2014 College Lacrosse Preview: Colonial -- THUNDERDOME! -- Outlook

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Blood.

The Plot

The toughest league in America -- the CAA to those that don't believe in post-apocalyptic murder events -- returns in 2014 more deadly than ever: With St. Joseph's jettisoned to the relatively calm fields of the Northeast Conference, THUNDERDOME! has shed a competitor that brought a knife to a kill-people-with-medieval-weapons-and-other-things-that-create-awesome-explosions fight. There's nothing quite like THUNDERDOME!: It's a league of strong programs that maintain different flaws but are all on the same competitive plane. The conference is nothing but eye patches and gasoline fires and ineffective dental care. There's nothing sweet or charming about THUNDERDOME!; it's pure courage and fortitude, necessary components to cheating death.

Exposition

Underlying background information -- team and league storylines -- that structures the plot.

TRUNCATED THUNDERDOME! PROFILE: 2010-2013
METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
4-YR. AVG. LEAGUE PYTHAG. WIN EXPECT. (POWER) 55.38% 3
4-YR. AVG. LEAGUE PYTHAG. WIN EXPECT. STDEV (INTERNAL COMPETITIVENESS) 0.101 2

THE THUNDERDOME!: MEMBERSHIP PYTHAGOREAN WIN EXPECTATION: 2010-2013
TEAM AVERAGE PYTH. WIN EXP. NATIONAL RANK
Hofstra 62.52% 13
Massachusetts 59.07% 16
Drexel 58.50% 19
Penn State 53.85% 25
Towson 50.23% 30
Delaware 46.49% 34

Delaware

  • THUNDERDOME! is getting away from the Blue Hens a little bit. Delaware has missed the last two THUNDERDOME! Tournaments after asserting itself as a fixture at the event, putting together consecutive 1-5 efforts in league play. Moreover, the Blue Hens are in the midst of an extended regression in play: The team experienced a 3.52 drop in adjusted efficiency margin from 2012 to 2013; from 2011 to 2012, the drop was 1.50 in the same metric; and from 2010 to 2011, the drop was 3.31 in the same metric. This is, in function, a program that ranked as the 21st strongest in the nation in 2010 but closed 2013 as only the 44th strongest. That's an extended decline in performance, one that has turned the Blue Hens from an oddball contender in the nation's weirdest state to a program that can't seem to right itself in suffocating circumstances. 2014 should permit Delaware reasonable expectations, but the Blue Hens need to rediscover their tradition through increased execution at both ends of the field. With Fairfield set to bring its nail gun and ornery attitude to THUNDERDOME! in 2015, Delaware needs to re-assert its strength in 2014 or else things could spiral out of control in the near future.

Drexel

  • Defensive issues aside, Brian Voelker may have a tactical nuclear weapon on his hands in Philadelphia. The Dragons are flying under the radar at the moment, but Drexel's potential to ruin scoreboards with incessant scoring is so strong that the Dragons could elevate their profile sooner rather than later. Returning to anchor an offense that finished 2013 ranked eighth in adjusted offensive efficiency are attackmen Frank Fusco and Nick Trizano and midfielders Ryan Belka and Ben McIntosh. These four cats -- four of the team's top-five point-generators from a season ago -- accounted for 53 percent of Drexel's total points last season, shot 31.62 percent as a group (while taking 53.63 percent of the team's total shots), accounted for 45.76 percent of the team's total helpers, and played in every single one of Drexel's 15 games last season (earning 55 combined starts). The losses of Robert Church -- a goal-scoring machine -- and Aaron Prosser sting, but Drexel is still returning a ton of offense to a unit that drove the Dragons' success last season. Throw in the fact that possession-generator Nick Saputo will return to take draws for Drexel, and factors are in place for Drexel to melt the opposition.

Hofstra

  • Somewhat similarly to Villanova in the Big East, the Pride are building a recent reputation for failing to close games and put away opponents that it should -- or could -- defeat. The program seemed to bust a circuit when Towson -- in double-overtime in 2012 -- erased a six-goal deficit in the fourth quarter and closed the game on a seven-zip run. The Pride couldn't seem to shake that loss from their memory and finished the year with only two wins -- against St. Joseph's and Dartmouth -- in its last five games. Assumedly isolated to the 2012 season, Hofstra opened its 2013 campaign with a 5-1 record (which included a victory over Notre Dame at Arlotta), positioned nicely to make a run at an NCAA Tournament bid. Then, against St. John's, the Pride seemed to bust a circuit. The loss to the Johnnies was followed by a triple-overtime loss to Drexel and then it all fell apart. The sad part of Hofstra's slow descent into misery in 2013 is that the Pride weren't in impossible circumstances:

    HOFSTRA'S LOST FORTUNES
    OPPONENT LOG5: HOFSTRA % OF VICTORY FINAL SCORE
    St. John's 49.48% 6-7 (L)
    Drexel 55.80% 7-8 (3OT) (L)
    Towson 55.05% 6-7 (L)
    North Carolina 29.64% 5-14 (L)
    Massachusetts 59.48% 8-9 (L)
    Penn State 43.73% 7-16 (L)
    This season, the Pride need to find what made Hofstra lacrosse one of the toughest outs in Division I lacrosse. Hofstra lost its edge, and its pursuit to rediscover its tradition is what may determine the Pride's ceiling this season.

Massachusetts

  • The key (and this is really for any team) for the Minutemen is to avoid streakiness. Massachusetts suffered through a four-game losing streak last season and then followed it up with a three-game winless streak in the heart of their conference schedule. That's how a promising season goes sour. The Minutemen haven't been susceptible to this in the recent past, but Massachusetts will, in 2014, have a different look than they did in 2013, attempting to replace key assets -- Will Manny, Kyle Smith, Bobby Tyler, Ryan Hollenbaugh, Colin Fleming, and Jake Smith -- that helped drive their success. If Grant Whiteway and Zach Oliveri can serve as tent pole performers that can create consistency for a team that will look very unlike its 2012 incarnation, Massachusetts should remain in a decent position in the THUNDEROME! zone.

Penn State

  • Outside of Penn State's lack of a safety net this season, the Nittany Lions' ceiling is likely dictate by how much offense the team can generate to complement its defensive efforts (loving called "The Torture Carnival"). Long middling to create tallies at an efficient rate, Penn State finally has its disposal a handful of assets -- Shane Sturgis (A), T.J. Sanders (A), Tom LaCrosse (M), Kyle Zittel (M), Kyle VanThof (M) -- that could make the scoreboard blink frequently for the Lions and keep pressure off of the team's defense to find ways to win. The key, though, is avoiding offensive stagnancy in development; anything that doesn't improve on the team's slow-but-steady offensive growth could create difficult circumstances for Penn State:

    PENN STATE'S OFFENSIVE HISTORY
    YEAR ADJUSTED OFFENSIVE EFFICIENCY VALUE NT'L RANK
    2013 29.82 33
    2012 28.74 36
    2011 28.09 30
    2010 29.51 23
    2009 26.32 26

Towson

  • The Tigers are developing a reputation as the toughest team in the toughest conference in America. There's nothing wrong with that; playing like a pug and willing wins where they shouldn't exist is a reputable life. Towson isn't slick and they aren't pretty, but what they have been under Shawn Nadelen is effective and moving in the right direction:

    FROM SEAMAN TO NADELEN: TOWSON'S GROWTH
    METRIC 2011 2012 2013
    Adjusted Efficiency Margin 0.24 (29) -3.65 (42) 1.39 (26)
    Pythagorean Win Expectation 50.73% (30) 40.23% (44) 53.72% (26)
    Winning Percentage 23.08% (3-10) 46.67% (7-8) 55.55% (10-8)
    Strength of Schedule: Adjusted Efficiency Margin 0.72 (24) 1.66 (15) -0.14 (30)
    Nadelen has had all the answers for the Tigers the last two seasons. Where Towson goes in 2014 -- a turning point year after surprisingly winning the THUNDERDOME! Tournament in 2013 -- is important, especially because Towson won't be sneaking up on anybody this spring. There are expectations at Towson for the first time in forever, and playing out in the open with all eyes on the Tigers' efforts is a different kind of reality for Towson. How the Tigers handle these expectations, and whether the team continues its marked development, is all that matters outside of Baltimore this season.

Argumentation

Four important conference games that will define the discussion.

  • GAME I: Penn State at Towson -- April 12th

  • GAME II: Hofstra at Massachusetts -- April 19th

  • GAME III: Drexel at Towson -- April 19th

  • GAME IV: Penn State at Drexel -- April 5th

Description

Illustrating the landscape of the universe.

How THUNDERDOME! finishes doesn't necessarily portend how the THUNDERDOME! Tournament will shake out. The league's postseason is concentrated insanity, a face-melting effort that takes reality and bends it into something that looks like liquid nothingness. The reason for this ties to the volatile nature of THUNDERDOME! itself: The competitors wielding weapons of mass destruction are rarely competitively unmatched, which creates issues in trying to understand why a lost limb doesn't mean that defeat is assured. Consequently, it's difficult to create tiers in the conference, but it appears as if Penn State, Drexel, and Towson are a cut above Massachusetts and Hofstra, while those two schools hold a gap ahead of Delaware. But who actually knows? (The Grim Reaper, that's who.)

PREDICTED THUNDERDOME! ORDER OF FINISH: 2014
RANK TEAM
1. Penn State
2. Drexel
3. Towson
4. Massachusetts
5. Hofstra
6. Delaware
SB Nation Featured Video
X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join College Crosse

You must be a member of College Crosse to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at College Crosse. You should read them.

Join College Crosse

You must be a member of College Crosse to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at College Crosse. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9341_tracker