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Eulogizing the 2014 College Lacrosse Season: Brown

The Bears broke a six-game losing streak to Princeton in 2014.

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

BROWN BEARS
METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
2014 Record 8-6 (2-4, Ivy) N/A
2014 Winning Percentage 57.14% 25
2013 Record 8-6 (2-4, Ivy) N/A
2013 Winning Percentage 57.14% 22
2014 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 46.69% 37
2013 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 55.71% 27
Value Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation -9.02% 52*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation -10* 53*
2014 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 29.33 45
2013 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 28.38 44
Value Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency +0.95 35*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency -1* 35*
2014 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 31.81 37
2013 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 24.88 7
Value Change in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency -6.93 61*
National Rank Change in Defensive Efficiency -29* 62*
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

2014 provided a special moment for the Bears: Brown beat Princeton for the first time since 2008, a year in which Bruno earned a 6-5 victory against the Tigers. From 2009 through the 2013 season, the Bears and Princeton met six times with Brown falling to the Tigers by an average of almost five goals. That's . . . that's having your stuff pushed in consistently and uncomfortably, a situation that is difficult to tolerate given that the opponent was a notch below the nation's hyper-elite. Exacerbated by the fact that Brown was a woeful 21-31 (40.38 percent) against Princeton prior to the teams' 2014 meeting, it becomes clear that the Bears' win against the Tigers meant something greater than a mere mark in the left-hand column of Bruno's Ivy League record.

With one-in-three odds to drop Princeton on their home turf (according to a log5 analysis), Brown managed to bend reality in their favor in a somewhat stunning -- at least at the time -- 11-10 win in late-March. The win ultimately failed to provide Bruno with a platform to the Ivy League Tournament (the Bears would only bag one other win -- home to Dartmouth -- in conference play), but it was a solid victory for a program that has averaged a 2-4 record in Ivy League play over its last four seasons. The circumstances of Brown's win against the Tigers are kind of impressive:

  • Brown never trailed against Princeton. Ever. Bruno tallied the game's first two goals -- the only buckets of the first period -- and forced the Tigers to play from behind the rest of the way.
  • The Bears built a five-goal lead against Princeton -- their largest of the game -- after Dylan Molloy rammed home an unassisted marker with 14:14 remaining in regulation. From that point on, Brown weathered a 5-1 run from Princeton, holding on for a one-goal win.
  • Jack Kelly -- who made 16 saves against the Tigers -- made seven big stops in the final period against Princeton's prolific offense (a unit that finished the year ranked seventh in adjusted offensive efficiency).
  • Princeton was more efficient than Brown in Providence -- Princeton's raw offensive efficiency was 32.26; Brown's raw offensive efficiency was 28.95 -- but the Bears were able to make up the efficiency gap by holding a plus-seven possession margin.

Bruno overachieved by about a game last spring, and the result against the Tigers may be the reason that Bruno finished 8-6 instead of 7-7.

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

There's something odd in Brown's statistical profile: The team had some bad margins in a handful of metrics. These aren't necessarily horrific things that make blood fall from the sky, but they are foundational blocks that build into bigger things that impact a team's expected ceiling. Winning in the Ivy League is already difficult, and having opponents outpace you in various metrics -- on a margin basis -- makes an already oppressive situation that much more painful to work through. Here's a look at some of Bruno's ugly margins:

MARGIN CALL
METRIC VALUE N'TL RANK
Turnover Margin -4.98 50
Run-of-Play Groundball Margin -0.21 33
Penalties Margin -0.21 41
Extra-Man/Man-Down Posture Margin -0.84 44
Estimated Lost Functional Opportunities Margin -2.20 59
Estimated Lost Functional Opportunities Margin Ratio -5.00% 51
Shots per Opportunity Margin -0.21 64
Shots on Goal per Opportunity Margin -0.12 57

So:

  • Opponents outshot Brown despite the fact that Bruno played in an almost two-possession advantage compared to their foes. The Bears' offensive and defensive shooting rates helped mute this situation, but it's still weird to see a team outshot -- on a per-possession basis -- despite holding a strong possession advantage.
  • Those estimated lost functional opportunities metrics -- box possessions lost -- are ugly. Valuing the ball in postures conducive to scoring and killing defensive box possessions are keys to generating victories due to the maximization of opportunities. Bruno wasn't good in that area of the game last season, struggling to tip the balance in the team's favor.
  • Turnovers, man. Penalties, man. Vacuuming groundballs in the run of play at only an average rate, man. The little things -- they impact the big things. Ivy-caliber talent should perform better in these metrics.

THE DISTANT FUTURE

Brown will lose eight seniors going into 2015, those cats constituting about 48 percent of the team's starts from last spring, including the Bears' primary faceoff specialist (Tommy Capone), the team's second-leading point-generator (Sam Hurster), and Bruno's defensive anchor (Phil Pierce). The transition for Lars Tiffany -- still an awesome Bond villain name -- should be fairly manageable, though: Six of the team's eight double-digit point-generators from 2014 return to College Hill; Jack Kelly will patrol the crease once again for the Bears; Will Swindell, Larken Kemp, and Alec Tulett got important experience on the defense end last season; and an 11-member freshman class -- featuring a handful of All-Americans -- should fill in some of Tiffany's blanks.

Brown has a gap to close on the upper reaches of the Ivy League, but making the conference's postseason tournament in 2015 isn't out of the question.