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Eulogizing the 2014 College Lacrosse Season: Detroit

A return to the NCAA Tournament wasn't happening for the Titans.

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

DETROIT TITANS
METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
2014 Record 6-8 (3-3, MAAC) N/A
2014 Winning Percentage 42.86% 40
2013 Record 5-10 (3-3, MAAC) N/A
2013 Winning Percentage 33.33% 48
2014 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 36.37% 51
2013 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 37.89% 47
Value Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation -1.52% 37*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation -4* 40*
2014 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 26.49 56
2013 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 25.24 56
Value Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency +1.25 33*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency +1* 30*
2014 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 29.75 27
2013 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 28.71 22
Value Change in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency -1.04 33*
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

The Internet computing machine is full of people that know things about certain things. One of those people that knows things about Detroit's lacrosse thing is Tim at Great Lax State. Rather than replicate the work of someone that knows something about this certain thing, I'll simply use Tim's words here:

The breakout star this year for Detroit was goalie Jason Weber. He missed three games to start the year thanks to disciplinary issues, but once he got back on the field, he was nothing short of dominant. He saved .642 of shots faced, to lead the NCAA by .020 (a large margin), and did so behind a defense that was pretty good, but probably not as good as those for other top keepers. He was a revelation from the first time he stepped foot on the field, and was just a freshman. The Titans’ goalkeeping is in good hands.

Detroit's goalkeeping profile from last spring is insane, and Tim notes something important about that performance: Detroit's defense was pretty good, but a solid argument can be made that it was the Titans' production from the crease really help drive the team's defensive effort into the heights of "Hey! That's not terrible!" The load that Weber -- and to a much lesser degree, Chris Kelly and Connor Flynn -- carried this past year for the Titans was impressive:

THERE IS NO SPOON
METRIC VALUE NT'L RANK
Shots per Defensive Opportunity 1.17 52
Shots on Goal per Defensive Opportunity 0.73 57
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Defensive Opportunity 61.86% 60
Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 45.36 1
Team Save Percentage 62.50% 1

That's doin' work. Under heavy fire from opponents -- with most of that fire on cage and requiring a stop -- Weber turned all kinds of crap aside, excelling in conditions that generally swamp goaltenders of a lesser quality. Maintaining the level of focus necessary to save so many shots -- and shots designed to create a challenge -- is impressive, and given the fact that Weber was months removed from wearing a high school letterman's jacket while winking at hot babes in the halls of A-wing, the Titans' effort from between the pipes is even more remarkable.

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

Again, from someone that knows something about a thing:

The name of the game is possession, and it’s a game that Detroit is not very good at. The Titans trotted out the No. 55 (of 67) faceoff unit, and the No. 63 clear. While they had an average ride, two bad units is a lot to cancel out, and they couldn’t do it. The faceoff specialists – especially Damien Hicks – seemed to show promise from game to game, but consistency there and better wing play are key.

Let's run some permutations on this relative to Detroit managing its possession deficit better while maintaining offensive and defensive efficiencies in line with what the program generated in 2014 in its -3.20 possession deficit (this analysis is going to turn entirely on increasing faceoff performance):

  • If the Titans played in a one-possession deficit, the team's adjusted Pythagorean win expectation would be 39.30 percent. That's about half an expected win more for Detroit in 2014.
  • If the Titans played in an even possession margin, the team's adjusted Pythagorean win expectation would be 41.30 percent. That's about one expected win more for Detroit in 2014.
  • If the Titans played in a one-possession advantage, the team's adjusted Pythagorean win expectation would be 42.86 percent. That's about one expected win more for Detroit in 2014.
  • If the Titans played in a three-possession advantage, the team's adjusted Pythagorean win expectation would be 45.49 percent. That's about one-and-a-half expected wins more for Detroit in 2014.

(A more sophisticated analysis obviously looks at the team's clearing rate and identifies the team's expected wins based on an increase in both possessions through faceoff wins and functional offensive possessions through successful clears. For the purpose of this essay, though, the above illustrates the relationship between the team's possession issues and its inefficiency at canning the bean, relying on volume to score and the impact it has on expected win rates when possession margin is both an advantage and disadvantage. Tim is correct though: A miserable clearing game impacted the team's offensive efficiency, especially when considered in concert with the team's proclivity for turnovers.)

THE DISTANT FUTURE

Tim has been driving the bus on this thing. May as well let him bring it home:

If the faceoffs and clear can just take the smallest steps toward average (something I’ve been predicting for a few years now), and the offense can become a little tighter with the ball, UDM can really turn some heads next year.