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Big East Lacrosse Tournament Participant Profile: St. John's

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Every Division I tournament. Every team. College Crosse has it all on lockdown. Please send cookies and naptime. Today we're slashing to bits the Big East Tournament.

St. John's has been one of the "feel good" stories of college lacrosse this season. Unfortunately, as I'm an emotional cripple, I've written next to nothing about the Johnnies this year. Oh, well. Life is a highway.

Anyway, here's the heat on St. John's.

St. John's Something-or-Other: Four-Seed

For a more complete, mind-bending picture, here's a .pdf of the complete report.

Record 7-6 (3-3) Clear % 82.33% (44)
Adj. Off. Efficiency 31.14 (23) Opp. Clear % 89.29% (60)
Adj. Def. Efficiency 31.89 (41) Faceoff % 52.05% (25)
Poss. Percentage 50.18% (28) Pace 62.50 (48)
Off. Poss./60 min. 31.36 (44)
DEFENSIVE STATS Def. Poss./60 min. 31.13 (16)
Save Percentage 55.3%
Saves/Def. Poss. 0.39 (5) OFFENSIVE STATS
Opp. Sht. %. 27.04% (21) Goal Differential -2
Opp. Effective Sht. % 27.58% (20) Shooting % 28.77% (31)
Def. Assist Rate 17.28 (34) Effective Sht. % 29.70% (31)
Man-Down/Def. Poss. 0.10 (34) Assist Rate 16.67 (32)
Man-Down Conversion % 35.71% (36) EMO per Off. Poss. 0.13 (6)
Man-Down Reliance 0.12 (32) EMO Conversion % 44.44% (9)
C/T per Def. Poss. 0.19 (51) EMO Reliance 0.19 (3)
Turnovers/Off. Poss. 0.46 (27)
Opp. Saves/Off. Poss. 0.31 (26)

Three pieces of incredibly important information from my brain to your eyes via your Internet computing machine:

  • Dave Pietramala's defensive posture from a year or two ago was strongly tinted toward protecting his young puppies and counting on his keeper to make saves from shots coming from non-preferential positions. This strategy allowed his young defense from exposure created through youthful mistakes and yielded pretty decent results (the Blue Jays finished 2009 ranked 32nd nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency). St. John's, this season, has almost mimicked that blueprint with similar results: The Johnnies tend to eschew tight pressure -- as seen through through their forfeited ride and the low caused turnover per defensive possession value -- and rely on junior netminder Jeff Lowman to make stops (as evidenced through the team's high saves per defensive possession value). This hasn't worked out quite as well for the Red Storm as it did for Hopkins -- the Johnnies are only ranked 42nd nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency -- but the holes in the execution are somewhat similar: Despite Lowman's solid work between the pipes (he holds a 55.2 save percentage), the high number of shots (in the overall, only six teams see more shots fired at their cage than St. John's) of which a substantial portion are coming from preferential firing positions (the Johnnies' defensive assist rate is only hanging around the national average) puts Lowman in a difficult position to make all the saves necessary to single-handedly raise the overall defensive efficiency for the team. (Hopkins' biggest hole, as comparison, was actually getting stops between the pipes). If St. John's can do a better job of keeping track of the opposing offense around them, the Johnnies can make that defensive posture sing. Unfortunately, due to personnel issues, this is the method that they need to compete; it's just a matter of small items of execution that are holding back this defense a little bit.
  • Here's the scary thing about St. John's offense: Right now it's hanging around the national average in all relevant metrics, but the two biggest cogs to the Johnnies attack -- Kieran McArdle and Kevin Cernuto -- are only sophomores. These two guys are still figuring out the game and are, as of Monday, both within the top-200 in total offensive value (McArdle is ranked 12th; Cernuto comes in at 60th). Overall, this isn't an offense with a ton of bite -- it needs shots and the accuracy isn't great -- but when cats like Harry Kutner and Terence Leach jump into the fray and the Johnnies start flipping the point of attack, they can hang around offensively. This becomes especially important when . . .
  • . . . St. John's starts rolling with extra-man opportunities. The Johnnies have relied heavily on the personnel imbalance to generate tallies (only two teams have a heavier reliance on extra-attacker scenarios), and to the Red Storm's benefit they have been on the extra-man almost as much as anyone (only eight teams have played more offensive possessions with the extra-man). The team has clicked strongly in these situations, holding the ninth-best conversion rate on extra-man opportunities. This team needs preferential scoring opportunities to pull away from opponents as (1) it doesn't dominate the possession margin all that well; and (2) in the overall, as noted, the Red Storm offense isn't particularly great at man-work in even and settled situations. Unfortunately, St. John's is running into a bit of a problem in the Big East Tournament relative to these issues: Notre Dame just doesn't play man-down scenarios in defensive possessions. So, while the Johnnies may hang around (just as they did against Notre Dame in the Big City Classic), they're going to need to play above their heads to do some damage in the league's postseason..

For more on St. John's opponent -- Notre Dame -- check out the Irish's profile here.