2014 College Lacrosse Preview: Defensive Excellence

Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE

You want to know who's going to suffocate the opposition this season? These teams have been the best over the last four seasons.

An effective defense is hauntingly fascinating as the deck is often stacked against defenses to limit scoring. The combination of large goals, quick restarts, and wide zones in which opposing offenses are able to work make suffocating opposing offenses a difficult task. Yet, a handful of teams have excelled in these circumstances, putting forth defensive performances over the last four seasons that outpace the national average of allowing goals on about 30 percent of their defensive opportunities. The question, then, is which teams have done the best keeping the scoreboard from blinkng?

To make that determination, a series of metrics are necessary to create the foundation for the analysis:

  • 2010-2013 Average Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: This is a team's average adjusted defensive efficiency -- goals allowed per 100 defensive opportunities, adjusted for offenses faced -- over the last four years. This illustrates which teams have had the most success at making opposing offensive coordinators think about a second career in tire sales.
  • 2010-2013 Average Adjusted Defensive Efficiency Variance: Outlier seasons can impact a team's average adjusted defensive efficiency (both positively and negatively). This measures a team's variance in its adjusted defensive efficiency values over the four campaigns examined.
  • 2010-2013 Average Adjusted Defensive Efficiency Standard Deviation: This serves a similar purpose to average adjusted defensive efficiency variance.
  • 2010-2013 Average Adjusted Defensive Efficiency Rank Variance: This determines the variance of a team's average adjusted defensive efficiency rank variance. While a team's average adjusted defensive efficiency values may vary from season to season, a team's rank in the metric may not vary as much. This provides insight as to whether a team's rank relative to the rest of the country is staying static.
  • 2010-2013 Average Adjusted Defensive Efficiency Rank Standard Deviation: This serves a similar purpose to average adjusted defensive efficiency rank variance.

Based on those metrics, here are the top 10 defensive teams in the nation over the last four seasons:

2010-2013: TOP 10 IN AVERAGE ADJUSTED DEFENSIVE EFFICIENCY
TEAM '10-'13 AVG. ADJ. DEF. EFF. NT'L RANK '10-'13 AVG. ADJ. DEF. EFF. VAR NT'L RANK '10-'13 AVG. ADJ. DEF. EFF. STDEV NT'L RANK '10-'13 AVG. ADJ. DEF. EFF. RANK VAR NT'L RANK '10-'13 AVG. ADJ. DEF. EFF. RANK STDEV NT'L RANK
Notre Dame 21.75 1 1.31 3 1.14 3 0.67 3 0.82 3
Syracuse 23.33 2 8.04 32 2.84 32 24.25 10 4.92 10
Johns Hopkins 24.59 3 2.69 13 1.64 13 32.92 14 5.74 14
Loyola 24.78 4 1.55 6 1.24 6 24.67 11 4.97 11
Maryland 25.00 5 0.53 1 0.72 1 4.92 4 2.22 4
Bucknell 25.08 6 3.59 16 1.90 16 29.58 12 5.44 12
Cornell 25.21 7 6.10 26 1.90 16 29.58 12 5.44 12
Ohio State 25.51 8 8.60 35 2.93 35 93.58 34 9.67 34
Virginia 25.78 9 4.84 23 2.20 23 41.58 17 6.45 17
Princeton 25.98 10 9.86 39 3.14 39 84.25 30 9.18 30

Some brief notes relative to that table:

  • Notre Dame: Let's face it: Notre Dame's defensive coordinator -- Gerry Byrne -- probably has the secrets of the universe locked in a vault in South Bend and refuses to share them with the rest of the world. Faces change on the Irish's defense but the production remains the same: Incessant death rays that ruin everything. Just look at the team's adjusted defensive efficiency rankings since 2010: 2010 -- 21.72 (second); 2011 -- 20.91 (second); 2012 -- 21.01 (first); 2013 -- 23.38 (third). It'd be gross if it wasn't so beautiful.
  • Maryland: The Terrapins' defensive tradition over recent seasons is exactly why Maryland may not notably regress in 2014 despite needing to fill all kinds of holes on the offensive end of the field: Only a handful of teams have been as consistently solid as the Terps and Maryland returns all kinds of defensive assets for the coming season (including Goran Murray, Michael Ehrhardt, Niko Amato, and Casey Ikeda). The departure of former defensive coordinator Kevin Warne to Georgetown didn't significantly impact the Terrapins last season, and with volume contributors returning this year, Maryland may be able to lead with its defense until its offense finds its identity.
  • Bucknell: Bison Style works, people. You can achieve defensive excellence through aggressiveness and a degree of insanity. Give credit to Bucknell: They do things differently than the rest of Division I and still generate incredible results.
  • Syracuse: The Orange have traditionally been known as an offensively-led team, but in the last four seasons it has been Syracuse's defense -- under the guidance of Lelan Rogers -- that has truly excelled. Under Rogers, the Orange have become an elite defensive team, one that has consistently ranked among the nation's best and has served as the power plant driving the program's success over the last four years. What's most impressive about Syracuse's defensive run in recent seasons is that the Orange have crushed the faces of its offensive opposition without dozens of elite defensive talent: Since 2010, the Orange defense has had five players -- Brian Megill, Joel White, John Lade, John Galloway, and Matt Tierney -- earn first- through third-team All-America honors.
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