2012 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament: Who Looks Like a National Champion?

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 30: Bray Malphrus #30 (C) of the Virginia Cavaliers holds up the trophy after they defeated the Maryland Terrapins 9-7 at M&T Bank Stadium on May 30, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

I was screwing around the Internet yesterday -- you know, looking up important things like whether Wikipedia's entry on time travel has any cool updates -- and came across this nifty piece from Christian Swezey over on Inside Lacrosse. In the piece, Swezey attempts to find some trends in NCAA Tournament play over the last 20 years to determine which teams are better suited to bring home a big ol' piece of wood on Memorial Monday.

That got me thinking: Are there any trends in the material that we're working with to help define what a national champion looks like? As we only have three solid years of complete information to work with, we can't go back two decades to really define the data set. But, there are some things that tend to stick out when looking at the last three national champions. Now, there isn't necessarily a blueprint of what constitutes a potential national champion -- that's the spice of life, babycakes! -- but there are some stronger trends among the last three Memorial Monday victors:

  • The last three national champions all maintained cumulative adjusted efficiency margins (adjusted offensive efficiency over adjusted defensive efficiency) in the top-five in the country.
  • Two out of the last three title holders had adjusted offensive efficiencies at the top of the country with the third -- Virginia -- sitting just outside the top-five. Their adjusted defensive efficiencies were all in the top-10 nationally with two teams sitting just outside the top-five.
  • All teams were among the ten best nationally in offensive effective shooting percentage. (This is just a metric that weights raw shooting percentage to how teams perform in personnel imbalances.)
  • All three teams maintained offensive assist rates in the top-10 nationally, with two teams in the top crust of Division I.
  • All three teams maintained extra-man conversion rates in the top-five of the land.
  • None of the three teams relied heavily on extra-man opportunities to generate tallies, nor did any of them play with the man-up all that often.
  • All three teams play an overall strength of schedule that ranked in the top-ten of the country.

Here's a table that summarizes the metrics and where each school shook out at the end of the year:

NCAA LACROSSE TOURNAMENT CHAMPION TRAITS: 2009-2011
ADJ. OFF. EFF. ADJ. DEF. EFF. EFF. MARGIN O. EFF. SHT. % O. A/R EMO % EMO/O. POSS. EMO REL. S.O.S.
SYRACUSE
VALUE 35.33 21.34 13.99 31.99% 0.20 45.10% 0.08 0.10 2.69
RANK 1 6 1 6 2 5 51 48 8
DUKE
VALUE 36.67 24.02 12.65 35.34% 0.22 52.24% 0.09 0.13 2.25
RANK 1 6 2 5 1 4 48 30 9
VIRGINIA
VALUE 34.73 24.69 10.04 33.67% 0.18 51.79% 0.08 0.13 4.97
RANK 6 10 5 8 8 1 59 33 1

Adj. Off. Eff.: Adjusted offensive efficiency.
Adj. Deff. Eff.: Adjusted defensive efficiency.
Adj. Eff. Margin.: Adjusted efficiency margin.
O. Eff. Sht. %.: Offensive effective shooting percentage.
O. A/R.: Offensive assist rate.
EMO %.: Offensive extra-man opportunity conversion rate.
EMO/O. Poss.: Extra-man opportunities per offensive possession.
EMO Rel.: Rate of reliance on extra-man opportunities to generate goals.
S.O.S.: Strength of schedule.

As noted, this isn't a long data set that we're working with here, but the above are the notable traits that each team shared. Looking at this year's field, there's only one team -- Maryland -- that currently maintains a similar profile to the last three winners:

NCAA LACROSSE TOURNAMENT CHAMPION TRAITS: 2009-2011
ADJ. OFF. EFF. ADJ. DEF. EFF. EFF. MARGIN O. EFF. SHT. % O. A/R EMO % EMO/O. POSS. EMO REL. S.O.S.
CANISIUS
VALUE 26.16 33.41 -7.25 32.17% 0.17 34.92% 0.15 0.19 -1.03
RANK 49 49 49 10 27 31 3 6 43
COLGATE
VALUE 36.80 26.88 9.92 32.77% 0.20 50.00% 0.10 0.13 1.34
RANK 3 17 6 8 15 2 41 23 21
DENVER
VALUE 37.42 28.09 9.33 33.82% 0.22 26.53% 0.10 0.08 2.7037
RANK 2 24 7 5 9 50 32 54 4
DUKE
VALUE 36.21 26.89 9.32 30.00% 0.17 22.22% 0.11 0.07 2.60
RANK 5 18 8 30 30 56 21 55 5
HOPKINS
VALUE 29.56 21.76 7.79 28.73% 0.16 42.86% 0.10 0.15 2.33
RANK 32 2 10 39 35 11 37 12 7
LEHIGH
VALUE 33.79 22.81 10.98 30.43% 0.17 53.33% 0.09 0.14 -0.67
RANK 14 4 4 24 29 1 46 16 40
LOYOLA
VALUE 34.68 24.59 10.10 31.17% 0.21 50.00% 0.07 0.11 -0.06
RANK 11 6 5 21 12 2 59 40 36
MARYLAND
VALUE 36.35 24.79 11.56 32.36% 0.21 43.24% 0.09 0.10 2.05
RANK 4 7 3 9 11 10 48 45 12
UMASS
VALUE 40.88 24.81 16.07 35.57% 0.27 40.28% 0.15 0.15 0.24
RANK 1 8 5 2 1 19 4 13 31
CAROLINA
VALUE 34.01 30.50 3.50 31.54% 0.22 40.38% 0.09 0.11 2.02
RANK 13 35 22 18 10 18 52 39 13
ND
VALUE 28.00 19.81 8.19 25.57% 0.13 25.00% 0.07 0.06 0.50
RANK 40 1 9 56 53 51 60 59 28
PRINCETON
VALUE 35.77 23.48 12.29 32.04% 0.23 51.79% 0.10 0.09 0.16
RANK 9 5 2 11 5 1 339 48 32
S. BROOK
VALUE 32.36 27.68 4.69 32.80% 0.21 42.86% 0.12 0.15 -0.19
RANK 19 22 16 7 13 11 12 11 37
SYRACUSE
VALUE 30.38 25.76 4.62 29.52% 0.19 38.57% 0.13 0.16 0.93
RANK 28 10 17 33 21 22 9 8 24
VIRGINIA
VALUE 35.45 27.66 7.79 32.02% 0.23 50.00% 0.07 0.11 1.49
RANK 10 21 11 12 6 2 58 41 18
YALE
VALUE 32.28 26.74 5.54 31.38% 0.16 34.38% 0.12 0.13 2.55
RANK 20 16 15 19 39 33 17 17 6

This all might mean nothing. Of course, it could mean everything, which just made my mind explode.

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