Eulogizing the 2013 College Lacrosse Season: (30) Villanova

Andy Lyons

The Wildcats played a brutal schedule and somehow survived.

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: Villanova Wildcat

2013 Record: 7-8 (5-1, Big East)

2013 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): 2.69 (9)

2012 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): 2.02 (11)

Winning Percentage Change from 2012: -6.67%

2013 Efficiency Margin: +0.47 (30)

Efficiency Margin Change from 2012: -0.32

II. "ATTA BOY!" FACT

  • There are only a handful of teams that played a schedule as difficult as what Villanova faced in 2013 and walked away -- battered and scarred -- from the flaming car, narrowly avoiding an explosion that would have surely taken their life. For the schools that arguably played a slate featuring opponents more or as difficult as the ones that the Wildcats faced (in any order -- Yale, Princeton, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Duke), Villanova sits in a unique position: The Wildcats weren't as competitive as many of those schools (that lists features many of 2013's hyper-elite), and the Wildcats actually bolstered some of those schools' schedules (Villanova played Princeton, Pennsylvania, and Maryland this past season). The fact that Villanova was able to finish the season right around .500 after advancing to the Big East Tournament final is impressive; what exacerbates the impressiveness inherent in those two feats of human achievement is that it was accrued after suffering through all of this:

    VILLANOVA'S MASOCHISM
    METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
    Strength of Schedule: Opponent Offenses Faced 32.18 5
    Strength of Schedule: Opponent Defenses Faced 29.49 15
    Strength of Schedule: Opponent Efficiency Margin 2.69 9
    Strength of Schedule: Pythagorean Win Expectation 58.15% 6
    The detail underlying this is even crazier: Villanova faced six teams ranked in the top-15 nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency (St. John's (third), Princeton (sixth), Drexel (eighth), Syracuse (twice, ranked ninth), Lehigh (11th), and Maryland (12th)); the Wildcats faced six teams ranked in the top-15 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency (Pennsylvania (first), Notre Dame (third), Penn State (sixth), Syracuse (twice, ninth), Maryland (12th), and Lehigh (14th)); and Villanova played against seven teams with Pythagorean win expectations that ranked in the top-15 in the country (Syracuse (twice, ranked third), Pennsylvania (fifth), Maryland (sixth), Lehigh (seventh), Notre Dame (eighth), Princeton (ninth), and Penn State (15th)). Against any team noted in that detail (including the two dates against the Orange), Villanova went a gruesome 2-8; regardless of its record against those opponents, however, the important takeaway is this -- two-thirds of Villanova's games this season were against some of the nation's best teams (either in totem or part). And the Wildcats still managed to finish right around .500. This is a team that deserves all the bandages that it can possibly apply to its wounds.

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

  • Villanova was the spectrum opposite of its Philadelphia-area neighbor Drexel this season: While the Dragons seemingly became invincible late in games, the Wildcats suddenly became . . . vincible. It's like Philadelphia was rerouting magic water from Villanova to Drexel, denying the Wildcats an elixir that would propel them to victory. I really don't think there was another team that suffered the volume of brutal losses that Villanova did against quality teams, those losses coming late in the game with the Wildcats -- at various points -- in a position to earn important and valuable wins:

    [FACEPALM]
    OPPONENT SCORE AT THE END OF Q3 FINAL SCORE
    Lehigh Down 7-8 9-11 (L)
    Drexel Up 9-7 10-12 (L)
    Princeton Up 10-8 11-14 (L)
    Pennsylvania Down 9-10 9-13 (L)
    Notre Dame Tied 6-6 9-13 (L)
    Against elite competition -- and all of these teams were elite in 2013, there's no question about that -- you need to finish; 60 minutes of play are necessary to win in difficult circumstances. The Wildcats just didn't have the instinct or ability to close like their opponents did, and that may be best epitomized by the team's possession margin in the fourth quarter compared to what it generated in the overall, viewed in the light of its offensive efficiency (and the offensive efficiency of its opponents) in the final period:

    [FACEPALM]
    OPPONENT POSSESSION MARGIN (Q1-Q3) POSSESSION MARGIN (Q4) VU: Q4 OFF. EFF. OPP.: Q4 OFF. EFF.
    Lehigh -2 +1 28.57 50.00
    Drexel +12 -2 20.00 71.43
    Princeton +5 -4 9.10 40.00
    Pennsylvania -5 -3 0.00 25.00
    Notre Dame +3 -2 30.00 58.33
    Icky.

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

  • Villanova still needs to desperately figure out its goalkeeping situation; this has been a recurring theme for the Wildcats. You don't need an All-America caliber keeper to do incredible things, but functional performances from the crease are a necessary to raise a team's overall ceiling. There is potential between the pipes for the Wildcats with Greg Stamatov (I just don't think, as a freshman, he was ready to assume the responsibility of full-time keeping for Villanova in 2013), but the Wildcats need to iron out their situation in the net entering 2014 or another capable-but-less-than-amazing campaign could loom.
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