2014 College Lacrosse Preview: Face-Offs and Three Teams

Drew Hallowell

To some degree, face-off play is important for every team. For these three teams, though, there is extra incentive associated with strong play at the dot.

Face-off play means different things for different teams. For a team like Syracuse, face-off play was a wart for the Orange in 2013 but didn't cripple Syracuse's season. For a team like Johns Hopkins, face-off play was a positive factor for the Jays in 2013 but didn't get Hopkins into the NCAA Tournament.

There isn't a universal application of face-off play to potential success, but for the following three teams, face-off play may mean a lot to their efforts in 2014 based on what face-off play meant to them last season.

BROWN

2013 Face-Off Percentage: 38.89% (58)
2013 Possession Margin: -2.88 (51)
2013 Percentage of Offensive Opportunities from Face-Off Wins: 24.95% (63)
2013 Percentage of Defensive Opportunities from Face-Off Losses: 36.26% (27)
Potential 2014 Face-Off Importance:

  • Tommy Capone returns to Providence for his senior season, and Brown needs -- desperately needs -- Capone to exert some extra dominance at the dot. Capone drew at just 44.1 percent last season (that didn't rank in the top 50 in the NCAA last season) as Bruno's primary option at the X, and it hurt the Bears in 2013: Only a handful of teams played at a lower possession margin than Brown and the team's dry offense -- a unit that finished the season ranked 44th in adjusted offensive efficiency -- was deprived of necessary opportunities to make the scoreboard blink. In a competitively balanced Ivy League with a host of potential conference contenders, Brown is going to need stronger play on the whistle in order to maintain hopes for postseason inclusion. Having just 25 percent of offensive opportunities inuring from face-off wins isn't going to cut it when Princeton, Harvard, Cornell, and Pennsylvania appear on the schedule. The Bears need to do a stronger job at generating possession through face-off wins to try and tilt some circumstances in their favor (especially if Bruno clears at around the national average again).

DENVER

2013 Face-Off Percentage: 52.26% (23)
2013 Possession Margin: +1.88 (17)
2013 Percentage of Offensive Opportunities from Face-Off Wins: 42.83% (4)
2013 Percentage of Defensive Opportunities from Face-Off Losses: 41.65% (8)
Potential 2014 Face-Off Importance:

  • Face-off play in 2014 is potentially important for Denver for three reasons: (1) Chase Carraro (57.8 percent) and Chace Calkin (45.7), the team's primary face-off men last season, are off to the lunch bucket world of real life; (2) The team's offense is going to be in a bit of transition with the graduations of Eric Law and Cam Flint, the transfer of Gordie Koerber, and the unclear availability of Jeremy Noble; and (3) The Pioneers' defense was somewhat leaky last season and are going to need to carry a heavier load in 2014. The possible consequences, therefore, are kind of scary:
    1. If Denver, which generated tons of offensive opportunities through face-offs last season, can't generate the same volume of possessions in 2014 through wins at the dot, will enough offensive opportunities exist for an offense that probably isn't going to score on 40 percent of their possessions (like they did last season)?
    2. Denver's defense played a lot of its defensive postures out of face-off losses, and if that volume increases and the Pios' defense doesn't strengthen, will Denver struggle to put opponents away?

DUKE

2013 Face-Off Percentage: 62.48% (3)
2013 Possession Margin: +6.44 (3)
2013 Percentage of Offensive Opportunities from Face-Off Wins: 45.66% (1)
2013 Percentage of Defensive Opportunities from Face-Off Losses: 33.08% (48)
Potential 2014 Face-Off Importance:

  • A solid argument can be made that Kevin Massa was the most important face-off man in Division I in 2013 given what he meant for Bryant's effort, but Brendan Fowler wasn't far behind for the Devils. The senior drew at 64.4 percent in 2013 (third nationally) and was a crushing destroyer in the national title game against Syracuse. For Duke this coming season, though, his value is deeper than merely giving the team almost 46 percent of its offensive opportunities (interestingly, Fowler -- as an individual -- had more face-off wins than every single team in Division I last season):
    1. His ability to generate offensive possessions -- almost always viable opportunities that can gestate in the box -- to a team that is going to need some time to iron out its midfield situation. He provides on-the-job training while not even running with those midfield lines that may need extra opportunities to determine their volition.
    2. As a huge driver to Duke's possession margin, his play is a purposeful component to how Duke is able to (a) suffocate the opposition with furious offensive efficiency and elite weapons, and (b) stay in games even if Duke's offense or defense isn't getting the job done. For Duke, the Devils' possession margin is directly tied to how well Fowler operates at the dot; only Bryant has a claim to have that much reliance on face-off play.
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