Focusing the bean that sits atop your neck on some important offseason storylines. Take out your notebook or something.
College Crosse gave a fancy award to Lehigh and Massachusetts for Achievement in the Field of "Who are You Again and What are You Doing Here?" for each school's overall increase in efficiency margin (offensive efficiency against defensive efficiency) from 2011 to 2012. It was an impressive improvement for both schools in just 12 months and, given each team's success on the season, the Mountain Hawks and Minutemen really turned heads. Those two schools, however, weren't the only outfits to move in the right direction in 2012.
In fact, 27 programs saw a positive increase in performance from 2011 to 2012; almost half of the country managed to finish the year with better production this past season compared to the season prior. There were two schools, however, that stick out to me -- St. Joseph's and Navy -- in terms of notable change in production. The programs, respectively, finished fourth and seventh nationally in terms of efficiency margin improvement and I'm not sure that anybody really saw that coming.
The Hawks have had a hell of a time winning games over the last decade or so, winning only 34 out of 119 games over the last eight seasons. They have been drunk on terribleness in the two years preceding their 2012 campaign, winning three games in 2010 and putting together a perfectly winless effort in 2011. Nobody expected St. Joseph's to do anything in 2012 other than to take a bludgeoning from a sledgehammer in the CAA. And yet, KABOOM! . . . Taylor Wray managed to pull together a 6-9 record and move his team from the ranks of the terrible to the bad-but-not-wishing-for-sweet-death. This kind of momentum is incredibly important for programs outside the elite; if they miss the tide, they could get washed back out to sea. I don't think that the Hawks are going to start rolling through folks in 2013, but if they can continue the improvement they showed in 2012, they could keep themselves out of annual contention for Reverse Survivor honors.
Which, for St. Joseph's, is sorcery.
2011 was a nasty season for the Midshipmen. Navy careened through a 4-9 year, seeing its long-time head coach Richie Meade get the ax at the end of the season. In stepped former Stony Brook dictator Rick Sowell, assuming a job that yielded him pretty decent talent but also a wild lion that needed taming. There were expectations that the Mids would be better in 2012 than in 2011 (almost by default), but the teams actual improvement (outside of a pedestrian 6-6 record) was notable in that Navy went from a pronounced efficiency deficit position (42nd nationally) to the 19th best mark in Division I. Returning to the top crust of the Patriot League isn't going to be easy (especially with Peter Baum still lurking in Hamilton and Kevin Cassese hammering the brick in Bethlehem), but Sowell showed in Stony Brook that he has the ability to take teams below the national elite into strong positions.
The momentum is there for both teams; the only question is if they continue working like animals.