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Eulogizing the 2014 College Lacrosse Season: Canisius

Will Bon Jovi buy Canisius and move it to Toronto?

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

CANISIUS GOLDEN GRIFFINS
METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
2014 Record 7-8 (3-3, MAAC) N/A
2014 Winning Percentage 46.67% 36
2013 Record 3-10 (2-4, MAAC) N/A
2013 Winning Percentage 23.08% 54
2014 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 40.96% 46
2013 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 21.48% 58
Value Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation +19.47% 5*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation +12* 7*
2014 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 29.50 43
2013 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 24.87 58
Value Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency +4.63 12*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency +15* 11*
2014 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 33.78 48
2013 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 38.90 62
Value Change in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency +5.13 2*
National Rank Change in Defensive Efficiency +15* 10*
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

The Griffs pulled two monster upsets in 2014: The first came out in Colorado in Denver's annual four-team throwdown where Canisius dropped Air Force -- the eventual champions of the ECAC -- in a 7-6 squeaker; the second happened in late March when the Griffs traveled east on the New York State Thruway and absolutely stunned Albany -- a national quarterfinalist -- to the tune of a 14-10 triumph (the Danes had, leading up to that game, beaten Harvard, Massachusetts, and Penn State in three of its four March games before facing Canisius). These results were bonkers, mostly because the Griffins were such decided underdogs in both contests. Math -- that angry thing that makes blood leak out of your eyes -- confirms the fact that Canisius pulled two major upsets in 2014, tied for the most in the nation with VMI:

"HI, I'M HERE TO RUIN YOUR SOUL"
OPPONENT RESULT LOG5 LOG5 UPSET RANK LAXPOWER PRED. GOAL DIFF. LAXPOWER UPSET RANK
Air Force 7-6 (W) 26.62% 7 -3 9
Albany 14-10 (W) 17.91% 4 -7 2

That's straight up sorcery. To assume the position of a 'dog -- twice! -- and yank victories from vastly superior opponents is something that results in people whispering in hushed tones about what was witnessed but never actually confirmed. Not only did the Griffs absorb shots from two of the country's better teams, but they washed one in endless pain (Canisius never trailed Albany and scored on almost 40 percent of their offensive opportunities) and disrupted reality in another (in altitude -- the Falcons' domain -- the Griffs went punch-for-punch with Air Force, using a two-goal push over a 1:30 stretch late in the third period to open up a 5-5 deadlock and give Canisius the final tallies they would need to secure the win).

The computing machine was able to accurately anticipate around 87 percent of the Griffs' games from 2014, but these two results were delivered from outer space on an interstellar ship named The Crazypants Express. This is what happens when opportunity meets madness, and it's exactly why Division I lacrosse is rapidly becoming a leveraged field where disadvantaged teams can make something special happen.

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

Canisius was odd in "true road games" -- non-tournament or non-neutral site games -- last season. The team's aggregate goal differential on the road last spring was -24, an average margin of defeat of three goals. Now, the team's road schedule was more difficult than its home and neutral slate -- the average adjusted Pythagorean win expectation of teams that the Griffs' faced on the road was 54.17 percent, much higher than the team's overall strength of schedule in the same metric (44.71 percent) -- but that doesn't erase the fact that Canisius went a dismal 3-5 when getting on a bus or an airplane (and that record includes the Griffins' insane victory against Albany).

What's especially concerning about the team's performance in these road games last year was that Canisius was in a toss-up scenario against three opponents -- Quinnipiac, Binghamton, and Marist -- and went 1-2 in those contests, aggregating a -9 goal differential and an average margin defeat of three goals. These games all occurred at the latter stages of the team's season where wins were precious and the Griffs should have been playing their strongest -- and most consistent -- ball of the year. However, Canisius managed to assert its presence in only one game -- the win against the Bobcats -- while underperforming in notable ways against the Bearcats and Red Foxes. The impact of home field advantage is slippery and arguably isn't as important as many believe it is, but going into three situations where Canisius was as competitive as their opponents and fell by an average of three buckets is kind of icky, especially considering that the average home field advantage in 2014 was right around a goal.

The Griffs get credit for pulling two gigantic upsets last spring, but Canisius also gets dinged a bit for their overall performance on the road in non-neutral and non-tournament games. There are always two sides to the coin, and Canisius exhibited that in an odd way in their most recent campaign.

THE DISTANT FUTURE

The Griffs showed massive improvement between 2013 and 2014, one of the most notable growths in development among Division I programs. The team will lose four seniors going into 2015 -- including D.J. Giacobbo and Kevin Collins, captains for the program last year -- but return all kinds of important assets for next spring: Almost 89 percent of the team's starts return from last season; the team's entire crop of All-MAAC performers from 2014 -- Tim Edwards, Adam Donner, Jeff Edwards, and Lewis Vaccaro -- will dot the roster in 2015; all seven of the team's double-digit point-generators still have eligibility next year; stability exists in the cage and at the face-off dot; and the team -- based on its 2014 roster -- will have 11 seniors to navigate the program through turbulent MAAC seas.

If the Griffs can continue to improve going into the coming spring, not only does a MAAC Tournament appearance look likely, but Canisius could be in a position to make their third NCAA Tournament appearance. The MAAC is a volatile concoction of unrest, but if the Griffs can find a few more sparks of persistent aptitude, Canisius could be in a position to take a step forward.