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2014 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament Preview: Albany at (3) Loyola

The weekend's opener is going to be a show.

Winslow Townson

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

From 10,000 Feet

Date and Time: Saturday, May 10, 2014 at 12:00 ET
Location: Baltimore, M.D.
Winner Advances To Play?: The winner of Harvard-Notre Dame.
Television/Internet: ESPNU has the broadcast. ESPNU has the broadcasts. Also available on WatchESPN.
Game "Fun Factor": 6.98 ("Excellent")
log5 Victory Probabilities:

Loyola Albany Loyola // 66.81% Albany // 33.19%

Loyola is arguably the most balanced team in the nation; Albany is notably imbalanced between the team's offensive and defensive capabilities (although the Danes aren't totally and unredeemably wretched at the defensive end of the field). The difficulty for Albany against Loyola -- and this is what the probability calculation is considering (but it isn't the only consideration) -- isn't whether the Great Danes will be able to score against the Greyhounds' soul-crushing defense. Rather, Albany's biggest issue is whether the Danes' defense can limit the nation's second-best offense from unleashing a nuclear mushroom cloud around Riorden. There aren't a lot of teams that are built well to play the Danes, but the 'Hounds are one of those teams.

What's Your Deal?

NCAA Tournament Appearances: Six (Last: 2013)
NCAA Tournament Bid Type: Automatic Qualifier (America East)
Record: 11-5 (5-0, America East)
Combustibles: Thompson Trio (A, A, A) (155G, 115A); Blaze Riorden (G) (54.5 SV%)

NCAA Tournament Appearances: 20 (Last: 2013)
NCAA Tournament Bid Type: Automatic Qualifier (Patriot)
Record: 15-1 (8-0, Patriot)
Combustibles: Justin Ward (A) (16G, 53A); Nikko Pontrello (A) (50G, 12A); Joe Fletcher (D) (76GB, 28CT); Jack Runkel (G) (62.0 SV%)

Truncated Tempo-Free Profiles

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 40.81 (3) 41.30 (2)
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 27.95 (17) 25.04 (4)
Possession Margin per 60 Minutes of Play -0.87 (44) +3.48 (10)
Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 75.39% (7) 85.42% (1)
Downloadable Tempo-Free Profile (.pdf) Albany Loyola

Ridley is going to feature so much hot, barely-legal offense that brains will leak from ears. Not only are these two of the three best offenses in the nation, they are frighteningly willing to share the ball -- the Danes rank first nationally in offensive assists per 100 offensive opportunities; the 'Hounds rank third nationally in offensive assists per 100 offensive opportunities -- and are dead-eye shooters -- Loyola ranks eighth in raw offensive shooting rate; no team in the nation has a better raw offensive shooting percentage than Albany -- that are more than willing to embarrass opposing goalkeepers.

Two Things

  • Albany has played two elite teams -- teams with adjusted Pythagorean win expectation values north of 70 percent -- this season: Syracuse (a one-goal loss for the Great Danes) and Johns Hopkins (a nightmarish five-goal loss for Albany at Homewood Field). Of those two elite teams, however, only one -- Hopkins -- presented the Great Danes with the challenge of facing a body-crushing defense. Against the Jays -- a team ranked third in adjusted defensive efficiency -- Albany struggled to find their purpose, committing a rash of turnovers that limited the Danes to scoring on only around 20 percent of their offensive opportunities (Albany generally generates tallies on around 40 percent of their offensive opportunities). This is an issue against the 'Hounds: Loyola's defense is a sociopathic killer, yielding double-digit goals once in its last 14 games -- against Hopkins. The key for the Great Danes against this Loyola defense turns on how Lyle Thompson -- and the rest of Albany's offense -- attempts to generate and maximize Albany's offense in totem: The 'Hounds are first nationally in defensive assist rate, and the Danes are going to need to find ways to exploit and create off-ball movement that gets Albany into preferable shooting postures to try and create seams in an otherwise solid Loyola defense. The Great Danes struggled with that against Hopkins (in addition to their self-inflicted problems), and could face a similar issue against the 'Hounds.
  • There is a lot to like about Loyola, but on the scale of "Awesome Stuff that Loyola Does," none may be greater than this: The 'Hounds are disciplined and do the little things better than anyone:
    Penalties per 100 Opportunities 4.95 12
    Penalties Margin +1.17 14
    Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 34.25 3
    Unforced Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 16.76 4
    Opponent Caused Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 17.50 9
    Turnover Margin +9.07 6
    Team "Run of Play" Groundballs per 100 Opportunities 36.60 2
    "Run of Play" Groundballs Margin +11.46 2
    The team's turnover profile is ridiculous: Opponents can't dispossess the Greyhounds and Loyola has no desire to commit an unforced giveaway. This valuation of the ball has helped power the team's overall adjusted offensive efficiency output and, more importantly, makes Loyola a freakish animal that could fight -- and beat! -- the ManBearPig. And the Greyhounds aren't lazy when the bean is loose on the floor in run of play scenarios, dominating their opponents on groundballs and allowing the 'Hounds to maintain or generate possession. The little stuff doesn't always dictate outcomes, but Loyola hasn't taken any chances. These are intelligence and effort metrics, and the Greyhounds have virtually aced all of them this season.