The college lacrosse season breached its halfway point this past weekend, and that's cause for an unnecessary celebration. Accordingly, College Crosse is prepared to give out the Internet's most important college lacrosse midseason awards ever considered in the entire scope of history: Really pointless ones concomitant with actually giving out midseason awards. Put on that top hat and monocle, friend; you're officially entering the most exclusive awards party this side of everywhere.
COLLEGE CROSSE AWARD XI: ACHIEVEMENT IN THE FIELD OF PROVING THAT FACETS OF THE GAME ARE JUST FACETS
Winner: Bryant Bulldogs
I was flipping through the ol' Twitter machine yesterday and came across this tweet from the voice of Syracuse lacrosse, Brian Higgins:
While @cuse lax would rather avoid another 2/24 FO performance, keep in mind Bryant leads the country(68%)...and is (1-8)— Brian Higgins (@BrianHigginsSU) March 27, 2013
Ignoring the Syracuse-related implications of Higgins' tweet, let's focus on the Bryant aspect of it: The Bulldogs are leading the nation in face-off percentage -- due exclusive to Kevin Massa's work at the dot -- but Bryant is just 1-8 (and just recently earned that victory in a somewhat stunning 10-9 upset of Stony Brook). How is that possible? Answer: The Bulldogs' offense is basically a train that crashed into an already-burning garbage fire and is now part of a very special train wreck/garbage fire.
Tim touched upon this in a piece last week, but Bryant is a nice example of showing that what a team does with possession is more important than simply generating possession. For the Bulldogs, the team has had no problem this season with earning tons of offensive possessions -- only five teams hold a stronger possession margin per 60 minutes of play than Bryant's 4.53 mark -- but the Bulldogs simply can't put the ball in the net at a rate that allows them to keep pace with their opponents. LOOKIT:
- Only four teams -- VMI, Michigan, Detroit, and St. Joseph's (teams that have combined for a 5-29 record) -- hold an adjusted offensive efficiency value worse than Bryant's 23.40 goals per 100 offensive opportunities mark. That is a disastrous level of offensive competence and it's driving away the Bulldogs' ability to stay competitive: If Bryant's offense operated at the national average -- about 30 goals per 100 offensive opportunities (meaning that the Bulldogs would have needed to score 22 more goals this season) -- the team's adjusted efficiency margin (the team's efficiency in scoring goals less the team's efficiency in surrendering them) would move from -6.65 to +0.33 (a mark that would rank 32nd in the country). Based on Bryant's pace of play -- about 70 possessions per 60 minutes of play -- the Bulldogs are playing at a level that puts them about four-and-a-half goals behind their opponent due to an offense that can't find anything. All that is keeping the Bulldogs from being a nationally-average team is an average offense. The face-off play isn't driving the bus here.
- Only two teams hold a raw shooting percentage worse than Bryant's 20.60 percent mark. Good gracious. There is a reason that opposing keepers have combined for a 59.14 save percentage -- Bryant probably can't even see the twine, nevermind having trouble tickling it. Of the Bulldogs' double-digit point producers so far this year, only one -- Shane Morrell (35.1 percent) -- is shooting above 25 percent (Alex Zomerfeld is shooting 22.0 percent, Colin Dunster is shooting 14.1 percent, Peter McMahon is shooting 18.2 percent, Mason Poli -- admittedly a pole -- is shooting just 23.3 percent, and Brian Schlansker is shooting just 15.2 percent). These players are Bryant's offensive core -- over 70 percent of the team's shots have come from this sextet -- and the group is shooting just 20.46 as a whole. Kevin Massa winning lots of draws doesn't impact this; being blinded by the moon impacts this.
Bryant can win all of the face-offs for the rest of time and it won't necessarily impact the Bulldogs' successes until the offense starts to do something with those extra possessions.
COLLEGE CROSSE AWARD XII: ACHIEVEMENT IN THE FIELD OF PERFORMING AMATEUR SELF-SURGERY ON FOOT WITH A SHOTGUN
Winner: Sacred Heart Pioneers
The Pioneers aren't all that hot this season. Currently in Reverse Survivor contention, Sacred Heart's 0-8 record -- an effort that has yielded four results with less than a three-goal margin (a 9-11 loss to Holy Cross, back-to-back 10-12 losses to Providence and Stony Brook, and a 7-8 overtime loss to Vermont this past weekend) -- is the kind of thing that you don't let children read because it isn't suitable for their impressionable eyes. It's not all misery and pain for the Pioneers in 2013 -- notably, Stephen Kontos remains a stomping monster at the dot -- but Sacred Heart suffers two afflictions that bad teams tend to wrap themselves in for masochistic comfort: The Pioneers are exceptional at losing the bean and are really good at failing to follow the rules of college lacrosse. To wit:
- Only three teams -- VMI, Lafayette, and Detroit -- have a worse turnovers-per-100-offensive-opportunities value than the Pioneers' 59.77 mark. That's . . . well, that probably requires so many wind sprints that the university should just fold its lacrosse program into its cross country efforts. That value has two nasty elements to it: first, only two teams are committing unforced turnovers (on a 100-possession basis) at a rate higher than Sacred Heart's 30.45 mark; second, the Pioneers are getting bamboozled by opposing defensemen, suffering caused turnovers (on a 100-possession basis) at a rate of 29.32 (the 59th "best" mark in Division I). So, basically, the Pioneers have been mind-bendingly sloppy with the pill, essentially erasing the 2.74 possession margin per 60 minutes of play it enjoys. (No team loses functional offensive possessions due to turnovers more than the Pioneers -- 56.85 percent of the team's trips to the attack box feature a turnover.) Against a schedule ranked right around the national average in terms of strength, that isn't going to get the job done.
- The Pioneers' sloppy play isn't just limited to turnovers, though. Nope. Sacred Heart is also an impressive violator of the law, taking penalties at a rate that ranks 56th in the nation (the rate is about two penalties higher than the national average). This has forced the Pioneers -- currently rolling with a defense ranked 61st in adjusted offensive efficiency (yielding about 41 goals per 100 defensive opportunities) and a goaltending situation that has featured two stoppers that have combined for a 49.47 save percentage (that value ranks 51st in the country) -- to play around 16 man-down possessions on a 100-possession basis (only one team holds a worse mark than that value). When compounded with the fact that opponents are scoring around 16 percent of their goals against Sacred Heart with the extra-attacker (that mark rank 56th in the nation), it becomes clearer that a major part of the Pioneers' problems in stopping defenses is due to the team's proclivity for doing proscribed things. That's double-plus ungood.
It's really hard to win games when you put yourself behind the eight ball, and the Pioneers' effort this season has proven that.