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2014 Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Lacrosse Tournament Preview

Hofstra enters the tournament as the playoffs' top seed.

Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Everything that's worth knowing about the THUNDEROME! Tournament.

Participants

2014 THUNDERDOME! TOURNAMENT
SEED TEAM LEAGUE RECORD LEAGUE WINS LEAGUE LOSSES
1. Hofstra 4-1 Delaware, Drexel, Towson, Massachusetts Penn State
2. Drexel 4-1 Delaware, Penn State, Massachusetts, Towson Hofstra
3. Towson 2-3 Delaware, Massachusetts Hofstra, Penn State, Drexel
4. Delaware 1-4 Massachusetts Hofstra, Towson, Drexel, Penn State

Times, Dates of Matchups

Wednesday, April 30, 2014 (Semifinals -- at higher seed):

  • (4) Delaware at (1) Hofstra: 7:00 PM (ET)
  • (3) Towson at (2) Drexel: 7:00 PM (ET)

Saturday, May 3, 2014 (Championship -- at highest remaining seed):

  • Semifinal I Winner v. Semifinal II Winner: TBA (no later than 3:00 PM (ET))

Television/Internet

THUNDERDOME! will stream its championship game -- at whatever time it is played -- live on CAA.tv. THUNDERDOME! will also stream the semifinals live through its web concern. Please coat your computer in the appropriate level of blood.

League Tournament Spirit Animal

Some kind of animal that is on fire.

Truncated Tempo-Free Profiles

2014 THUNDERDOME! TOURNAMENT TRUNCATED TEMPO-FREE PROFILES (AS OF APRIL 28, 2014)
METRIC HOFSTRA DREXEL TOWSON DELAWARE
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 32.57 (26) 33.22 (23) 29.71 (43) 30.80 (34)
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 28.93 (22) 32.05 (37) 32.79 (44) 34.72 (53)
Possession Margin per 60 Minutes of Play +0.99 (26) +4.70 (6) -0.86 (45) +3.20 (13)
Pythagorean Win Expectation 59.09% (24) 52.77% (29) 42.40% (46) 40.82% (51)

There are two tiers of teams in this thing: Hofstra and Drexel -- the league's highest seeded teams -- and Towson and Delaware. There's more offensive capability in the tournament than defensive might (and the Pride are the most balanced of the four teams, although Drexel's possession margin mitigateS some of the team's defensive issues), and that may drive the results in the tournament's three games.

Predictions

log5 PROBABILITIES: PROBABILITY OF WINNING THE THUNDERDOME! TOURNAMENT (AS OF APRIL 28, 2014)
RANK TEAM PROBABILITY
1. Hofstra 40.81%
2. Drexel 29.84%
3. Towson 13.65%
4. Delaware 15.71%

This seems pretty reasonable, but Drexel -- given the way that the Dragons have been playing in their six-game winning streak -- may have stronger odds than what the computing machine is showing at this point. Importantly, in a Hofstra-Drexel final, the game is essentially a toss-up with the Pride looking like a very small favorite. A title coming from Towson or Delaware would be a big upset, and THUNDERDOME! is not immune from such a set of circumstances coming to fruition.

Three Things

  • It's not crazy to think that home field advantage may play a role in the THUNDERDOME! Tournament: The conference has gone back to campus locations in 2014 after experimenting with a single-site tournament in 2013. I'm not sure, though, that it is going to play a major factor in the outcome of the games. All four teams are in "plus" territory with respect to home field advantage this season, but only Towson -- a team with long odds to actually lift the trophy this coming weekend -- has been especially strong at home. Here's the breakdown of the four teams with respect to home field advantage: Towson (+2.27 (13th nationally)); Delaware (+0.92 (33rd nationally)); Hofstra (+0.48 (43rd nationally)); and Drexel (+0.15 (50th nationally)). The particular matchups in this tournament -- strength against relative struggles -- are more important than where the game is played (at least from a high level).
  • In an offense-oriented tournament, Hofstra may need some stronger play from its net. The Pride have been a decent defensive team in 2014, but the team's overall netminding hasn't been a point of reliance for Hofstra: The Pride currently rank 49th in saves per 100 defensive opportunities, 42nd in team save percentage, 32nd in raw defensive shooting rate, and 44th in shots per defensive opportunity. Part of Hofstra's goalkeeping profile turns on what the Pride's field defense provides Chris Selva in terms of shots that he's seeing: Hofstra ranks just 37th in defensive assist rate (assists per 100 defensive opportunities). If Hofstra permits its opponents to take and create preferable shots, the Pride could end up in a bit of trouble, especially if (1) Hofstra deflates the pace of play (which is almost a certainty), and (2) Hofstra plays in a possession deficit. Exceptional netminding is not necessary to win championships, but solid goalkeeping goes a long way toward finding circumstances conducive to success.
  • Can Drexel play enough defense to win the THUNDERDOME! championship? I don't know. The Dragons can score -- not quite as efficiently as in 2013, but still fairly well -- but the team is still dogged with questions about whether the Dragons have enough defense to carry the team to wins if its offense sputters. Drexel's defensive issues have been muted thanks to a dominate possession margin, but the team has gotten into some grenade wars against capable offenses this season: Against teams with adjusted offensive efficiency values in the top 20, Drexel is 3-1 with a plus-nine scoring margin, but only one of those wins came against a team with an adjusted defensive efficiency value in the top 20 nationally (Albany) and that was a one-goal win for Drexel (the loss came at the hands of Virginia, a one-goal defeat). A balanced team can give Drexel some trouble, and while the THUNDERDOME! Tournament doesn't really feature an elite team on both sides of the ball, a team that comes correct on gameday could give the Dragons trouble if the team's defense doesn't tighten up accordingly.