I mentioned this on a podcast last night, but given the fact that Inside Lacrosse published its fall ball piece on Maryland today, it probably deserves treatment on this here Internet computing page: I'm pretty interested in seeing how the Terrapins adjust to some of the new rules -- specifically, the modified shot clock, restarts, and new substitution procedures -- in place for the 2013 season. My interest, though, doesn't necessarily lie with how and whether their talent will adjust -- the Terps have loads of guys with skill crawling around every position this year -- but rather how the new rules will impact John Tillman's strategic approach.
Matt Kinnear, who has seemingly been everwhere for Inside Lacrosse this fall season, spent a morning with Maryland not too long ago. While there's all kinds of good stuff in his diary, what interested me the most were these dispatches:
Tillman and the coaching staff incorporated elements from the new rules into drills. In full-field drills, sharp substitutions were a point of emphasis. Tillman would also blow the whistle in full-field drills, throw out a ball and let the play start right away, getting the team used to quicker restarts and an overall faster game.
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My overall impression of Maryland is it is an athletic bunch. After seeing a handful of teams practice, and a month's worth of fall scrimmages, the Terps seem to be one of the most athletic groups in DI lacrosse
Now, none of this is particularly surprising. The ACC is, from top-to-bottom, probably the most athletically-gifted league in all of Division I; these guys are physically impressive (in no small part to the strength and conditioning programs that they have at their disposal) and coaches in the league -- one of the division's best -- generally have first crack at recruits with an already developed athletic pedigree. It's also fairly obvious that Maryland -- like every other school in the country -- was going to dedicate time in practice to adjusting to the new rules; of course, you should never get involved in a land war in Asia. The thing about Maryland adjusting to the new rules, however, is that this is a serious paradigm change for the Terps.
In 2012, only two teams -- Hofstra and Drexel -- played fewer possessions per 60 minutes of play than Maryland (which played about 59 per game). In only four of its 18 games in 2012 did Maryland play more than 65 total possessions (which was the national average last year) -- Hartford (70); Duke (67, twice); and Colgate (77). That's an impressive level of dedication to keeping things steady (because overstimulation is bad for the heart and even worse for the head), and it yielded the Terps another trip to Memorial Monday. Moreover, on an estimated basis, each of Maryland's offensive possessions lasted about 1:00.85, the third-highest mark in the country. This is a team that found its comfort zone (at least offensively) with a pragmatic style, an approach that generated the third-strongest adjusted efficiency margin in the nation (trailing only Massachusetts and Loyola).
Maryland is still going to have an opportunity to run its stuff under the new rules, but this is a team that is still going to have deal with a reality in which pace is favored; Maryland will need to adjust and break from its comfort zone a bit. This was a team that was highly efficient in an environment of deflated pace; how will all of these athletes perform in an environment of quick whistles and what has the potential to be end-to-end play? Some of this will be dictated by whether Maryland will want to go -- on restarts and their substitution theory -- and some of this will be dictated by the necessity to go -- in shot clock postures. Regardless, among teams that have made a conscious decision to deflate the pace of play not because it's their only way to compete but rather because that's how they choose to attack and feel comfortable, Maryland is going to enter a different kind of reality (at least in part) in the spring.
I think that Maryland will ultimately fair well under the new rules, but there is still some lingering concern. The talent should overcome any relative inefficiency that follows, but this is still an important plot point as the 2013 season looms in the not-too-distant future.