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Eulogizing the 2014 College Lacrosse Season: Michigan

Michigan isn't all growed up . . . yet.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

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.


2014 Record 5-11 (1-3, ECAC) N/A
2014 Winning Percentage 31.25% 54
2013 Record 1-13 (0-7, ECAC) N/A
2013 Winning Percentage 7.14% 63
2014 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 37.80% 48
2013 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 16.35% 61
Value Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation +21.45% 3*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation +13* 5*
2014 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 29.65 41
2013 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 21.86 62
Value Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency +7.79 2*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency +21* 4*
2014 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 35.21 56
2013 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 34.06 49
Value Change in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency -1.15 34*
National Rank Change in Defensive Efficiency -5* 40*
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.


The development of Michigan's offense from 2013 to 2014 was drastic and impressive. Ryan Danehy seemed to find a focused presence from the unit he oversaw last spring, utilizing a handful of underclassmen (Ian King, Kyle Jackson, etc.) to complement upperclass knowns (Tom Paras, David McCormack, etc.). The progression the team took in its offensive efforts was among the nation's best in terms of raw comparison, climbing from the absolute depths of Division I output toward the upper reaches of the bottom third of the nation (that isn't a backhanded compliment; that's a major move for a program that has struggled to efficiently can the bean in its short existence). Looking at the team's offensive profile between the two seasons shows a program that recalibrated its offensive reality while playing a schedule featuring similar predators:

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 21.86 62 29.65 41
Shots per Offensive Opportunity 1.02 46 1.13 32
Shots on Goal per Offensive Opportunity 0.60 49 0.62 47
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Offensive Opportunity 58.92% 32 55.13% 54
Raw Offensive Shooting Rate 20.32% 60 24.80% 53
Raw Offensive Shots on Goal Shooting Rate 34.48% 61 44.99% 45
Offensive Assist Rate 10.11 60 12.99 56
Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 47.82 43 41.46 17
Opponent Saves per 100 Offensive Opportunities 39.31 52 34.16 36
Opponent Save Percentage 65.52% 61 55.01% 45
Strength of Schedule: Opposing Defenses Faced 29.12 7 29.75 4

This was a massive jump in production on the offensive end of the field for Michigan, especially considering that five of the team's eight double-digit point-generators were redshirt sophomores or lower. The Wolverines seemed to increase their output across metrics, uncorking their development on an unsuspecting nation. The team's five wins this past spring was notable, but it was the team's mammoth surge as a viable offensive product that stands as the most notable aspect of the Wolverines' season.


Michigan -- based on the team's adjusted Pythagorean win expectation value -- was expected to win six games in 2014 but ultimately finished the year with five. That's a bit of underachievement from a program that rattled some skulls last season, but it's less of a Randy Marsh-induced "Awwwww, goddammit!" than this fact: The Wolverines stalked two big kills last year but were unable to get the body in the bag. Cornell and Fairfield -- two of the nation's best 15 or so teams -- both made trips to Ann Arbor in 2014 and both managed to squeeze out one-goal victories with the Red's win coming in overtime. The Wolverines played above their own head in each game, erasing long odds to create circumstances conducive to a win:

Cornell 14-15 (OT) (L) 19.87%
Fairfield 8-9 (L) 22.15%

Michigan had less than a one-in-four chance to beat either the Big Red or Stags but found themselves in a reasonable position to drop superior competition thanks to a heroic overperformance on that particular day. Watching these opportunities to make a handful of statement wins evaporate is difficult, and the loss to Cornell -- which was in the early stages of a nine-game win streak to open their campaign -- was the hardest to witness: The Wolverines played relatively square with the Red all afternoon (Michigan's largest deficit in the contest was three goals, a disadvantage that the Wolverines quickly mitigated in a short two-goal surge late in the third period), pushing the game into overtime with 25 seconds remaining in regulation on a King man-up goal. Michigan would eventually fall to Cornell a mere 2:19 into the extra session after Matt Donovan popped his fifth goal of the game.

Chances like these don't come around often for programs that are early in their genesis. The Wolverines left two defining moments unfulfilled in a season where Michigan accomplished a lot of important things, and that leaves the streaking residue of "But if . . ." visible for at least a modicum of time.


There is a definite sense that Michigan has a plan of what it intends to become and the program is taking notable steps toward achieving its ultimate purpose. The Wolverines have approached their Division I existence a little different than other programs that have broken into the cohort in recent seasons, but Michigan is moving towards a position where the Wolverines are not only competitive but also dangerous. Talent is beginning to crop up in Ann Arbor, and the Wolverines are no longer in a gigantic capability gap compared to their opponents. The team's coaching is starting to impact the roster, and the results are more recognizable than the team's slow climb in winning percentage. Competing in the new Big Ten Conference is going to create challenges for the soon-to-be fourth-year program, but a solid foundation is in place for Michigan to exert some force on its competition.

It feels as if the Wolverines are on a collision course with something big, the variable at this point being how long it takes Michigan to make its sudden impact.