Moving pictures and words, you guys.
Up there is the introduction video that Loyola plays before the 'Hounds take the field at Ridley. It's pretty hype-tastic, what with the screaming guitars and pop-punk vocalist that makes you want to stab radio-ready music because it forces you to listen to garbage that shouldn't exist, but it also serves another purpose -- as a segue to detailing what Loyola has introduced to Earth as its 2013 iteration of men's lacrosse.
(Please note: That lede was terrible. Professional blogging is difficult. Do not attempt professional blogging unless you are comfortable with complete and total failure.)
Loyola hasn't exactly exploded in 2013 as I expected. With all the returning contributors that the Greyhounds had coming back this season, I really thought that Loyola would charge out of the gates and drown fools in lacrosse sorrow. Things haven't worked out that way, and while Josh Hawkins' suspension has been a significant storyline in the 'Hounds' early season, Loyola has generally been good but not great, struggling against Delaware, playing uneven and from behind against arguably the best team in the country in Maryland, and putting together odd efforts against Towson and UMBC (the latter turning into a blowout given a huge second half surge). Loyola still has top five quality, they just haven't played as a top five-type team for a full 60 minutes this season, which makes my brain angry as it threatens to secede from my skull.
Here's some stuff that I'm seeing in the Greyhounds' statistical profile. It's far from a complete analysis, but it touches upon things that are interesting in some form or another:
- All everyone yammered about last season was how Charley Toomey and Dan Chemotti (now departed for Richmond) got Loyola to play faster. The Greyhounds haven't really played at an accelerated pace in 2013, playing only about 65 possessions per 60 minutes of play (a mark that ranks 40th in the nation right now). When adjusted, that pace figure drops to only about 63 possessions per 60 minutes of play (41st nationally), which is odd considering the new rules around increased pace of play and the athletes dotting Loyola's roster. I don't know whether Loyola will keep up this trend throughout the year, but the Greyhounds haven't exactly adopted and implemented -- over the course of four games -- the philosophy it pursued a season ago. (To be fair, Loyola wasn't exactly burning up the field last season, either. The Greyhounds only played about 66 possessions per 60 minutes of play last season, a value that ranked 30th in the nation in 2012. We're only talking about a small drop here year-over-year, but in the context of how teams are playing this season, the lack of additional possessions that the 'Hounds are playing per game is weird. So, yeah.)
- Despite playing "slow," Loyola has been fairly efficient on the offensive end of the field, pumping in around 38 goals per 100 offensive opportunities (that mark is adjusted for competition faced). I wouldn't put too much stock in that efficiency value right now (it's volatile this time of year with so few games played across the country), but there is something that underlies it that shows that the Greyhounds have been pretty effective with the ball in the offensive end: The team is shooting right around 33 percent (12th nationally) and are generating about 22 assists per 100 offensive opportunities (the 11th best mark in the country). That isn't too bad. Now, if Loyola could do a better job maximizing their opportunities in the box -- the Greyhounds are losing the ball in the attack zone (either through an unforced turnover or via a caused turnover) on about 43 percent of their trips (about 15 opportunities this season) -- the 'Hounds would (1) probably have a few more goals on the season, and (2) help insulate a defense that hasn't exactly lit the world on fire (Loyola only ranks 39th in adjusted defensive efficiency right now).
- The team still has its blue-collar attitude, doing a nice job scooping up ground balls in non-faceoff situations. The team's run-of-play work-rate ranks ninth in the country (this just measures ground balls per 100 total possessions) and they're getting about seven more ground balls per 100 possessions than their opponents. That's a good attitude to have and will help the Greyhounds in the long run if they keep up the pace.
- Like last year, Loyola is dominating the possession margin game. Only seven teams hold a higher possession margin value than the Greyhounds' mark (5.50) and the team is generating about 54 percent of available possessions. A lot of this has been driven the same way that Loyola turned the trick in 2012: Above-average play on the whistle, a potent clearing game, and an average to above average ride. That's a nice formula for success and it has a important value for Loyola: It insulates the defense.
- As for the Greyhounds' defensive performance so far, one thing dominates: It's kind of an issue right now in totem. Rather than really rip it apart (which isn't fair given where the season is at this point), I think there are two things to think about: (1) Loyola has done a nice job limiting assisted goal opportunities (they're only giving up about 13 assists per 100 defensive possessions), but have struggled limiting goal scoring opportunities in one-on-one play (as evidenced by the relationship between defensive assist rate, unassisted goal rate, and overall defensive efficiency (goals per defensive possession)); and (2) Goalkeeping has been troubling (as a team, Loyola only holds a 47.95 team save percentage (49th nationally) and the 'Hounds' keepers are only generating about 29 saves per 100 defensive possessions (a mark that ranks 43rd in the country)). There have been layered issues on the defensive side of the field for Loyola, and if the Greyhounds can't continue to dominate possession, offensive teams that are smart and capable (like Maryland) are going to create lots of problems for the green and grey.