Painfully long litigation won't exist relative to the potential for keeping the ECAC on life support despite having almost all of its vital organs shut down: The plug is getting pulled on the league at the beginning May. In the conference's decade-plus history -- the league started sponsoring Division I play in 2001 -- the ECAC has featured 17 different members, a hostel for programs looking for shelter. The volume of programs that spent time in the ECAC is borderline ridiculous, and the ECAC's willingness to provide a temporary home eventually netted -- for the 2013 season -- the MAAC one school (Quinnipiac), the NEC one school (Hobart), the Patriot League two schools (Loyola and Navy), THUNDERDOME! two schools (Penn State and Massachusetts), the America East two schools (Stony Brook and UMBC), and the Big East four schools (Georgetown, St. John's, Denver, and Rutgers). Your memory will not be forgotten, ECAC (mostly because a quarter of Division I had an ECAC email address at some point).
Underlying background information -- team and league storylines -- that structures the plot.
|4-YR. AVG. LEAGUE PYTHAG. WIN EXPECT. (POWER)||47.88%||5|
|4-YR. AVG. LEAGUE PYTHAG. WIN EXPECT. STDEV (INTERNAL COMPETITIVENESS)||0.147||6|
|TEAM||AVERAGE PYTH. WIN EXP.||NATIONAL RANK|
- There's a lot of steam behind the Falcons this season and for good reason: Air Force was probably a game better than their season-ending record from 2013 (7-7). Not only did the Falcons perform about a win stronger than what their final record illustrated, the team was in the hunt for four more victories against solid competition:
AIR FORCE 2013: DRATS! OPPONENT AIR FORCE CHANCE OF VICTORY FINAL SCORE at Bellarmine 51.84% 10-11 at Denver 37.30% 10-11 (OT) at Fairfield 58.58% 8-9 Ohio State 42.83% 9-10
- Dillon Ward graduated, man. He's gone and he's not coming back. The first-degree Knight for Bellarmine was an epiphany for the team last season: After giving Will Haas the start in the season-opener in 2013 (an effort that saw Haas yield seven goals in the first half), Kevin Burns went to Ward and never looked back. Ward's play totally elevated the Knights' defensive efforts, one that ranked toward the top of the nation -- if not at the top of the nation -- in both value and individual performance:
BELLARMINE'S 2013 RELIANCE ON WARD METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 23.36 2 Shots per Defensive Opportunity 1.09 31 Raw Defensive Shooting Rate 21.00% 1 Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 42.83 4 Ward's Save Percentage 66.2% 1 Possession Margin +0.42 27
- Fairfield is developing a reputation as a team that is square in the middle of the country in terms of offensive strength, but has gotten to that point by either hitting pedestrian signs in the parking lot or attempting to burn through the opposition's goalie stick:
FAIRFIELD'S OFFENSIVE SORCERY METRIC 2011 2012 2013 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 28.82 (22) 30.57 (25) 29.91 (30) Shots per Offensive Opportunity 1.23 (1) 1.08 (19) 1.16 (18) Raw Offensive Shooting Percentage 23.40% (56) 27.45% (40) 25.52% (47) Opponent Saves per 100 Offensive Opportunities 35.96 (54) 38.45 (61) 35.54 (40) Opponent Saves Percentage 55.56% 56.39% 54.58% (41) Offensive Assist Rate 16.63 (24) 14.20 (48) 14.79 (48)
- The Wolverines haven't had an easy two seasons at the Division I level, but things are starting to change in Ann Arbor: Talent is arriving. It's going to take time for that talent to coalesce, but pieces are emerging for Michigan that indicate that the program is heading in the right direction. One of the scariest things that the Wolverines are facing in 2014, though, is the loss -- due to injury -- of their stalwart keeper -- Gerald Logan. Michigan has relied heavily on their stoppers to end defensive opportunities in the recent past, and the loss of Logan could really sting a program that needs value assets wherever they can get them:
MICHIGAN'S 2013 RELIANCE ON LOGAN METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 34.40 47 Shots per Defensive Opportunity 1.15 45 Raw Defensive Shooting Rate 29.15% 43 Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 42.80 5 Logan's Save Percentage 56.3% 13 Possession Margin -4.14 56
- How the Buckeyes deal with the graduations of Logan Schuss -- The Silver Gleaming Death Machine -- and Dominique Alexander are the overt concerns for Ohio State this spring, but the losses of those two offensive machines -- and how the Buckeyes fill their voids -- isn't necessarily the driving factor in the Buckeyes' potential for success this season. Rather, Ohio State's ceiling is arguably dictated by how strong the team's defense comes to play, a developed unit that the Buckeyes could rely on to drag Ohio State to victories if the team's offense sputters. The close defense returns intact, a solid unit that wasn't flashy but still comprised the core of a defensive unit that finished last year ranked 20th in adjusted defensive efficiency. Robby Haus, just a sophomore and ripe for growth after an impressive freshman campaign, earned all-ECAC honors in 2013; his line mates -- Dominic Imbordino and Joe Meurer -- are seniors that have competed against some of the best offenses in the nation over their careers are have the experience and ability to form a potentially limitless degree of pain for the opposition. And Greg Dutton is back for his final run between the pipes. If the Buckeyes' offense can't efficiently can the bean, the team's defense should be strong enough to drive Ohio State toward victories.
Four important conference games that will define the discussion.
GAME I: Ohio State at Fairfield -- April 26th
GAME II: Air Force at Ohio State -- April 19th
GAME III: Fairfield at Air Force -- April 12th
GAME IV: Bellarmine at Air Force -- March 8th
Illustrating the landscape of the universe.
Ohio State looks like the strongest team in the league in 2013, and the fact that the Buckeyes will host the ECAC Tournament this season affirms that belief. Ohio State, though, isn't as dedicated a favorite in its conference in 2014 as Albany and Denver are in their respective leagues: The Buckeyes could take some shots to the mouth from Fairfield and Air Force (and it's unclear which of those two teams are better positioned to stalk Ohio State). Bellarmine is kind of existing in its own tier, and Michigan is desperately hoping to elbow out a win or two to try and finish fourth on the table and earn an invite to the ECAC Tournament (so they can, presumably, taunt Ohio State on site).