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The Two Nights the Lights Went Out at Manhattan

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I see you, Manhattan.

It's kind of hard not to, what with your overt desire to take home Wagner Cup honors in 2012. You're basically like a jilted ex, begging for attention with "Look at my new hair style!" photos and "Ice cream makes everything better!" Facebook updates. I'm not going to complain, though: I love me some terrible almost as much as I love a big bucket of delicious poutine, and I really love giant buckets of greasy, heart-stopping buckets of delicious poutine.

Last night, Manhattan went down to Homewood Field and put together its second "Scoring is for the Conceited" effort in under a month. According to Geoff Shannon at Inside Lacrosse, the Jaspers' shutout was the 12th in Division I since 1999; the second occurrence of the goose egg marks the most in the tier since 2002 when there were four (!!!). I have no idea if a team has been shutout more than once in a season, but if so that team should get a free turf-and-turf dinner at the Pietramala Compound with a complimentary spin in his bad ass Chevelle.

I have no idea how Manhattan beat Providence earlier this season -- I'm guessing they poisoned the Friars' Gatorade jugs with arnesic. The Jaspers are romantically poetic like that. -- but that doesn't really matter right now. What matters is trying to figure out how Manhattan escalated a trash fire to a full-on dumpster fire against Lehigh and Johns Hopkins.

Bad teams do bad things impressively badly, and there are a few strains of badness (Not a word. Whatever.) in Manhattan's two feats of futility:

  • You'd think that Manhattan's biggest problems against Lehigh and Johns Hopkins was that the Jaspers never had the ball to actually score. Well, guess what, college boy? Wrong! Manhattan actually had 30 offensive possessions against both teams. (That isn't a ridiculously low amount for you protein-loving non-nerds.) So, the issue wasn't so much that the Jaspers didn't have opportunity, its that they looked at opportunity and said, "Nah, we're good."
  • Let's start pulling apart those 30 offensive possessions in each game. Issue I: Manhattan thinks clearing the ball is more a suggestion than a requirement. Against Lehigh, the Jaspers only cleared at a 70.97 percent clip; against Johns Hopkins, a mildly better 77.78 percent. In totem, Manhattan gave away 15 opportunities to possess the ball and accidentally -- at best -- score. Bad teams are notorious in this category, and the Jaspers didn't diverge from that in its two shutouts.
  • Issue II: "Here, take this. I don't want it. It's evil and it's stealing my soul." Analysts always say something to the effect that "you can't give the ball away." That's a lie; you can, and Manhattan has proved that you can give the ball away and give it away at a rate that should result in plaques saluting volunteerism. Against Lehigh, the Jaspers almost turned the ball over at a rate of about one per offensive possession (the actual calculation is 0.8667); the Jaspers were, relative to their performance against the Mountain Hawks, super careful with the bean against Johns Hopkins, having a 0.7 turnovers per offensive possession rate. This is important for two reasons: (1) It explains a little of the issue Manhattan had on its clear; and (2) If you don't control the ball . . .
  • Issue III: . . . you can't shoot the damn thing. Manhattan's rate of shots per offensive possession against Lehigh? 0.2667. Against the Blue Jays? 0.4667. The national average usually hovers right around 1.00. Those are woeful, I'm-lighting-votive-candles-for-you kinds of numbers from Manhattan, and you can attribute it, in a large degree, to the Jaspers' love of not loving the ball.
  • Issue IV: This is a little more tenuous, but it probably deserves some words. Against Lehigh, Manhattan only caused about 0.1052 turnovers per defensive possession; the rate moved to 0.075 against Johns Hopkins. Caused turnovers are great opportunities to get some transition and unsettled situations, both of which are conducive to scoring. When you're a bad team, you need everything that even remotely looks like a "conducive to scoring" chance and take advantage of it. Not only did Manhattan fail at creating these circumstances, but they also face-planted in the mud in the few opportunities that they actually had.

There's also some material hanging around regarding save and goalie activity, but that's merely window dressing. The four above-issues are the primary factors that probably made it impossible for Manhattan to at least put a number in the line score. What has to be frustrating for head coach Tim McIntee is that all of those illustrated items are correctable.

On the bright side, though, a potential Internet trophy awaits if these things aren't fixed.