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.
I'm not going to beat the hell out of team profiles ahead of Memorial Monday. These teams are what they are, and if you saw the Semifinal Saturday profiles (and games), there hasn't been significant statistical profile changes from then to now. It's not like we're looking at teams from what they did in March compared to what they might do in May, so I'm not too worried about missing a few beats just to generate some extra pageviews.
So, you're welcome for that.
Rather, I'm going to do a one-shot, three-point rundown of some stuff that sticks out for the title game. Your continued patronage of College Crosse is, of course, appreciated.
Here are three pieces of incredibly important information about Maryland-Loyola from my brain to your eyes via your Internet computing machine:
- A somewhat overlooked aspect of both Loyola and Maryland's defenses this season has been each team's ability to generate turnovers. The Greyhounds have caused a lot of these turnovers through the ride this season while the Terrapins have kind of generated these circumstances in the defensive end proper. In a game where both teams are going to need to operate efficiently in defensive postures, killing opposing offensive opportunities before they can attack surging goalies is likely a strategy point on each side. On Monday, though, I'm not sure how much either the 'Hounds or Terps are going to get out of their takeaway games: Both opposing offenses value the ball as well as any team in the country (both teams rank in the top-three nationally in turnovers per offensive possession). Additionally, with Maryland's ability to clear -- the Terrapins do so at a clip that puts them in the top-ten in the country -- I'm not sure exactly how much Loyola is going to get out of their ride. Scott Ratliff and Jesse Bernhardt are gifted takeaway artists, but they're going to have their work cut out for them in the championship. If a team can snap the tension in these two metrics, it may factor significantly into the outcome of the game.
- Opponents have relied fairly heavily on Maryland playing in man-down situations to score this season; Loyola's opposition has also required the personnel imbalance to generate tallies against the Greyhounds' defense as well, but not as drastically as the Terrapins' opponents. Neither Maryland or Loyola have played in the man-up a lot per offensive possession this year, but Monday could be drastically impacted by each team's performance in uneven situations: (A) Loyola clicks on its man-up at about a 45 percent clip and if Maryland plays in a bunch of man-down scenarios (only 10 teams have played with less than six defenders on a defensive possession basis more than the Terrapins) it could really impact the momentum of play; and (B) While the 'Hounds have avoided man-down situations in the overall in 2012, some uncharacteristically boneheaded play from Loyola could spell doom as Maryland converts on about 42 percent of their extra-man opportunities. This fact favors Loyola in the overall, due almost exclusively to the fact that the 'Hounds have had more disciplined play throughout the season, but it's the opportunities in these circumstances that are of greater importance.
- When I talk to people about statistics, I always hammer home two points: (1) Don't look at any of these metrics in a vacuum, as they all impact each other; and (2) Don't rest on the statistics alone -- they need to be considered in light of what you're seeing on the field. With that said, if you want to know how well either team is operating both defensively and offensively, a major factor on Monday is going to be how well Maryland and Loyola share the bean. Assist rate (both offensive and defensive) is a major metric for consideration. If a team is sharing the ball, they're likely generating open, hands-free looks from preferential shooting locations. This is a major driver for shooting percentage and impacts efficiency to a high degree. The 'Hounds and Terps are among the nation's finest in both generating and limiting assisted scoring opportunities and rely somewhat heavily on each to drive their offensive and defensive efficiency. Whichever team can utilize the offense as a whole and exploit defensive lapses may ultimately drive the final result.