It's the 2012 NCAA lacrosse Final Four! 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.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Four-Seed
Here are three pieces of incredibly important information about Notre Dame from my brain to your eyes via your Internet computing machine:
- For what has generally been a pretty tragic offense for most of the season, the Irish are finally going in the right direction. Through its NCAA Tournament run, the Irish have generated solid offensive efficiency when possessing the bean, rolling with a value just under 40.00 against Yale and topping the mark -- which is a minor miracle for the Irish -- against Virginia last weekend. There isn't exactly a flashpoint to Notre Dame's offense like Colgate has with Peter Baum or what Virginia threw on the field with Steele Stanwick, but the Irish have been getting solid contributions from a handful of guys -- Sean Rogers, Jim Marlatt, Ryan Foley, Westy Hopkins, and Conor Doyle. It's an offensive approach without ego (it kind of has to be with the way that Notre Dame has shot on the season) and it's starting to generate nice results. Loyola isn't a defensive pushover in any stretch of the imagination (the Greyhounds are ranked sixth nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency and opponents shoot incredibly poorly against that Loyola unit), but if the Irish value the ball -- both in tempo and limiting turnovers (which has been a bit of a problem throughout the 2012 campaign for Notre Dame) -- Corrigan's charges may have enough to move on to Memorial Monday.
- What worries me about Notre Dame, despite the fact that I picked the Irish to win the national championship, is that the Irish play a lot of really tight games. That's not necessarily a terrible thing considering how strong Notre Dame's defense is; they just aren't going to yield a lot of runs that is going to put the team in a huge hole to dig out of if they get behind. What worries me about the Irish's predilection for playing tight games is that Notre Dame often finds itself struggling to control total possession margin (offensive possessions against defensive possessions). On the year, the Irish are playing just about the same number of offensive possessions per 60 minutes of play as their opponents, mostly due to the fact that the Irish have generally struggled at the dot this year. Loyola plays about four-and-a-half more offensive possessions per 60 minutes of play than their opponents on the season, due in part to J.P. Dalton's work on the whistle and the team's ability to clear (and to a lesser extent their ability to ride). The Greyhounds have plenty of offense to crack the nut that is the Irish's defense, and given numerous opportunities to keep hammering at the brick it may eventually crack. Regardless of how strong the Irish's defense is and how far the team's offense has come in recent weeks, Notre Dame may not be able to totally withstand the consequences of a heightened possession gap.
- I'm not really sure what to write about Notre Dame's defensive unit other than to say that it's basically the Fifth Amendment because it's the best defense ever. John Kemp is so ridiculously important to the unit that his value, while you can see it in the downloaded profile, kind of goes beyond mere metrics. The six guys out in front of him get out on the opposition, not necessarily to create turnovers, but to hassle, clog and generally upset opposing offense. They recover as well as any unit in the country and rarely yield preferred shots at the cage. This is the most complete defense remaining in the tournament, and while Loyola is causing headaches with one of the better offenses in the country, it will be the difference between the Irish playing on Memorial Monday and heading home after Semifinal Saturday.
For more on Notre Dame's opponent -- Loyola -- check out the Greyhounds' profile here.