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2014 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament Preview: Drexel at (4) Pennsylvania

Philly is going to burn.


Everything that's worth knowing about Drexel-Pennsylvania in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

From 10,000 Feet

Date and Time: Sunday, May 11, 2014 at 3:00 ET
Location: Philadelphia, P.A.
Winner Advances To Play?: The winner of North Carolina-Denver.
Television/Internet: ESPNU has the broadcast. Also available on WatchESPN.
Game "Fun Factor": 3.53 ("Good")
log5 Victory Probabilities:

Pennsylvania Drexel Pennsylvania // 62.29% Drexel // 37.71%

Franklin Field is going to host this thing between two schools located a D battery toss away from each other. The Quakers are a strong favorite, although the team’s probability for victory decreases if significant weight is given to expected and actual possession margin activity (the above-probabilities are weighted for possession margin, but there are different ways to weight it). Pennsylvania is the stronger of the two teams due, in large part, to the fact that the Quakers’ defense ranks second nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. That elite defense is the primary driver behind the probability calculation.

What's Your Deal?

NCAA Tournament Appearances: One (First)
NCAA Tournament Bid Type: Automatic Qualifier (THUNDERDOME!)
Record: 12-4 (4-1, THUNDERDOME!)
Combustibles: Ben McIntosh (M) (43G, 16A); Cole Shafter (A) (35G, 16A); Will Gabrielsen (G) (53.5 SV%); Nick Saputo (FOGO) (63.2 FO%)

NCAA Tournament Appearances: 12 (Last: 2011)
NCAA Tournament Bid Type: Automatic Qualifier (Ivy)
Record: 11-5 (4-1, THUNDERDOME!)
Combustibles: Zack Losco (M) (25G, 13A); Brian Feeney (G) (55.3 SV%); Maxx Meyer (D) (34GB, 24CT); Nick Doktor (A) (20G, 18A)

Truncated Tempo-Free Profiles

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 33.42 (24) 30.99 (34)
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 31.93 (38) 23.40 (2)
Possession Margin per 60 Minutes of Play +4.25 (5) +0.50 (35)
Pythagorean Win Expectation 59.99% (25) 59.99% (25)
Downloadable Tempo-Free Profile (.pdf) Drexel Pennsylvania

Philadelphia is going to burn. Watching Drexel’s offense – potentially with a possession margin in its favor – attack Penn’s defense should be one of the better unit battles this coming weekend. The Dragons’ offense isn’t elite – it’s solid and anchored by a host of serious offensive weapons – but it is capable enough, with an appropriate volume of opportunities, to attack the Quakers’ defense. The issue is going to be whether Penn’s defense yields to Drexel’s offense: In nine games this season against seven opponents with an adjusted offensive efficiency value stronger than Drexel’s mark, the Quakers yielded 10 goals or more just four times (and Pennsylvania won two of those four games). Almost two-thirds of the Quakers’ schedule has come against teams with an offense ranked in the top 25 of the nation (including half of the top 10 in the country). Drexel is going to need to come correct against an angry and battle-hardened Pennsylvania defense.

Two Things

  • As good as Penn’s defense is, the Quakers’ offense looks like a demolition derby competitor – the radiator is leaking, the rear axle is dragging the car through the dirt, there are flames and a skull and crossbones painted on the hood, etc. -- but the thing gets the job done. Pennsylvania’s offense isn’t the epitome of fluid efficiency, and the team picks its spots – generally in one-on-one scenarios – to go to the cage and make an attempt to score (when the team isn’t busy turning the ball over), but there are glimpses of competency wrapped in bent sheet metal:
    Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 30.99 34
    Shots per Offensive Opportunity 1.03 56
    Shots on Goal per Offensive Opportunity 0.59 57
    Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Offensive Opportunity 57.20% 45
    Raw Offensive Shooting Rate 29.60% 19
    Saves per 100 Offensive Opportunities 28.34 4
    Opponent Save Percentage 48.25% 15
    Offensive Assist Rate 17.04 39
    Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 51.75 55
    Unforced Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 26.69 58
    Opponent Caused Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 25.05 19
    The Quakes’ biggest issue in terms of efficiency is the rate at which the team turns the ball over, especially the team’s unforced turnover rate (which is higher than the rate at which opponents dispossess Penn). The Quakers’ shooting metrics look strong, but it’s the rate at which Pennsylvania throws the ball into the seats that has slowed Penn’s offensive ceiling. This is the root cause to why the Quakers seem to win ugly a lot, and a greater valuation of the bean – potentially through a more pragmatic pace – could elevate Pennsylvania’s overall volition.
  • Drexel has played seven games this season – almost half of its schedule – in which the final margin on the scoreboard was two goals or less. The Dragons are 4-3 in those games, losing to Virginia, Villanova, and Hofstra while beating Delaware, Penn State, Towson, and Hofstra. It’s those four wins – all coming in the back half of the Dragons’ season – that is especially interesting: In two games (at Delaware and home to Towson in the THUNDERDOME! Tournament), Drexel was a favorite and came through with tight victories when the Dragons were expected to have a manageable run; in two games (home to Penn State and in the THUNDERDOME! Tournament against Hofstra), Drexel rose up in a toss-up game scenarios, securing wins by the closest margins possible. With respect to the Delaware and Towson games, the Blue Hens and Tigers are both expected to win 46 percent of their games or less this season under the adjusted Pythagorean win expectation. Drexel received a sharp challenge from both, but the Dragons survived knife fights -- THUNDERDOME! knife fights! -- and came out the other side cut but not bleeding from major arteries. This is either proof that the Dragons are invincible or very . . . vincible. The answer to that question -- one that surrounds a pretty good team -- is unclear.