2012 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament Staring Contest: Princeton at Virginia

March 24, 2012; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Virginia Cavaliers attack Steele Stanwick (6) prepares to shoot the ball on John Hopkins Blue Jays goalie Pierce Bassett (33) in the first half at Klockner Stadium. The Blue Jays won 11-10 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE

It's the 2012 NCAA Tournament! Take out the nice napkins and make sure that your kid doesn't have crap all over his face. College Crosse has this all under control, so feel safe, friends. If you missed anything -- and you really shouldn't because you're only hurting yourself if you do -- click this fancy highlighted text to get all caught up.

Your pappy probably thinks that this game is for the NCAA title, which is fine because your pappy remembers a world that isn't populated with lacrosse teams losing their minds, tearing off their shirts while lighting torches and committing acts of civil unrest. Which reminds me: You need to talk to your pappy about laying low for a while.

Anyway, here's the heat on Princeton at Virginia.

Virginia Cavaliers: Tournament Five-Seed (ACC, At-Large)

For a more complete, mind-bending picture, here's a .pdf of the complete report.

VIRGINIA CAVALIERS
BIG STATS PACE STATS
Record 11-3 Clear % 89.85% (4)
Adj. Off. Efficiency 35.45 (10) Opp. Clear % 87.50% (54)
Adj. Def. Efficiency 27.66 (21) Faceoff % 55.19% (14)
Poss. Percentage 53.14% (8) Pace 64.45 (38)
Off. Poss./60 min. 34.25 (20)
DEFENSIVE STATS Def. Poss./60 min. 30.20 (9)
Save Percentage 56.63%
Saves/Def. Poss. 0.37 (10) OFFENSIVE STATS
Opp. Sht. %. 25.53% (10) Goal Differential +47
Opp. Effective Sht. % 26.02% (10) Shooting % 31.46% (10)
Def. Assist Rate 0.16 (24) Effective Sht. % 32.02% (12)
Man-Down/Def. Poss. 0.10 (24) Assist Rate 0.23 (6)
Man-Down Conversion % 34.15% (29) EMO per Off. Poss. 0.07 (58)
Man-Down Reliance 0.12 (32) EMO Conversion % 50.00% (2)
C/T per Def. Poss. 0.25 (15) EMO Reliance 0.11 (41)
Turnovers/Off. Poss. 0.38 (3)
Opp. Saves/Off. Poss. 0.30 (21)

Princeton Tigers: Unseeded (Ivy, At-Large)

For a more complete, mind-bending picture, here's a .pdf of the complete report.

PRINCETON TIGERS
BIG STATS PACE STATS
Record 11-4 Clear % 85.62% (20)
Adj. Off. Efficiency 35.77 (9) Opp. Clear % 87.08% (50)
Adj. Def. Efficiency 23.48 (5) Faceoff % 50.73% (27)
Poss. Percentage 50.97% (16) Pace 64.10 (41)
Off. Poss./60 min. 32.67 (32)
DEFENSIVE STATS Def. Poss./60 min. 31.43 (20)
Save Percentage 58.65%
Saves/Def. Poss. 0.32 (24) OFFENSIVE STATS
Opp. Sht. %. 24.07% (5) Goal Differential +64
Opp. Effective Sht. % 24.29% (5) Shooting % 31.41% (11)
Def. Assist Rate 0.13 (7) Effective Sht. % 32.04% (11)
Man-Down/Def. Poss. 0.09 (13) Assist Rate 0.23 (5)
Man-Down Conversion % 14.63% (2) EMO per Off. Poss. 0.10 (39)
Man-Down Reliance 0.05 (2) EMO Conversion % 32.65% (42)
C/T per Def. Poss. 0.25 (17) EMO Reliance 0.09 (48)
Turnovers/Off. Poss. 0.44 (19)
Opp. Saves/Off. Poss. 0.26 (3)

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

  • A focus on Sunday may be the play of Virginia keeper Rob Fortunato. The senior has been great for the Cavaliers this season and they have heavily relied on him to make stops to end defensive possessions. Against Princeton, though, Fortunato and the Cavs defense is going to see all kinds of issues: The Tigers squeeze off a lot of shots per offensive possession and, primarily through Tom Schreiber, do a nice job of moving the defense and getting open looks through a solid sharing rate of the bean. When you combine the fact that Princeton is as accurate as anyone in the country (four of their top-six scorers shoot above 30 percent), the Tigers' offense is a deadly efficient Panzer tank of death pain. For Virginia, this is an issue on two fronts, especially when they're in their 3-3 zone: (1) Only 10 teams yield as many shots per defensive possessions as the Cavs (this isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially when the shots are coming from poor positions or are generally saveable (which Virginia's zone does a nice job of doing)); and (2) The team's defensive share rate, while hanging around the top-third of the country, is still pushed in large part by Fortunato's ability to make big stops. Princeton has the kind of offense that is capable of exploiting these items in Virginia's profile, but if Fortunato is on his game the Cavaliers' defensive system has enough in it to control the Tigers' preferential offensive approach. In short, if you see Princeton sharing the ball well, using the entirety of the offense, that's an important indicator of where the game is going to go.
  • The inverse is true for Princeton's defense against Virginia's offense. Tyler Fiorito anchors that Tigers defense and when he's cooking -- and the guys in front of him are executing -- it doesn't matter much what the opposition is attempting to do. On Sunday, however, Princeton is going to be facing a bigger deal than it has in recent weeks: Steele Stanwick is a horsie and Virginia rides him to victory. We can talk about team share rates all we want, but for the Cavs, Steele Stanwick is the share rate (he's accounted for about 41 percent of the team's overall helpers). He's the key cog here driving two items: (1) Virginia's ability to generate good looks (illustrated in the offensive assist rate and overall shooting rates); and (2) the trigger man for the Cavs' ability to fire off looks. There is a mirror-image tension (not necessarily in approach, but in production) between the Princeton and Virginia offensive and defensive battles, and -- like Schreiber for Princeton -- if you see Virginia (through Stanwick) sharing the ball well, using the entirety of the offense with Stanwick at the point, that's an important indicator of where teh game is going to go.
  • There's been a little chatter this week about two aspects of this game: (1) Whether Virginia will attempt to push the tempo; and (2) Princeton's man-down defense against Virginia's man-up offense. With respect to the latter, I'm not too concerned: Only 12 teams play in man-down situations less than Princeton and only three teams play on the man-up less than the Cavaliers. The conversion rates, then, aren't all that important to me; I think it's a subordinated issue in the overall. With respect to the former, I'm not sure how much Virginia is actually going to want to press. Generating unsettled situations and easy goals is obviously a strategic advantage in totem, but Virginia's ride -- when they've slapped it on -- hasn't been dramatically effective this season. With the Tigers clearing at a decent rate, I'm not sure how much value the Cavaliers would get out of pressing on Sunday. (The alternative would be to press out from a zone, causing turnovers. But Princeton is pretty handy with the ball, and do you really want to create gaps for the Princeton offense to exploit? (And I'm ignoring generating tempo for the sake of generating tempo. That's an odd issue to address.)) Plus, with the number of offensive weapons that Princeton has, Virginia doesn't exactly have a decided advantage in terms of out-offensing the Tigers with lots of possessions. (You could make an argument about depth, I suppose, but that's not a first-line issue to me.) I think, in the end, you see these two teams play at a pretty even pace -- not quite a chess match but also not a 100-meter dash -- which ends up fitting the profile of each school this year.
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