Eulogizing the 2013 College Lacrosse Season: (17) Albany

The Great Danes were loads of fun 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: Albany Great Danes

2013 Record: 13-5 (5-0, America East)

2013 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): -0.79 (37)

2012 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): 1.59 (17)

Winning Percentage Change from 2012: +40.97%

2013 Efficiency Margin: 4.65 (17)

Efficiency Margin Change from 2012: +6.45

II. "ATTA BOY!" FACT

  • The "Fun Factor" scale shows Cornell as the nation's balloon-party-at-the-petting-zoo team, but I'm not sure that the second-ranked team in the metric wasn't more mind-bendingly Fanta-worthy: Albany, a year removed from an average existence in 2012, cemented itself as arguably the most amusing team in the country. The Thompson Trio -- concentrated evil for the Great Danes' opponents; haloed deities for those in New York's capital region -- were a major component in Albany's ascension to the top nation with respect to weapons-grade fun:

    ALBANY'S FORMULAIC FUN
    METRIC VALUE NT'L RANK
    Fun Factor 6.13 2
    Pace (Total Opportunities per 60 Minutes of Play) 78.58 1
    Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 37.39 7
    Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 32.75 38
    Pythagorean Win Expectation 60.14% 19
    Raw Offensive Shooting Rate 36.01% 1
    If you lose your mind over teams the same way that I do -- competitive clubs that get up and down the field and have an offensive capability that mirrors that of tactical nuclear weapons -- then it's hard to argue that Albany wasn't pleasing on the eye this past year. The Great Danes were a wickedly entertaining team to watch (even if this was a flawed Albany team), and the combination of the team's ethos and pathos -- the former making you question whether the Great Danes could generate buckets of wins despite their style of play; the latter investing you into that quest using an old tool: total amazement -- created a seismic shift in Division I's paradigm in 2013. Albany didn't accomplish the impossible last year, but it did do something maybe more important: The Great Danes, a non-power conference team with a predominantly regional following, made college lacrosse embrace the thrill of accelerator-only living.

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

  • Look: Albany was flawed last year. On the season, the team's defensive issues -- the Great Danes ranked around the middle of the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency -- were muted a bit given (1) how much offense Albany was able to create, and (2) the cracks in the Great Danes' schedule. The most glaring illustration of this is Albany's record against teams ranked in the top 20 in Pythagorean win expectation in 2013: Scott Marr's charges went 2-3 against teams in that subset (wins against Syracuse (a 16-15 double overtime win at the sunrise of each team's season) and Johns Hopkins (10-9); losses to Yale (8-15), Bucknell (12-18), and Denver (14-19)). This isn't to say that Albany was a fraud or that the team was overrated (in fact, the Great Danes were exactly what they were: One of the 20 best teams in the nation, a difficult matchup that nobody eagerly wanted to play, and a team capable of knocking off a handful of very strong teams while decimating teams below them in Division I's hierarchy); rather, it's that Albany had limitations in 2013, and the Great Danes' ceiling was dictated, in part, by the team's defensive struggles:

    ALBANY: BEAUTIFUL, BUT FLAWED
    METRIC VALUE NT'L RANK
    Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 32.75 38
    Raw Defensive Shooting Rate 31.38% 56
    Shots per Defensive Opportunity 1.05 22
    Defensive Assist Rate 18.25 39
    Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 29.93 50
    Team Save Percentage 47.67% 56
    Strength of Schedule: Opposing Offenses Faced 30.85 26
    There is an analogue that comes to mind when thinking about Albany -- its first round NCAA Tournament opponent, Denver. The difference between the two teams -- the residue being the overall competitiveness of each team last year -- was that the Pioneers were stronger defensively (in the overall) than the Great Danes and more than three goals per 100 offensive opportunities more efficient than Albany (Denver also played a more difficult schedule). The Pioneers proved that you can win -- and win a lot -- with an offensively-dominated team that is capable of flushing opponents down the toilet simply by making the scoreboard blink incessantly; the problem for the Great Danes, though, is that they weren't able to accomplish this in the same circumstances that the Pioneers did. There's a fine line that teams toe when they generate the vast majority of their success on one side of the ball; it leaves little wiggle room to exist. Unfortunately, for Albany, their defensive flaws kind of kept the Great Danes from truly experiencing space exploration.

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

  • Blaze Riorden had a bit of an uneven freshman campaign between the pipes for the Great Danes, but he showed flashes of excellence during Albany's season, detailing the keeper's potential and what his future looks like. So, the Great Danes' goalkeeping situation isn't too much of a concern for me going into 2014. The team's field defense, though, is the focus for Albany entering next season: If the Great Danes continue to play tons of possessions per 60 minutes of play, Albany's defensive unit is going to experience exposure and will need to step forward and create stops, insulating Riorden from unpreferable shots (this will still be an underclassmen in the crease for Albany), and complementing the team's high-value offense. The combination of Riorden maturing in the crease and Albany's field defense moving up the ladder a little bit is the formula that Albany needs to find even greater success and become the monster that everyone can see in the Great Danes' DNA.

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