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2014 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament Quarterfinals Preview: Johns Hopkins v. (1) Duke

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Johns Hopkins is hunting their 10th title. Duke is looking to repeat their championship from 2013. Anarchy!

USA TODAY Sports

Everything that's worth knowing about Johns Hopkins-Duke in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Tournament.

From 10,000 Feet

Date and Time: Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 12:00 ET
Location: Newark, D.E. (University of Delaware)
Winner Advances To Play?: The winner of Drexel-Denver.
Television/Internet: ESPNU has the broadcast. Also available on WatchESPN.
Game "Fun Factor": 5.56 (Second out of four)
log5 Victory Probabilities:

log5 PROBABILITIES (AS OF MAY 14, 2014)
HIGHER SEED LOWER SEED FAVORITE UNDERDOG
Duke Johns Hopkins Duke // 52.20% Johns Hopkins // 47.80%

The series history between the Blue Devils and Blue Jays isn't all that deep but it is interesting. Hopkins holds a 12-5 advantage over Duke in the teams' 17 meetings, but seven of those dates occurred before 1997 (all but one of those meetings were victories for the Jays). Since 1997, Johns Hopkins holds a 6-4 series lead against Duke with Johns Hopkins holding a 4-3 advantage in the teams' last seven meetings. In those last seven meetings (2010, 2008 (twice), 2007 (twice), and 2005 (twice)), five games were decided by two goals or less while two were dramatic blowouts where the Devils assaulted the Jays. Four of those last seven meetings were NCAA Tournament affairs with all but one -- in 2010 -- resulting in a one-goal decision.

This game is going to kick major ass if the recent series history holds.

What's Your Deal?

Johns Hopkins
NCAA Tournament First Round: Beat (8) Virginia, 14-8
NCAA Tournament Championships: Nine (Last: 2007)
NCAA Tournament Record: 68-32 (68.0%)
Best 2014 Wins: Ohio State (10-9); Princeton (15-9); Albany (13-8); Maryland (11-6); Virginia (14-8)

Duke
NCAA Tournament First Round: Beat Air Force, 20-9
NCAA Tournament Championships: Two (Last: 2013)
NCAA Tournament Record: 29-15 (65.91%)
Best 2014 Wins: Denver (14-10); Pennsylvania (9-6); North Carolina (9-8); Syracuse (21-7); Harvard (17-11); Notre Dame (15-7); Virginia (17-8); Air Force (20-9)

Truncated Tempo-Free Profiles

JOHNS HOPKINS v. DUKE (AS OF MAY 14, 2014)
METRIC JOHNS HOPKINS DUKE
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 35.03 (16) 38.56 (6)
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 23.92 (2) 27.45 (13)
Possession Margin per 60 Minutes of Play +2.96 (13) +6.47 (2)
Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 79.69% (6) 81.07% (4)
Downloadable Tempo-Free Profile (.pdf) Johns Hopkins Duke

It's Duke's strength against Hopkins' strength, and Hopkins' relative weakness against Duke's relative weakness (although it's a stretch to qualify the Devils' defense as a wart and the Jays' offense as a scar). What's going to be interesting about the meeting is whether: (1) Hopkins defense -- one of the best in the nation -- is able to withstand extra defensive opportunities against Duke and create a sufficient number of stops to slow down the Devils' offense; and (2) Duke's defense can limit the Jays' interior looks and drive down Hopkins' offensive efficiency, thereby mitigating any inefficiency that Duke feels on the offensive end of the field. Possession margin is a factor here, but the issue turns on how volume is approached and realized.

Two Things

  • The problem of dealing with Duke's offense isn't limited to understanding that the Devils have a dozen offensive weapons that could brutalize a fortified compound or that the team is disgustingly efficient or that there are a host of dead-eye shooters or that the team isn't afraid to share the bean and shred defenses to pieces or that the Devils haven't blinked despite seeing strong defenses or anything else that comes to mind when watching Duke surgically and sociopathically attempt to put 20 goals on the board. The biggest issue when dealing with Duke's offense is that the team gets a zillion opportunities to unleash these things on opposing defenses and the Devils don't make mistakes in generating these opportunities. The fact that the Blue Devils are able to create offensive volume and maximize those possessions creates the structure for Duke to crush souls. It's almost unfair how good the Devils are in that department:
    DUKE'S OFFENSIVE POSSESSION PROFILE (AS OF MAY 14, 2014)
    METRIC VALUE NT'L RANK
    Offensive Opportunities per 60 Minutes 37.80 1
    Estimated Functional Offensive Opportunities Ratio 94.40% 8
    Estimated Lost Functional Offensive Opportunities Ratio 34.93% 11
    Faceoff Percentage 58.58% 9
    Clearing Percentage 89.06% 10
    Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 38.57 7
    Let's be clear on this: (1) Duke plays more offensive opportunities per 60 minutes of play than any team in the nation, allowing its sixth-ranked offense to make the scoreboard blink at will; (2) A limitation of turnovers and maximization of clearing opportunities allows Duke to turn offensive opportunities into functional offensive possessions, ones that permit the Devils to buzz around the attack box; and (3) When in the attack box, Duke has done a superb job at not ending those possessions with turnovers. The Blue Devils' performance in this department feeds into the team's overall offensive ability, and that's what makes Duke so hard to stop.
  • The Jays -- as is Hopkins' desire -- do a great job at not only limiting shots but also limiting preferable ones. Johns Hopkins' defense is a model of limiting exposure to its keeper and allowing its keeper to make savable stops (having a strong presence in the cage hasn't hurt the Blue Jays either). The team's shooting profile illustrates this methodology:
    HOPKINS' DEFENSIVE SHOOTING PROFILE (AS OF MAY 14, 2014)
    METRIC VALUE NT'L RANK
    Shots per Defensive Opportunity 1.07 23
    Shots on Goal per Defensive Opportunity 0.60 18
    Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Defensive Opportunity 55.81% 11
    Raw Defensive Shooting Rate 24.03% 6
    Raw Defensive Shots on Goal Shooting Rate 43.06% 7
    Defensive Assist Rate 14.05 9
    Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 33.88 30
    Team Save Percentage 56.94% 7
    Arguably the most striking row in that table is Hopkins' defensive assist rate: Teams aren't generating helpers on goals against the Jays, the mark of a team that is not only winning its matchups but also limiting dangerous off-ball movement. This exacerbates the difficulty of scoring against Johns Hopkins as opponents aren't really taking all that many shots on goal. This is impressive in layered ways, a profile that implies static results from opposing offenses that struggle to challenge the Hopkins defense in important ways. This is a disciplined defense that forces opposing offenses into settling and pursuing an unlikely collapse from the Blue Jays' defense.