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Eulogizing the 2014 College Lacrosse Season: Delaware

Blue hens aren't actually a thing.

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.

VITAL SIGNS

DELAWARE BLUE HENS
METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
2014 Record 7-9 (1-4, THUNDERDOME!) N/A
2014 Winning Percentage 43.75% 39
2013 Record 5-10 (1-5, THUNDERDOME!) N/A
2013 Winning Percentage 33.33% 48
2014 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 46.85% 35
2013 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 39.06% 46
Value Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation +7.79% 16*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation +11* 8*
2014 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 31.11 34
2013 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 28.21 45
Value Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency +2.91 25*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency +11* 14*
2014 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 34.20 52
2013 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 32.82 45
Value Change in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency -1.38 40*
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.

"ATTA BOY!" FACT

When an offense takes important steps forward, the impetus for the unit's growth usually lies with a handful of seniors coming to the fore, utilizing their experience to create a final push in their last campaign. For Delaware, though, the Hens' offensive awakening in 2014 -- compared to the team's relative dreariness with the bean in 2013 -- was not attributable to a core of seniors surging at the apex of their careers. Rather, the Blue Hens leaned on one senior -- Dan Keane -- while getting double-digit point-generation from eight other players, four of which were juniors while four others were freshmen or sophomores. In function, Delaware's offensive development was attributable to fresh talent and cats that assumed new roles last spring, building a different kind of something that exceeded the team's offensive efficiency from a season ago.

Comparing the team's growth in various offensive metrics is interesting, especially considering the fact that this wasn't attributable to old lacrosse bags doing old lacrosse bag things:

YOUNG-ISH AND BETTER
METRIC 2013 VALUE 2013 NT'L RANK 2014 VALUE 2014 NT'L RANK
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 28.21 45 31.11 34
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Offensive Opportunity 61.57% 19 54.02% 59
Raw Offensive Shooting Rate 26.47% 39 27.29% 39
Raw Offensive Shots on Goal Shooting Rate 42.99% 47 50.52% 22
Offensive Assist Ratio 43.70% 61 56.85% 30
Offensive Assist Rate 12.37 57 17.33 36
Opponent Saves per 100 Offensive Opportunities 37.53 50 29.85 8
Opponent Save Percentage 57.01% 47 49.48% 22
Strength of Schedule: Opposing Defenses Faced 30.87 38 30.93 23

Had Delaware done a better job at ball valuation on the offensive end -- the team's turnover rate regressed between 2013 and 2014 -- the Blue Hens would have shown even stronger in the team's offensive efficiency improvement. Regardless of that, this was still a program that increased its offensive output from season to season, sharing the ball better than they did in 2013 and beating opposing keepers at a rate that far surpassed the team's effort one season prior. This wasn't massive, Earth-is-now-spinning-into-the-Sun change, but it was a growth that was special given the class constitution that created the combustion. This is potentially important for the Hens as they move toward 2015, potentially generating further transition and maturation in the coming spring.

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

Delaware was a pretty average team last season but was below average in terms of pure excitement. On the Fun Factor scale -- a stupid thing that measures a team's watchability based on certain metrics, including competitiveness, pace, and offensive punch -- Delaware ranks 48th nationally, toward the top of the bottom third of the nation. The primary culprits in the Blue Hens' low position on the scale are:

  • Pace: Delaware played only around 57 possessions per 60 minutes of play, a mark that ranked 61st nationally. A pragmatic tempo may have helped the Hens dictate the volition of games, but it made watching Delaware an effort in "C'mon!"
  • Competitiveness: A team can play slow and still be a joy to watch if that team is strong. Delaware, however, was an average team with a desire to deflate pace. The obvious contrast to the Hens is Denver: The Pioneers played about the same number of possessions per 60 minutes of play but ranked third in the Fun Factor scale, partly due to the fact that Denver ranked third in the country in adjusted Pythagorean win expectation.

Fans of Delaware likely don't care about any of this: The team improved its win-loss record between 2013 and 2014 and grew in important ways -- outside of record -- on the field between the two seasons. However, there is something to be said about excitement: It's awesome! Playing at one of the slowest tempos in the nation against a slate of opponents that was below average -- Delaware's schedule ranked 40th in strength of schedule as measured by the average adjusted Pythagorean win expectations of its opponents (48.32 percent) -- isn't something that makes an uninterested observer pull up the Hens' free Internet broadcasts of its home games. This isn't to imply that Delaware should change its style; rather, it's merely the recognition that the Hens' play last season wasn't filled with explosions and fire and all kinds of other fun stuff.

THE DISTANT FUTURE

1-4, 1-5, and 1-5: That's Delaware's THUNDERDOME! record the last three seasons. That's not -- from a high level -- the existence of Delaware in college lacrosse's most scarred league: Between 2002 and 2011, the Hens went 21-29 in the conference with an average finish of 2-3, finishing with a sub-.500 league record four times in nine seasons. Delaware's program is stronger than low-tier conference finishes in THUNDERDOME!, and while there is talent on the Blue Hens' roster conducive to making a move in 2015, it faces a difficult situation next spring: THUNDERDOME! will arguably become more deadly than it has ever been. The addition of Fairfield to a league that already consists of Towson, Hofstra, Drexel, and Massachusetts makes Delaware's emergence from the depths of the league all that more strenuous. Getting to the THUNDERDOME! Tournament allows for anything to happen, but the Hens need to get there first.