2014 ACC Lacrosse Tournament Preview

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The ACC opens its tournament with Maryland in the pole position.

Everything that's worth knowing about the ACC Tournament.

Participants

2014 ACC TOURNAMENT
SEED TEAM ACC RECORD LEAGUE WINS LEAGUE LOSSES
1. Maryland 4-1 Syracuse, Duke, Virginia, Notre Dame North Carolina
2. Duke 4-1 North Carolina, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Virginia Maryland
3. Syracuse 2-3 Notre Dame, North Carolina Maryland, Virginia, Duke
4. Notre Dame 2-3 North Carolina, Virginia Duke, Maryland, Syracuse

Times, Dates of Matchups

Friday, April 25, 2014 (Semifinals -- at PPL Park):

  • (3) Syracuse v. (2) Duke: 5:00 PM (ET)
  • (4) Notre Dame v. (1) Maryland: 7:30 PM (ET)

Sunday, April 27, 2014 (Championship -- at PPL Park):

  • Semifinal I Winner v. Semifinal II Winner: 1:00 PM (ET)

Television/Internet

ESPNU will carry both semifinal games as well as the championship game live. The semifinals and championship games will also be available on the WatchESPN app (the link to the first semifinal is here; the link to the second semifinal is here). The league's Saturday showcase game -- pitting Virginia and North Carolina against each other in an RPI bonanza -- will be an ESPN3-only situation (the link to that game is here). That game starts at 7:30 P.M. (ET) on Saturday.

League Tournament Spirit Animal

A sand tiger shark (large embroys feast on siblings while gestating in the womb).

Truncated Tempo-Free Profiles

2014 ACC TOURNAMENT TRUNCATED TEMPO-FREE PROFILES
METRIC MARYLAND DUKE SYRACUSE NOTRE DAME
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 37.27 (9) 38.25 (7) 38.70 (6) 35.72 (15)
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 27.14 (12) 25.67 (9) 29.43 (27) 25.58 (8)
Possession Margin per 60 Minutes of Play +7.83 (1) +5.92 (4) -0.08 (39) +1.64 (21)
Pythagorean Win Expectation 72.78% (8) 77.50% (4) 70.03% (13) 73.79% (7)

There isn't going to be a conference tournament field this year with as many elite teams vying for an automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament. The offenses in this thing are impressive, machines built to seek and destroy with an emotionless function.

Predictions

log5 PROBABILITIES: PROBABILITY OF WINNING THE ACC TOURNAMENT (AS OF APRIL 24, 2014)
RANK TEAM PROBABILITY
1. Duke 33.16%
2. Notre Dame 25.07%
3. Maryland 23.19%
4. Syracuse 18.58%

Syracuse's long odds are built around the fact that the Orange (1) have to play the best team in the league in the semifinals and would face two solid teams in the finals if they moved past Duke, and (2) are arguably the shakiest in the field in terms of offensive and defensive balance. Notre Dame and Maryland's odds are essentially equal, and that's built around the fact that Maryland-Notre Dame in the semifinals is a toss-up game (despite the result of this exact matchup from a week ago). The tightness of these odds is reflected in championship game permutations -- all potential matchups are within the realm of toss-up scenarios.

Three Things

  • Duke is on an absolute tear -- the Devils finished the year +21 in scoring margin in ACC play and were +24 in scoring margin in their last three ACC games (against Virginia, Notre Dame, and Syracuse) -- but Duke isn't without flaws. The Blue Devils are (1) somewhat prone to yielding off-ball goals (the team ranks 26th in defensive assist rate), (2) not terrific at limiting unforced turnovers (however, the team's overall turnover rate is solid relative to the rest of the nation), (3) a good but not hyper elite clearing team, and (4) frequent recipients of flags, playing in man-down postures -- postures to which opponents rely in order to generate goals against Duke -- at a rate that ranks in the bottom 10 of the nation. These are warts -- not fraud-implying warts, but warts nonetheless -- that indicate that the Blue Devils aren't invincible (but Duke is still ridiculously good). Duke can be beat -- especially when they don't value the ball -- and there is enough ability existing in the tournament to stop the Devils' eight-game winning streak (although, it would take an impressive effort to do so).
  • If Syracuse makes a push in the ACC Tournament it will likely be attributable to the Orange's defense taking a step forward against some electric offenses. The team's defense -- the program's calling card in recent seasons under Lelan Rogers -- has taken a step back in 2014, losing its overall efficiency due to a host of factors: Opponents are generating assisted tallies all over the place, emphasizing the need for the Orange to limit off-ball movement and control the box in totem; teams are shooting at almost 30 percent against the Orange's defense, partly due to the good looks they're getting through exploitation of off-ball play and also due to the fact that Syracuse's goalkeeping has been fairly average; opponents aren't turning the ball over against the Orange's defense, which makes killing defensive possessions difficult; and Syracuse is getting absolutely worked in run-of-play groundballs, getting beat at a rate that ranks 40th nationally. Possession margin matters for Syracuse, but the ultimate key to the team's success in the tournament turns on whether the Orange's defense plays like a top 10 unit against top 10 (and top 10-like) offenses.
  • Keep a close eye on turnovers in the Maryland-Notre Dame semifinal game. Both teams have been a nightmare for opponents this season relative to giveaways: Notre Dame ranks eighth nationally in opponent turnovers per 100 defensive opportunities (the Irish rank first nationally in opponent unforced turnovers and 48th nationally in caused turnovers); Maryland ranks ninth nationally in opponent turnovers per 100 defensive opportunities (the Terps rank 48th nationally in opponent unforced turnovers and second nationally in caused turnovers). As balanced as that matchup is, turnovers could turn the tide in the game given the relative strengths of each team. Giveaways were a factor in the meeting between the two teams last week, and it could impact the result this weekend in Philadelphia.
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