Eulogizing the 2013 College Lacrosse Season: (41) Bryant

The Bulldogs won the NEC this past season, but they weren't quite the same team that lurked in the shadows in 2012.

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: Bryant Bulldogs

2013 Record: 8-11 (4-1, NEC)

2013 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): -0.88 (38)

2012 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): -3.57 (57)

Winning Percentage Change from 2012: -35.66%

2013 Efficiency Margin: -4.65 (41)

Efficiency Margin Change from 2012: -8.49

II. "ATTA BOY!" FACT

  • Kevin Freakin' Massa. I mean, Kevin Freakin' Massa. The sophomore -- is that even possible? -- should have been a first team All-American this past season (this isn't to say that Brendan Fowler wasn't impressive in 2013; rather it merely notes that Massa was beyond exceptional for the Bulldogs), partly due to the fact that his performance in 2013 was tops in the nation and partly due to what his performance meant to Bryant. Massa drew at 72.6 percent last year (tops in the country), accounted for somewhere in the vicinity of 44 percent of the Bulldogs' offensive opportunities, and was the driver behind Bryant's mind-bending plus-7.61 possession margin per 60 minutes of play (the highest mark in the nation). Those values are important in understanding Massa's effort, but it's the value of his wins -- the importance of Massa's proficiency on the whistle -- that really makes Massa stand out: The vast majority of Massa's wins came on his own, winning the draw and earning the groundball through his own effort; after those wins, Massa rarely turned the ball over, creating functional offensive possessions for Bryant's offense; and Massa's win rate at the dot (not to mention the volume of offensive opportunities that he gave the Bulldogs) gave an inefficient Bryant offense the volume of offensive opportunities necessary for the Bulldogs to remain competitive and make the scoreboard blink. Massa was a massive catalyst for Bryant's success in 2013, and his contributions to the Bulldogs' campaign are extraordinary. He was, in large part, a definer of Bryant's ceiling, the rare case where an argument can be made that he was -- purely from a faceoff standpoint -- the most important player on the team's roster (with all due respect to Mason Poli, Colin Dunster, and Shane Morrell). He was an incredible weapon despite taking only 13 shots on the season.

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

  • Bryant took a step back in 2013 from where the team was in 2012, and a big part of that had to do with the regression the Bulldogs' offense experienced. This is somewhat disappointing: Bryant returned four of its top six scorers in 2012 -- Dunster, Peter McMahon, Alex Zomerfeld, and Dan Sipperly (Dunster and McMahon were Bryant's top two point-generators in 2012) -- and yet the team's adjusted offensive efficiency ranking dropped from 35th to 54th (!!!). Now, Bryant, in 2013, played a slightly more difficult schedule in terms of opposing defenses faced compared to 2012 (the team's schedule ranked 61st in opposing defenses faced in 2012; the ranking in the same metric was 53rd in 2013), but the differences in the underlying values that comprise the strength of those defenses wasn't significant. The Bulldogs, at least theoretically, shouldn't have experienced the depth of the drop that they went through. Yet, the offensive performance that Bryant put together was down across the board: in raw shooting rate (2012: 29.61 percent (26th); 2013: 25.50 (48th)); in offensive assist rate (2012: 19.94 (16th); 2013: 15.93 (41st)); and in offensive turnovers per 100 offensive opportunities (2012: 42.47 (13th); 2013: 46.95 (41st)). And Bryant played at about the same pace in 2013 as they did in 2012, implying that they weren't substantially impacted by the new pace-of-play rules (at least from a tempo standpoint). The Bulldogs' offense was a limitation to the team's prosperity in 2013, and it happened when nobody really expected it to stall after what Bryant put together in 2012.

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

  • Continue to build; Bryant's 2013 campaign marked just its fifth season playing a full Division I schedule. Vacillation in performance is expected for young programs (even for the Bulldogs, which have kind of burst on the scene with the highly underrated Mike Pressler), but the key is to create a culture of consistency that can mitigate drastic performance regression.
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