2014 College Lacrosse Preview: Patriot League Outlook

Winslow Townson

The conference is a mess this season, but a good kind of mess.

The Plot

This is the Patriot League, basically:

Exposition

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

TRUNCATED PATRIOT LEAGUE PROFILE: 2010-2013
METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
4-YR. AVG. LEAGUE PYTHAG. WIN EXPECT. (POWER) 52.29% 4
4-YR. AVG. LEAGUE PYTHAG. WIN EXPECT. STDEV (INTERNAL COMPETITIVENESS) 0.162 7

THE PATRIOT LEAGUE: MEMBERSHIP PYTHAGOREAN WIN EXPECTATION: 2010-2013
TEAM AVERAGE PYTH. WIN EXP. NATIONAL RANK
Loyola 65.12% 11
Bucknell 64.89% 12
Army 58.93% 18
Lehigh 56.80% 20
Colgate 50.55% 29
Navy 48.63% 33
Lafayette 38.16% 45
Holy Cross 30.94% 53
Boston University N/A N/A

Army

  • Losing Brendan Buckley -- the Patriot League's defensive player of the year in 2013 -- is a major issue for Army entering the 2014 season, but Buckley -- despite his omnipotence -- wasn't the entirety of the Black Knights defense from a season ago. While a major cog to the team's defensive fortunes, Buckley wasn't the machine itself, and that machine did some really mean things to the opposition last season:

    ARMY'S DEFENSIVE PROFILE: 2013
    METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
    Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 25.55 10
    Shots per Defensive Opportunity 0.95 5
    Raw Defensive Shooting Rate 25.06% 8
    Defensive Assist Rate 13.04 5
    Opponent Turnovers per 100 Defensive Opportunities 51.74 7
    Caused Turnovers per 100 Defensive Opportunities 25.43 17
    Unforced Opponent Turnovers per 100 Defensive Opportunities 26.30 11
    Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 30.87 46
    Team Save Percentage 56.57% 10
    Jim D'Aprile (LSM), Pat Hart (D), John Burk (D), Al DeStefano (SSDM), Michael Larrabee (SSDM) and Sam Somers (G) return this spring to form the core of what could be the engine that powers the Black Knights' victory bus. (John Glesener is an elite offensive talent, but a strong argument can be made that Army's fortunes last season were dictated more by the team's defensive performances than what Garrett Thul and John Glesener did to opposing defenses.) Assets -- established value pieces -- are in place for the Black Knights to strangle their opponents, and that could provide Army with a platform to compete at a high level, even in the absence of Buckley.

Boston University

  • The Terriers are likely selling three things to potential recruits: (1) Boston is an awesome college town; (2) We're going to have major competition in the Patriot League; and (3) We're going to compete sooner rather than later. The issue for Boston University, though, is that it's existing in a region with a host of other choices for potential talent. Although only one of two schools in Boston with a Division I lacrosse program, the New England region counts 13 schools that sponsor the game at its highest level, competition that could stymie the Terriers' growth given the fact that the large number of these schools are established entities:

    B.U.'s REGIONAL COMPETITIORS: PYTHAGOREAN WIN EXPECTATIONS (2010-2013)
    TEAM VALUE NATIONAL RANK
    Massachusetts 59.07% 16
    Yale 58.96% 17
    Brown 53.91% 24
    Fairfield 53.62% 26
    Harvard 52.46% 28
    Bryant 49.04% 32
    Hartford 43.31% 40
    Dartmouth 40.97% 43
    Quinnipiac 38.98% 44
    Sacred Heart 32.62% 51
    Vermont 31.50% 52
    Holy Cross 30.94% 53
    Providence 26.12% 55
    How quickly can Ryan Polley and his staff climb the ladder relative to their peers in New England? The Terriers don't have to throw hands with the Minutemen in two years, but having a culture and tradition in place that puts Boston University on a level playing field with a handful of these schools could ultimately become the determining factor in the Terriers' growth arc.

Bucknell

  • The Bison are positioned to cause a lot of pain this season. The offensive unit is loaded, returning all but one -- Chase Bailey -- of its double-digit point-generators from a season ago. The issue with the Bison, though, is the team's unsettled goalkeeping situation. Kyle Feeney -- a fixture in the crease for Bucknell in his four years at Lewisburg -- didn't have an exemplary season in the cage for the Bison in 2013:

    BUCKNELL'S GOALKEEPING: A ENTERPRISE OF WANT
    METRIC VALUE NAT'L RANK
    Shots per Defensive Opportunity 0.91 3
    Raw Defensive Shooting Rate 29.03% 41
    Defensive Assist Rate 18.75 43
    Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 26.95 61
    Team Save Percentage 50.55% 44
    Feeney's backup from a season ago -- Sam Grinberg -- hasn't seen a ton of time in the net for Bucknell throughout his tenure with the Bison. Given the Bison's unique style of play -- a 10-man adventure that likes to pressure the ball -- the team’s goalkeeper is often exposed in non-preferential situations. Grinberg -- or whatever keeper Bucknell goes with; the team is carrying three other keepers (freshmen Robbie Coe and Jake Kennedy, as well as junior Frank Morelli) on the roster -- is going to need to elevate the team's overall goalie play in order to push Bucknell toward the heights they are capable of achieving in 2014. It's an unsettled issue for a team that thrives in unsettled play, and that could create problems for a Bison team that could challenge for the Patriot League title this season.

Colgate

  • The Raiders have had an uneven trajectory in the Patriot League over the last four seasons:

    COLGATE'S PATRIOT LEAGUE EXISTENCE SINCE 2010
    YEAR LEAGUE RECORD PLACEMENT
    2010 2-4 T5
    2011 5-1 2
    2012 5-1 T1
    2013 3-3 4
    The last thing a program wants to experience is results that mimic a comforting radio wave -- slowly rising and falling but never remaining static at a high pitch. Colgate has risen to notable heights -- the team's 2012 campaign was drastically overlooked, one that was among the strongest in the nation in that season -- but has had difficulty keeping the Raiders' development at the level that it achieved in the ultra-near past. This is illustrated in the team's somewhat volatile Pythagorean win expectation rankings the past few seasons:

    FAMILIES ARE ALWAYS RISING AND FALLING IN AMERICA
    YEAR PYTHAGOREAN WIN EXPECTATION NATIONAL RANK
    2013 44.14% 34
    2012 70.56% 7
    2011 52.93% 27
    2010 34.59% 48
    It's easier to get to the top than to stay at the top. This is the Raiders' struggle in 2014: Finding what made the program great (other than simply having Peter Baum on the roster) and asserting that function in a consistent fashion. Is Colgate more than an average team in a strong conference? Or are the Raiders a team with great potential in a strong conference? There's an important difference between the two, and Colgate needs to make the determination as to which bucket the team falls in.

Holy Cross

  • This is one of my favorite tables to publish:

    HOLY CROSS' GROWTH: 2011-2013
    METRIC 2011 2012 2013
    Pythagorean Win Expectation 17.91% (56) 25.96% (55) 41.15% (36)
    Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 19.51 (58) 26.10 (48) 29.05 (39)
    Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 31.89 (52) 36.60 (56) 32.60 (36)
    Adjusted Efficiency Margin -12.37 (56) -10.50 (55) -3.55 (36)
    Jim Morrissey is a sorcerer. There's no other explanation for what the Crusaders have accomplished since the former Syracuse attackman took over the program in the 2011 season. This is a program with zero history -- in the team's 56-year existence, the program's overall record is 243-490 (a 33.15 winning percentage) -- yet is staring to act like a program with middle-of-the-road potential. The Crusaders lose a lot going into 2014 -- the team will return six of its ten starters from last season, but won't have important assets like James Kennedy and two-thirds of its starting midfield (Myles Gillespie and John Hannan) -- but there is still value kicking around Worcester -- Clay Haarmann is a serviceable finisher, Michael Ortlieb is developing, and Reed Kennedy is a horse for the team's defensive efforts. The Crusaders are moving in the right direction; the question is whether Holy Cross can continue its momentum.

Lafayette

  • Competitive teams don't aim a tactical nuclear weapon at their foot and pull the trigger. Valuing possession -- especially for teams that play at a deflated pace (and the Leopards were that kind of team in 2013, ranking 57th nationally in possessions per 60 minutes of play) -- is a tool of opportunity-maximization, the cornerstone to success. Lafayette has some work to do in that department:

    THE BALL IS DEATH
    METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
    Unforced Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 32.75 63
    Opponent Caused Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 28.46 61
    Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 61.21 63
    Turnover Margin per 100 Opportunities -19.17 62
    "Run-of-Play Work Rate" Margin -7.21 61
    Fundamentally sound play holds infinite value for a program without high-end talent. The Leopards need to start getting back to the basics of mature play -- valuing possession and out-working their opponents for loose balls generated from turnovers in the run-of-play. Maximizing possessions through a care of the bean has a decided impact on a team's overall offensive efficiency, and if Lafayette continues to pitch the ball away without concern, the Leopards will continue to struggle in a stacked conference.

Lehigh

  • The issue gripping the Mountain Hawks right now is the loss of two of the program's most important players -- Dante Fantoni and David DiMaria. The graduations of the Lao-Gosney twins took a couple of bullets out of Lehigh's chamber in 2013, but the continued reality that DiMaria and Fantoni provided helped the Mountain Hawks remain a nationally-relevant program, balanced at both the offensive and defensive ends of the field. The attackmen's efforts not only pushed Lehigh's offense toward the top of the nation -- the Mountain Hawks finished 2013 ranked 11th in adjusted offensive efficiency, shot 20.41 percent (17th nationally), were seventh in assist rate, and only three teams had an opponent save rate lower than Lehigh's 59.34 percent mark -- but their performances also made the cats in their orbit deadly: Dan Taylor and Patrick Corbett put 79 and 53 points on the board, respectively, because of the ability of DiMaria and Fantoni to distribute the bean and draw the attention of opposing defenses. This is a major production issue that the Mountain Hawks face this coming spring, and "Next guy up!" may not be the most direct answer to Lehigh's potential problems.

Loyola

  • The Greyhounds went 11-5 last season and made the NCAA Tournament, a solid effort coming off of a charmed 2012 season in which Loyola won its first national championship. What is a little disappointing about the Greyhounds effort in 2013, though, is that Loyola could have had an exemplary season. Loyola was expected, based on their performance on the field, to win about 12 games last season, a one-win underachievement for the team. When you start digging into Loyola's losses last year, however, you can start to see lost opportunities against solid competition:

    LOYOLA'S LOST OPPORTUNITIES: 2013
    GAME LOYOLA'S LOG5 CHANCE OF VICTORY RESULT
    Maryland at Loyola 51.35% 12-10 (L)
    Loyola at Duke 57.81% 8-9 (L) // 11-12 2OT (L)
    Denver at Loyola 55.35% 13-12 OT (L)
    Loyola v. Ohio State 60.95% 11-18
    These are painful losses in big spots. In a season of transition for the Greyhounds, Loyola needs to try and reverse the bad beats thrown in the team’s direction in 2013. Loyola has enough juice to take a deep run into May, but the Greyhounds need to kick their 2013 habit of coming up short in a handful of important moments. There's too much strength in the Patriot League to be a halfway-fantastic team.

Navy

  • After notably improving from 2011 to 2012, Navy drastically regressed from 2012 to 2013. In fact, only two schools -- Colgate and Massachusetts -- saw a more pronounced decrease in their Pythagorean win expectation than Navy's regression: The Midshipmen's win expectation drop of 25.70 percent was, quite simply, dastardly. In terms of adjusted efficiency margin, just one program -- the Minutemen -- had a wider gulf between their 2012 ranking in the metric and their 2013 finishing position: Navy's 28 position slide stood in stark contrast to the team's 23 position climb from 2011 to 2012.Navy needs to find its identity under Sowell; the team's overall performance likely follows from that foundation. Sowell has only been in Annapolis for two seasons, and with the core that he's working with -- Sam Jones, Tucker Hull, Kiernan, etc. -- Sowell should have the parts necessary to get Navy's momentum moving in the right direction. Navy is always going to have a different kind of experience in the whole of Division I lacrosse; thriving in that situation is Annapolis' biggest issue at the moment.

Argumentation

Four important conference games that will define the discussion.

  • GAME I: Bucknell at Loyola -- April 17th

  • GAME II: Loyola at Lehigh -- March 1st

  • GAME III: Lehigh at Bucknell -- March 8th

  • GAME IV: Navy at Army -- April 12th

Description

Illustrating the landscape of the universe.

The competitiveness in the league's delineated tranches is what's going to define the conference in 2014. Loyola is the favorite, but Bucknell and Lehigh are likely capable of assassinating the Greyhounds' character. The second pool -- Army and Colgate -- is tightly bunched; their positioning is going to be important given the Patriot League's extended postseason format this season. The next tranche -- Navy and Holy Cross (and maybe Lafayette) -- could be in a nasty street fight for the conference's final tournament position. And Boston University is going to get smacked in the face with freedom.

PREDICTED PATRIOT LEAGUE ORDER OF FINISH: 2014
RANK TEAM
1. Loyola
2. Bucknell
3. Lehigh
4. Army
5. Colgate
6. Navy
7. Holy Cross
8. Lafayette
9. Boston University
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