Eulogizing the 2013 College Lacrosse Season: (1) Cornell

Drew Hallowell

The Red's quest for a victory lap on Memorial Monday fell a little short.

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: Cornell Big Red

2013 Record: 14-4 (6-0, Ivy)

2013 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): 1.79 (16)

2012 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): 0.96 (24)

Winning Percentage Change from 2012: +8.54%

2013 Efficiency Margin: 14.66 (1)

Efficiency Margin Change from 2012: +8.01

II. "ATTA BOY!" FACT

  • What made Cornell so dangerous this year wasn't just Rob Pannell detonating explosions against opposing defenses in an unfettered attempt to garner the highest collateral damage score in the history of college lacrosse; it was that the Red were the most balanced team in the nation, performing at a mercilessly high level at both ends of the field:

    CORNELL AND BALANCE AND WINNING
    METRIC VALUE NAT'L RANK
    Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 38.88 4
    Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 24.22 4
    Adjusted Efficiency Margin 14.66 1
    Pythagorean Win Expectation 81.26% 1
    Fun Factor 6.23 1
    That's impressive, and those adjusted efficiency margin and Pythagorean win expectation values rank as the best since Duke's 2010 campaign (the Devils finished the 2010 season with a Pythagorean win expectation of 82.07% and an adjusted efficiency margin of 17.23). This was a historically-relevant Red team, and a lot of that has to do with Cornell's dedication to taking care of the little things:

    CORNELL AND THE LITTLE THINGS
    METRIC VALUE NAT'L RANK
    Raw Offensive Shooting Rate 32.07% 9
    Offensive Assist Rate 20.20 15
    Defensive Assist Rate 14.61 8
    Faceoff Percentage 55.07% 16
    Ride Percentage 17.01% 9
    Extra-Man Posture Reliance 8.02% 61
    Man-Down Posture Reliance 10.43% 20
    Caused Turnovers per 100 Defensive Opportunities 27.25 10
    Unforced Opponent Turnovers per 100 Defensive Opportunities 23.44 29
    Opponent Turnovers per 100 Defensive Opportunities 50.58 9
    Cornell Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 38.95 10
    Turnover Rate Margin +11.73 3
    Run-of-Play Groundballs Margin +6.39 2
    If you take care of that kind of stuff, big successful things are sure to follow. Cornell did a tremendous job of not putting itself in difficult positions and made life for its opposition a nightmare. The Red were effective and efficient at rates and in different metrics that correlate strongly to Cornell's position as one of the best teams to play in Division I in the last four seasons. The Red were so difficult to defeat this season -- and Cornell felt the sting of only four defeats, one coming in horrendous weather against a solid Bucknell team and the balance occurring against top-10 teams (including the two teams that played on Memorial Monday) that went a combined 41-15 -- because they didn't beat themselves. The decision to slot Cornell as an unseeded team in the NCAA Tournament remains one of the biggest gaffs that the selection committee has ever made; in fact, if you were to aggregate the fields of the last four NCAA Tournaments, the 2013 iteration of the Red likely falls as a top four seed. Ben DeLuca organized and led a fantastic lacrosse effort in Ithaca last year, and while Cornell was unable to take home its first gold medal since 1977, there is much to be proud of.

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

  • Anything can happen in a single-elimination tournament setting. The best teams in a bracket aren't always assured of advancing to the cusp of a national championship, never mind actually hoisting a title. Cornell experienced that reality last May, an adventure that saw the Red enter The Big Barbecue as a decided favorite -- before Championship Weekend began, Cornell had a 46.63 percent chance of taking a victory lap around Lincoln Financial Field on Memorial Monday (Syracuse had the second strongest odds at 25.22 percent) and, according to a log5 analysis, were 71.86-28.14 percent favorites over Duke in the national semifinals -- only to fall on Semifinal Saturday. The final count on the scoreboard saw Duke advance past Cornell with a 16-14 win, but the story of the game was a 7-0 run that the Devils went on in the third period that defined the Red's postseason campaign. Cornell rallied back in the late stages of the third quarter and the final stanza, but was unable to close the margin -- eight goals -- that Duke built in its blitzkrieg. Cornell was dominated through that defining stretch, an odd contrast to the way that the Red competed throughout the rest of the year. It was a bad time for the Devils to catch fire and for Cornell to absorb shots to the mouth without punching back with mirrored force.

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

  • Find a way to convince the NCAA and the Ivy League that Rob Pannell did not, in fact, exhaust five years of eligibility. Other than that, the Cornell FormulaTM has worked out well in the past; if DeLuca is able to fill the holes that have been left behind due to graduation -- Pannell, Steve Mock, Thomas Keith, etc. -- the Red could be in good shape. Cornell, though, is entering a different kind of reality in 2014 in a very stacked Ivy League field. Role responsibility is key, and how the Red adjusts to that is important for the team's hopes next spring.
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