The college lacrosse season breached its halfway point this past weekend, and that's cause for an unnecessary celebration. Accordingly, College Crosse is prepared to give out the Internet's most important college lacrosse midseason awards ever considered in the entire scope of history: Really pointless ones concomitant with actually giving out midseason awards. Put on that top hat and monocle, friend; you're officially entering the most exclusive awards party this side of everywhere.
COLLEGE CROSSE AWARD VIII: ACHIEVEMENT IN THE FIELD OF MAN LOVE (THE TOTALLY PLATONIC KIND)
Winner: University at Albany Great Danes
I know that not everyone shares my taste in preferred lacrosse style -- up-tempo (controlled, but aggressive), with lots of offense generated through emphatic offensive talents -- and I'm generally cool with that. (Although, some of you knuckleheads are masochists that need to spend days in lacrosse therapy.) What Albany has done so far this season, though, should make everyone send a giant Vermont Teddy Bear -- it's the tangible expression of affection for emotional cripples -- to Scott Marr and the rest of the crew in the Great Danes program: Albany is the most exciting thing happening in college lacrosse right now, and the team's 5-3 record -- a year following the Great Danes contending for Reverse Survivor honors until the bitter end -- has little to do with that.
Albany has been the template for the kind of lacrosse that I want to man-hug until the situation becomes awkward and weird. No team in the country is playing more possessions per 60 minutes of play than the Great Danes (78.31) and only four teams -- Denver, Duke, St. John's, and Princeton -- hold adjusted offensive efficiency values that top Albany's 37.35 goals per 100 offensive opportunities. The Great Danes are streaking the field like Japanese businessmen running in fear from Godzilla, generating tons of offensive opportunities per 60 minutes of play (around 37, which is the seventh highest mark in the country), turning those offensive opportunities into functional offensive possessions at decent clip (only 28 teams having a stronger functional offensive opportunities ratio than Albany), whipping the bean all around the attack box (only one team generates more assists on a per-possession basis), and making the most of those opportunities at a rate that is eye-bulgingly impressive. This is jet-pack-lacrosse meeting razor-like precision. This is the epitome of play that makes your head spin in the really good way.
(Of course, Albany has all kinds of problems in the overall -- the defense is still a flaming mess of depression, the team couldn't win a face-off if freeing the princess from the castle was on the line, and the Great Danes are turning the ball over at a fairly high rate -- but those are just problems, man. Embrace the great stuff for a second before you ruin everything for everyone else.)
COLLEGE CROSSE AWARD IX: ACHIEVEMENT IN THE FIELD OF FAILING TO ACHIEVE WHILE WRAPPED IN A COCOON OF PAIN
Winner: Villanova University Wildcats
There are teams that have schedules that are more difficult than what Villanova has faced this season -- Pennsylvania, Notre Dame, and Massachusetts are in the discussion -- but none of those schools have suffered the way that the Wildcats have to start the season: With just a 2-5 record, Villanova has attempted to summit Kilimanjaro in a single step while wearing shoes made of ice.
Through yesterday's games, the Wildcats' schedule currently ranks fourth in the country in aggregated opponent adjusted efficiency margin, fourth in opposing offenses faced on an adjusted efficiency basis, and with respect to opponent Pythagorean win expectation, no team in the country has faced a slate more difficult that what Villanova has endured over its first seven games. It has been a brutal stretch for the Wildcats to start their 2013 campaign, and the two aspects of Villanova's play through these seven games that creates a bit of optimism in Philadelphia around the team -- (1) In three of Villanova's losses (Lehigh, Drexel, and Princeton), the Wildcats were in a position to win the game if it weren't for disastrous fourth quarters; and (2) Villanova is actually a pretty average team, ranked -- at the moment -- 34th in adjusted efficiency margin and 34th in Pythagorean win expectation -- is somewhat muted because things aren't going to get any easier for the Wildcats the rest of the way: Villanova still needs to play St. John's, Notre Dame, and Penn State over the next few weeks.
This is helmets-on territory for the Wildcats and stuff is exploding all over the place.
COLLEGE CROSSEAWARD X: ACHIEVEMENT IN THE FIELD OF "AW, HELL!"
Winner: Georgetown University Hoyas
Georgetown didn't hire Kevin Warne because the Hoyas were in a place where rainbows are always on the horizon and it rains only jellybeans. Simply: You don't let Dave Urick step aside and look for a new program navigator if everything is perfect. And when new faces are brought in to perform program-resuscitation, the first year of the process is often painful and an incomplete picture of what the future may hold. Compared to the pool of schools that were in the market for a new head coach this past offseason, though, Georgetown had the appearance of a program that could surprise in 2013 based on the volume of upperclass and raw talent hanging around The Hilltop combined with Warne's (and his staff's) coaching acumen. Unfortunately, things have gone sideways for the Hoyas in Warne's first rodeo in Washington, D.C.
As things stand currently, the Hoyas are arguably one of the 10 worst teams in the country. Ranking only 53rd in adjusted efficiency margin (basically, the difference between the Hoyas' ability to generate goals against their ability to limit opponent tallies), Georgetown, on a 100-possession basis, is about nine goals worse than their competition this season. (For contextual purposes, Georgetown is sandwiched between Bryant (-7.03), Jacksonville (-7.30), Marquette (-9.02), and Lafayette (-9.67) in the adjusted efficiency margin rankings. That's not the company that many -- including myself -- thought that the Hoyas would keep in 2013.) This marks a fairly notable regression from 2012 for Georgetown, a season in which the Hoyas finished 34th in the metric.
Now, this doesn't mean that Warne and his staff are doing a bad job or that Georgetown is worse off today than they were around 365 days ago. Growing pains are going to exist relative to any new regime change and the notable injury to offensive stud Brian Casey has stunted Georgetown’s growth a bit, but it's a little shocking to see where Georgetown is now compared to the potential they seem to have at the sunrise of the 2013 season. (Face-Off Yearbook ranked the Hoyas 30th in their preseason rankings and I was somewhat bully on the Hoyas as well.) I don't know where Georgetown goes the rest of the way this season, but where the Hoyas have been thus far -- including hammerings at the hands of Mount St. Mary's, Duke, and Loyola and a weird season-opening overtime loss to Lafayette -- isn't a place that many people Georgetown expected to be.