2014 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament Preview: Cornell at (7) Maryland

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

It could be a close one at Byrd Stadium.

Everything that's worth knowing about Cornell-Maryland in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

From 10,000 Feet

Date and Time: Saturday, May 10, 2014 at 5:00 ET
Location: College Park, M.D.
Winner Advances To Play?: The winner of Bryant-Syracuse.
Television/Internet: ESPNU has the broadcast. Also available on WatchESPN.
Game "Fun Factor": 4.22 ("Good")
log5 Victory Probabilities:

Maryland Cornell Maryland // 61.76% Cornell // 38.24%

Cornell-Maryland is a good example of when a team's gigantic possession margin value -- and the Terps are the nation's possession margin leader at almost a plus-eight margin per 60 minutes of play -- impacts victory probabilities. In a natural Pythagorean win expectation environment the Terrapins are in a toss-up game with the Red (in that environment, Maryland holds only a 50.90 chance of victory); in an adjusted environment that accounts for possession margin, the Terps are a not-insignificant favorite. Thus, the volition of Cornell-Maryland turns in important ways around how the possession war looks (and that war isn't limited to the faceoff battle between Raffa and Tesoriero).

What's Your Deal?

NCAA Tournament Appearances: 26 (Last: 2013)
NCAA Tournament Bid Type: At-Large (Ivy)
Record: 11-4 (5-1, Ivy)
Combustibles: Connor Buczek (M) (29G, 17A); Matt Donovan (A) (32G, 22A); Doug Tesoriero (FOGO) (53.0 SV%); Dan Litner (A) (46G, 5A)

NCAA Tournament Appearances: 37 (Last: 2013)
NCAA Tournament Bid Type: At-Large (ACC)
Record: 11-3 (4-1, ACC)
Combustibles: Mike Chanenchuk (M) (28G, 16A); Niko Amato (G) (57.7 SV%); Charlie Raffa (FOGO) (67.8 SV%); Michael Ehrhardt (LSM) (51GB, 27CT)

Truncated Tempo-Free Profiles

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 37.52 (9) 35.52 (15)
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 28.38 (18) 26.56 (9)
Possession Margin per 60 Minutes of Play +0.80 (29) +7.93 (1)
Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 71.39% (10) 80.12% (5)
Downloadable Tempo-Free Profile (.pdf) Cornell Maryland

It's strength against strength, relative weakness against relative weakness. These are two high-level teams that are among the nation's best, teams that make their money in different ways. There are differences that build into the above-table detailing probabilities, but in a completely neutral environment the game becomes a beautiful push in unit-versus-unit action.

Two Things

  • Cornell has played elite competition this season, but hasn't necessary faced its elite competition in the same way that it will face Maryland. The Red's four dates this season against teams expected to win at least 70 percent of their games -- home to Virginia, away to Pennsylvania, home to Syracuse, and in Boston against Pennsylvania -- were all games against opponents where, in a log5 environment, Cornell was in a toss-up situation (the Big Red are 2-2 against these opponents, losing its last two):
    Virginia 72.07% 49.15% (Toss-Up) 12-9 (W)
    Pennsylvania 71.12% 50.33% (Toss-Up) 17-9 (W)
    Syracuse 71.11% 50.34% (Toss-Up) 9-14 (L)
    Pennsylvania 71.12% 50.33% (Toss-Up) 10-11 (L)
    Against the Terrapins in Byrd Stadium, not only are the Red playing one of the best teams in the country, but Cornell is also in a situation where they aren't -- based on their profile -- in a toss-up scenario. This is the first time this year that Cornell will play an opponent that is both in the conversation for the national championship and also built in a fashion that will create serious problems for the Big Red to overcome. There's a psychological aspect to this, but more importantly, there's a legitimate performance aspect to the Red's situation: Can Cornell overcome all the things that stand before them -- a potentially large possession deficit to work from, a defense that refuses to yield, an issue with taking penalties, a decent but not exceptional goaltending situation, etc.? Cornell is a powerful team, but this weekend puts the Red in a situation where Cornell hasn't been yet this year.
  • Maryland's opportunities/tempo profile is a stylistic nightmare that helps shape how the Terps assert their strengths over opponents:
    Possessions per 60 Minutes 57.50 62 64.34
    Offensive Opportunities per 60 Minutes 32.50 31 32.11
    Defensive Opportunities per 60 Minutes 24.57 1 32.22
    Opportunities per 60 Minutes Margin +7.93 1 -0.11
    Maryland grinds games into dust, allowing the team's defense -- which is asked to perform in very few defensive postures per 60 minutes of play -- to suffocate opposing offenses, allowing the team's offense to find their way and build a cushion in a situation where opponents simply don't have enough touches of the ball -- both due to deflated pace and an absolutely insane possession margin -- to keep the Terps in their field of vision. This isn't pretty lacrosse (unless the mere existence of a "W" is the baseline for "Pretty"); this is deconstructed murder. Maryland, though, doesn't have a perfect formula for . . . whatever the hell it is that the Terps are playing: In the team's three losses this year (against North Carolina, Johns Hopkins, and Notre Dame), the method found important creases -- against the Irish the Terps committed a ton of turnovers and could not crack Notre Dame's defense to the degree that the Irish hit Maryland's defense (at about the rate the Terrapins have, over the course of the season, yielded goals); against North Carolina, the Terrapins had no answer for the Tar Heels' offense (giving up goals on about 44 percent of Maryland's defensive possessions) and pitched the ball away on the offensive end at a rate that exceeded the team's overall profile; and against Johns Hopkins, the Jays eviscerated the Terrapins' defense to the tune of scoring on around 44 percent of their offensive opportunities while Maryland played with little valuation of the ball. The resolution here is pretty clear: Maryland's systems is susceptible to defeat even if the Terps get wide possession margins; the key is to hammer the Terps' defensive brick and for Maryland to play loose with the ball in low possession games, reversing the script against the Terrapins. There is a whipsaw effect to Maryland's style, and it punished the Terps in the team's three losses.

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