Eulogizing the 2013 College Lacrosse Season: (35) Providence

USA TODAY Sports

It's was Chris Gabrielli's first season in Friartown, and it couldn't have gone any better.

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: Providence Friars

2013 Record: 8-8 (1-5, Big East)

2013 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): -2.39 (51)

2012 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): -1.92 (48)

Winning Percentage Change from 2012: +35.71%

2013 Efficiency Margin: -3.49 (35)

Efficiency Margin Change from 2012: +5.27

II. "ATTA BOY!" FACT

  • When Chris Gabrielli took over the Providence program last summer from Chris Burdick, there was a lot of juice around the hire: Gabrielli, a former assistant at Duke, had the resume to get things done in Friartown, something that hadn't happened consistently in a long time at Providence. That feeling, though, was tempered by an almost crushing reality: Gabrielli was going to need to institute a significant culture change, one that would help erase years of difficult seasons that the Providence program had experienced (the Friars hadn't put together a non-losing season since a 10-7 effort in 2006). And yet, Gabrielli and the Friars came out in 2013 and stomped on some faces, shredding skepticism and potentially setting the bar really high for 2014. Providence's growth in just a few months under the new Friars head coach looks a lot like the growth that Holy Cross made from 2012 to 2013, and there's nothing wrong with that -- progression models, while they may differ in terms of approach, are often similar in advancement. To wit:

    PROVIDENCE'S GROWTH: 2011-2013
    METRIC 2011 2012 2013
    Pythagorean Win Expectation 22.72% (55) 28.00% (53) 41.15% (36)
    Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 20.29 (57) 24.58 (54) 30.03 (28)
    Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 30.12 (42) 33.34 (46) 33.53 (44)
    Adjusted Efficiency Margin -9.83 (55) -8.76 (53) -3.49 (35)
    I honestly didn't think that Providence was going to improve so quickly (the team improved 18 ranking positions in both adjusted efficiency margin and Pythagorean win expectation); the fact that the Friars were able to increase their performance in all important areas of concern while maintaining a schedule similar to the one it played a year prior is emblematic of what Gabrielli is doing in Southern New England. It's important for the re-constituted Big East to maintain depth, and Providence -- if 2013 is any indication -- is helping to sustain what the new league hopes to become.

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

  • Not unlike Holy Cross (the original intention here wasn't to keep drawing similarities to the Crusaders, but here we are), Providence suffered a terrible fate: Playing at a possession deficit on the season (the Friars played at just over a two-possession deficit per 60 minutes of play (their mark ranks 48th in the nation)), the Friars put themselves in a tough position to succeed. This table kind of illustrates where I'm going (I'll race you to the conclusion):

    PROVIDENCE'S GROWTH: 2011-2013
    METRIC VALUE RANKING N'TL AVERAGE
    Opportunities per 60 Minutes Margin -2.30 48th -0.13
    Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 30.03 28th 30.10
    Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 33.53 44th 31.38
    Raw Defensive Shooting Rate 32.57% 60th 28.10%
    Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 30.00 48th 34.17
    Team Defensive Save Percentage 48.33% 52nd 52.58%
    You can see it, right? Providence's strength was on the offensive end of the field, but due to the team's possession-generation issues, the Friars' defense -- an uneven unit with goaltending problems -- maintained high exposure and limited Providence's overall ceiling in 2013. The primary culprits here were faceoff play (Providence won just 47.41 percent (40th) of their draws this season) and an inability to create stops on the defensive end of the field (thereby generating clearing opportunities). While the Friars made up a bunch of opportunities with their ride (the team ranked second nationally in riding rate, creating 68 additional offensive opportunities through that facet of play), it wasn't enough to overcome the two aspects of their play that ultimately dealt a crushing blow. These are troubling things, but given that it was just Gabrielli's first season at Providence, I'm willing to let this all slide without extreme prejudice.

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

  • Providence has a lot of things going for them right now: The right coach, facilities starting to be put in place, the proper league in which to grow . . . the Friars have more momentum now than in the last half-decade combined. The focus here for Providence, then, is the continued maturation of the program and a further adoption of Gabrielli's culture. Finishing with a .500 record is nice, but the Friars still have a lot of work to do (this is a team that may have overachieved by about a game in 2013). Allowing that culture to take hold should help the Friars' growth.
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