Eulogizing the 2013 College Lacrosse Season: (31) Massachusetts

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

After running through college lacrosse like a sociopath with a chainsaw in 2012, the Minutemen fell back to reality in 2013.

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: Massachusetts Minutemen

2013 Record: 7-8 (2-4, THUNDERDOME!)

2013 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): 2.83 (7)

2012 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): 0.67 (27)

Winning Percentage Change from 2012: -47.08%

2013 Efficiency Margin: -0.31 (31)

Efficiency Margin Change from 2012: -14.50

II. "ATTA BOY!" FACT

  • Massachusetts does what Massachusetts does. It doesn't matter the point in the season, the particular opponent, or the circumstances suffocating the particular game . . . the Minutemen play their game, bending the pace of play in their favor and exercising patience as its modus operandi. To wit:

    MASSACHUSETTS' CONTROLS THE UNIVERSE
    METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
    Pace 62.31 56
    Opportunities per 60 Minutes Margin +3.33 9
    Possession Ratio 52.67% 9
    Faceoff Percentage 57.59% 8
    Clearing Percentage 87.17% 27
    Riding Percentage 15.44%) 20
    Massachusetts grinds, man. They deflate the pace of play, dominate possession of the ball (in both generation and due to patience), and dictate how they want the volition of the game to occur. (This is important when you face a schedule ranked second in the nation in defenses faced.) This doesn't make for particularly fun lacrosse -- Massachusetts ranked just 40th in the "Fun Factor" scale in 2013 -- but it did pay a modicum of dividends: In two of its most important victories of the season (against significantly stronger opponents), Massachusetts was able to dictate tempo, dominate possession, and pull out wins. As an illustration:

    MASSACHUSETTS' STYLE IN MOSTER WINS
    OPPONENT UMASS' CHANCE OF VICTORY TEMPO POSSESSION MARGIN FINAL SCORE
    North Carolina 22.29% 67 +3 12-11
    Lehigh 28.21% 68 +2 6-4
    Massachusetts stuck to their guns -- whether you like it or not -- and attempted to milk victories from their games with a kung-fu grip; it takes dedication and discipline to do that, and the Minutemen were able to follow through.

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

  • The first place to start is Massachusetts' regression from 2012 to 2013, arguably Division I's most notable decrease in performance strength over that period (Navy is also in the conversation) . . .

    MASSACHUSETTS' REGRESSION: 2012 TO 2013
    METRIC 2012 2013
    Pythagorean Win Expectation 79.34% (1) 49.19% (31)
    Adjusted Efficiency Margin 14.91 (1) -0.31 (31)
    Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 40.30(1) 30.11 (27)
    Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 26.11 (11) 30.42 (26)
    . . . but that regression was fairly well anticipated: The Minutemen lost a ton of valuable contributors between the two seasons (and suffered through Will Manny's injury early in their 2013 campaign), and Massachusetts was bound to come back from the lofty perch it sat on in 2012 (this is just a fact of existence). I'm sure that folks in Amherst aren't pleased with the season they put together after residing among the national elite in 2012, but I think external forces helped push Massachusetts' regression. Pertinently, no team took more gruff for their 2012 schedule than the Minutemen; despite flying through their regular season slate undefeated -- and playing with a white-hot fire -- Massachusetts was perceived by many fans and analysts as "frauds" (which was a fallacy that I'll never understand). In response, the Minutemen jacked up their schedule strength (despite the fact that Massachusetts knew that it'd be entering 2013 with a different kind of personnel reality than what they experienced in 2012), swapping out Ohio State for North Carolina. This didn't appear to be a major slate-booster for the Minutemen, but it never accounted for the improvements that the team's other nonconference opponents would make going into the 2013 season: Bucknell and Albany were improved over a season before, and the Patriot League schedule remained a landmine-filled quagmire. The end result was Massachusetts -- purposefully or inadvertently -- over-scheduling itself in 2013 (despite the fact that it knocked off the Tar Heels). This schedule strength, combined with the team's needed development in a new reality and the pressures put on the program after residing with the hyper-elite in the season prior, arguably created difficult circumstances for Massachusetts to find a groove and press on, maturing as the season progressed (something that the Minutemen struggled with all season). Massachusetts wasn't going to be the team it was in 2012, but people wanted the Minutemen to be in that same conversation; regression was expected, but -- to a degree -- the external forces exacerbated it. (Note: I have no idea if any of that made sense.)

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

  • The key (and this is really for any team) is to avoid the streakiness. Massachusetts suffered through a four-game losing streak last season and then followed it up with a three-game winless streak in the heart of their conference schedule. That's how a promising season goes sour. The Minutemen haven't been susceptible to this in the recent past, but Massachusetts will, in 2014, have a different look than they did in 2013, attempting to replace key assets -- Will Manny, Kyle Smith, Bobby Tyler, Ryan Hollenbaugh, Colin Fleming, and Jake Smith -- that helped drive their success. If Grant Whiteway and Zach Oliveri can serve as tent pole performers that can create consistency for a team that will look very unlike its 2012 incarnation, Massachusetts should remain in a decent position in the ever-difficult THUNDERDOME!
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