Eulogizing the 2013 College Lacrosse Season: (38) Hartford

A .500 record isn't too bad for a team that needed to fill big shoes 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: Hartford Hawks

2013 Record: 7-7 (3-2, America East)

2013 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): -2.02 (49)

2012 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): -1.64 (45)

Winning Percentage Change from 2012: +10.00%

2013 Efficiency Margin: -3.78 (38)

Efficiency Margin Change from 2012: -5.59

II. "ATTA BOY!" FACT

  • A proclivity for sharing the bean is a beautiful thing; an ability to limit the opposition from generating assisted tallies is equally impressive. While Hartford didn't finish the season at the top of the nation in either category, the Hawks did finish well. Considering Hartford's particular circumstances, though, the fact that the Hawks finished strongly in both metrics is important. To an illustrative table!

    HARTFORD: OFFENSIVE AND DEFENSIVE ASSIST RATE
    METRIC 2013 VALUE 2013 RANK 2012 VALUE 2012 RANK
    Offensive Assist Rate 20.16 16 23.38 3
    Defensive Assist Rate 15.44 19 21.53 55
    While there was a drop in the team's overall rate on a per-offensive possession basis, Hartford still hung around the top 15 in the nation despite the losses of major contributors like Carter Bender and Ryan Compitello (the duo combined for 35.71 percent of the Hawks' assists last season and led the team with 20 assists each in 2012). Hartford was able to fill -- to a degree -- the void left by those two with the contributions of freshman Jack Bobzien; the rookie accounted for 33.67 percent of the Hawks' overall helpers in 2013 and almost, by himself, reached the total that Bender and Compitello combined for a season ago. (Unfortunately for Hartford, Bobzien is heading west for the 2014 season to play for Denver. So it goes.) In short, Hartford was able to manufacture good looks at the goal at a decent rate in a year when the Hawks could have lost some of its offensive totality in how it went about its business. (It should be noted, however, that Hartford finished a mediocre 41st in adjusted offensive efficiency in 2013.) As for the team's defensive performance in the metric, the Hawks' effort on that end of the field is more interesting than what it accomplished with the ball: A year after finishing as one of the worst ball-watching teams in the nation, Hartford re-invented itself as a team that locked on off-ball movement and limited opponents from carving them to bits. The residue was beneficial: Increased save percentage, decreased opponent shooting percentage, and a notably stronger defensive performance. The little things matter, and Hartford's metamorphosis on the defensive end was one of the little things that helped the team through the entirety of the 2013 season.

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

  • I'm really not sure what kind of team Hartford was in 2013. The Hawks overperformed by about a victory last year, but it's not just that fact that makes me stare at Hartford's consistency (or lack thereof) and have my skull fall to pieces: Hartford just kind of went through its season, a steady heartbeat that never seemed to deviate into the amazing. If you look at LaxPower's ratings detail for the Hawks, Hartford underperformed in three games and overperformed in four; of those four games in which the Hawks played better than expected, only one was dramatic (and against an arguably inferior Binghamton team). This was all despite playing a schedule that LaxPower ranked 43rd in the nation, a fact that leads one to believe that the Hawks would straight up pop more teams given the relative strength of the slate. That's . . . weird (at least I think it's weird). Looking at this from a log5 perspective (based on year-end values), it bears out that the Hawks didn't have a magic touch: In games where Hartford had a 45 percent or less chance of victory, the Hawks went 0-5; in games where Hartford had a 55 percent or greater chance of victory, the Hawks went 4-0; in "push" games, Hartford went 3-2 (and, emblematically, went 1-1 against UMBC). What I'm getting at here is likely more straightforward than the setup: Hartford had a linear season, average and static and without much color. This isn't necessarily a problem, but it does raise an issue: Why are teams that were competitive peers to Hartford in 2013 (Hobart, Dartmouth, etc.) getting big wins (against Syracuse, against Princeton, etc.) and having moments of massive overperformance and the Hawks aren't? Maybe this comment is unnecessarily granular, but I thought it was interesting about Hartford specifically.

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

  • A rising tide lifts all boats, and for Hartford the focus entering 2014 is exactly that: With the losses of Bobzien, Rory Nunamacher, Garrett Dollard, Ben Liebel, Brendan Lake, and others, is Hartford in a position to continue its defensive growth and re-establish itself as a dangerous offensive team? A focus on development of depth of talent, role responsibility, and stepping forward can pay big dividends for Hartford next season. Simply keeping time is nice, but remaining static in this era of the America East -- and Division I in totem -- is a dangerous proposition.
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