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Eulogizing the 2014 College Lacrosse Season: Robert Morris

The Colonials didn't make me feel feelings this past season.

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

 

ROBERT MORRIS COLONIALS
METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
2014 Record 5-9 (2-4, NEC) N/A
2014 Winning Percentage 35.71% 50
2013 Record 8-7 (3-2, NEC) N/A
2013 Winning Percentage 53.33% 25
2014 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 34.97% 55
2013 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 53.75% 29
Value Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation -18.78% 62*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation -25* 63*
2014 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 28.76 51
2013 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 33.68 15
Value Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency -4.92 60*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency -36* 62*
2014 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 31.20 35
2013 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 29.42 25
Value Change in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency -1.78 43*
National Rank Change in Defensive Efficiency -9* 50*
Downloadable Team Profile (.pdf)

*These ranking values consider only the programs that competed in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Accordingly, Boston University, Furman, Monmouth, and Richmond are not considered.

"ATTA BOY!" FACT

There are few teams that are more comfortable with than identity than Robert Morris. The Colonials are built to blur reality, moving at a pace that makes you wonder whether they've harnessed Earth's energy to somehow move within time and space with sophisticated technology that may allow them to eventual thwart the coming robot apocalypse. Coaches often claim that they play with Zoooooom!, but Drew McMinn is one of the few cats in the nation that consistently backs up his characterization: Bobby Mo plays with speed and verve and would rather lose limbs than lose that function of existence.

The best part of this identity is that the Colonials attempt to chug along in hyperdrive regardless of opponent:

 

GO!
METRIC VALUE NT'L RANK
Pace/Tempo 71.19 4
OPPONENT ESTIMATED POSSESSIONS/60 MIN.
Bellarmine 73
Detroit 69
Drexel 77
St. Joseph's 76
Siena 60.75
Hobart 65
Jacksonville 71
Mount St. Mary's 74
Sacred Heart 79
Maryland 63
Wagner 61
Notre Dame 73
Bryant 78
Michigan 77

Don't ever change who you are, Robert Morris. Keep mashing the accelerator while doing your best Chuck Yeager impression. Division I lacrosse needs more teams like the Colonials that are willing to streak the field and organically create pace and tempo. Bobby Mo is part of the Good Times Fun Club, a charter member that others should aspire to.

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

Robert Morris significantly regressed -- in the overall -- between 2013 and 2014. No team in Division I experienced a bigger drop in adjusted Pythagorean win expectation rank than Bobby Mo and only one team -- Mount St. Mary's -- went through a larger drop in adjusted Pythagorean win expectation value. The Colonials were on a completely different level this past spring compared to where the team was in 2013: Going from a team expected to finish the year a game over .500 (something Robert Morris achieved in 2013) to one that was expected to finish four games under .500 (something the Colonials suffered through in 2014), Bobby Mo adopted the feel of a program that was middle-of-the-road in the Northeast Conference rather than a dangerous weapon existing in the relative obscurity of its league. The team's dropoff in just one season was drastic, especially considering the momentum the program had been generating in recent seasons.

The most notable aspect of the team's regression from season-to-season was Robert Morris' offense moving from one of the more capable units in the nation to one that finished 2014 among the bottom quarter of the country in adjusted offensive efficiency (and that unit's regression was among the worst -- from a rank and value standpoint -- in all of Division I). The Colonials' offensive cratering in terms of efficiency -- the team scored at least 10 goals in seven of their 15 games last year, but actually scored on fewer than 30 percent of their offensive opportunities -- was the function of numerous factors, but one appears to stand most prominently: After absorbing the losses of Jake Hayes, Dave Morton, Tyler Digby, and Connor Martin (in 2013, this foursome accounted for around 37 percent of the team's total points, about 43 percent of the team's total shots, and almost half of the team's total goals), the team failed to pivot from those graduations and fill the void with similar production. Without the steadying forces of half of the team's double-digit point-generators from 2013, things kind of cratered around sophomores Eric Rankel, James Rahe, and Luke Laszkiewicz. JonPatrik Kealey had a nice freshman campaign with 30 points in 14 starts, but the core of talent that the team promoted in 2013 didn't echo in 2014, leaving the Colonials in a situation where its depth of contributions did not mirror the team's situation from a season prior.

These bullet point facts illustrate that point nicely:

  • In 2013, Robert Morris featured eight players that took at least 50 shots. That group accounted for 84.15 percent of the team's shot usage that season. In 2014, Robert Morris featured five players that took at least 50 shots. That group accounted 78.59 percent of the Colonials' shot usage last spring. The team simply had a more developed prism of an offense in 2013 than they did in 2014, spreading the load around to more offensive options.
  • In 2013, Robert Morris' top four players in terms of total shots taken shot 33.96 percent as a group; the team's eight players that took at least 50 shots shot 32.00 percent as a group. In 2014, Robert Morris' top five players in terms of total shots taken shot 24.02 percent as a group; the team's five players that took at least 50 shots shot 25.50 percent. Not only was the team's shot usage more concentrated in 2014 than it was in 2013, but that concentrated group of primary shot takers was less efficient -- from a raw shooting standpoint -- to the Colonials' leveraged group in 2013.

The shape and productivity of Bobby Mo's offensive changed in important ways in 2014, and that regression ultimately helped limit the team's ceiling from a win-expectation perspective.

THE DISTANT FUTURE

The Colonials are losing four notable assets going into the 2015 season -- Taylor Graves, Tyler Rankel, Brian Bohn, and Sean Meagher. All four of those now-graduated cats were contributors to the team's 2014 effort, appearing in a total of 54 games last season and making 40 combined starts. Filling Bohn's role in the crease could be difficult given the volume of minutes that Bohn played last season for Bobby Mo (even though his performance was pretty uneven in the cage). Rankel and Meagher are other big losses at the defensive end, players that the Colonials' have leaned on to dictate field play. The question about the Colonials, then, is whether the program is positioned well to transition from those losses and regain its status, something that failed to happen in 2014 when Robert Morris lost a dozen seniors (including a bunch of key offensive performers).

How Bobby Mo handles its 2015 reality without pieces from 2014 will dictate the team's push through next season. This is a manageable situation for the Colonials to overcome -- this isn't the apocalyptic scenario that Mount St. Mary's experienced between 2013 and 2014 -- and the key is whether the program's foundational assets find complementing pieces around them. The development of depth, in concert with role attribution and resolution, likely defines the scope of Robert Morris' campaign next spring.