May 20, 2012; Chester, PA USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish goalie John Kemp (1) makes a save against the Virginia Cavaliers during the second half of the NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Quarterfinals at PPL Park. The Fighting Irish won 12-10. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-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: Notre Dame Fighting Irish
2012 Record: 13-3 (6-0, Big East)
2012 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): 1.52 (18)
2011 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): 2.65 (5)
Winning Percentage Change from 2011: +2.68%
2012 Efficiency Margin: 8.24 (9)
Efficiency Margin Change from 2011: -2.27
II. "ATTA BOY!" FACT
- John Kemp may be the most important player that Notre Dame has and I feel as confident in that fact as I do that I will be in an underwear emergency at least four times a month. Gerry Byrne is one of the best defensive coordinators in the country (if not the best) and Kemp had the luxury of playing with one of the nation's best defensive units -- especially behind Kevin Randall, Stephen O'Hara and Matt Miller in close -- but it's Kemp that served as the rock to Notre Dame's statistically-best defense in 2012 (the team's adjusted defensive efficiency value was an insane 21.01). Kemp's top-ranked save percentage (63.7) helped anchor a defense that led the nation in raw defensive shooting rate at 20.04 percent; his steady play between the pipes was at a level that saw the Irish end over 37 percent of their defensive possessions with a save (a mark exceeded by only eight teams). There are lots of pieces to the Irish's defensive puzzle, but Kemp -- straightforward and consistent -- was a (the?) driving force in Notre Dame's defensive performance.
III. "YOU'RE GROUNDED UNTIL YOU QUALIFY FOR THE AARP!" FACT
- There are few things that frustrate me more than Kevin Corrigan's preferred method of play -- incessantly bland with a side of "meh" and a coffee break for "fork-in-the-eye." That isn't the issue point here, though. No way, man. As boring as the Irish can be, there was a bigger issue in 2012 than Notre Dame's "last mistake loses" mentality: The Irish's offense was generally a trash fire. At 26.90 percent, the Irish ranked 48th in the country in raw shooting percentage (a fact that should probably involve a disappointed head shake and exasperated exhale). The team's offensive share rate was around the 10 worst in the land and even with the personnel imbalance in their favor the Irish couldn't seem to get the ball in the back of the net at a decent rate -- Notre Dame's man-up conversion rate in 2012 was a dastardly 25.71 percent. This is a unit that fought itself all season (despite the fact that the Irish finished the year ranked right around the national average in adjusted offensive efficiency) but never quite put together a string of quarters and games where there was fluidity in performance. Kevin Corrigan talked a lot this past season about not having individual offensive stars but rather leveraging the load among all of his offensive weapons; he's right, but he also seems to leave an important issue unaddressed: Outside of surprising outbursts against Yale and Virginia down the stretch, the unit was evil.
IV. MR. FIX-IT HAS A ONE-FIX ENGAGEMENT, AND IT'S . . .
- Corrigan is going to have to find some offense in 2013 to complement his defense. Matt Kavanaugh, who starred for the United States in the U-19 tournament in Finland this summer, has the potential to step in and break some hearts for the Irish. Sean Rogers will return for a fifth year and will be joined by Jim Marlatt (an emerging threat at the midfield) and Westy Hopkins (who is starting to figuring things out in South Bend). With some of this talent growing up and developing, Notre Dame may have an offense that can provide the consistency the Irish need to fully operate against the nation's elite and not rely on its defensive to hold opponents to seven goals and eventually make enough mistakes to allow the Irish to win.