Midseason Check-Up: The Nation's Best Offenses, Defenses

Rob Carr

These units will make your face melt.

We're just past the halfway point of the season. Here's some stuff about stuff.

The Nation's Best Offenses (So Far)

THE NATION'S BEST OFFENSES (SO FAR)
RANK TEAM ADJUSTED OFFENSIVE EFFICIENCY NATIONAL AVERAGE RANK TEAM ADJUSTED OFFENSIVE EFFICIENCY NATIONAL AVERAGE
1. Loyola 45.97 31.02 11. Marquette 36.31 31.02
2. Denver 45.51 31.02 12. Yale 35.89 31.02
3. Albany 41.99 31.02 13. Virginia 35.85 31.02
4. North Carolina 41.48 31.02 14. Massachusetts 35.84 31.02
5. Syracuse 40.01 31.02 15. St. John's 35.23 31.02
6. Cornell 39.56 31.02 16. Notre Dame 35.03 31.02
7. Maryland 38.42 31.02 17. Duke 34.76 31.02
8. Princeton 37.86 31.02 18. Rutgers 34.32 31.02
9. UMBC 37.30 31.02 19. Harvard 33.98 31.02
10. Fairfield 36.68 31.02 20. Stony Brook 33.81 31.02

Some thoughts about this:

  • Loyola: The Greyhounds' offense has been an assaultive nightmare this year. Looking into the details of Loyola's offensive production, the Greyhounds don't have many deficiencies: The team's shooting rate is exceptional (35.38 percent, fifth nationally) and Loyola isn't afraid to uncork missiles at the cage (the team ranks sixth nationally in shots per offensive opportunity and are third nationally in shots on goal per offensive opportunity); only one team -- Albany -- creates assisted tallies on a per possession basis greater than the Greyhounds' mark, a prism of doom for opposing defenses; no team in the country has a lower turnover rate than Loyola (it's especially important to note that the Greyhounds' unforced turnover rate ranks third nationally); opposing goalkeepers are cowering in the corner of the goal, holding only a 41.74 save percentage (that ranks fourth nationally); and Loyola is doing this against a schedule ranked 29th in opposing defenses faced, putting double-digit tallies on the scoreboard against defenses ranked third and fifth in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency. This offense has been a machine in the absence of Mike Sawyer and Zach Herreweyers, proof that Justin Ward and his mercenary friends can accomplish all things.
  • Maryland: Here's what's impressive about the Terrapins' offense this season: (1) The Terps are doing this with a handful of fresh faces in prominent roles, and (2) Mike Chanenchuk is carrying a ton of responsibility for Maryland's offense and the team is delivering. Now, Maryland hasn't seen a lot of great defenses so far this season (the team's schedule ranks just 51st in opposing defenses faced), but the Terrapins are still dicing opposing defenses to pieces while creating an offensive identity. If the Terrapins continue to develop as the season progresses, Maryland could have on its hands the impetus for a deep run in May given the fact that the offense is working with a fat possession advantage in its favor (only three teams have a stronger possession margin than the Terps).
  • Marquette: This is real life. The Golden Eagles have played a brutal schedule in terms of opposing defenses faced (it ranks 22nd nationally), and yet the team is still operating in an efficient manner when in possession of the bean. This is still a program that's finding its way, but Joe Amplo -- in only the team's second season at the Division I level -- has put together an offensive show with a handful of weapons -- Tyler Melnyk, Conor Gately, Bryant Badolato, etc. -- that can unload when given the opportunity.
  • Rutgers: Here's the scary thing about the Scarlet Knights: Only one team -- Colgate -- plays with bigger possession margin per 60 minutes of play than Rutgers. Allowing the team's offense -- which has been frighteningly effective -- to dictate the Knights' fortunes thanks to the team's ability to dominate possession is a huge factor in Rutgers' overall success this season.

The Nation's Best Defenses (So Far)

THE NATION'S BEST DEFENSES (SO FAR)
RANK TEAM ADJUSTED DEFENSIVE EFFICIENCY NATIONAL AVERAGE RANK TEAM ADJUSTED DEFENSIE EFFICIENCY NATIONAL AVERAGE
1. Army 20.14 31.05 11. Colgate 26.83 31.05
2. North Carolina 23.51 31.05 12. Loyola 26.90 31.05
3. Duke 23.77 31.05 13. Villanova 27.13 31.05
4. Notre Dame 23.86 31.05 14. Harvard 27.74 31.05
5. Lehigh 24.06 31.05 15. Quinnipiac 27.84 31.05
6. Maryland 24.68 31.05 16. Bellarmine 27.97 31.05
7. Johns Hopkins 25.11 31.05 17. Bucknell 28.08 31.05
8. Pennsylvania 25.60 31.05 18. Robert Morris 28.34 31.05
9. Ohio State 26.10 31.05 19. Fairfield 28.62 31.05
10. Bryant 26.36 31.05 20. Virginia 28.67 31.05

Some thoughts about this:

  • Notre Dame: Of course. There's not much more that can be written about the Irish's continued tradition of defensive excellence outside of the fact that Notre Dame has developed a system wherein they will crush skulls and there is little that will mitigate the team's murderous inclinations. Gerry Byrne, Notre Dame's defensive coordinator, needs to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in the Field of Stinginess. There is defensive acumen and then there's whatever the hell the Irish are.
  • Bryant: One of the great revelations of this season has been the emergence of Gunnar Waldt in the crease for the Bulldogs. The redshirt sophomore has been the backbone of Bryant's defense, playing all but 1:05 for the Bulldogs this season while driving the team's goalkeeping profile: Only two teams have seen their keepers generate more saves per 100 defensive possessions than Bryant; no team has a higher team save percentage (63.24 percent) than the Bulldogs; only one team has a lower defensive assist rate; and no team has a lower raw defensive shooting rate (20.00 percent) than Bryant. Waldt isn't the sole reason that Bryant's defense has been great, but he's a major factor in the team's defensive efforts.
  • Duke: The Devils' offense gets all the ink but it's the team's defense that has been beyond reason so far this season. Duke's adjusted defensive efficiency ranking is impressive on its own, finding residence among known defensive quantities, but it's the team's underlying defensive profile that drives home the Blue Devils' defensive ability this year: The team ranks 10th in raw defensive shooting rate and has done a great job at limiting assisted goal scoring opportunities (the team ranks 11th in defensive assist rate); Duke is creating turnovers all over the place, ranking sixth in opponent turnovers per 100 defensive opportunities and fourth in caused turnovers per 100 defensive opportunities; and only one team -- Pennsylvania -- has faced a schedule featuring stronger offenses. Let's be clear about that last nugget: Duke has held six teams ranked in the top 20 in adjusted offensive efficiency to 10 or fewer goals (four of those teams were held under 10 goals). That's big time defensive performances despite having some unevenness in the cage.
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