 56.00% Pace 70.83
Off. Poss./60 min. 39.67
DEFENSIVE STATS Def. Poss./60 min. 31.17
Save Percentage 54.78%
Saves/Def. Poss. 0.34 OFFENSIVE STATS
Opp. Sht. %. 30.06% Goal Differential +23
Opp. Effective Sht. % 31.22% Shooting % 33.04%
Def. Assist Rate 20.32 Effective Sht. % 33.48%
Man-Down/Def. Poss. 0.13 Assist Rate 21.10
Man-Down Conversion % 48.00% EMO per Off. Poss. 0.06
Man-Down Reliance 0.23 EMO Conversion % 42.86%
C/T per Def. Poss. 0.24 EMO Reliance 0.08
Turnovers/Off. Poss. 0.43
Opp. Saves/Off. Poss. 0.29

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

  • R.G. Keenan is a man that operates heavy machinery, wears flannel, and owns many pieces of Americana to which he displays in the most manly way possible: On the wall above the fireplace. Keenan has been remarkable this season for North Carolina, winning 70.53 percent of his attempts at the dot. While this is impressive, it's also vitally important for the Tar Heels: (1) Carolina has been dominating possession percentage this season against its opponents (that just measures offensive possessions played against defensive ones), and when the entire purpose of game is to generate more offensive opportunities than your opponent, Keenan has been a major factor; (2) With Keenan winning at the dot at a jaw-dropping pace, Carolina has the opportunity to give its offense the C-4 it needs to blast holes through bank vault doors; and (3) It allows North Carolina to insulate what is becoming a treacherous defense that can't seem to stop a damn thing. Keenan, in short, is the centerpiece to the Tar Heels' Laxgiving dinner.
  • On that North Carolina defense: What sticks out most prominently to me is the defensive assist rate (that's just assists allowed per 100 defensive possessions). That value -- 20.32 -- would rank the Tar Heels fourth-worst in the country against the final 2011 rankings. This inability to keep tabs on off-ball movement and staying structured in the defensive scheme could mean a lot of trouble against Princeton on Saturday: The Tigers' have shown a bit of an ability to share the ball on the offensive end at a notable rate (Princeton's offensive assist rate this season is 23.71, although it should be noted that the Tigers have only played three games). North Carolina needs to show care in not identifying only Tom Schreiber and Jeff Froccaro as potential threats around the box and crease as the Tigers do have a bit of a knack for spreading out the scoring goodness (even if Schreiber and Froccaro are ultimately the two most-important cogs in the Princeton offense). If Carolina can focus on its assignments and not lose guys in space and on cuts, the Tar Heels will do themselves a huge favor and, likely, increase its relatively mediocre defensive efficiency and deflate the relatively high rate at which opponents are shooting. Speaking of opponent shooting percentages . . .
  • . . . There is a strong correlation between North Carolina's ability to limit assists on the defensive end and how opponents shoot against the Tar Heels. Opponents are shooting 30.06 percent against the Carolina defense, which is all sorts of bad. While this is usually enough to make you wonder whether North Carolina's defense is just abstract performance art, there's even more to the story: Carolina is yielding around 0.9251 shots per defensive possession -- which is actually pretty good -- but letting opponents score at a relatively high clip. So, the short of the long is this: (1) The Tar Heels aren't letting opponents shoot all that much; (2) Teams are being patient and helping each other with assists because there is value on picking your shots; and (3) Opponents, despite not getting many shots, are still putting the ball past Steven Rastivo. This is not a good situation. What is troublesome if you're North Carolina is that while Princeton hasn't shot the ball all that well this season (the Tigers are only connecting on 27.73 percent of their shots), they are peppering the cage with attempts (Princeton puts about 1.23 shots on cage per offensive possession). This could be a serious issue for North Carolina.

For more on North Carolina's opponent -- Princeton -- check out the Tigers' profile here.

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