You spent the better part of four months meticulously dissecting the 2013 college lacrosse season. You shouldn't stop now because cold turkey is a bad way to go through life, man. College Crosse is providing decompression snapshots of all 63 teams and their 2013 campaigns, mostly because everything needs a proper burial.
I. VITAL SIGNS
Team: Vermont Catamounts
2013 Record: 4-10 (1-4, America East)
2013 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): -3.13 (56)
2012 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): -0.28 (38)
Winning Percentage Change from 2012: +14.28%
2013 Efficiency Margin: -10.07 (55)
Efficiency Margin Change from 2012: -1.81
II. "ATTA BOY!" FACT
- There are two things that I highlighted last year as icky for Vermont, the stuff that makes your eyes weep real human blood: The team's offensive turnover rate and the rate at which the Catamounts played in man-down postures. Vermont ranked among the nation's worst in both metrics in 2012, and the team's proclivity for giving away the ball and taking penalty after penalty arguably had a notable impact on the team's overall success (or lack thereof). Importantly, the Catamounts were improved in both areas in 2013 (although just barely): Vermont's offensive turnover rate rank improved from 55th nationally to 48th (reducing turnovers by about seven over a 100-opportunity basis); the Catamounts' man-down posture rate reduced from about 13 percent of the team's defensive opportunities to about 12 percent, changing the team's rank in the metric from 54th nationally to 48th (Vermont's penalties per opportunity rate, however, stayed fairly static). This doesn't look like much superficially, but it quietly massaged the team's offensive and defensive efforts in 2013: The Catamounts raised their adjusted offensive efficiency value from 23.32 in 2012 (56th nationally) to 25.75 in 2013 (52nd nationally); the team's man-down conversion rate also improved from 30.77 percent in 2012 (25th nationally) to 27.12 percent (13th nationally) (admittedly, the team's adjusted defensive efficiency rank dropped from 39th nationally to 52nd). These are small, valuable improvements year over year, mildly indicating that Vermont is trying to move away from the silly performance actions -- turnovers, unnecessarily voluminous man-down postures, etc. -- that bad teams regularly embrace. These are steps forward for the Catamounts, even if they're small steps forward; like many programs in Vermont's neighborhood of the Division I hierarchy, any improvement is good improvement.
III. "YOU'RE GROUNDED UNTIL YOU QUALIFY FOR THE AARP!" FACT
- Look: Vermont increased its winning percentage from 2012 but the team drastically decreased its overall strength of the schedule. In fact, you can make a decent argument that Vermont was weaker in 2013 than they were in 2012 despite the two-win increase that the Catamounts saw on their record: The team's Pythagorean win expectation dropped from 28.10 percent in 2012 (the Catamounts underachieved by about two wins in 2012) to 26.44 percent in 2013; the team's overall adjusted efficiency margin dropped about two goals over 100 opportunities (Vermont's rank drop in adjusted efficiency margin ties as the 18th most drastic drop from 2012 to 2013); and Vermont experienced a drop in defensive performance that outpaced its increase in offensive output. Now, Vermont was very young in 2013 (22 of the team's 38 roster players were underclassmen, 13 of which were freshman), but Vermont is seemingly young every season -- in 2012, 56.76 percent of the roster was underclassmen and in 2011, 57.5 percent of the roster was comprised of freshmen and sophomores. The America East isn't taking its foot off of the gas; the league is building a nice foundation with Stony Brook, Albany, and UMBC, and Hartford and Binghamton have their moments. Vermont needs to find a way to make things work in Burlington, to find a development model that flourishes so that the program can build on their gains from season-to-season. The Catamounts can't afford to regress, and simply putting potential wins on the schedule doesn't hide Vermont's performance concerns from one year to the next.
IV. MR. FIX-IT HAS A ONE-FIX ENGAGEMENT, AND IT'S . . .
- Once again Ryan Curtis needs to shepherd a lot of young pups through Division I lacrosse. The task is as it is for many programs hanging around the bottom of the country in overall competitiveness: A focus on talent development -- especially in the fundamentals (where the Catamounts had an ugly statistically profile (clearing, turnovers, shooting, etc.)) -- and coming to work even when the losses start to pile up. Vermont is light years from rolling out the balls and competing against superior teams, winning on strategy and talent alone; this is a team that needs to grow and get the basics put in place, especially with the volume of youth Curtis and his staff are dealing with.