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Drexel-Hofstra Highlights and Words About the Dragons

Drexel was invincible again, but the Dragons can't keep this up, right?

Those are highlights from Drexel's overtime victory over Hofstra this past weekend. It was a wild game, seeing the Dragons erase a 7-4 deficit over the final 20:29 of regulation (an unanswered three-goal run from Drexel), eventually tying the game with under a minute to play. Drexel would earn the victory on a Ben McIntosh tally in the extra period. As an isolated incident, Drexel's effort was impressive. Given that this is 2013 and the Dragons only seem to want to play games like this, it was another tour of duty for Division I's most bonkers team.

After last night's hammering of St. Joseph's, Drexel sits at 7-2 and squarely within the nation's top 20 teams. As I've written about almost to the point of nausea, though, the Dragons' season makes me think that they're kind of invincible: In six of the team's games -- against Virginia, Albany, Villanova, Robert Morris, Mount St. Mary's, and Hofstra -- Drexel has used late-game comebacks to either win or (just barely) lose. Division I lacrosse teams simply don't do what Drexel has been accomplishing this season; the volume of games that the Dragons have played this season that have seen Drexel resurrect itself from the dead is stupid impressive. We're talking about 75 percent of the Dragons' games requiring Drexel to succeed when other teams often fail, and the fact that Drexel has won over 83 percent of these contests is even more stupefying.

This got me wondering: Just how close have the Dragons been playing these games? To answer that question, I put together an aggregated boxscore of Drexel's six games that have required Brian Voelker's Impossibilities to make a late run. As the table below indicates, Drexel has been basically square with its opponents:

Offensive Opportunities 34.12 34.12
Opportunities Margin +0.00 -0.00
Possession Ratio 50.00% 50.00%
Functional Offensive Opportunities 32.50 32.01
Functional Offensive Opportunities Ratio 95.24% 93.81%
Lost Functional Offensive Opportunities 11.70 12.51
Lost Functional Offensive Opportunities Ratio 36.00% 39.09%
Lost Functional Offensive Opportunities Margin +0.81 -0.81
Offensive Efficiency 37.62 34.29
Efficiency Margin +3.33 -3.33
Offensive Efficiency: Functional Opportunities 39.50 36.55
Efficiency Margin: Functional Opportunities +2.95 -2.95
Shots per Offensive Opportunity 1.21 1.22
Raw Shooting Rate 31.10% 28.13%
Offensive Assist Ratio 68.35% 59.72%
Offensive Assist Rate 25.71 20.48
Extra-Man Postures per 100 Offensive Opportunities 11.43 8.10
Extra-Man Posture Reliance 17.72% 5.56%
Extra-Man Posture Conversion Rate 58.33% 23.53%
Penalties per 100 Opportunities 4.29 6.19
Caused Turnovers per 100 Defensive Opportunities 13.33 13.33
Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 39.05 42.86
Unforced Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 25.71 29.52
"Run-of-Play Work Rate" 21.67 21.90
"Run-of-Play Work Rate" Margin -0.24 +0.24
Saves per 100 Defensive Possessions 35.24 33.33
Team Save Percentage 50.68% 46.98%

Look at that stuff. Everything is virtually a deadlock. Remember: These tempo-free values are built on a 100-possession basis, so any differences between Drexel's values and its opponents' values is fairly muted on a possession-by-possession (or even game-by-game) basis. Even the things that stand out as important differences -- shooting percentage, assist ratio and rate, and save percentage -- is mitigated by the fact that Drexel and its competition in these ultra-tight games have played with comparable efficiencies (both offensive and defensive). I mean, you can make an argument that (1) Drexel has benefitted from its opponents in these games committing a greater number of penalties, allowing the Dragons to generate extra-man goals that may or may not have been earned in even play, and (2) that Drexel's ability to take care of the ball a little better than its competition is helping the Dragons' record in these games (based on generating and maintaining functional offensive opportunities), but that's really getting into the nitty gritty.

The fact of the matter is this: When you play virtually square with your competition, .500 records tend to accrue. Drexel has, somehow, put itself into positions where luck is shining on them, getting wins where losses should occur (especially notable in the case of the Dragons, which are overcoming late deficits to win games). Drexel's Pythagorean win expectation for these games -- 57.13 percent -- bears that out. Yet, here the Dragons are: 5-1 in games in which it should only be about 3-3, on top of the world and (kind of) invincible. They've had the most interesting start to the season out of all of Division I, and it may or may not carry over to the second half of their campaign.