The NEC was formed in 2011 for a simple purpose: To create access to the NCAA Tournament for a group of off-brand clothiers. The league has taken heat for this, but in an environment where the simple existence of opportunity means more than dominating opportunity, the NEC's continued pursuit of access reflects the desire for relevance. The league's purpose, though, is obfuscated by the conference's overall strength: The NEC -- on the whole -- has been bad, a Division I-like product that houses many struggling programs that are in mere orbit around a handful of programs on the fringes of cohort-wide consequence. The NEC needs to develop its full capacity in order to earn the respect the league seeks, an effort that is still in its early stages of development.
Underlying background information -- team and league storylines -- that structures the plot.
|4-YR. AVG. LEAGUE PYTHAG. WIN EXPECT. (POWER)||35.43%||9|
|4-YR. AVG. LEAGUE PYTHAG. WIN EXPECT. STDEV (INTERNAL COMPETITIVENESS)||0.168||8|
|TEAM||AVERAGE PYTH. WIN EXP.||NATIONAL RANK|
|Mount St. Mary's||44.68%||37|
- Kevin Massa can accomplish all things:
BRYANT'S -- AND KEVIN MASSA'S -- POSSESSION SITUATION: 2013 METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK Possession Margin +7.61 1 Percent of Offensive Opportunities Earned Through Face-Off Wins 44.04% 3 Percent of Face-Offs Kevin Massa Took for Bryant 99.31% N/A Kevin Massa's Individual Offensive Opportunities Generated* 291 2 Kevin Massa Face-Off Wins^ 315 2 Kevin Massa Face-Off Percentage 72.58% 1
* Estimated by reducing Massa's face-off wins by his individual turnovers.
Kevin Massa changes the game, mostly because he forces the opposition to accept an onslaught of possessions in which the opposition is in a defensive posture. But it's not just that Massa flips the balance of possessions in the Bulldogs' favor; it's also that Massa -- almost single-handedly -- provides Bryant's offense with the luxury of working with inefficiency. Massa's strength on the whistle in 2014 was integral to Bryant rolling up an 8-11 record and earning a trip to the NCAA Tournament despite featuring an offense that finished the season ranked 54th in adjusted offensive efficiency. Massa is a possession-generating machine for a team that required -- and may require in 2014 -- volume in order to make the scoreboard blink a season ago. He is a single-purpose weapon, but his output may not have a correlative value in any corner of Division I lacrosse.
- It's hard to figure out what the Statesmen are going to look like this season because the team was pretty bipolar in 2013. LaxPower shows the team underperforming in five games last season -- against Binghamton, Robert Morris, Fairfield, Denver, and Loyola -- and overperforming in three others -- against Siena, Bellarmine, and Syracuse. Five games, though, stick out as especially weird:
HOBART'S WEIRDEST FIVE GAMES FROM 2013 OPPONENT SCORE LAXPOWER PREDICTED GOAL DIFFERENTIAL LAXPOWER +/- YEAR-END LOG5 HOBART WIN PREDICTION Siena 18-15 0 + 50.11% Binghamton 2-6 0 -- 55.52% Fairfield 10-13 0 - 43.76% Bellarmine 9-8 -2 + 37.20% Syracuse 13-12 -6 +++ 20.09%
Mount St. Mary's
- This was Mount St. Mary's offensive profile in 2013:
2013 OFFENSIVE PROFILE: MOUNT ST. MARY'S METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 31.77 18 Shots per Offensive Opportunity 1.07 37 Raw Offensive Shooting Rate 30.88% 15 Offensive Assist Rate 19.23 20 Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 43.38 22 Opponent Saves per 100 Offensive Opportunities 30.98 14 Opponent Save Percentage 48.33% 12
- The team lost its top 10 point-generators -- Andrew Scalley, Brett Schmidt, Cody Lehrer, Bryant Schmidt, Dan Stranix, Eric Ososki, Connor Carey, Jake Willertz, Anthony Golden, and Mark Burns -- from a season ago. Again, not a part of its top 10 point-generators from a season ago; its top ten point-generators from a season ago. Those ten players accounted for 96.33 percent of the Mountaineers total points from 2013. Not only that, this group of now-departed players accounted for 94.84 percent of the team's goals from a season ago, 87.78 percent of Mount St. Mary's assists, and 92.23 percent of the team's total shots. The most active returning player from a season ago is Clayton Wainer, a midfielder that put up four goals on 16 shots for four total points on the season.
- That departed group of 10 players accounted for 45 starts at attack -- the team's entire attack unit -- and 43 starts through the offensive midfield. Basically, Mount St. Mary's lost their entire offensive starting lineup. No big deal.
- Robert Morris is beautiful. There's just something about the Colonials' style -- up-tempo to the point of blurring reality -- that makes Robert Morris beyond appealing to the point of dangerous obsession. "Go!" is a lost art in the game, yet Andrew McMinn still paints a beautiful portrait of abstract expressionism that speaks to what lacrosse can and should be. The Colonials impose their pace on almost everyone, but there are four games that may be must-watch affairs involving Robert Morris this coming spring: Dates against Bellarmine, Drexel, Hobart, and Bryant. In those four games last season, the Colonials played at a tempo that was at least two possessions greater than their season-long average of about 70 opportunities per 60 minutes of play:
REPEATING (PACE) HISTORY? OPPONENT 2013 PACE + RMU SEASON AVERAGE Bellarmine 78 +8 Bryant* 73 +3 Drexel 80 +10 Hobart 77 +7
- A coaching change does not always merit an immediate positive change in direction for a program. In fact, many programs regress season-over-season after a change in their program navigator. With Jon Basti's arrival at Sacred Heart for this coming spring, Pioneers fans may need to temper their expectations a little bit given how programs that experienced a coaching change prior to the 2013 season performed last year:
COACHING CHANGES FOR THE 2013 SEASON: CHANGE IN PERFORMANCE FROM 2012 TEAM 2012 PYTHAGOREAN WIN EXPECTATION 2013 PYTHAGOREAN WIN EXPECTATION PYTHAGOREAN WIN EXPECTATION VALUE CHANGE PYTHAGOREAN WIN EXPECTATION RANKING CHANGE Georgetown 46.72% (34) 34.70% (49) -12.02% -15 Lafayette 31.73% (47) 28.60% (53) -3.13% -6 Manhattan 22.06% (57) 26.24% (56) +4.19% +2 Mercer 5.80% (61) 22.37% (57) +16.57% +4 Providence 28.00% (53) 41.55% (35) +13.55% +18 Average - - +3.83% +0.6
- Ryan McGee redshirted in 2013, but the attackman returns to St. Joseph's roster in 2014 as the centerpiece to the Hawks' offensive efforts. McGee was an undervalued asset in his last season of play for St. Joe's -- a rough calculation ranked McGee 14th in adjusted individual points per 100 offensive possessions in 2012, generating 11.41 points over the unit of measurement (in line with players like Tom Schreiber of Princeton and Andrew Scalley of Mount St. Mary's) -- and he should have a significant impact on the Hawks' efforts this coming spring. Here's a truncated profile of McGee's contributions to St. Joseph's offensive production in 2012:
RYAN MCGEE'S FINGERPRINTS ON THE HAWKS' OFFENSE: 2012 METRIC VALUE PERCENT OF TOTAL Goals 38 38.00% Assists 14 25.93% Points 52 33.77% Shots 112 23.28%
You don't have a heart if you don't want Wagner to win at least two games this season. The Seahawks are Division I's hard-luck story of infinite sadness, proof that the War on Poverty didn't succeed everywhere:
THE WAGNER EXPERIENCE: 2000-2013 YEAR RECORD LAXPOWER RANKING LAXPOWER STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANKING WINS 2000 0-13 55/55 48/55 N/A 2001 1-12 55/55 54/55 CCNY (D-III) 2002 3-10 53/55 55/55 CCNY (D-III); Binghamton; Siena 2003 1-11 53/54 54/54 Siena 2004 1-12 54/54 51/54 VMI 2005 2-12 54/55 54/55 Lafayette; Robert Morris 2006 0-15 57/57 52/57 N/A 2007 0-15 56/56 53/56 N/A 2008 0-15 56/57 57/57 N/A 2009 1-15 59/59 57/59 Presbyterian 2010 1-14 60/60 54/60 VMI 2011 0-12 60/60 48/60 N/A 2012 1-13 60/61 61/61 Sacred Heart 2013 1-12 63/63 63/63 VMI
Four important conference games that will define the discussion.
GAME I: Hobart at Bryant -- March 22nd
GAME II: Bryant at Robert Morris -- April 19th
GAME III: Robert Morris at Hobart -- March 15th
GAME IV: Sacred Heart at St. Joseph's -- April 19th
Illustrating the landscape of the universe.
There are two distinct realities in the NEC in 2014: There are the possibly-capable and the probably-incapacitated. There isn't much middle ground between the two points on the conference's spectrum, although an argument can be made that one or two schools -- Mount St. Mary's and/or St. Joseph's -- are existing in the cloud of grey. Bryant, Hobart, and Robert Morris are likely throwing hands to determine which school will enter May as the league's postseason favorite, but the Bulldogs are likely best positioned -- right now -- to earn the league's regular season crown.
|5.||Mount St. Mary's|