There are currently four undefeated schools in Division I: Hofstra (5-0), Notre Dame (4-0), Syracuse (5-0), and Yale (4-0). Let's pick apart each one because, well, it's more fun than talking about why Wagner is absolutely miserable year-in and year-out.
Yale Student I: "Father says our boys are quite the group on the lacrosse pitch! Unbeaten so far! My brother at Andover cannot speak highly enough of this band of crosse wielders!"
Yale Student II: "I love your ascot!"
Yale Student I: "Shall I bring the car 'round so that we may tour New Haven and laugh at the poor people?"
Yale Student II: "Sounds like a smashing time!"
Anyway, about actual lacrosse. Yale sitting at 4-0 is not necessarily crazy, but it is a bit surprising how well the Bulldogs have played to amass that record. Of the four currently undefeated teams, Yale has arguably been the most dominant; the Bulldogs, however, are arguably the least likely to actually keep it up as the season progresses. This isn't to say that Yale is "bad"; it has more to do with the fact that Yale's schedule is about to receive a major upgrade in terms of competition.
UNDEFEATED: YALE'S BLUEPRINT
Let's cut through the nonsense and get right to the point: Yale has played nobody. Well, they've played somebody, but not anything worth writing home about. The Bulldog's strength of schedule is currently ranked dead last in the country (-10.98 in terms of opponent efficiency margin); only two teams have faced a schedule comprised of worst opponent offenses and only one school has played a slate comprised of worst opponent defenses. Here's the breakdown of Yale's already-played fixtures:
- St. John's (51st: Adjusted Offensive Efficiency; 36th: Adjusted Defensive Efficiency).
- Presbyterian (56th: Adjusted Offensive Efficiency; 56th: Adjusted Defensive Efficiency).
- Mercer (61st: Adjusted Offensive Efficiency; 60th: Adjusted Defensive Efficiency).
- Lehigh (22nd: Adjusted Offensive Efficiency; 39th: Adjusted Defensive Efficiency).
If you're scoring at home: That's the two of the five worst teams in Division I, an average Patriot League team, and a Big East team that is going to get hammered in the league. In other words, of course Yale is unbeaten.
Now, this isn't to say that the Bulldogs haven't taken care of their business. The team is 11th in adjusted offensive efficiency and ninth in adjusted defensive efficiency. Yale just isn't taking possessions off against lesser opponents.
And in these offensive and defensive possessions the Bulldogs are imposing their will. Yale is fifth in the country in offensive assist rate at .2037 and is first in the country in defensive assist rate at .0667. The Bulldogs are sharing and caring and keep their focus on the defensive end, mitigating the amount of ball watching. What impact have those assist rates had on Yale's fortunes? Well, the Bulldogs are registering a 38.6% offensive effective shooting percentage and have held their opponent's effective shooting percentage to 22.34%. That's good for first and sixth in the nation, respectively.
So, the schedule has helped Yale, but the Bulldogs have performed with the opportunity.
WEAK SPOTS: EXTRA MAN RELIANCE
Outside of the schedule ramping up shortly, there is one area of concern that jumps off the page about Yale: The Bulldogs are relying a lot on extra man opportunities to score. As it stands currently:
- Yale is ninth nationally in extra man opportunity reliance at .1875 (that's just extra man goals over total goals; or, if you prefer, almost 19% of Yale's goals have come in extra man scenarios).
- Yale's extra man rate (extra man goals over total shots) is the highest in the country at .07. The takeaway from this is that Yale's effective shooting percentage may be inflated given the fact that the Bulldogs are taking so many shots with a man advantage.
- Yale is currently 18th nationally in extra man opportunities per offensive possession (.1296). That's a ton of offensive possessions with a personnel imbalance.
These aren't necessarily "bad" things. Rather, these are "things to be curious about." What happens when Yale isn't spending big chunks of offensive possession with an extra attacker? Can Yale keep up its offensive efficiency in even-strength scenarios?
Right now, nobody knows, but this could come back and bite the Bulldogs as the season moves on.
FIRST POTENTIAL LOSS
The first legitimate opportunity for a loss comes as early as Saturday against Cornell:
- Cornell and Rob Pannell aren't taking any gruff from anybody. This is a balanced Big Red team, registering an adjusted defensive efficiency of 24.34 (19th nationally) and an adjusted offensive efficiency of 35.32 (fourth in the country). This is not only the most difficult test to date for Yale, but may be the most potent team the Bulldogs will face this season (with all due respect to Harvard, Princeton, Pennsylvania, and Georgetown).
- Cornell is not giving penalties. The Big Red have incurred the 12th-fewest number of penalties per possession nationally (.046) this year. Yale wil not likely have the opportunity to sit in extra man scenarios all day on Saturday like they have in earlier contests.
- Cornell has A.J. Fiore and Yale's prior opponents didn't. Fiore's save percentage isn't all that great so far in 2011 (only about 47%), but the kid comes to play in big games.