The "Big City Classic" is this Sunday down at New Meadowlands Stadium. The opener of the triple-header features Rutgers against St. John's, a display of lacrosse that has the potential to horrify and nauseate.
In case you haven't been following the Scarlet Knights this season (and there has been absolutely no reason to), here's Rutgers' tempo-free profile.
Note: While writing this I attempted to come up with an analogy for Rutgers' lacrosse season. All I kept coming back to was "moldy white toast." I have no idea why this is relevant (or even if it's accurate), but I thought that I'd share that little tidbit.
RUTGERS (5-3, 0-1): BIG EAST
What Rutgers Has Done Well
- Limit Defensive Possessions. The Scarlet Knights have the third-lowest number of defensive possessions per 60 minutes at 27.5. How has Rutgers done this? Controlling play at the dot (the Scarlet Knights are 11th in the country in face-off percentage at 58.33 percent) and cashing in on the ride (the team is fifth in defensive clearing percentage at 76.80 percent). As Rutgers has had a tough time stopping shots (more on that in a second), limiting defensive exposure has been an important piece of Rutgers' strategic puzzle. Controlling pace and possession factors like face-offs and defensive clears is the most direct way to get this done.
- Knock Around a Bunch of Nonsense. Rutgers has played the 58th most-difficult schedule in the country; the opposing offenses they've faced are, in the aggregate, rated 51st in adjusted offensive efficiency. To be clear: The Scarlet Knights have not faltered against the teams they should have beaten and have taken care of business with their defense (Rutgers is 16th in adjusted defensive efficiency at 23.97; a big piece of that is due to the fact that the Scarlet Knights see the third-fewest shots per defensive possession at 0.80). So, Rutgers has gotten it done when they've been expected to do so, but haven't beaten a "good" team yet (they've lost to Notre Dame (1st in adjusted efficiency margin), Army (8th), and Penn State (27th)).
What Rutgers Has Done Poorly
- Stop the Bean. This is the biggest problem facing Rutgers right now. The Scarlet Knights see very few shots per defensive possession (as noted), but they are having a relatively tough time actually keeping the ball out of the net. Here are some quick numbers:
STOP THE DAMN BEAN METRIC VALUE RANKING AVERAGE Defensive Effective Shooting Percentage 29.38% 37 28.67% Defensive Assist Rate 12.73 17 14.94 Saves Per Possession 0.2136 61 0.3119 Rudy Butler (Save Percentage) 50.0% 43 N/A Joseph Donnelly (Save Percentage) 46.2% 54 N/A
What you're seeing there is a team that isn't ending defensive possessions with a save. This isn't always a bad thing (you can end a defensive possession in ways other than a goalie making a stop), but for Rutgers it is an issue: When you combine a high defensive effective shooting percentage with a low defensive assist rate, you start to see that the Scarlet Knights are not stopping shots that would otherwise be save-eligible (e.g., shots from somewhere other than the doorstep). This is further buttressed with Donnelly's and Butler's poor save percentages. So, it's great that Rutgers is limiting shots on the defensive end, but they have actually done a pretty dumpy job at keeping those shots out of the cage.
- Convert Offensively. I am stating this as broadly as possible, but Rutgers is a pretty poor offensive team in a lot of ways. Again, a chart:
SCORE THE DAMN BEAN METRIC VALUE RANKING AVERAGE Offensive Effective Shooting Percentage 27.16% 41 28.59% Offensive Assist Rate 15.00 33 15.05 Offensive Shots Per Possession 1.07 16 0.99 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 26.78 37 28.00 Strength of Schedule: Opposing Defenses 29.60 57 27.48
Here's the short of the long: Rutgers fires away, but simply can't finish the job. It's not like opposing goalies are standing on their head when they play the Scarlet Knights (opposing teams are making saves on about 31 percent of Rutgers' offensive possessions, which is right around the national average). This is, at best, a pedestrian offensive team that doesn't really share the ball all that well and should have pumped more goals in on the pitiful slate of defenses that it has faced thus far.