It seems like every head coach in the country says that they want to play fast. I don't know exactly why publically stating that pragmatism is the theoretical approach of choice for many coaches, but coaches always seem to state -- outwardly -- that they want to run and increase pace. The issue with tons of coaches going on the record saying that they want to play fast is that the definition of "playing fast" isn't etched in stone as canonical law. What a coach may pursue as fast play may not comport to what another individual may think is hot, barely-legal runnin' and gunnin'.
I've always considered a fast pace to mean that a team is playing a lot of possessions per 60 minutes of play. Viewing tempo in that context -- volume of opportunities -- tends to correlate to seeing lots of action on the field: end-to-end runs; boatloads of opportunities to score; unsettled postures; etc. That may not align with the thoughts of many coaches, but it makes a lot of sense to me.
To try and determine which schools are most likely to turn the lacrosse field plaid in 2014 with fast play and hectic situations, I created an analysis that examined pace -- the total number of possessions played per 60 minutes of action -- over the last four seasons. In that analysis, three metrics were considered:
- Average pace from 2010 through 2013.
- Average national pace ranking from 2010 through 2013.
- National pace ranking standard deviation for periods 2010 through 2013.
Four teams stood out in the study: Albany, Dartmouth, Detroit, and Robert Morris. These programs have been prophets of beautiful insanity in recent seasons and appear poised to blur reality in 2014:
|TEAM||4-YR. AVG. PACE (NT'L RANK)||4-YR. AVG. PACE RANKING (NT'L RANK)||4-YR. AVG. PACE RANKING STDV (NT'L RANK)|
|Albany||74.27(2)||7.00 (2)||5.89 (8)|
|Dartmouth||72.46 (6)||7.75 (5)||4.86 (5)|
|Detroit||72.94 (4)||7.25 (4)||4.27 (3)|
|Robert Morris||74.98 (1)||6.25 (1)||4.43 (4)|
For a full look at the results for all programs that participated at the Division I level since 2010, the following document will fill your head melon with all the wonders you seek:
Some brief notes on the enlightened four:
- Albany: There is little reason to believe that the Great Danes will slow down in 2014. After leading the nation in tempo last season (78.58 possessions per 60 minutes of play), Albany -- with the services of the Thompson Trio -- is still poised to try and suffocate their opponents with offense. To get there, a continued focus on creating pace is necessary for the Great Danes.
- Dartmouth: While the Big Green are a part of the Cult of Go, Dartmouth has slowly but surely decreased their pace since 2010 -- 2010 (75.55); 2011 (74.71); 2012 (69.86); and 2013 (69.72). You're still a beautiful snowflake, Dartmouth, but I'm worried about you dissolving in the atmosphere.
- Detroit: One of the most consistent teams in the nation when it comes to playing with jet packs, the Titans' aggressive style is a bad ass double-edged sword. The country saw some of Detroit's fun in the NCAA Tournament last season, but the Titans' existence is greater than that one isolated moment.
- Robert Morris: The gold standard. Nobody does it like Drew McMinn and the Colonials. They are what we all aspire to be: Crashing through space at 100 million miles per second.