Eulogizing the 2013 College Lacrosse Season: (26) Towson

The Tigers were exceptional at the right time of the year.

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: Towson Tigers

2013 Record: 10-8 (4-2, THUNDERDOME!)

2013 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): -0.14 (30)

2012 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): 1.66 (15)

Winning Percentage Change from 2012: +8.89%

2013 Efficiency Margin: 1.39 (26)

Efficiency Margin Change from 2012: +5.04

II. "ATTA BOY!" FACT

  • I think most folks with ears that weren't leaking blood had tabbed either Drexel or Penn State as THUNDERDOME!'s representative in the NCAA Tournament. It just made sense: These were the two strongest teams in the league (based on the conference's regular season), and Massachusetts and Towson -- while dangerous -- didn't quite look like they had two games worth of upset-potential in their tanks. Hell, Penn State and Drexel had already knocked off Towson in the regular season (in consecutive games), and Massachusetts slipped into the league's postseason. Yet, it was Towson -- a team riding the insanity-driven wave of incongruence that the THUNDERDOME! Tournament routinely provides -- that walked out of University Park with the league's automatic invitation. Even based on year-end performance values, Towson's victory in the conference tournament serves as that of an outlier -- based on a log5 calculation, the Tigers' chances of winning the league still only ranks as a 'dog:

    TOWSON'S THUNDERDOME! BLACK MAGIC
    TEAM LOG5 CHANCE OF WINNING THUNDERDOME! TOURNAMENT
    Penn State 40.23%
    Towson 22.46%
    Drexel 21.43%
    Massachusetts 15.87%
    Towson would have "Push" odds to make the final -- the Tigers look like a 51 percent "favorite" over Drexel -- but Penn State would be an overwhelming favorite over Penn State in the final, giving the Tigers just a 39 percent chance of victory. Despite all of this, Towson still rallied and dropped the league's presumed strongest teams at a time of the year when pressure to succeed was at its apex. This isn't insignificant for the Tigers: The team crashed out of 2012 on a five-game losing streak and summited two powerful opponents at the tail end of its 2013 campaign. Towson did something expected and with momentum, strong indicia that Shawn Nadelen has a touch of the dramatic in his blood.

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

  • Here's the basic plot to a college lacrosse story that mirrors that of an existential crisis: A decent team that isn't overtly efficient at scoring the bean, is seemingly always playing in possession deficits (requiring that somewhat inefficient offense to score efficiently), plays with a patience that often heightens responsibility, and attempts to accomplish this against decent competition. This was the Tigers in 2013, a team that toed the line between what could have been uncontrollable disaster and simply making things work:

    TOWSON'S OFFENSIVE TROUBLES AND POSSESSION MARGIN ISSUES
    METRIC VALUE NT'L RANK
    Pace 62.58 55
    Opportunities per 60 Minutes Margin -3.42 55
    Possession Ratio 47.27% 54
    Faceoff Percentage 36.53% 61
    Clearing Percentage 83.67% 50
    Riding Percentage 17.79% 7
    Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 29.57 35
    Shots per Offensive Opportunity 1.17 16
    Raw Offensive Shooting Percentage 25.56% 46
    Offensive Assist Rate 15.83 43
    Strength of Schedule: Pythagorean Win Expectation 49.13% 30
    Towson's ability to ride and create defensive stops (that lead to forward clearing opportunities) helped alleviate the team's possession gap, but an uneven clearing game and the team's somewhat inefficient offense still created a difficult circumstance for the Tigers to step on their opponents' necks: Towson, on the year, played 11 games where the final margin (in victory or defeat) was three goals or less. These are tight situations, and the margin for error is razor thin (Towson went 7-4 in those games, but the outcome of at least six of those games (one-goal results) could have gone either way depending on a change of scenarios). Possessions mattered for a team like Towson in 2013 (although the Tigers escaped in relatively decent fashion); better execution in that facet of play may have had a drastic impact on the team's overall success.

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

  • Whatever Nadelen is doing with the culture at Towson, it's starting to work: After taking over for Tony Seaman for the 2012 season, the Tigers suffered a drop in performance but rallied back in 2013 to become one of the most momentum-driven teams in the nation:

    FROM SEAMAN TO NADELEN: TOWSON'S GROWTH
    METRIC 2011 2012 2013
    Adjusted Efficiency Margin 0.24 (29) -3.65 (42) 1.39 (26)
    Pythagorean Win Expectation 50.73% (30) 40.23% (44) 53.72% (26)
    Winning Percentage 23.08% (3-10) 46.67% (7-8) 55.55% (10-8)
    Strength of Schedule: Adjusted Efficiency Margin 0.72 (24) 1.66 (15) -0.14 (30)
    Nadelen is looking more and more like a guy that has the answers; he just needs to consider the variable of time. As was noted in last year's decompression, all Nadelen needs is room to continue Towson's growth. The Tigers provided a glimpse of their potential; the issue now is understanding what they can become and pressing that for over a dozen games in a season, with a consistent approach and effort.
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