Eulogizing the 2013 College Lacrosse Season: (45) Jacksonville

It's off to the Atlantic Sun for the Dolphins in 2014, but what did 2013 look like?

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: Jacksonville Dolphins

2013 Record: 8-5 (5-1, MAAC)

2013 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): -4.60 (59)

2012 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): -4.35 (58)

Winning Percentage Change from 2012: +15.39%

2013 Efficiency Margin: -5.66 (45)

Efficiency Margin Change from 2012: -3.46

II. "ATTA BOY!" FACT

  • Jacksonville did a pretty good job in its circumstances. Despite playing at a small possession margin deficit on the year (-0.69, 36th nationally), the Dolphins were almost three estimated possessions better than their opponents at maintaining functional offensive possessions and killing functional defensive possessions (that mark ranks fourth nationally). In other words, while Jacksonville was at a raw possession deficit, the Dolphins were able to kill more of their opponents' functional offensive possessions through turnovers than their opponents were able to kill of Jacksonville's offensive possessions through turnovers. The relationship here was driven by the Dolphins' ability to avoid turning the bean over and its ability to dispossess their opponents. It's Jacksonville's work in the latter performance metric -- creating and seeing opponents give away the ball -- that was especially notable about the Dolphins in 2013: The team ranked 11th in caused turnovers per 100 defensive opportunities, 21st in unforced opponent turnovers per 100 defensive opportunities, and eighth in overall turnovers per 100 defensive opportunities. Combined with a run-of-play groundball work rate margin that ranked 11th nationally (Jacksonville was about four groundballs per 100 opportunities stronger than their opponents last year), the Dolphins were able to turn defensive opportunities into offensive ones. Considering that Jacksonville was a volume-oriented offense in 2013 (the team ranked only 42nd in adjusted offensive efficiency) and was fairly leaky on the defensive end when teams weren't pitching the ball away or having it taken from them (the Dolphins ranked 46th in adjusted defensive efficiency), turnovers became an important -- and useful -- aspect to Jacksonville's defensive work last season. Aggressiveness can be a good thing when intelligently incorporated into a team's approach, and it worked -- at least from a theoretical standpoint -- for the Dolphins in 2013.

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

  • 8-5 records aren't created equal; distortion of reality often occurs when looking at static won-loss records. Jacksonville's effort this past season is a strong example of that: Despite winning 61.54 percent of their games, the team's Pythagorean win expectation indicates that the Dolphins -- if playing at their season-ending level in perpetuity -- would only win about 36.18 percent of their games. Thus, Jacksonville finished the year with about three more wins than expected, a level of luck/overachievement/whatever that ranks as the nation's most prominent of differences (there was a 25.36 percent difference between the team's expected and actual winning percentage). (Marist and Drexel were also three wins stronger than expected, but the Red Foxes and Dragons were each, under the Pythagorean win expectation values, expected to win about half of their games). This level of luck/overachievement/whatever is especially notable in Jacksonville's case: The Dolphins played a schedule ranked among the bottom five slates in the country; if Jacksonville needed luck/to overachieve/whatever to generate eight wins against a weak schedule of opponents, just how notable is that 8-5 record? These kinds of things tend to even off over time -- at some point the ball starts to bounce in the opponents direction -- and that's troubling for a Dolphins program that had four one-goal wins in 2013 (two -- against Siena and Detroit -- were in overtime). Jacksonville was competitive last year, but they used a lot of sorcery to put their record together.

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

  • It's time to take the next step; it's time for Jacksonville to start performing like a tent pole program for the newly-created Atlantic Sun Conference. The Dolphins' strength of schedule has declined since 2011 but the team's winning percentage has improved; importantly, Jacksonville's ranking in adjusted efficiency margin (essentially how strong the team is relative to the rest of the country) stayed fairly static from 2011 to 2012 but dropped from 2012 to 2013. There is more pressure on the Dolphins now to assert itself as a program of responsibility in its league, carrying the flag for a conference that is likely going to have many suspicious eyes cast in its direction. Jacksonville has all kinds of potential, but execution -- across the board, on the defensive and offensive ends -- needs to improve to pull the team from the bottom third of the nation to the meaty middle of the country.
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