Eulogizing the 2013 College Lacrosse Season: (36) Holy Cross

Morrissey's sorcery continues.

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: Holy Cross Crusaders

2013 Record: 7-8 (2-4, Patriot)

2013 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): -1.66 (43)

2012 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): 0.12 (33)

Winning Percentage Change from 2012: +13.33%

2013 Efficiency Margin: -3.55 (36)

Efficiency Margin Change from 2012: +6.95

II. "ATTA BOY!" FACT

  • Holy Cross experienced monster improvement from 2012 to 2013, and that statement has little to do with actual wins and losses (although, the team's improvement in the win-loss category -- and who they beat -- is fairly impressive as well). Focusing on the team's performance between 2012 and 2013, the Crusaders rank among the strongest risers between the two seasons: Only Pennsylvania and North Carolina made bigger gains in their Pythagorean win expectation ranking (Holy Cross climbed 19 positions) and only those two aforementioned schools had a more drastic ranking increase in adjusted efficiency margin (the Crusaders, again, climbed 19 positions). This is incredible growth for a program that has, historically, struggled to get on and off the bus: The Crusaders were -- both theoretically and actually -- two wins stronger in 2013 than they were in 2012. Now, Holy Cross' wins aren't blowing up on the national level (the Crusaders didn't beat a team over .500 this past season and their best win arguably came against a 7-7 Hartford team), but that's not necessarily important; what's important is that Jim Morrissey is using his black magic to put Holy Cross on the right path and the Crusaders are delivering. Maybe a table would help illustrate just how much work Holy Cross has put in and the gains that the program has made under Morrissey's direction:

    HOLY CROSS' GROWTH: 2011-2013
    METRIC 2011 2012 2013
    Pythagorean Win Expectation 17.91% (56) 25.96% (55) 41.15% (36)
    Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 19.51 (58) 26.10 (48) 29.05 (39)
    Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 31.89 (52) 36.60 (56) 32.60 (36)
    Adjusted Efficiency Margin -12.37 (56) -10.50 (55) -3.55 (36)

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

  • Holy Cross was a possession margin nightmare in 2013. On the year, the Crusaders finished at a deficit of minus-4.27 per 60 minutes of play, a mark that ranked 57th in the nation. The biggest culprit of this deficit? The team's faceoff play -- Holy Cross drew at just 38.37 percent in 2013, a value that ranked 59th in the nation. That's . . . well, Syracuse fans -- the biggest gripers about faceoff play in the country -- have nothing to complain about given the Crusaders' problems. To illustrate just how much Holy Cross' faceoff woes impacted them this season, I pulled together a table detailing the Crusaders' possession margins in all of their games, highlighting the team's faceoff margin in those contests:

    HOLY CROSS' FACEOFF ISSUES
    OPPONENT HOLY CROSS POSSESSIONS OPPONENT POSSESSIONS POSSESSION MARGIN FACEOFF MARGIN RESULT
    Siena 29 33 -4 -3 9-11 (L)
    Hartford 31 29 +2 +4 11-9 (W)
    Harvard 37 44 -7 -9 12-16 (L)
    Sacred Heart 30 37 -7 -10 11-9 (W)
    Rutgers 32 35 -3 -9 9-8 (W)
    Colgate 27 37 -10 -12 6-14 (L)
    Navy 28 32 -4 -4 7-5 (W)
    Lehigh 22 22 E/td> -1 5-8 (L)
    Vermont 36 31 +5 +2 8-5 (W)
    Bucknell 29 37 -8 -8 9-16 (L)
    Lafayette 29 31 -2 -1 11-10 (W)
    Bryant 23 33 -10 -10 6-10 (L)
    Providence 24 32 -8 -12 11-12 (L)
    Army 28 37 -9 -7 5-14 (L)
    Dartmouth 39 40 -1 E 11-10 (W)
    That's a lot of possessions to make up in many cases; there are only so many teams in the nation that can withstand those kinds of deficits and still rack up numerous wins. To try and make up that difference, Holy Cross rode like animals and it worked: The Crusaders finished the season ranked eighth in riding rate at 17.62 percent (which gave the team 46 extra offensive opportunities on the season). (Now, if Holy Cross had cleared a little better -- the team finished the year ranked 32nd in clearing at 86.84 percent -- that possession margin deficit could have shrunk even more.) Faceoffs aren't the reason that teams win or lose, but it is a factor; for the Crusaders -- a team that played just two games in which it won the faceoff battle (both wins for Holy Cross) -- is was an interesting one that impacted their season (the debate turns on how much it impacted the team's season). Given the team's total offensive and defensive output this year, though, a decent case can be made that if the Crusaders were even on the whistle with their opponents, the outcome of the following games could have gone in Holy Cross' favor: St. John's, Harvard, and Bryant. Those are valuable potential wins for the Crusaders, and faceoff play helped dictate the outcome.

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

  • Possession-generation is a hugely important thing for Holy Cross. A focus on the generating factors -- faceoffs, clearing, and riding -- could pay important dividends for the Crusaders down the road. Otherwise, additional resources for Jim Morrissey -- the rumor on the street is that Holy Cross is adding some scholarships soon -- are what Morrissey needs more than anything to compete in the ever-dangerous Patriot League.
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