Eulogizing the 2013 College Lacrosse Season: (27) Drexel

Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE

The Dragons were (kind of, sort of) invincible 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: Drexel Dragons

2013 Record: 11-4 (5-1, THUNDERDOME!)

2013 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): -0.59 (34)

2012 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): 2.38 (8)

Winning Percentage Change from 2012: +23.33%

2013 Efficiency Margin: 1.36 (27)

Efficiency Margin Change from 2012: -2.19

II. "ATTA BOY!" FACT

  • Drexel's (sort of) invincibility is the story of the Dragons' 2013 campaign (the team's string of late comebacks were seemingly grounded in fiction), but it's a particular aspect of the team's play -- hint: it rhymes with "mofense" -- that's the most interesting part of the team's ability to grab victories where defeat looked (kind of) certain. Drexel's Pythagorean win expectation this past season (built on the team's offensive and defensive performances, adjusted for competition faced) hovered at just under 53 percent; that's an average value, ranked just 28th nationally, and indicated that the Dragons were somewhere around an eight-win team in 2013. So why did the Dragons overachieve by three wins, walking tall when it could have been writhing on the ground in pain after taking a lead pipe to the skull? Well, you can make a really good argument that the team's hyper-destructive offense -- a unit that drove the team's success last year -- helped push Drexel into double-digit win territory. The team's output this season was unquestionably impressive:

    DREXEL'S LACK OF REGARD FOR HUMAN LIFE
    METRIC VALUE NT'L RANK
    Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 36.28 8
    Shots per Offensive Opportunity 1.24 2
    Raw Offensive Shooting Rate 29.40% 21
    Offensive Assist Rate 23.55 2
    Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 41.32 15
    Opponent Save Percentage 50.41% 18
    Strength of Schedule: Opposing Defenses Faced 30.38 27
    The profile here is one of wanton slaughter: A highly efficient offense that wasn't afraid to let fly, shared the ball remarkably well (creating preferable opportunities to score), and did a nice job at valuing offensive possessions by limiting giveaways. This was a multi-faceted and dangerous offensive unit to face, an effort that ranked at the top of THUNDERDOME! and trailed only the most elite in the nation -- Denver, North Carolina, St. John's, Duke, Princeton, and Albany. Here's the especially notable part about Drexel's offense, though: The Dragons lose Robert Church and Aaron Prosser going into 2014, but return five of the team's top seven scorers. This includes Ben McIntosh, one of the most undervalued offensive weapons in the game, and two other players that performed admirably as underclassmen in 2013: Ryan Belka and Frank Fusco. (Of course, Brendan Glynn is a variable for Drexel next season, but if he is able to return to form, Drexel's offense becomes even more dangerous with the additional experience Glynn could bring.) This offense was hot fire in 2013, and could even be stronger in 2014 if all the pieces fall together.

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

  • Look: Drexel's defense was a ceiling limiter for the Dragons in 2013. Despite the fact that Drexel was able to corral success with its offense (due in part to the team's overall possession margin advantage on the season), the Dragons could not seem to get it together on the defensive end, yielding tallies at a rate that made Drexel's life more difficult than it had to be:

    YOU BROKE MY HEART, DREXEL'S DEFENSE
    METRIC VALUE NT'L RANK
    Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 34.92 48
    Shots per Defensive Opportunity 1.27 60
    Raw Defensive Shooting Rate 26.67% 17
    Defensive Assist Rate 18.97 47
    Team Save Percentage 50.90% 40
    Strength of Schedule: Opposing Offenses Faced 29.79 42
    It just didn't work out for Drexel: Against a mediocre slate of opposing offenses (in the overall), the rate at which the Dragons' let teams make attempts on the cage didn't comport with the team's ability to kill defensive opportunities. In a more direct sense: Drexel's defensive execution couldn't sustain the strategy, and the Dragons needed extra offense to cover its defensive warts. Teams with Drexel's issues are often able to mute their problems with heavy possession advantages, and the Dragons were able to do that to a degree (Drexel was +1.06 in possession margin per 60 minutes of play this season, 24th nationally). However, this doesn't abrogate the fact that the Dragons' defense this season -- admittedly a green unit -- held Drexel back from potentially making an historic run through the latter stages of the college lacrosse season.

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

  • Drexel is returning a ton of assets in 2014, among the strongest group of returning contributors in THUNDERDOME! If the defense is able to come along -- the maturation of the group in-close and sustainable play between the pipes that supports the team's field play -- Drexel is going to be a handful next spring. The focus, though, remains on defensive development and the execution that will follow. There's potential there in a handful of the 2013 contributors, but the group -- as a whole -- needs to come along and rise together as a unit ready to shoulder greater responsibility.
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