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Eulogizing the 2014 College Lacrosse Season: Bucknell

The Bison weren't as strong as folks expected at the sunrise of the 2014 season.

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

BUCKNELL BISON
METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
2014 Record 7-8 (4-4, Patriot) N/A
2014 Winning Percentage 46.67% 36
2013 Record 12-4 (5-1, Patriot) N/A
2013 Winning Percentage 75.00% 6
2014 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 51.92% 29
2013 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 70.17% 14
Value Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation -18.25% 61*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation -15* 60*
2014 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 29.40 44
2013 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 32.71 16
Value Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency -3.31 55*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency -28* 60*
2014 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 27.67 12
2013 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 25.83 14
Value Change in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency -1.84 44*
National Rank Change in Defensive Efficiency +2* 27*
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

I am a card carrying member of the Frank Fedorjaka is an Insane American Hero Fan Club. Bucknell's infatuation with the 10-man ride and playing 110 yards of lacrosse remains one of the special aspects of Division I lacrosse. Coaches are generally disinclined to get aggressive, but Fedorjaka seemingly embraces creating chaos and working the entirety of the field to create circumstances conducive to success. The great thing about the Bison's style, though, is that Bucknell doesn't adopt it simply to adopt it. Rather, the Bison do their thing because it creates value for the team:

110 YARDS OF LACROSSE
METRIC VALUE NT'L RANK
Possessions per 60 Minutes Margin -1.79 49
Ride Percentage 24.14% 1
Percent of Offensive Opportunities from Opponent Failed Clears 13.24% 2
Estimated Functional Defensive Opportunities Ratio 87.48% 1

Let's try and put this into a little bit of context:

  • If Bucknell had ridden at the national average -- 13.96 percent -- the team's possessions per 60 minutes margin deficit would balloon to -3.58. Under Bucknell's adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency values, those additional 1.79 possessions per 60 minutes of play would give the Bison's opponents about an additional goal per 60 minutes of play (taking about half of a goal off the board for Bucknell and throwing a half of a goal in the direction of the Bison's opponents).
  • If Bucknell had ridden at the national average -- 13.96 percent -- the team's estimated functional defensive opportunities ratio rises to 91.98 percent, 43rd nationally. Those extra box possessions would have resulted in the Bison yielding about half a goal more per 60 minutes of play.

Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever change, Bucknell.

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

This is what I wrote about Bucknell's offensive potential going into the 2014 season:

While Bucknell isn't featuring offensive players that have their names splattered all over ESPN, the Herd's offensive unit is poised for some serious face-smashing this coming spring:

  • Of the team's double-digit point-generators in 2013, the Bison return all but one -- [Chase] Bailey. All other players in that group return, and those returnees accounted for 73.53 percent of the team's goals last year, 81 percent of the team's assists, 76.30 percent of the team's total points, and 74.52 percent of the team's shots. Basically, the core of the Bison's offense is wearing the blue and orange again in 2014, and that core drove Bucknell strong ranking (16th) in adjusted offensive efficiency a season ago.
  • There is nice balance between classes among this core (and between the midfield and attack): [Sean] Doyle, [Thomas] Flibotte, and Brock Ghelfi are sophomores, ripe with potential to make "The Leap"; [David] Dickson is a savvy junior, arguably the Bison's most important player and a dark horse Tewaaraton candidate; and [Todd] Heritage and Peter Burke are seniors, contributors that provide an experienced eye toward the game. This is exactly how consistent production is generated from year-to-year, the driving force behind the excitement around the Bison next spring.
  • Bucknell has all the pieces -- the distributor and power plant (Dickson), the noted goalie embarrasser with 20/20 vision (Heritage), the midfield savant (Flibotte), and the underclassman ready to step into the shoes of a graduated contributor (Doyle for Bailey). It's all there; the offense-o-meter is pointed toward "Destruction."

Whoops. Instead of eating the souls of opposing defenses, Bucknell's offense cratered between the 2013 and 2014 seasons, shockingly regressing at a rate that ranked among the nation's worst. It's still difficult to understand why the Bison's offense took the major step back that it did after having the potential to achieve so much, but the team's statistical profile doesn't lie: Bucknell was significantly less efficient in 2014 than it was in 2013, moving from a production effort that ranked in the top third in the nation to somewhere in the depths of the bottom third of the country. That's a bonkers drop in output, one that did not appear possible at the sunrise of the team's season last spring.

WHA' HAPPENED?!
METRIC 2013 VALUE 2013 NT'L RANK 2014 VALUE 2014 NT'L RANK
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 32.71 16 29.40 44
Shots per Offensive Opportunity 1.14 22 1.21 11
Shots on Goal per Offensive Opportunity 0.67 21 0.63 46
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Offensive Opportunity 59.03% 30 52.08% 65
Raw Offensive Shooting Rate 27.42% 30 22.92% 60
Raw Offensive Shots on Goal Shooting Rate 46.45% 35 44.00% 53
Assist Rate 18.38 23 14.71 53
Opponent Save Percentage 53.55% 35 56.00% 53
Strength of Schedule: Opposing Defenses Faced 29.39 12 29.78 5

In 2013, Bucknell was scoring on about a third of their offensive opportunities, dumping in around 11 goals per 60 minutes of play. In 2014, the Bison were only depositing about nine tallies per 60 minutes of play into the bank. The team's discovered inefficiency is incredible, one that limited the team's ceiling last spring and exacerbated an already difficult possession-generation situation that Bucknell faced.

THE DISTANT FUTURE

Almost 75 percent of Bucknell's starts from a season ago return to Lewisburg in 2015, losing three big cats -- Heritage, Peter Burke, and Jackson Place -- to graduation. All but two -- Heritage and Burke -- of the team's double-digit scorers will find a roster spot next season with the Bison while three of the team's four players that broke the 20-point barrier will still wear the orange and blue next spring. Ben Kellar, Mike Schiappa, Alex Spring, Evan Bernstein, and Sam Grinberg could form the core of the team's defense next year, with that quintet accounting for 46 starts last season (Spring, a long-stick midfielder, played in all 15 games last season for the Bison). Assuming Bucknell can put 2014 behind them and rediscover their purpose, there's enough circumstantial evidence kicking around that the Bison could press forward and recover from a somewhat disappointing campaign from a season ago.