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Eulogizing the 2014 College Lacrosse Season: Syracuse

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It was another early exit for the Orange in the NCAA Tournament.

Mark Konezny-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

SYRACUSE ORANGE
METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
2014 Record 11-5 (2-3, ACC) N/A
2014 Winning Percentage 68.75% 11
2013 Record 16-4 (5-1, Big East) N/A
2013 Winning Percentage 80.00% 1
2014 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 69.25% 11
2013 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 73.05% 7
Value Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation -3.81% 44*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation -4* 39*
2014 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 38.97 6
2013 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 35.70 9
Value Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency +3.27 21*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency +3* 27*
2014 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 30.64 32
2013 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 25.17 9
Value Change in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency -5.46 59*
National Rank Change in Defensive Efficiency -22* 57*
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

Syracuse was part of one of the biggest upsets of the 2014 season. It's true! The game was nationally televised so you probably saw it. I mean, a tournament upset of this caliber just isn't lost in the wash; it was kind of a big deal. The game I'm referencing, of course, is the Orange's monster upset of Duke in the ACC Tournament semifinals. (What? You thought this had something to do with Bryant? Are you a closet elitist? If so, you should seek immediate parity therapy.)

This is always a difficult concept to consider, especially in the context of two programs considered among the nation's power programs. When you strip away the logos on the helmets and think of only the cold, driving data informed through performance on the field, though, "upsets" take on connotations that exist outside of preconceived notions of hierarchical stations. Syracuse's defeat of Duke in the ACC Tournament was a big win for the Orange, one where it assaulted predictions about the result between the two schools:

UPSETS AREN'T ONLY FOR TEAMS THAT HAVEN'T WON 11 TITLES
OPPONENT RESULT LOG5 LAXPOWER PREDICTED GOAL DIFF. MASSEY WIN PROBABILITY
v. Duke 16-15 (W) 33.39% -2 30%

One month prior to the team's meeting at PPL Park, the Devils uncorked a massive ass-beating on Syracuse at Koskinen Stadium: The 21-7 victory for Duke marked the first time since 2006 that the Orange yielded 20 goals to an opponent in a losing effort (Syracuse fell 20-15 to Virginia in that season) and the 14-goal margin of defeat was one of the worst in the Orange's history (the largest margin of defeat that Syracuse has felt was a 23-goal loss to Cornell in 1974). Syracuse was hot going into its postseason date with Duke -- the Orange had reeled off five consecutive wins before heading to Philadelphia, including victories over Cornell and North Carolina -- but the Devils were still humming along, winning four straight games after knocking off the Orange, all with relative comfort. Duke wasn't 10 goals better than Syracuse, but the Orange were still firmly within the Blue Devils' shadow before the start of the ACC Tournament. What Syracuse did at the home of the Philadelphia Union was a mega reversal of expectations, one that deserves respect as an upset as much as it stands as a recalibration -- if only momentary -- of the Orange's season.

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

I don't know exactly where to go with this. I feel like I've devoted a treatise's worth of words to why Syracuse's faceoff situation wasn't the reason for the Orange's relative struggles last spring. (There's obviously an impact, but it's not the analogue to someone pushing a red button and half of the world exploding.) It's a conversation that stagnates because the narrative is so far entrenched at this point that it may as well be hyper-truth.

Instead of recreating an already dead situation, I'm going to do something different: I'm going to present permutations that create alternate realities to try and illustrate what Syracuse's expected performance would look like in different scenarios. The permutations look like this:

  • PERMUTATION I: Syracuse improves its faceoff percentage to 22nd nationally (top third); Syracuse's defense continues to yield goals at a rate that ranks 32nd nationally.
  • PERMUTATION II: Syracuse's faceoff percentage remains at 44th nationally; Syracuse's defense yields goals at a rate that ranks around 22nd nationally (mitigates the slide from the team's defensive unit (the Orange ranked ninth in 2013)).
  • PERMUTATION III: Syracuse improves its faceoff percentage to 22nd nationally (top third); Syracuse's defense yields goals at a rate that ranks around 22nd nationally (top third).
  • PERMUTATION IV: Syracuse's faceoff percentage remains at 44th nationally; Syracuse's defense yields goals at a rate that ranks 10th nationally (in line with the team's ranking in 2013).
  • PERMUTATION V: Syracuse improves its faceoff percentage to 22nd nationally (top third); Syracuse's defense yields goals at a rate that ranks 10th nationally (in line with the team's ranking in 2013).

Cool? Let's go:

NON-REALITY: PERMUTATIONS ON WHAT SYRACUSE COULD HAVE BEEN
NO ADJUSTMENT (CONTROL) VALUE NT'L RANK EXPECTED WIN INCREASE
Adjusted Pythagorean win expectation 69.25% 11
Faceoff percentage 46.73% 44
Adjusted defensive efficiency 30.64 32
PERMUTATION I VALUE NT'L RANK EXPECTED WIN INCREASE
Adjusted Pythagorean win expectation 74.61% 9 +0.86
Faceoff percentage 54.85% 22
Adjusted defensive efficiency 30.64 32
PERMUTATION II VALUE NT'L RANK EXPECTED WIN INCREASE
Adjusted Pythagorean win expectation 73.72% 9 +.072
Faceoff percentage 46.73% 44
Adjusted defensive efficiency 28.51 21
PERMUTATION III VALUE NT'L RANK EXPECTED WIN INCREASE
Adjusted Pythagorean win expectation 78.50% 5 +1.48
Faceoff percentage 54.85% 22
Adjusted defensive efficiency 28.59 23
PERMUTATION IV VALUE NT'L RANK EXPECTED WIN INCREASE
Adjusted Pythagorean win expectation 78.05% 6 +1.41
Faceoff percentage 46.73% 44
Adjusted defensive efficiency 26.38 10
PERMUTATION V VALUE NT'L RANK EXPECTED WIN INCREASE
Adjusted Pythagorean win expectation 82.47% 3 +2.12
Faceoff percentage 54.85% 22
Adjusted defensive efficiency 26.31 10

THE DISTANT FUTURE

It's not whether Syracuse has the pieces to compete -- the Orange do -- but rather how all of the pieces are going to fit together. There's enough talent kicking around the Carrier Dome -- Kevin Rice, Randy Staats, Dylan Donahue, Henry Schoonmaker, etc. -- where the Orange are going to make the scoreboard blink. The question for Syracuse entering 2015 is what the defense is going to look like, especially with respect to what the Orange are going to get out of the crease. If Syracuse's defense coalesces and finds its purpose, the Orange should have enough balance to really exert some pop next spring.