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Eulogizing the 2014 College Lacrosse Season: Army

What Army lacked in style they made up with in 1,000,000,000 pounds of force.

Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

You spent the better part of four months meticulously dissecting the 2014 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 67 teams and their 2014 campaigns, mostly because everything needs a proper burial.

VITAL SIGNS

ARMY BLACK KNIGHTS
METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
2014 Record 9-5 (7-1, Patriot) N/A
2014 Winning Percentage 64.29% 20
2013 Record 8-6 (4-2, Patriot) N/A
2013 Winning Percentage 57.14% 22
2014 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 68.60% 14
2013 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 64.25% 19
Value Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation +4.35% 22*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation +5* 19*
2014 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 32.98 25
2013 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 29.87 36
Value Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency +3.11 24*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency +11* 14*
2014 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 25.85 8
2013 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 25.40 10
Value Change in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency -0.45 31*
National Rank Change in Defensive Efficiency -2* 27*
Downloadable Team Profile (.pdf)

*These ranking values consider only the programs that competed in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Accordingly, Boston University, Furman, Monmouth, and Richmond are not considered.

"ATTA BOY!" FACT

The Black Knights wanted to grind games into dust and win with defense last season. Based on the team's profile, Army not only achieved that in 2014 but may have found a new way to gameplan for borderline criminal suffocation: Holding all but two opponents to fewer than 10 goals, the Cadets were savants at dictating pace and leaning on their defense to drive results. There's nothing pretty about this, but it is something that defined Army's existence last spring:

I WILL CRUSH YOU
METRIC VALUE NT'L RANK
Pace 61.19 54
Opportunities per 60 Minutes Margin +0.43 33
Estimated Lost Functional Offensive Opportunities Ratio 36.04% 13
Estimated Lost Functional Defensive Opportunities Ratio 44.62% 14
Estimated Lost Functional Opportunities Margin Ratio +8.57% 4
Turnover Margin +7.61 8
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 25.85 8

This illustrates a patent philosophical position: Army was dead-set on deflating pace while riding on a small possession advantage, maximizing their offensive opportunities while gaining a benefit on the defensive end from a positive turnover ratio and stout field unit. When a team is able to deflate pace and push efficiency ratios in their favor, the theoretical residue is a tight scoreboard but one that is manageable. The Black Knights were in that situation a ton last spring and were expected to win north of 68 percent of their games. That's solid coaching and strong on-field execution, even if there is a blandness to this particular style of play.

"YOU'RE GROUNDED UNTIL YOU QUALIFY FOR THE AARP!" FACT

Army's five losses in 2014 came by a total of five goals. Again: The Black Knights' goal differential in its five losses -- all to teams that were in the top half of the nation in adjusted Pythagorean win expectation -- was minus-five. That's an insane level of Charlie Brown-issued "Aaaarrrrggghhh!"

IT BURNS SO BAD!
OPPONENT RESULT LOG5 LAXPOWER PREDICTED GOAL DIFF. MASSEY WIN PROBABILITY
Massachusetts 5-6 (L) 67.45% +2 65%
Rutgers 8-9 (OT) (L) 63.35% +2 68%
at Loyola 6-7 (L) 30.11% -4 17%
v. Lehigh 11-12 (L) 46.86% 0 45%
at Notre Dame 17-18 (L) 40.10% -4 12%

There were other variables that impacted Army's NCAA Tournament candidacy last spring outside of the team's five one-goal losses against solid competition -- the Black Knights' strength of schedule was sketchy and Army didn't have a win against a tournament participant -- but if the Cadets had beaten the Minutemen and Scarlet Knights, the team's profile looks somewhat different: An 11-3 record and an RPI ranking closer to 20 than 30 (with a strength of schedule that still remains icky). "But if . . ." creates all kinds of potential consequences, yet it seems to dominate the analysis of Army's 2014 campaign: The Black Knights were powerfully close to changing the volition of the program, one that is in the midst of a four-year exclusion from The Big Barbeque.

And that's the ugly part of all of this: Losses aren't losses aren't losses (at least if you actually care about understanding what teams do and what things mean). LaxPower's weighted loss mechanism ranks the Cadets' defeats last season as the 17th best in the nation, standing in a more noble position than NCAA Tournament teams like Albany, Bryant, and Air Force (all, admittedly, conference champions). When you also consider that the Knights' losses came by a total of five goals, the quality of Army's defeats look even stronger. Army was a solid, dangerous team last spring and its season -- in totem -- was greater than a 9-5 record and a bleak May.

THE DISTANT FUTURE

Joe Alberici kept his starting lineup fairly consistent last season: Only 13 players earned starting nods in 2014 with seven of those players standing at the starting line in each of the Knights' 14 games. Army hasn't released its 2015 roster yet, but it appears as if the Cadets will lose around 25 percent of their starts from last year, including two important defensemen in Pat Hart and John Burk. Otherwise, every other asset of value will return to the banks of the Hudson in 2015: John Glesener will anchor the team's offense; Alex Daly is still available to take draws; Will Mazzone and Connor Cook are is poised to have a strong junior campaign (Ed. noteI was informed on Twitter that Mazzone transferred to Providence; Providence's roster confirms); Austin Schultz will provide an experienced presence on the defensive end; and Sam Somers should recover from injury and offer balance and consistency between the pipes.

In a Patriot League that's expected to exhibit some level of chaos, Army could be positioned well to compete and turn some heads.