Eulogizing the 2013 College Lacrosse Season: (9) Pennsylvania

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Quakers' defense ate faces 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: Pennsylvania Quakers

2013 Record: 8-5 (3-3, Ivy)

2013 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): 3.38 (3)

2012 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): 3.07 (3)

Winning Percentage Change from 2012: +38.46%

2013 Efficiency Margin: 7.97 (9)

Efficiency Margin Change from 2012: +9.01

II. "ATTA BOY!" FACT

  • During the 2012 fall ball period, I'm not sure that a team had more heat behind it than Mike Murphy's Quakers (Marquette is in that discussion based on their autumn outings). I was somewhat skeptical about the reports: Pennsylvania was a solid team during the 2012 season, but this was still a program that vacillated between being a top 20-type team in 2011 and one that was merely average in 2010. There was opaqueness to the reconciliation: Did the Quakers have the goods to actually -- not just potentially (based on scrimmages) -- eat souls in 2013? As it turns out, the fear of hubris didn't exist relative to Pennsylvania (despite the fact that the Quakers just missed out on making the NCAA Tournament): Pennsylvania was not only one of the strongest teams in the nation in 2013, but also the most improved program in the country. The proof:

    PENNSYLVANIA'S GROWTH: SMART KIDS GETTING SMARTER
    METRIC 2012 2013 DIFFERENCE DIFFERENCE RANK
    Pythagorean Win Expectation 47.20% (33) 71.94% (5) +24.74% +28 (1)
    Adjusted Efficiency Margin -1.04 (33) 7.97 (9) +9.01 +24 (1)
    That's a ridiculous degree of improvement over one season, especially for a program that hasn't existed on a linear plane over the last four years. The only teams that approached Pennsylvania's degree of development are North Carolina and Holy Cross, but the Quakers stand apart from those two teams as (1) the Tar Heels have stockpiled significantly more talent than Penn and it was just a matter of time before Carolina started realizing its potential; and (2) the Crusaders had nowhere to go but up. Folks writing things on fine parchment paper will remember Pennsylvania's 2013 campaign for the important wins -- against Duke, Lehigh, Villanova, and Princeton -- but the biggest story about the Quakers' 2013 effort was that Penn was able to drop those clubs due to the fact that no other team in the nation took a step forward as dramatically as the Quakers.

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

  • Pennsylvania had a weird relationship with the bean last season: The Quakers seemingly treated it with a black heart and threw it into a ditch to bleed out. Now, on the year the Quakers were in a positive turnover margin position (due to the fact that Penn was playing with tire irons and were able to dispossess opponents of the ball), but that doesn't erode the Quakers' carefree attitude toward giveaways:

    PENNSYLVANIA'S DIGUST WITH THE EXISTENCE OF ROUND RUBBER OBJECTS
    METRIC VALUE NAT'L RANK
    Pace 62.98 53
    Opportunities per 60 Minutes Margin -0.23 31
    Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 30.43 23
    Opponent Caused Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 27.07 55
    Unforced Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 26.59 54
    Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 53.66 57
    Strength of Schedule: Opposing Defenses Faced 28.46 3
    The implication here is fairly straightforward: A moderately efficient offense pitched away opportunities through turnovers against a heroic slate of opposing defenses; the issue was magnified by the fact that Pennsylvania didn't play buckets of offensive possessions per 60 minutes of play -- mulligans were in short supply -- and the team wasn't in a position to play more offensive opportunities compared to defensive ones. That can be troubling, especially against elite competition. And that -- at least in part -- impacted Pennsylvania in its four losses by three goals or less in 2013:

    PENN: GOO!
    OPPONENT PENN'S POSSESSION MARGIN PENN'S RAW OFFENSIVE EFFICIENCY PENN'S TURNOVERS PER 100 OFFENSIVE OPPORTUNITIES FINAL SCORE
    Denver +2 37.50 46.88 12-15 (L)
    Yale +1 18.75 65.63 6-7 OT (L)
    Harvard +5 20.00 48.57 7-8 OT (L)
    Yale -9 27.27 77.27 6-9 (L)

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

  • Existing in more of a static universe could turn the tide for the Quakers. Murphy is returning all kinds of contributors in 2014 -- Tim Schwalje and Anthony Santomo are notable losses -- but Pennsylvania needs to entrench itself in Division I's hierarchy: This is a program that has finished fifth, 33rd, 15th, and 37th in Pythagorean win expectation over the last four seasons, respectively. Staying within the nation's top 20 teams has been a struggle for the Quakers, and focusing on consistently performing from season to season is an important plot point for Pennsylvania entering 2014.
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