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Eulogizing the 2014 College Lacrosse Season: Johns Hopkins

The Jays' new offense got some results.

Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE

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

JOHNS HOPKINS BLUE JAYS
METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
2014 Record 11-5 (Independent) N/A
2014 Winning Percentage 68.75% 11
2013 Record 9-5 (Independent) N/A
2013 Winning Percentage 64.29% 18
2014 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 76.07% 8
2013 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 77.43% 2
Value Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation -1.37% 35*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation -6* 33*
2014 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 35.49 15
2013 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 30.83 24
Value Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency +4.66 10*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency +9* 18*
2014 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 25.64 5
2013 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 24.07 4
Value Change in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency -1.57 43*
National Rank Change in Defensive Efficiency -1* 33*
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

It's hard to quantify how much the new offense that Johns Hopkins ran last season impacted the Blue Jays in the overall. There's an inherent slipperiness in that conceptual approach: Was it the new approach that punched Hopkins forward? Was it the development of the players in the program that drove the team's increased production? Or was it a blend of those two potential plot points? The answer likely lies with that last question, but regardless of where the praise ends up, it's very difficult to argue that the Jays' offense didn't take important strides between the last two years:

HOP CHA-CHA
METRIC '13 VALUE '13 NT'L RANK '14 VALUE '14 NT'L RANK
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 30.83 24 35.49 15
Shots per Offensive Opportunity 1.05 39 1.15 28
Shots on Goal per Offensive Opportunity 0.63 39 0.68 22
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots on per Offensive Opportunity 59.89% 23 59.28% 27
Raw Offensive Shooting Rate 28.70% 26 30.35% 15
Raw Offensive Shots on Goal Shooting Rate 47.92% 26 51.19% 18
Offensive Assist Rate 17.23 31 21.48 9
Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 34.83 2 39.17 10
Opponent Saves per 100 Offensive Opportunities 32.77 29 33.21 30
Opponent Save Percentage 52.08% 26 48.81% 18
Strength of Schedule: Opposing Defenses Faced 30.08 23 31.01 26

There are ups and downs in there -- nothing remains in static animation -- but on the whole the Jays were a more potent offensive team in 2014 than they were a season prior. What especially stands out are two things:

  • The team was much more willing and able to share the bean in 2014 than in 2013. An increase in sharing rate from Wells Stanwick -- who went from 23 helpers in 2013 to 44 helpers in 2014 (Stanwick also played three more games in 2014 than 2013) -- was a major driver for the team's overall increase in assists per 100 offensive opportunities. But it wasn't only Stanwick's vision and ability that pressed Hopkins' developed focus on sharing the rock: A willingness to move the ball from cats like Rob Guida and Connor Reed -- the midfield duo combined for 32 assists last year -- helped diversify Hopkins' offensive looks and create circumstances that John Ranagan and John Greeley didn't generate in 2013. This allowed the Jays' offense to act more like a prism, even if the team's offense was concentrated around Stanwick, Ryan Brown, and Brandon Benn.
  • In 2013, John Hopkins' top five shooters -- in terms of volume of shots taken -- accounted for 55.44 percent of the Jays' total shots and 54.66 percent of the team's total goals, shooting 28.30 percent as a group. In 2014, Johns Hopkins' top five shooters -- in terms of volume of shots taken -- accounted for 69.50 percent of the Jays' total shots and 76.68 percent of the team's total goals, shooting 33.48 percent as a group. The core of Hopkins’ offense carried a heavier load in 2014 than 2013 and was more efficient in their production. This concentration of responsibility merited the Blue Jays with an increased capacity to make the scoreboard blink on a per possession basis. When the players that are leaned on to create offense do so in a merciless fashion, there is bound to be growth.

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

It's kind of weird to think of Johns Hopkins having a degree of sloppiness in its play. That's certainly not part of the Jays' tradition, and given Dave Pietramala's meticulous game-planning and focus on taking care of business in all facets of play, it's almost anathema to imply that Hopkins carried with it some form of dirt. Yet, it's hard to ignore an aspect of clumsiness that the Jays exhibited last year:

BLERGH
METRIC VALUE NT'L RANK
Clearing Percentage 82.58% 55
Percent of Defensive Opportunities from Failed Clears 9.71% 10
Estimated Functional Offensive Opportunities per 60 Minutes of Play 31.12 19
Estimated Functional Offensive Opportunities Ratio 90.97% 52

50 blown clears is a big number for the Jays. Taking functional offensive opportunities off of the board is dangerous: Not only does it deprive an offense -- one that was efficient -- of a chance to smoke twine, but it also puts a defense in a position to have to defend against a preferable scoring opportunity.

Doing some icky math that applies the Blue Jays' adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency rates (rates that are impacted by the team's clearing rate), Hopkins' poor clearing robbed the team of around 18 goals last year and put around 13 goals on the board for the team's opponents. Clearing at 90 percent last season -- banging home 21 more successful clears -- would have netted another seven buckets for the Jays while robbing the team's opponents of five goals. That's a pretty big swing, especially for a program that faced a violent slate of opponents in 2014 (the team's schedule ranked fifth nationally in average opponent adjusted Pythagorean win expectation).

THE DISTANT FUTURE

The specifics here are less interesting than the mega theme: Johns Hopkins hasn't made a visit to Championship Weekend since 2008. The six-year drought that the program has experienced is the longest in its storied history, one that has created a sense of urgency among the Homewood faithful. There's plenty of talent kicking around The Cordish Lacrosse and Space Exploration Center, but it's still a matter of whether Hopkins can meet expectations that few other programs maintain. 2015 is a big year for the Jays, a season where Johns Hopkins will assume a position in the Big Ten as it powers along in its own special way.