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2014 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament Quarterfinals Preview: Bryant v. (7) Maryland

Bryant is *thisclose* to going to Championship Weekend. The only issue is that the Bulldogs need to go through Maryland.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Everything that's worth knowing about Bryant-Maryland in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Tournament.

From 10,000 Feet

Date and Time: Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 12:00 ET
Location: Hempstead, N.Y. (Hofstra University)
Winner Advances To Play?: The winner of Albany-Notre Dame.
Television/Internet: ESPN2 has the broadcast. Also available on WatchESPN.
Game "Fun Factor": 3.14 (Fourth out of four)
log5 Victory Probabilities:

(7) Maryland Bryant Maryland // 66.60% Bryant // 33.40%

"But Bryant just beat Syracuse! How is this possible?!" The answer to that question is straightforward: The Terps are a more difficult matchup for the Bulldogs. Maryland is more balanced than Syracuse at both ends of the field and the Terrapins are a possession-generating machine, one that is uniquely situated -- at the faceoff dot and through an ability to create a host of defensive stops -- to mitigate Bryant's ability to dominate the bean. The Bulldogs are capable of pulling the upset against the Terps, but Bryant is going to have to do work for the full 60 minutes if they hope to extend their season.

What's Your Deal?

NCAA Tournament First Round: Beat (2) Syracuse, 10-9
NCAA Tournament Championships: None
NCAA Tournament Record: 2-1 (66.7%)
Best 2014 Wins: Drexel (12-6); Albany (12-11); Syracuse (10-9)

NCAA Tournament First Round: Beat Cornell, 8-7
NCAA Tournament Championships: Two (Last: 1975)
NCAA Tournament Record: 49-33 (59.8%)
Best 2014 Wins: Syracuse (16-8); Duke (10-6); Virginia (9-6); Notre Dame (12-8); Cornell (8-7)

Truncated Tempo-Free Profiles

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 30.58 (37) 32.29 (15)
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 27.68 (15) 26.35 (9)
Possession Margin per 60 Minutes of Play +6.25 (3) +7.73 (1)
Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 66.74% (16) 80.01% (5)
Downloadable Tempo-Free Profile (.pdf) Bryant Maryland

This game has the potential to be low scoring, and not just because Maryland and Bryant roll with stout defenses. Both teams play at a deflated pace -- Bryant ranks 40th in pace at 63.15 per 60 minutes of play and Maryland ranks 63rd in the same metric at 56.93 -- and both teams are possession-generating monsters. The value of possessions -- and how they are utilized -- is going to drive the overall situation on the scoreboard. There is a possibility that while the scoring meter may not show a large margin when the clock reads triple zeros, the tightness of the scoreboard may not match whether one teams exerts control over the game.

Two Things

  • Much will be made of the faceoff battle between Bryant's Kevin Massa and Maryland's Charlie Raffa, and there is value to that discussion: Both teams generate a large number of their offensive opportunities from wins at the dot. For both the Bulldogs and the Terps, though, faceoff play -- in terms of possession activity -- doesn't exist in a vacuum: As much as dominance on the whistle impacts each team's overall functions, the ability to create defensive stops is just as important. This table helps illustrate that concept:
    BRYANT at MARYLAND (AS OF MAY 14, 2014)
    Percent of Offensive Opportunities from Faceoff Wins 42.94% (7) 43.09% (6)
    Percent of Offensive Opportunities from Clearing Postures 50.00% (58) 48.25% (64)
    Percent of Offensive Opportunities from Opponent Failed Clears 7.06% (41) 8.66% (21)
    Percent of Defensive Opportunities from Faceoff Losses 22.67% (67) 31.44% (54)
    Percent of Defensive Opportunities from Opponent Clearing Postures 69.07% (1) 63.69% (4)
    Percent of Defensive Opportunities from Failed Clears 8.26% (24) 4.88% (63)
    The run of play ultimately defines the scope of a game: A faceoff win does not change the score on the scoreboard; yielding a goal off of a faceoff win changes the score on the scoreboard. The team that is able to create value from stops out of faceoff wins can change the volition of the game's possession margin and remove the power of "make it, take it" lacrosse. Moreover, exposing opportunities through clearing and riding postures -- both of these teams see the vast majority of their defensive opportunities from opponent clears -- adds an element to the game that can further mitigate the scope of faceoff wins. The key isn't whether a team dominates faceoffs; rather, it's how the possession that inures from a faceoff win or loss operates.
  • In Bryant's three big wins this season -- home to Drexel, away to Albany, and at the Carrier Dome against Syracuse -- the Bulldogs faced situations where many did not give Bryant much of a chance to win. These victories, though, weren't -- in totem -- a collection of "There's no friggin' way that's possible!" victories that had no possibility of coming to fruition. In fact, Bryant was in a good position to beat the Orange and Dragons, only summoning black magic to drop the Great Danes on Albany's home turf:
    Drexel 54.22% (Toss-Up) 12-6
    @Albany 37.71% (Underdog) 12-11
    @Syracuse 46.47% (Toss-Up) 10-9
  • This helps detail how good Bryant is, but Maryland is a different kind of animal for the Bulldogs. Bryant's date against the Terps provides the longest odds -- the Bulldogs only have about a one-third chance of victory -- that Bryant has faced all season. The team's defeat of the Great Danes is  indicia that the Bulldogs are capable of dropping a difficult opponent, but Bryant is still a true underdog for only the second time this season. That concept can be hard to grasp, but the computing machine removes emotion and name recognition from the analysis. This is a strong Bulldogs team, one that has established itself as a dangerous weapon in the bracket. Yet, Bryant must raise its play -- or have Maryland decrease its performance -- in a spot that it hasn't experienced much in 2014 to move on to the beautiful sunshine of Championship Weekend.