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Eulogizing the 2014 College Lacrosse Season: Binghamton

Bingo is often lost in the Cornell-Syracuse vortex in Upstate New York, but the Bearcats did some nice things last year.

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

BINGHAMTON BEARCATS
METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
2014 Record 7-8 (4-1, America East) N/A
2014 Winning Percentage 46.67% 36
2013 Record 5-9 (1-4, America East) N/A
2013 Winning Percentage 35.71% 47
2014 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 43.03% 42
2013 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 21.63% 57
Value Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation +7.39% 17*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation +8* 14*
2014 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 31.98 29
2013 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 27.80 47
Value Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency +4.17 15*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency +18* 6*
2014 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 35.66 57
2013 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 31.82 37
Value Change in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency -3.84 54*
National Rank Change in Defensive Efficiency -18* 55*
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

Playing with a deflated pace -- and Binghamton did in 2014, playing around 56 possessions per 60 minutes of play (the second lowest mark in the country) -- can create issues if team's aren't careful. Deflating the tempo of a game allows teams to play close, but if that pace is wrapped in blown functional opportunities, a suffocated pace can exacerbate difficult circumstances to find success. The Bearcats, however, were able to deflate pace last spring and value their functional possessions more than their opponents, an important feature to the Bearcats' season that helped the team to its best raw record since 2011.

On an estimated basis, there were few teams in the nation that were as strong as Binghamton at not pitching away their functional offensive opportunities -- box possessions -- compared to the rate at which their opponents performed in the inverse. This facet to the Bearcats' play helped Binghamton play at the pace that they desired while also making a small possession margin advantage -- about a possession a game (26th nationally) -- seem more drastic than it actually was:

YOU FANCY, HUH?
METRIC VALUE NT'L RANK
Estimated Functional Offensive Opportunities Ratio 94.39% 9
Estimated Functional Defensive Opportunities Ratio 96.14% 66
Estimated Lost Functional Offensive Opportunities Ratio 38.86% 27
Estimated Lost Functional Defensive Opportunities Ratio 48.24% 4
Estimated Lost Functional Opportunities Margin Ratio 9.38% 3

The raw margin in lost functional offensive and defensive opportunities -- just over two possessions (sixth nationally) -- netted the Bearcats about a two goal swing on the scoreboard on a 60-minute basis. That may not look like a big advantage, but considering that Binghamton's strength lied on the offensive end of the field and its relative weakness sat with the defense, the Bearcats' care in offensive box possessions and the team's ability to force opponents into pitching away box possessions with giveaways provided Binghamton with game volition that allowed the team to play at its preferred pace without self-inflicted explosions.

This, at least from a high level, illustrates a competence that is often lacking from non-legacy programs. Binghamton's improvement in this particular area of performance -- the Bearcats ranked 37th nationally in 2013 in estimated lost functional opportunities margin ratio (-1.98 percent) -- is arguably a major factor in Binghamton's growth from 2013 to 2014. This is definitely a hidden aspect to play that is implied but rarely addressed directly, but the Bearcats made some cash in this department last spring.

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

This isn't exactly a nun-rapping-knuckles-with-rulers fact, but it is something that stood out about Binghamton last season: The Bearcats played seven games last year -- about 47 percent of Bingo's total games -- that finished with one- or two-goal margins. The breakdown of these games were weird:

PLAY SLOW AND THE SCOREBOARD STAYS TIGHT
OPPONENT RESULT LOG5
at Sacred Heart 8-6 (W) 57.76%
at Hobart 11-10 (OT) (W) 54.99%
Delaware 9-10 (L) 46.15%
Colgate 9-10 (L) 45.73%
Air Force 8-10 (L) 28.32%
Hartford 11-10 (W) 50.50%
Syracuse 8-10 (L) 25.15%

Some quick notes on that table:

  • Binghamton went 3-4 in these games. As a favorite, the team was 1-0. As an underdog, the team was 0-2. In toss-up games, the Bearcats were -- appropriately -- 2-2. The team's aggregate goal margin in these games was -2 and the team's average margin of defeat was less than a third of a goal.
  • In toss-up games specifically, the Bearcats were even with their opponents in goal aggregate (all wins and losses were by a total of a goal). This is where math stands up and screams "I told you!" at people that believe that math doesn't exist.
  • Six of the seven games came in a six-game stretch of consecutive one- and two-goal results. This stretch took almost exactly one month, starting on March 1st in Geneva and ending on April 2nd in Syracuse.
  • The game-winning goal in four games -- Delaware (0:00), Colgate (3:33), Air Force (2:38), and Hartford (3:16) -- came with less than four minutes remaining in regulation. That's a lot of late-game stuff.

I don't know what any of that means, other than that the Bearcats played a bunch of close games (partly due to the fact that Binghamton's pace was glacial). These things happen, I guess. Whatever.

THE DISTANT FUTURE

The graduations of Matt Springer, Michael Antinozzi, Kelly Donigan, and Brandon Planck means that Binghamton is replacing over half of their goals from 2014, almost a third of their helpers, 44 percent of their total points, and over half of the shots that the team took last season. That's a gap in production that the Bearcats will need to fill, seniors that helped buoy the team's offensive hopes while shouldering a heavy usage load. Tucker Nelson and Paul O'Donnell should provide transitory stability, but there is still a lot of pop that has left Vestal. On the defensive end, Binghamton loses Greg Cove, Shawn Needham, Garrett Augustyn, and Max Schefler to the dreaded scourge of graduation. Those four cats were major contributors to the Bearcats' defense in 2014, with all four earning All-America East honors at the end of the season.

The short of the long is this: Scott Nelson may need to turn in another Coach of the Year performance to keep Binghamton on the same level it achieved last year. Transitioning from what the Bearcats were to what the Bearcats can become is going to require some serious effort. The America East will not provide an impossible road to Valhalla, but it isn't going to be a can of corn.