Eulogizing the 2013 College Lacrosse Season: (56) Manhattan

Steve Manitta's first tour with Manhattan yielded four wins.

You spent the better part of four months meticulously dissecting the 2013 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 63 teams and their 2013 campaigns, mostly because everything needs a proper burial.

I. VITAL SIGNS

Team: Manhattan Jaspers

2013 Record: 4-11 (1-5, MAAC)

2013 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): -5.00 (61)

2012 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): -2.98 (55)

Winning Percentage Change from 2012: -9.04%

2013 Efficiency Margin: -10.56 (56)

Efficiency Margin Change from 2012: +0.50

II. "ATTA BOY!" FACT

  • 2013 was Steve Manitta's first season in Riverdale and the Jaspers were able to tread water in his maiden voyage as Admiral of Manhattan's battleship -- Manhattan remained static to its 2012 performance (in a myriad of ways), and that's not necessarily a bad thing. While the Jaspers weren't drastically improved over a season ago (a year in which Manhattan suffered two shut outs and Tim McIntee was given his walking papers at the end of the year), Manhattan earned some nice wins against competitively similar institutions -- Wagner, Mercer, and Lafayette -- and pulled off what was arguably the upset of the season: Just a week prior to the start of the MAAC Tournament, the Jaspers dropped a then two-loss Marist team, 14-10, in Riverdale, sullying the Red Foxes' unbeaten conference record. The magnitude of Manhattan's win over Marist is significant: LaxPower ranks the victory as the second most unlikely outcome of the season (trailing only St. Joseph's upset of Massachusetts); using a Log5 analysis based on the team's end-of-season profiles, Manhattan had a 27 percent chance of victory over Marist. That kind of moment -- especially at the end of the Jaspers' season -- makes a campaign; it's a launching pad for the coming season, even if it was ridiculous and a highly unlikely outcome. It takes a special level of fortitude to knock off a superior team when there's nothing on the line, and Manhattan -- despite an otherwise difficult season -- did that when it mattered the most.

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

  • There's still a long way to go in the upper reaches of the Bronx. What sticks out as notably disastrous about the Jaspers' 2013 season was the combination of the team's offensive possession generation and how it treated the bean when it actually had possession. On the year Manhattan played at over a seven possession deficit compared to their opponents on a 60-minute basis (that ranks 62nd nationally); the culprits were the usual suspects -- a terrible clearing game (81.32 percent, 57th in the country), weak faceoff play (35.47 percent, dead last in the nation), and a ride that couldn't make up the difference (16.22 percent (13th nationally), but the ride only generated 42 extra opportunities for Manhattan compared to the 48 it gave away in failed clears and the minus-100 faceoff disparity it faced). This is a kill shot scenario for a team that was stronger on the offensive end of the field than the defensive one, forcing its troublesome defense to sustain the Jaspers' potential for success while assuming a disproportionate amount of responsibility. Compounding this possession starvation and defensive exposure was Manhattan's care with the ball: The Jaspers didn't really have any. Manhattan ranked 60th -- !!! -- in turnovers per offensive opportunity at over 55 percent; the team's unforced turnover rate ranked 50th nationally and only one team saw its opponents dispossess them of the ball more than the Jaspers in a caused turnover environment. You can start to see Manhattan's problem, right? Very few offensive opportunities + Extra defensive exposure to a unit that wasn't particularly efficient + Offensive opportunities squandered through turnovers of different varieties = A Pythagorean win expectation of just 26.24 percent. That's a tough way to go through 15 games.

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

  • Manitta needs to continue to address all aspects of Manhattan's play, but two things stick out: Generating opportunities and maximizing opportunities. You can't just snap your fingers and have faceoff play immediately change, but increasing clearing rate is something that can be addressed early and often, reaping important rewards. Had Manhattan cleared at the national average in 2013 (about 86 percent), the Jaspers would have had about 12 extra opportunities, yielding somewhere around another three goals for the team (based on their offensive efficiency). That doesn't sound like a lot, but every little bit matters (especially for a team hanging around the bottom the national hierarchy). Throw in faceoff play that clicks around 45 percent (that would rank somewhere around 50th in 2013), and that's 33 more offensive opportunities (on top of the 12 from better clearing) that yield around nine more goals (in addition to the extra three from matriculating the ball from one end to the other). With respect to maximizing opportunities, turnovers are fire and shouldn't be messed with. That needs to get cleaned up post haste.
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