2012 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament Final Four Participant Profile: (1) Loyola

via laxunation.files.wordpress.com

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.

Loyola Greyhounds: One-Seed

For a complete, mind-bending picture of the Greyhounds, point your clicking thing at this text for a downloadable .pdf report.

Here are three pieces of incredibly important information about Loyola from my brain to your eyes via your Internet computing machine:

  • A big thing for Loyola this season -- outside of having Mike Sawyer, Eric Lusby, and Scott Ratliff (which no other team has) -- is that the 'Hounds have been a bit of a terror creating turnovers. No team in the country generates as many caused turnovers per defensive possession than Loyola (about 30 per 100 defensive possessions). That's solid production. This has created two solid circumstances for the Greyhounds: (1) It has really driven a lot of their defensive efficiency, ending opportunities before opponents even have a chance to rifle a shot on cage (as evidenced by Loyola's shots per defensive possession value); and (2) It has allowed the 'Houds to insulate Jack Runkel a bit (who has had a pretty good season at stopping the ball but not a spectacular one (he holds a 53.6 save percentage)). It's an exciting way to close defensive possessions and against a Notre Dame team that has played somewhat loose with the ball this year, the Greyhounds may be able to exploit this on Saturday afternoon.
  • Despite rolling with four very strong offensive players -- Sawyer, Lusby, Davis Butts, and Justin Ward -- this is still an offense that relies on volume a little bit to generate tallies. The team's adjusted offensive value is solid (12th-nationally), but when you dig a little deeper you start to see why the team relies on volume to get things done: Only four teams fire more shots on cage per offensive possession than the 'Hounds and the team's overall shooting percentage only sits around the top-third to top-half of the country (depending on how you value shooting). Patience and an ability to share the ball have really buoyed the team's offensive efforts this season despite the marginal shooting percentages and number of attempts they make at opposing goalies. (It's also important to note that only 16 teams see their shots saved by an opposing netminder more than Loyola.) To overcome this (again, it's not a terrible thing given the overall efficiency, but it is notable), the Greyhounds have heavily relied on dominating the possession margin game. Against Notre Dame on Saturday, Loyola is really going to need to exploit the possession margin game as volume -- if indicia that builds into overall offensive efficiency is lacking -- is going to be the great hope that the 'Hounds have at cracking the Irish's incredible defense.
  • In the build-up to Colgate-Massachusetts two weeks ago, I mentioned that the Minutemen hadn't really played a team (other than Hartford) that rolled with an offense as good as the Raiders'; I worried that Massachusetts may be walking into something they may not have seen before and that it could bite them. I think the inverse may be true for Loyola on Saturday: On the year, the Greyhounds hold a strength of schedule relative to opposing defenses faced that ranks only 40th in the country. Now, I adjust a lot of the efficiency metrics to account for this, but that doesn't erase the fact that the 'Hounds are going to be dealing with something they haven't had to concern themselves much with in 2012. In their only other game against a defensive machine -- Johns Hopkins -- Loyola struggled and clawed, eventually falling 10-9 in overtime. Despite dominating possession on the day, the Greyhounds only finished the day with a 21.95 adjusted offensive efficiency value (well below their overall season performance). That Greyhounds offense better come ready to play because they're going to be challenged unlike how they've been challenged all season.

For more on Loyola's opponent -- Notre Dame -- check out their profile here.

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