Eulogizing the 2012 College Lacrosse Season: (6) Denver

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 28: Peer Fish #36 of the Denver Pioneers stands on the sidelines during the second half of their game against the Virginia Cavaliers at M&T Bank Stadium on May 28, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

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: Denver Pioneers

2012 Record: 9-7 (3-3, ECAC)

2012 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): 3.28 (1)

2011 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): 1.76 (13)

Winning Percentage Change from 2011: -27.08%

2012 Efficiency Margin: 9.03 (6)

Efficiency Margin Change from 2011: -1.47

II. "ATTA BOY!" FACT

  • The amount of offense that Denver put on the field last season -- both in talent and actual production -- was among the strongest that Bill Tierney has had since the late-90's when he was steamrolling fools with Jesse Hubbard, Jon Hess, Chris Massey, and Josh Sims. (Aside: Why don't more people mention those 1997 and 1998 Princeton teams as one of the best all time? Those squads were missile silos of destruction.) Other than simply describing Denver's offense as "Mark Matthews Crushing Faces and the Midfield Leaving Fools in the Dust," the totality of the Pioneers' production, in terms of production measure ranking, is as good as any in the land (if not the best): Only three teams shared the ball better than Denver last season, allowing big finishers like Matthews to ram the ball home with aplomb; only four teams surpassed Denver's raw offensive shooting percentage of 33.50 (due, in part, to the team's ability to share the bean); and, in totem, this was the second-most efficient offense in the country (trailing only Massachusetts). Those metrics illustrate just how dangerous Denver was with the ball, but three other facts show why the Pios were so dangerous: (1) Only four teams played a schedule that featured better defenses; (2) Denver played about 3.5 more offensive possessions per 60 minutes of play than their opponents, which, if you're an opposing goaltender, is pure nightmare fuel; and (3) Only eight teams relied on extra-man opportunities less than Denver to make the scoreboard blink. The ECAC thanks Denver for its contributions to ruining defenses nationwide.

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

  • The heartbreak! It's hard to feel bad for Denver these days -- this is a program that now has a Championship Weekend appearance on its resume and is clearly among the big boy wrecker programs in Division I -- but the Pioneers did make me question whether they were trying to drive a nail through their fans' eyes last season. In all but one of their losses in 2012, Denver's defeats were one-goal affairs (three of those losses were in overtime and one of their overtime defeats was a triple-overtime face-smasher at Arlotta Stadium in South Bend). On top of all those close losses -- the only difference between people easily putting Denver in the NCAA Tournament field and arguing about whether the Pioneers should be invited -- were three losses to league rival Loyola by a total of five goals (including a one-goal defeat in the ECAC Tournament that may end up being the game of the decade). That's a lot of tough ickiness to swallow.

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

  • Mark Matthews and Alex Demopoulos have finally left Denver, off to the real world of trying to buy vegetables at the grocery store by whipping potatoes past the price scanner with a lacrosse stick. The result is, potentially, an offense leveraged very heavily through the midfield, allowing guys like Jeremy Noble, Wes Berg, and Cam Flint to make things happen. This isn't a drastic change of approach for the Pioneers, but it is notable: No longer will the midfield have the luxury of playing with two of the finer attack in the ECAC; opposing defenses will no longer need to stay preoccupied with the presence of Matthews and Demopoulos. This will be a usage increase for the midfield -- a strong midfield, maybe one of the best two or three in the land -- and that can generate some growing pains (especially early in the season).

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