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Eulogizing the 2014 College Lacrosse Season: Duke

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

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

DUKE BLUE DEVILS
METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
2014 Record 17-3 (4-1, ACC) N/A
2014 Winning Percentage 85.00% 2
2013 Record 16-5 (2-1, ACC) N/A
2013 Winning Percentage 76.19% 5
2014 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 81.64% 4
2013 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 75.83% 5
Value Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation +5.81% 20*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation +1* 27*
2014 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 39.91 3
2013 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 39.04 5
Value Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency +0.87 35*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency +2* 29*
2014 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 28.06 16
2013 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 30.72 30
Value Change in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency +2.66 14*
National Rank Change in Defensive Efficiency +14* 13*
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

There were lots of things to like about Duke last spring, not the least of which was that the Blue Devils were a crushing destroyer of souls that hammered virtually everything that stood in front of them. At a more granular level, though, Duke especially stood out from the rest of Division I in the way that the team shared the ball and abused opposing goalkeepers. The team's adjusted offensive efficiency was through the roof, and that metric was heavily influenced by the team's ability to (1) target, (2) concentrate shooting responsibility around a core of players that shot above 37 percent, and (3) provide shooters with preferential positions to can the bean. The following two charts illustrate those aspects of the Devils' bonkers offense:

TACTICAL NUCLEAR WEAPON
METRIC VALUE N'TL RANK
Shots per Offensive Opportunity 1.12 37
Shots on Goal per Offensive Opportunity 0.72 5
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Offensive Opportunity 64.78% 2
Raw Offensive Shooting Rate 35.83% 5
Raw Offensive Shots on Goal Shooting Rate 55.31% 5
Assists per 100 Offensive Opportunities 24.23 3
Opponent Saves per 100 Offensive Opportunities 32.30 23
Opponent Save Percentage 44.69% 5
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 39.91 3

COMBUSTION ENGINE
PLAYER SHT% SOG SHT% SV% % TEAM SHTS
Jordan Wolf 41.56% 58.18% 41.82% 18.58%
Deemer Class 31.40% 52.05% 47.95% 14.60%
Myles Jones 32.46% 54.41% 45.59% 13.75%
Josh Dionne 46.67% 58.33% 41.67% 12.67%
Christian Walsh 30.56% 52.38% 47.62% 8.69%
GROUP 37.10% 55.70% 44.30% 68.28%
TEAM 35.83% 55.31% 44.69%

How do you possibly stop this? When a team's most important players answer the bell -- and there's balance in those core performers between the attack and midfield (none of this even addresses Case Matheis and Kyle Keenan, cats that each shot above 39 percent and were responsible for about 15 percent of Duke's total shots in 2014) -- and are operating within an offense that fractures light like a prism, opposing defenses are rendered impotent to try and stop the insanity that the Devils were built to cause last year. This is deadly in so many ways that it's almost unfair, and with Duke getting around six more offensive opportunities per 60 minutes of play than their opponents, it becomes clear why the Blue Devils were able to annihilate opponents by an average of five goals per game.

It wasn't just tempo that permitted Duke to score like a sociopath on the run last spring; the Devils were comparable -- from an efficiency standpoint -- to what Albany and Denver were in 2014, two offenses that operated a little differently than Duke but were violent vehicles in their own right. This offense -- in so many important ways that exist outside of mere double-digit goal outputs -- was one of the great aspects of Division I lacrosse in a season where many teams were able to set small explosions in the offensive end.

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

Look: A national champion that drops only three games and plays a schedule ranked fourth nationally in average opponent adjusted Pythagorean win expectation doesn't have a lot of warts (or, rather, those warts don't mean all that much). But, for the sake of finishing the drill, the Blue Devils did have a somewhat ugly wrinkle in their team profile: The team was, once again, one of the most foul-prone teams in the nation and was in man-down postures a bunch. Here's a quick table that illustrates Duke's issues with penalties over the last two seasons:

KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF
METRIC '13 VALUE '13 N'TL RANK '14 VALUE '14 N'TL RANK
Man-Down Postures per 100 Defensive Opportunities 13.81 58 13.52 60
Extra-Man/Man-Down Postures Margin -5.51 61 -4.50 65
Man-Down Posture Reliance 15.89% 53 14.51% 50
Man-Down Posture Conversion Rate 37.36% 41 33.73% 24
Penalties per 100 Opportunities 6.88 49 6.63 54
Penalties Margin -2.20 57 -0.96 53

Again, from a macro level, this isn't a huge deal, and an argument can be made that while Duke was ugly in these metrics in 2014, the team did improve over 2013 in some notable ways. Whatever. Worrying about this from a reflective standpoint seems less important than caring about it in the teeth of the season when results are unknown and the variable of impact is seemingly higher. Duke went 17-3 and took home the gold medal. Their proclivity for playing in man-down and committing penalties seems kind of like worrying about getting the setting right on the toaster after you bought a new $100,000 kitchen.

THE DISTANT FUTURE

Stacking your chips against John Danowski is probably a bad idea, but 2015 is going to present some unique issues for Dino: Duke will lose over 55 percent of its starts from 2014, and that doesn't even include the additional departures of Brendan Fowler and Luke Duprey. That's a lot of turnover, even for a program that is loaded with high-caliber talent from years of dominating the recruiting scene. What's daunting for the Devils going into the coming spring is that the team will need to replace its entire close defense and Duprey, important assets that helped insulate Luke Aaron and Kyle Turri last season. It'd be ridiculous to write off Duke ahead of 2015, but this is likely a team that will look a lot different in late-April than it will in February, especially given the amount of role definition that will need to take place for the Blue Devils in the preseason.