Eulogizing the 2013 College Lacrosse Season: (23) Robert Morris

Your favorite team that works exclusively at light speed created a weird tear in the statistical universe.

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: Robert Morris Colonials

2013 Record: 8-7 (3-2, Northeast)

2013 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): -3.65 (58)

2012 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): -1.64 (46)

Winning Percentage Change from 2012: -20.00%

2013 Efficiency Margin: 2.37 (23)

Efficiency Margin Change from 2012: +1.28

II. "ATTA BOY!" FACT

  • The Colonials have a lien on my heart. The record wasn't quite there this past season, but Robert Morris still attacked the game like a lion hunting delicious human: Fervently, and with a horrific zest for existence. This isn't anything particularly new for Bobby Mo -- the Colonials under Drew McMinn like their wings as hot as possible because anything else is just a waste of time -- but, considering all the new rules designed to increase pace and -- theoretically -- bring more programs to Robert Morris' plane, the Colonials still remained one of the most interesting and fun teams in the nation to watch. To wit:

    MO' BOBBY MO
    METRIC VALUE NT'L RANK
    Pace 70.20 9
    Fun Factor 3.80 14
    Robert Morris could have slowed down a bit in 2013 (and a decent case can be made that the Colonials should have given the possession deficit it played out throughout the year (-4.33, 58th nationally)), but the Colonials didn't change their DNA: This is a team that played at light speed and did so with a sense of purpose -- the team ranked 12th in raw shooting rate (31.16 percent); 15th in adjusted offensive efficiency; 29th in adjusted defensive efficiency; first in caused turnovers per defensive opportunity (and sixth in opponent turnovers per defensive opportunity); and ranked 24th in Pythagorean win expectation. It's go-go lacrosse all the damn time for the Colonials, and the residue is a product that isn't necessarily fungible. Robert Morris still deserves more credit than it receives for punching the accelerator and playing an aggressive and enjoyable brand of lacrosse. It's kind of a shame that all of this existential lacrosse is being played in Western Pennsylvania and the Northeast Conference (far from the core of the national lacrosse consciousness), but Bobby Mo's continued efforts aren't lost in my emotional core.

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

  • Here's the problem with Robert Morris (and a handful of other teams): I'm not sure I have a great grasp on how good the Colonials actually were in 2013. A function of this is that I only saw a handful of Robert Morris games this season. The primary driver, though, is that, from a statistical standpoint, I've started drilling deeper into metric construction. For a long time, I based possession-based metrics on three possession-generators: Faceoffs, clearing opportunities, and riding opportunities. This allowed for a strong estimation of the number of possessions occurring in a game; there was noise (and it was clear what the noise was), but that noise was largely ignored. Upon seeing Robert Morris' seemingly high rankings in many important metrics, I started cutting into the noise, drilling deeper into the number of possessions a team plays in a game. (If you check out the August issue of Inside Lacrosse you can see how some of the possession numbers have changed under this new approach.) For Robert Morris, the results were drastic:

    ROBERT MORRIS AND METRIC DISSONANCE
    METRIC "OLD" VALUE "NEW" VALUE
    Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 33.22 (15) 27.53 (22)
    Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 30.85 (29) 31.66 (46)
    Adjusted Efficiency Margin 2.37 (23) -4.13 (36)
    Pythagorean Win Expectation 55.70% (24) 39.32% (35)
    So, which method is right? The answer to that is, of course, unclear: Both methodologies hold value; the issue at the moment is figuring out which is a truer model for determining team strength and performance based on approach. For the Colonials, however, there is a large difference in the performance between a broader possession-based approach and a hyper-accurate possession-based approach. This is the foundation for why understanding just exactly how good Robert Morris was in 2013 is such a problem. I think the takeaway is this: The Colonials' defense was a problem this past season, and the possession deficit that the team played with (despite causing turnovers all over the place), arguably exacerbated the team's overall problems. Bobby Mo was just weird in 2013, and that bears out in its odd profile contrasts based on the prism to which the Colonials are viewed.

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

  • The tempo at which Robert Morris plays creates problems for opposing defenses, but the Colonials have to start elevating its defensive play in its universe in order for Bobby Mo to take another step forward. Greater consistency between the pipes is the Colonials' biggest hurdle: Charles Ruppert was a 50 percent stopper in 2013, and he's off to the real world to pay rent and not eat vegetables; who's ready to step forward and push Robert Morris forward? Goaltending is a fickle profession, and the way that the Colonials play can make life in the crease even more difficult. If Robert Morris can fill that position with more strength, the team's defensive effort -- in totem -- should rise.
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