Eulogizing the 2012 College Lacrosse Season: (22) North Carolina

Apr 1, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels attack Marcus Holman (1) scores goal against John Hopkins Blue Jays at the Big City Classic at MetLife Stadium. North Carolina Tar Heels defeat the John Hopkins Blue Jays 13-9. Mandatory Credit: Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE

You spent the better part of four months meticulously dissecting the 2012 college lacrosse season. You shouldn't stop now because cold turkey is a bad way to go through life, man. College Crosse is providing decompression snapshots of all 61 teams and their 2012 campaigns, mostly because everything needs a proper burial.

I. VITAL SIGNS

Team: North Carolina Tar Heels

2012 Record: 11-6 (1-2, ACC)

2012 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): 1.88 (13)

2011 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): 2.54 (8)

Winning Percentage Change from 2011: +2.21%

2012 Efficiency Margin: 3.01 (22)

Efficiency Margin Change from 2011: -0.78

II. "ATTA BOY!" FACT

  • North Carolina generated almost six more possessions per 60 minutes of play compared to their opponents. That's pure-bred nonsense (first-ranked royalty among the rest of the country), seeing the Heels make opponents bow to the throne as they held greater than 54 percent of total possessions on the year. The most direct generation point for this possession margin was R.G. Keenan's domination at the dot in 2012, pulling home 60.3 percent of his attempts (a mark good for 10th nationally). While Keenan's mauling of opponents pushed Carolina's effort, there are two other hidden aspects here that helped the Heels keep the possession margin in their favor: Only three teams cleared the ball at a cleaner rate than North Carolina and only 10 teams got a better effort on their ride. Those executed offensive opportunities and switched defensive postures to offensive ones allowed the Heels to dominate opportunities (even if teams like Lehigh and Pennsylvania dominated Carolina in the time of possession department). To wit: In only four games this season -- Lehigh (loss), Duke (loss), Dartmouth (win), Virginia (win), and Denver (loss) -- North Carolina did not come out on top in possession percentage; this was a huge factor in the Heels' success rate.

III. "YOU'RE GROUNDED UNTIL YOU QUALIFY FOR THE AARP!" FACT

  • A lot is made of North Carolina's desire to shift defenses -- sometimes mid-possession -- from zone to man to "thing getting abused." It was that last defensive strategy that North Carolina seemed to excel at during major stretches of its season and it was the biggest reason that the Heels crashed out of the NCAA Tournament in the opening round. Despite playing only around 31 defensive possessions per 60 minutes of play (a strong mark considering the Heels played at a pace that finished 13th in the country), the lack of defensive posture exposure did not help Carolina all that much: Only five teams were more prone to ball-watching, yielding assisted goals all over the place, and the team's raw defensive shooting rate (30.22 percent) finished in the bottom third of the nation. The combination of Steven Rastivo having a difficult time with ball stopping (he held a 50.4 save percentage) and the Heels' field players failing to mark both on- and off-ball drove an adjusted defensive efficiency rate that ranked just 36th in the country. With such little actual defensive exposure and against a schedule ranked around 24th in opposing offenses faced, North Carolina should have performed much better in the defensive end. Alas, treachery does not always work within the structure of sensibility.

IV. MR. FIX-IT HAS A ONE-FIX ENGAGEMENT, AND IT'S . . .

  • Joe Breschi has at his disposal just about as much talent as any team in the country, but Chris Feifs and Brian Holman need to get their defense together to increase the totality of the Heels' strength. Kieran McDonald and Jordan Smith return in 2013 to anchor the defense, but the team is going to need to replace Charlie McComas. Ryan Kilpatrick may be an answer for the unit with his athleticism with a pole, but, regardless, this Carolina defense -- especially in its overall execution -- needs to take a big development step.

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