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Eulogizing the 2014 College Lacrosse Season: Furman

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Furman's first tour of duty is complete. How'd things go?

You spent the better part of four months meticulously dissecting the 2014 college lacrosse season. You shouldn't stop now because cold turkey is a bad way to go through life, man. College Crosse is providing decompression snapshots of all 67 teams and their 2014 campaigns, mostly because everything needs a proper burial.

VITAL SIGNS

FURMAN PALADINS
METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
2014 Record 1-12 (1-4, Atlantic Sun) N/A
2014 Winning Percentage 7.69% 65
2013 Record N/A N/A
2013 Winning Percentage N/A 54
2014 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 13.77% 63
2013 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation N/A N/A
Value Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation N/A N/A
National Rank Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation N/A N/A
2014 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 23.21 63
2013 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency N/A N/A
Value Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency N/A N/A
National Rank Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency N/A N/A
2014 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 40.62 65
2013 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency N/A N/A
Value Change in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency N/A N/A
National Rank Change in Defensive Efficiency N/A N/A
Downloadable Team Profile (.pdf)

"ATTA BOY!" FACT

The most important thing for Furman in 2014 was that the Paladins learned to get on and off the bus like a Division I program. That's more difficult than it sounds, making a 51-man roster at the start of the season -- only eight of which were not true or redshirt freshman -- operate as a unit participating in the highest level of college lacrosse. Furman accomplished that fairly well last season despite the team's struggles, earning a victory against VMI in conference play and showing some competitive streaks against Richmond, Mercer, and Jacksonville. Becoming something -- what that something is remains undefined, if only because the Paladins have existed for a nanosecond -- is important, and Furman took strides toward establishing itself as a functioning entity with purpose.

Outside of identifying the nuts and bolts of being a Division I program, something else stood out for the Paladins in 2014: The team maintained strong discipline around not taking penalties and doing a strong job at drawing infractions. By design or otherwise, Furman finished the year as the best team in the nation in penalty and extra-man margin:

FURMAN'S EXTRA-MAN POSTURE PROFILE
METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
Team Penalties per 100 Opportunities 4.72 7
Opponent Penalties per 100 Opportunities 7.25 8
Penalties Margin +2.53 1
Extra-Man Postures per 100 Offensive Opportunities 14.62 3
Man-Down Postures per 100 Defensive Opportunities 8.76 9
Extra-Man/Man-Down Postures Margin +5.86 1

Furman exhibited restraint in its play, not allowing its opponents have preferable opportunities to annihilate a leaky defense with the extra-attacker. There's indicia of discipline in this metric, a feature of play that often eludes teams that have a hard time generating victories. This is something to build from for the Paladins: There's inherent skill in drawing penalties and avoiding the commission of penalties. Granted, this is a highly-pointed area of strength that doesn't necessarily impact the outcome of games in significant ways, but Furman still managed to create circumstances that led to the results.

"YOU'RE GROUNDED UNTIL YOU QUALIFY FOR THE AARP!" FACT

The Paladins' out-of-conference schedule was hyper-aggressive this past spring. Ranked 33rd nationally in opponent adjusted Pythagorean win expectation, Furman played a slate that was well above that of a first-year program. The brutal nature of the schedule comes into focus in numerous ways: (1) The Paladins played five teams -- Lehigh, North Carolina, Air Force, Army, and Duke -- expected to win at least 65 percent of their games, balancing those nonconference games with only two teams -- Michigan and Georgetown -- expected to win fewer than 40 percent of their contests; (2) Against the five teams among the nation's strongest, Furman experienced nothing but losses, falling by an average of 11 goals and holding an average chance of victory -- in a log5 environment -- of only 5.46 percent; and (3) Against its weakest nonconference opponents, Furman experienced nothing but losses, falling by an average of about five goals and holding an average chance of victory -- in a log5 environment -- of only 23.20 percent.

I understand the concept of the hottest fire making the strongest steel, but Furman's approach to its nonconference schedule last spring was bonkers. It's unclear whether this idea of putting murderers all over Furman's nonconference schedule will pay dividends down the line (the idea that "You have to play the best to be the best!" is fraught with gaps in application), but one thing is clear: The Paladins took some big ol' beatings last spring that could have been avoided, potentially providing a more conducive atmosphere to grow.

THE DISTANT FUTURE

2015 probably doesn't look a lot different from 2014 for Furman, and that's okay. The number of underclassmen that will, once again, dot the Paladins' roster will require continued development of culture and talent. Wins aren't the primary concern for Furman at the moment; rather, the focus for the Paladins is creating some internal momentum that will give the program volition in 2016 and beyond. There's nothing easy about Division I lacrosse, and Furman is still finding its way through the landscape. There are cats to build around, but next year is still more about the Paladins developing their identity more than having victory parades.