Eulogizing the 2013 College Lacrosse Season: (11) Notre Dame

Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

The defense was, once again, stone cold scary 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: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

2013 Record: 11-5 (4-2, Big East)

2013 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): 2.33 (11)

2012 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): 1.52 (18)

Winning Percentage Change from 2012: -12.50%

2013 Efficiency Margin: 6.97 (11)

Efficiency Margin Change from 2012: -1.27

II. "ATTA BOY!" FACT

  • The faces on the field change but the performance remains: Notre Dame, with puppet master Gerry Byrne pulling the strings, continues to hold itself as one of the best defensive teams in the nation. Even with John Kemp having a less-than-stellar season in the crease for the Irish, Notre Dame played like men possessed with purpose, not only causing problems for opponents but wreaking havoc against solid competition. I challenge you to look at the following table and not have your face melt into your neck:

    NOTRE DAME'S DEFENSIVE BOX O' PAIN
    METRIC VALUE NAT'L RANK
    Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 23.38 3
    Shots per Defensive Opportunity 0.93 4
    Raw Defensive Shooting Rate 26.92% 19
    Defensive Assist Rate 15.25 15
    Penalties per 100 Opportunities 4.10 4
    Man-Down Postures per 100 Defensive Opportunities 7.16 4
    Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 29.00 55
    Team Save Percentage 53.66% 25
    Strength of Schedule: Opposing Offenses Faced 32.95 2
    This was an incredibly disciplined defense -- not unlike other iterations of the Irish -- that made the opposition work like animals to try and make the scoreboard blink. Picking apart the execution in that table is a fun task, but the result of that analysis is somewhat straightforward: Nothing came easy to the opposition. What's more interesting are these facts: Notre Dame's defense executed tremendously despite (1) seeing a high volume of functional defensive possessions and (2) not having the benefit of playing fewer defensive opportunities than the opposition. The first fact isn't shocking given the team's approach to defensive transition and the ride, but seeing that an estimated 93 percent of Notre Dame's defensive opportunities (the Irish's mark ranks 41st nationally) were box-possessions highlights just how effective the team's defense was at crushing opposing offenses. The second fact illustrates the workload that Notre Dame's defense carried, failing to have the opportunity to rest due to the fact that the Irish played just about as many offensive opportunities per 60 minutes of play as they did defensive ones (the team had a -0.74 possession margin per 60 minutes of play (38th nationally)). And this all happened against exceptional offenses. Kaboom!

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

  • Notre Dame had a bit of a problem with turnovers in 2013. If Kevin Corrigan’s lit-fuse press conference after the Big City Classic didn't crystallize that fact, this table should start to bring things into focus:

    NOTRE DAME'S ICKINESS
    METRIC VALUE NAT'L RANK
    Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 47.21 44
    Unforced Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 27.75 59
    Opponent Caused Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 19.46 14
    That basically looks like an Edvard Munch composition. However, when you look at Notre Dame's turnover posture in totem -- both the giveaways that the Irish committed and the turnovers that their opposition engaged in -- Notre Dame isn't in too bad of shape: The Irish actually finished the season +1.95 in turnover margin (based on 100 offensive and defensive opportunities), a mark that ranked 23rd nationally. What stung the Irish, consequently, was its proclivity for giving away the ball against elite competition that, in general, had a profile for valuing the bean. There are three instances of this for Notre Dame in 2013 coming against two teams: The Irish's dates against Duke and Syracuse (all were losses). This sounds like a job for a table:

    STOP HITTING YOURSELF!
    OPPONENT FINAL SCORE OPPONENT TURNOVER RATE NOTRE DAME TURNOVER RATE TURNOVER MARGIN
    Duke 11-12 (L) 42.50 57.58 -15.08
    Syracuse (BET) 3-9 (L) 43.75 62.50 -18.75
    Syracuse (BCC) 4-10 (L) 37.93 70.83 -32.90
    It's not just that Notre Dame was more loose with the ball compared to their opponents; rather, it's that the Irish couldn't afford to lose offensive opportunities via turnovers in those games: Notre Dame played at a seven-possession deficit against Duke, was minus-eight in possession margin against Syracuse in the Big East Tournament, and played with a five-possession deficit against the Orange in MetLife Stadium. Good teams will make opponents pay for throwing the ball into the seats, and Syracuse and Duke did that against Notre Dame (or, at least, those two teams were better than the Irish at accomplishing that on those particular occasions).

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

  • Even though the Irish have been offensively flawed the last two seasons (Notre Dame ranked 25th and 33rd in adjusted offensive efficiency in 2013 and 2012, respectively), the Irish have chugged along as one of the nation's best clubs. If Notre Dame can continue to develop its offensive profile to complement its flannel-worthy defense, a sense of full value emerges. There's offensive talent kicking around Arlotta -- Matt Kavanagh, Jim Marlatt, Conor Doyle, etc. -- but it needs to come into focus. With Kavanagh serving as the presumed cog next year for the Irish's offensive hopes, there is potential for growth. But that offense still needs to start carrying a heavier load.

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