CAA Lacrosse Tournament Preview: Massachusetts-Penn State

Rob Christy-US PRESSWIRE

Get your face ready for Minutemen-Nittany Lions.

Every Division I tournament. Every team. College Crosse has it all on lockdown. Please send cookies and naptime. Today we're slashing to bits the THUNDERDOME! Tournament.

The Minutemen drove a car made of gingerbread down a highway made of rainbows to reach its final destination: The CAA's front office -- an igloo made of ice cream -- to accept its invitation to the league's postseason tournament. Or, rather, that's how Massachusetts wishes things had happened: With its back against the wall the Minutemen beat Delaware this past weekend, saw Hofstra lose to Penn State, and entered through THUNDERDOME!'s back-door -- nail gun in hand and the blood of the formerly existing splattered on their face -- to face the toughest hombre in the building. It has been an awkward and uneven season for the Minutemen in 2013, a spectrum opposite to what the Nittany Lions have accomplished this season, and everything comes to a head on Wednesday on Penn State's home fight club.

THE COMPUTING MACHINE SAYS

Log5: Massachusetts (31.28%); Penn State (68.72%)

DOSSIERS

THUNDERDOME! Tournament: Massachusetts (4) vs. Penn State (1)
MASSACHUSETTS MINUTEMEN PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS
OPPORTUNITIES/TEMPO
Pace 62.34 (54) 65.07 (39)
Opportunities Margin +3.42 (10) +4.96 (4)
Possession Ratio 52.75% (9) 53.81% (5)
Functional Offensive Opportunities per 60 Minutes 30.53 (34) 33.10 (9)
Functional Offensive Opportunities Ratio 92.84% (27) 94.53% (8)
Functional Defensive Opportunities per 60 Minutes 26.60 (1) 27.15 (5)
Functional Defensive Opportunities Ratio 90.31% (11) 90.33% (12)
Lost Functional Offensive Opportunities per 60 Minutes 11.27 (13) 11.41 (15)
Lost Functional Offensive Opportunities Ratio 36.92% (14) 34.48% (8)
Lost Functional Defensive Opportunities per 60 Minutes 11.70 (42) 10.21 (58)
Lost Functional Defensive Opportunities Ratio 43.97% (16) 37.60% (45)
Lost Functional Opportunities Margin +0.43 (27) -1.20 (46)
Lost Functional Opportunities Margin Ratio 7.05% (11) 3.12% (21)
ADJUSTED EFFICIENCIES
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 30.70 (28) 31.58 (20)
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 29.48 (26) 23.53 (4)
Adjusted Efficiency Margin +1.22 (31) +8.05 (11)
SHOOTING
Shots per Offensive Opportunity 1.10 (33) 1.00 (52)
Raw Offensive Shooting Rate 25.89% (46) 30.51% (19)
Shots per Defensive Opportunity 1.16 (46) 1.12 (39)
Raw Defensive Shooting Rate 26.30% (16) 21.22% (2)
ASSISTS
Offensive Assist Ratio 64.89% (7) 48.34% (58)
Offensive Assist Rate 18.44 (24) 14.78 (47)
Defensive Assist Ratio 50.00% (8) 53.47% (24)
Defensive Assist Rate 15.25 (17) 12.74 (4)
EXTRA-MAN RATES
Extra-Man Postures per 100 Offensive Opportunities 10.41 (33) 8.91 (50)
Extra-Man Posture Reliance 13.74% (17) 8.61% (57)
Extra-Man Posture Conversion Rate 37.50% (22) 29.55% (55)
Man-Down Postures per 100 Defensive Opportunities 10.41 (31) 9.67 (18)
Man-Down Posture Reliance 7.94% (6) 15.84% (55)
Man-Down Posture Conversion Rate 23.26% (6) 39.02% (49)
MISCELLANEOUS
Penalties per 100 Opportunities (Team) 5.38 (29) 4.68 (13)
Penalties per 100 Opportunities (Opponent) 5.84 (27) 5.34 (39)
Caused Turnovers per 100 Defensive Opportunities (Team) 22.03 (28) 22.41 (26)
Caused Turnovers per 100 Defensive Opportunities (Opponent) 20.17 (17) 20.45 (20)
Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities (Team) 41.43 (15) 38.06 (8)
Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities (Opponent) 49.39 (14) 43.63 (38)
Unforced Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities (Team) 21.26 (20) 17.61 (1)
Unforced Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities (Opponent) 27.36 (4) 21.23 (47)
Team "Run-of-Play Work Rate" (Non-Faceoff Groundballs per 100 Total Opportunities) 26.20 (42) 27.34 (33)
Opponent "Run-of-Play Work Rate" (Non-Faceoff Groundballs per 100 Total Opportunities) 25.51 (20) 22.44 (2)
"Run-of-Play Work Rate" Margin +0.69 (27) +4.90 (7)
GOALIE ACTIVITY
Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 38.50 (15) 40.09 (10)
Saves per 100 Offensive Opportunities 41.00 (60) 31.78 (16)
Team Save Percentage 55.79% (15) 62.73% (2)
Opponent Save Percentage 59.06% (57) 50.97% (22)

THOUGHTS AND STUFF

Two pieces of incredibly important information about each team from my brain to your eyes via your Internet computing machine:

  • Massachusetts' soul may be the property of The Blonde Satan (Penn State's Austin Kaut). On the year the Minutemen have had all kinds of trouble beating opposing goaltenders, connecting on around 26 percent of their shots, seeing opposing keepers save almost 60 percent of Massachusetts' attempts, and having opposing crease monkeys end Minutemen offensive opportunities with a save almost 40 percent of the time (that's the fourth worst mark in the country). Despite offensive weapons like Will Manny (who sat out part of the season with a hand injury), Kyle Smith, Grant Whiteway, and Connor Mooney, Massachusetts has struggled to find the back of the net efficiently, relying heavily on opportunity volume (not necessarily shot volume) to make the scoreboard blink. Facing Kaut on Wednesday, the Minutemen are going to need to play above their heads for three reasons: (1) All Kaut does is stop the ball and end Penn State defensive opportunities with a save; (2) Partly due to the first point and partly due to the Nittany Lions overall defensive acumen, nobody shoots well against Penn State; and (3) It isn't a given that the Minutemen are going to play with a heavy possession margin in their favor, potentially limiting the team's ability to rely on volume to score. The existence of The Blonde Satan is Massachusetts' biggest problem this week, and if the Minutemen's volume shooters -- Smith, Manny, Whiteway, and Mooney -- can't find the net with some measure of efficiency (that foursome is combining for 31.37 percent shooting while taking 54.56 percent of the teams shots), the Minutemen's season is going to end in pain and horror.
  • Penn State is one of the most difficult matchups in the nation for a fairly straightforward reason: They don't make mistakes. Just look at where the Nittany Lions rank in metrics that relate to focus: Unforced turnovers (nobody in the country is better at limiting these giveaways); turnovers (only seven teams hold a lower mark); run-of-play groundball work (only six teams outwork their opponents for loose balls more than the Nittany Lions); only 12 teams commit fewer penalties on a 100-possession basis than Penn State; the defense keeps its head on a swivel, limiting assisted goals against at a rate that ranks fourth nationally; Penn State makes the opposition work for preferred shots and doesn't overexpose Kaut to a high volume of shots per defensive opportunity; only four teams clear the ball at a higher rate than the Nittany Lions; and when Penn State matriculates the ball into the attack box, they don't give the bean away via a turnover, valuing the ball and allowing for its offense -- which needs a little volume to score -- to go to work. Jeff Tambroni's team is one of the nation's least combustible teams, and it has yielded incredible results this season. Against Massachusetts, a significant underdog, if the Nittany Lions simply go about their business -- building from the defense and taking advantage of offensive opportunities when they're presented -- the Minutemen may not be able to hang due to the fact that Penn State's opposition always seems to make more mistakes than the blue and white. It isn't flashy, but it's a results-driven approach that allows Penn State to suffocate their opposition.
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