Independence Classic Participant Profile: Penn State Nittany Lions

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

It's the marquee event of the weekend. Learn something, college boy.

The Independence Classic invades not-quite-Philadelphia this weekend to provide lacrosse tripleheader excitement to the masses. The games face-off at noon on Saturday and ESPN3/WatchESPN is the only outlet on Earth -- extraterrestrial rights are held by a company pronounced "UMM [clicking sound]," but the name of that company is written in characters that regular humans cannot understand -- that will broadcast the slate. It's the marquee event of the weekend, and as such, some College Crosse-style profiles are necessary to get your face set for melting.

PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS
Record: 2-2
Conference: THUNDERDOME!
Spirit Animal: Ted Nugent
.pdf of Tempo-Free Profile: Here
Four Names to Know: The Blonde Satan (G); Shane Sturgis (A); T.J. Sanders (A); Kessler Brown (D)
Two Things From My Genius Brain to Your Face:

  • Remember when Penn State couldn't score a goal even if you gave them a magic laser cannon that would both incinerate opposing goaltenders and ram the bean in the back of the net? That isn't the case this season, homeslice. The Nittany Lions aren't thunder, but with an adjusted offensive efficiency value in the top 20 of the country, Penn State has reinvented itself as a team that can pile it on if given the opportunity. What's kind of unique about this is that while the team is shooting the ball fairly well on the whole (27.33 percent, 29th strongest in the country), they're not doing it how you'd expect: With just 43 percent of their tallies assisted (a mark that ranks 55th in the country) and creating just around 13 assists per 100 offensive opportunities (52nd in the land), the Nittany Lions are getting the bulk of their goals through individual effort (and embarrassing opposing goalies in the process, seeing them hold only a 52.69 save percentage and ending only about a third of Penn State offensive opportunities with a save). There's nothing wrong with that, but oftentimes teams that rely on or otherwise generate a bunch of unassisted goals maintain weaker shooting percentages and erratic values relative to shots per offensive possession (its bearing on efficiency is debatable). Penn State has avoided a lot of that in 2013, and they've actually thrived in the situation. The big thing that has been holding back the Fightin' Tambronis has been the offense, and there appears to be some unique firepower there now.
  • Here's something scary: Only 11 teams turn the ball over less than the Nittany Lions and only three teams commit fewer unforced turnovers than Penn State. Here's compounded scariness: While Penn State is valuing the bean like a cherished blanket, the Nittany Lions are also dominating possession margin on the season, getting over five more possessions per 60 minutes of play than their opponents (the seventh-best mark in the country). That relationship -- dominating possession while not pissing away opportunities -- has allowed the Nittany Lions to let its improved offense take charge and control the arc of play (see, Penn State v. Denver). Against Lehigh this relationship is paramount to all others (probably): with the Mountain Hawks also doing a nice job pushing possession margin in their favor (Lehigh ranks 15th in the metric) and creating all kinds of turnovers (the team ranks ninth in caused turnovers per 100 defensive possessions). You can see the tension there, champ.

For more on Penn State's opponent this weekend -- Lehigh -- check out the Mountain Hawks' profile here.

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