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Eulogizing the 2014 College Lacrosse Season: Maryland

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The season didn't end with the Terps snapping their title drought, but it was another solid effort from Maryland.

Rob Carr

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

MARYLAND TERRAPINS
METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
2014 Record 13-4 (4-1, ACC) N/A
2014 Winning Percentage 76.47% 4
2013 Record 10-4 (2-1, ACC) N/A
2013 Winning Percentage 71.43% 10
2014 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 78.24% 5
2013 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 77.31% 3
Value Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation +0.93% 30*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation -2* 33*
2014 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 34.28 17
2013 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 34.93 12
Value Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency -0.66 41*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency -5* 41*
2014 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 26.72 11
2013 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 25.55 12
Value Change in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency -1.17 36*
National Rank Change in Defensive Efficiency +1* 31*
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

Maryland brutalized opponents in possession-generation last season. There is no analogy that adequately describes what the Terrapins did to their opposition last year except for this: Maryland was basically a desktop computer that awoke for the robot apocalypse, shuffling its way to the kitchen where it got its hands -- mouse? -- on a butcher knife and chopped up the family that had spent Sunday afternoons using the computer to play The Oregon Trail or something. It was a blood-filled, empathy-less effort in institutionalized destruction from the Terps, a non-stop ass beating that never seemed to relent in any manageable way.

The team's possession profile remains a ridiculous illustration of possession greed:

DEATH
METRIC VALUE NT'L RANK
Opportunities per 60 Minutes Margin +8.18 1
Faceoff Percentage 64.61% 60
Clearing Percentage 90.36% 6
Ride Percentage 17.71% 11
Percent of Offensive Opportunities from Faceoff Wins 42.36% 9
Percent of Offensive Opportunities from Clearing Postures 49.21% 62
Percent of Offensive Opportunities from Opponent Failed Clears 8.44% 23
Percent of Defensive Opportunities from Faceoff Losses 30.70% 60
Percent of Defensive Opportunities from Opponent Clearing Postures 63.02% 4
Percent of Defensive Opportunities from Failed Clears 6.28% 55
Tempo 58.76 60

Maryland's hilariously monstrous possession advantage -- in a vacuum -- isn't what made the Terps a dangerous team in 2014. Simply generating possession doesn't make the scoreboard blink. Rather, it's other aspects of Maryland's play that increased the importance of the Terrapins' fat possession margin. For example:

  • Maryland -- once again -- was one of the slowest teams in the nation. The Terps' plodding pace shrunk the game, making the team's eight-possession advantage all that more difficult to overcome. There's a big difference between a team like Maryland that holds an eight-possession advantage in a 59-possession game and a team like Duke that plays at a six-possession advantage and plays 68 possessions per 60 minutes of play. The contrasting nature of these styles turns on the rate at which teams and opponents score and prevent buckets, and a pace-deflated game heightens the need to perform efficiently (and the Terps were fairly efficient at both ends of the field). Maryland has perfected the method for writing obituaries for its kills in its modus operandi.
  • Maryland's high possession margin allowed the Terps to hide some of the team's ball valuation issues in the offensive end. The Terrapins ranked 21st nationally in estimated lost functional offensive opportunities ratio at 38.01 percent, slightly below the national average. Those extra opportunities provided Maryland with volume when efficiency was a slight concern.
  • Permitting opponents to play only about 25 offensive possessions per 60 minutes of play, the Terps allowed its defense -- a unit that ranked 11th in adjusted defensive efficiency -- to play against opponents pressured into trying to generate buckets because of the dearth of scoring opportunities that were available. Again, the function of shrinking the game benefitted an efficient unit that responded in the scant circumstances that were created to test that defense.
Possession margin matters in different ways, but for Maryland, the consequence of starving its opposition of the ball made for circumstances conducive to the Terps beating most of their opponents in the face with a brick.

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

A trip to Championship Weekend and 13 wins -- the team's 12th consecutive season of at least 10 wins -- is admirable. The Terps remain one of Division I's strongest programs despite the fact that the team has not been able to capture a title since 1975. John Tillman has not slowed Maryland's volition and has, in many ways, accelerated the program since taking over for Dave Cottle for the 2011 season.

Yet, the Terrapins were not the prettiest team in the nation to watch last season. At the end of the day it's only wins and losses that matter, but Maryland was one of the least fun teams in the nation to witness in 2014. The Fun Factor scale ranked the Terps 22nd in the metric last season, asserting that Maryland was as desirable a watch as Ohio State, St. Joseph's, and Army. Maryland's mauling style -- as noted above -- was effective at generating wins but made the Terrapins a bit of a pariah in circles that are concerned with the physical beauty of the game and find sustenance in free-flowing, gas pedal-mashed lacrosse. Maryland was not unlike a tank last season -- effective and strong, but lacking finesse. There's a place for those kinds of machines in the universe, but they don't carry the same kind of awe as an F-22 Raptor.

There's something to be said about how a team makes you feel. The great thing about college lacrosse is the different styles that teams adopt, but it's hard to always reconcile an emotional response to a particular style -- especially one as pragmatic as the Terps' style -- and the recognition that differing styles helps make Division I lacrosse what it is. Maryland does what it does as well as any team in the nation, but what they do can also be tough on souls that find purpose in other means to achieve ends.

THE DISTANT FUTURE

The Matt Rambo situation aside, the Terps were in decent shape entering the 2015 season: Maryland suffered losses of about a third of their starts from 2014 and returned a core of performers that were a solid mix of upper- and lower-classmen. The personnel turnover that the team experienced was notable -- Niko Amato vacated the cage; Mike Chanenchuk is no longer available to make the Terrapins' offense go; Connor Cannizzaro transferred west to Denver; and Michael Ehrhardt would no longer run through the box for the Terps -- but the team's entire close defense returns intact, Charlie Raffa's name still dots the roster, and 14 players that played in at least 13 games for Maryland in 2014 are back to make a run this coming spring. The Rambo situation, though, does provide pause. The Terrapins have a lot working in the team's favor in 2015, but how thing coalesce in the absence of big weapons is going to dictate Maryland's ceiling.