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Just How Long Are These Far Too Long College Lacrosse Possessions?

I was flipping through the Twitter machine the other day -- Are you following College Crosse on Twitter? No? Heathen! Make the magic happen, people! -- and noticed this tweet from Inside Lacrosse's Terry Foy:

That's actually a really good question, and the fact that it popped up in an Inside Lacrosse comment section is the biggest upset in the history of the Internet given the volume of jamokes that have a burning desire to let their absinthe-fueled opinions run free on the site's post-article backwater of ear-bleeding. To fill out the rest of the commenter's thought:

I am still curious, however if anyone has really taken an IN DEPTH look at the avg length of a collegiate possession - prior to first shot, and also after a full possession if there's an "offensive rebound" so to speak. There are certain teams, for good reason, that really like to slow things down. But on average, are the possessions longer than 60 sec? 90 sec? 2 minutes?

Unfortunately, I don't have all the answers to the commenter's question. No school charts and makes available to the unwashed masses these kinds of things -- errant backed-up shots, elapsed time prior to an initial "FOX TWO!" blast, or even total time of possession. To get your hands around this information you would need lots of tape (as in all of the tape), no social life, and probably a bottle of absinthe to both survive this video marathon and comment -- like a regular commenter -- on the Inside Lacrosse article to give your very boring and tediously-acquired answer.

I can, however, estimate an answer. Box scores can give us a decent estimation of how many possessions occur during a game (it isn't perfect, but it's easier than watching thousands of lacrosse games). Taking that information, simple math determines a team's possession percentage, and when slapped against a 60 minute modifier, we can make a general estimation of the nation's average time per offensive opportunity:

  • 2012: Averaged about 0:55 per offensive opportunity
  • 2011: Averaged about 0:54 per offensive opportunity.
  • 2010: Averaged about 0:52 per offensive opportunity.
  • 2009: Averaged about 0:51 per offensive opportunity.

Remember: The above is built off of offensive opportunity, not necessarily when a team takes the ball into the attack box. (For example, a blown clear is an offensive opportunity, but I'm not sure a lot of folks would consider that an offensive possession.)

Now, this isn't a perfect estimation. It works on an average, which isn't always the greatest marker for what's happening on a team's possessions. (For example, a team could have elongated offensive possessions marked with short defensive possessions, which skews things a bit. Or, a team could dominate possession percentage and not actually dominate time of possession.) With what is available, though, this is probably as close as we can get without cutting through game tape and putting forks in our eyes. Obviously, things have slowed down over the years and, as noted previously, increased stalling postures from referees hasn't exactly increased the pace of play over the years. While shots per offensive possession have steadily increased over the last four seasons -- 0.96 in 2009 to a high of 1.03 in 2012 -- the actual number of possessions hasn't increased over the same period nor has quicker possessions resulted from such play.

The comments are yours if you have an itching to scream about this stuff.