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2014 College Lacrosse Preview: Offensive Excellence

You want to know who's going to score goals this season? These teams have been the best over the last four seasons.

Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

The average adjusted offensive efficiency over the last four seasons in Division I lacrosse is right around 30.00 (it's actually 29.20 for you fact-specific super-dorks). That value -- scoring on about 30 percent of an average team's offensive opportunities -- hasn't varied much over the last four seasons, but it has risen to slightly in the last two years. Thus, it has become a benchmark for offensive competency, the bare-minimum standard to characterize a team's offense as "good."

"Good," though, isn't exciting. "Good" is mild wings and a halfway-decent India Pale Ale. What generates excitement is wings with habanero pepper sauce and an IPA that makes your brain leak out of your ears. That's what gives people googly Muppet eyes and a sense of wonder. So, which teams have been the offensive equivalents of that over the last four seasons?

To make that determination, a series of metrics are necessary to create the foundation for the analysis:

  • 2010-2013 Average Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: This is a team's average adjusted offensive efficiency -- goals scored per 100 offensive opportunities, adjusted for defenses faced -- over the last four years. This illustrates which teams have had the most success at embarrassing opposing defenses.
  • 2010-2013 Average Adjusted Offensive Efficiency Variance: Outlier seasons can impact a team's average adjusted offensive efficiency (both positively and negatively). This measures a team's variance in its adjusted offensive efficiency values over the four campaigns examined.
  • 2010-2013 Average Adjusted Offensive Efficiency Standard Deviation: This serves a similar purpose to average adjusted offensive efficiency variance.
  • 2010-2013 Average Adjusted Offensive Efficiency Rank Variance: This determines the variance of a team's average adjusted offensive efficiency rank variance. While a team's average adjusted offensive efficiency values may vary from season to season, a team's rank in the metric may not vary as much. This provides insight as to whether a team's rank relative to the rest of the country is staying static.
  • 2010-2013 Average Adjusted Offensive Efficiency Rank Standard Deviation: This serves a similar purpose to average adjusted offensive efficiency rank variance.

Based on those metrics, here are the top 10 offensive teams in the nation over the last four seasons:

Duke 38.66 1 16.39 48 4.05 48 3.58 2 1.89 2
Denver 37.45 2 11.04 43 3.32 43 34.25 20 5.85 20
Cornell 35.55 3 7.88 38 2.81 38 29.58 16 5.44 16
North Carolina 34.99 4 11.14 44 3.34 44 18.25 11 4.27 11
Robert Morris 34.81 5 1.27 6 1.13 6 22.00 13 4.69 13
Virginia 34.67 6 3.15 22 1.77 22 40.25 22 6.34 22
Stony Brook 34.47 7 1.96 11 1.40 11 43.33 25 6.58 25
Maryland 34.13 8 4.57 29 2.14 29 19.00 12 4.36 12
Princeton 33.67 9 17.99 49 4.24 49 98.92 41 9.95 41
Drexel 33.47 10 6.07 34 2.46 34 30.92 17 5.56 17

Some brief notes relative to that table:

  • Duke: The Devils have unquestionably had the country's best offense since 2010 and it isn't really close. Duke carries a characterization as an offensive juggernaut and the statistics prove it out: No team has a better average rate of canning the bean and Duke hasn't finished outside of the top five in any season with respect to adjusted offensive efficiency. If past is prologue, the concerns that the Devils face through the midfield in 2014 may be a moot point.
  • Princeton: The Tigers have had a top-10 offense in the last four seasons, but the Tigers -- more than any other program that made the list -- were the most susceptible to seeing swings in its offensive output. The team's underlying adjusted offensive efficiency values are telling: 2013 -- 38.51 (sixth); 2012 -- 34.16 (13th); 2011 -- 28.17 (28th); and 2010 -- 33.84 (eighth). Princeton has been moving in the right direction in recent years, and there is high potential that the Tigers eat souls in 2014 given the assets returning to Princeton's roster, but the Tigers are the most questionable of the truly excellent offensive teams since 2010.
  • Maryland: The Terps have been strong with the ball in recent seasons, but what Maryland accomplished since 2010 may not be as strong a predictor of 2014 offensive shock-and-awe compared to other teams due to a simple fact: Maryland experienced as much offensive turnover from 2013 to 2014 as any team on this list. When you look at these 10 schools you don't see programs that have heavily relied on freshman and new faces to keep the scoreboard blinking. The Terrapins are going to attempt that this coming season.
  • Robert Morris and Stony Brook: These two programs -- existing on a plane that many Division I sociopaths often overlook -- appear uniquely: They've done a great job at efficiently going about their offensive business and have done so incredibly consistently. This is interesting considering (1) the caliber of players that the Colonials and Seawolves are able to recruit and keep on the roster, and (2) the sensitivity of programs of this ilk to drop off in production when major offensive weapons graduate and there aren't similarly-capable options waiting in the wings.