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2015 College Lacrosse Preview: Colonial Outlook

The nation's most scarred league appears to be extra violent in 2015.

Plot

Max: Thunderdome. How do I get in there?

Aunty Entity: That's easy. Pick a fight!

* * * * *

Dr. Dealgood: Thunderdome's simple. Get to the weapons, use them any way you can. I know you won't break the rules, because there aren't any.

* * * * *

Aunty Entity: Remember where you are -- this is Thunderdome, and death is listening, and will take the first man that screams.

Exposition

Underlying background information -- team and league storylines -- that structures the plot.

TRUNCATED COLONIAL PROFILE: 2011-2014
METRIC VALUE N'TL RANK
Four-Year Average Conference Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation Value (Conference Strength) 56.30% 4
Four-Year Average Conference Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation Value Rank (Conference Strength) 3.75 4
Standard Deviation of League Members' Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation Values (Internal Competitiveness) 0.1055 2
Average Standard Deviation of League Members' Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation Value Rank (Internal Competitiveness) 2.75 2
THE COLONIAL: AVERAGE ADJUSTED PYTHAGOREAN WIN EXPECTATION VALUES AND NATIONAL RANKING OF MEMBERS: 2011-2014
TEAM AVG. APYTH. WIN EXP. NT'L RANK AVG. APYTH. WIN EXP. RANK NT'L RANK
Massachusetts 63.35% 18 19.25 17
Hofstra 62.77% 19 19.75 19
Drexel 61.12% 20 20.50 20
Fairfield 57.94% 23 24.75 24
Delaware 46.94% 37 37.00 37
Towson 45.67% 38 37.00 37

Delaware

  • There are questions about what kind of defensive team Delaware will be in 2015 (the Blue Hens finished 2014 ranked 52nd in adjusted defensive efficiency after facing a fairly soft schedule of opposing offenses), but there's one area of the team's defense where Bob Shillinglaw probably has a sense of calm and ease: Conor Peaks returns to anchor the Blue Hens in the cage after a sophomore season in which the keeper started all 16 games for Delaware and held a respectable 54.24 save percentage. The Hens leaned on Peaks a ton last spring and the netminder delivered: Yielding shots and shots on goal on a per possession basis that ranked right around or within the bottom 10 nationally, Delaware's team save percentage (53.99 percent) ranked in the top 20 nationally and the team's saves per 100 defensive possession value (38.76) ranked eighth in the country. That's a massive amount of responsibility that Peaks -- Peaks played over 93 percent of the Blue Hens' minutes last season -- shouldered in order to end or salvage defensive opportunities for the Hens. Peaks is a major factor in Delaware's defensive structure in 2015, and another strong season for the netminder could keep the Blue Hens' defensive prospects above water.

Drexel

  • The Dragons have had some prominent stones the last two years. Looking at the team's adjusted Pythagorean win expectation values in 2013 and 2014 and Drexel's actual winning percentage over those two seasons, the Dragons have been one of the most overachieving teams in the nation:
    DREXEL'S OVERACHIEVMENT: 2013 AND 2014
    METRIC '13 VALUE RANK '14 VALUE '14 RANK
    Actual Winning Percentage 73.33% 8 72.22% 9
    Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 57.29% 23 61.03% 23
    Overachieved/Underachieved +16.04% 2 +11.20% 6
    That isn't a knock on Drexel -- the Dragons have exhibited a degree of resolve that many teams just don't have in their tank. Drexel has won seven one-goal games over the last two seasons with four of those games in the range of toss-up dates against peer competition (two wins came with Drexel as a favorite and one game saw the Dragons cop a victory as an underdog). The end result is Drexel finishing with records about two wins stronger in 2013 and 2014 better than expected, solid if not spectacular ways to create momentum for a program that is often overlooked on the national landscape. In a year in which the Dragons will lose about half of its starts from last spring, Drexel's recent history of bending the universe in its direction will help define its ceiling.

Fairfield

  • The Stags are quietly poised to have one of the strongest offenses in the nation in 2015. The team returns five of its top six point producers from 2014, losing only Eric Warden to the scourge of graduation. Otherwise, the primary cogs of an offense able to bust skulls on Connecticut's Gold Coast are still around, that quintet forming the core of an effort that finished 2014 ranked 14th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency (35.62 goals per 100 offensive opportunities). The team's ability to annihilate the souls of opposing defenses last season was simply ridiculous:
    TARGET HOT; TARGET LOCKED
    METRIC VALUE NT'L RANK
    Shots per Offensive Opportunity 0.99 61
    Shots on Goal per Offensive Opportunity 0.64 44
    Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Offensive Opportunity 64.36% 3
    Raw Offensive Shooting Rate 36.86% 4
    Raw Offensive Shots on Goal Shooting Rate 57.28% 4
    Assist Rate 18.35 27
    Opponent Saves per 100 Offensive Opportunities 27.22 3
    Opponent Save Percentage 42.72% 4
    The Stags' offense should keep the team in every game it plays in 2015, and in a year in which Fairfield will play conference teams it has not seen on a year-in and year-out basis, the team's ability to make the scoreboard blink could shape the volition of THUNDERDOME! in 2015.

Hofstra

  • Teams that play at a deflated pace tend to play a ton of close games. Hofstra has not been immune from that: Over the last three seasons, the Pride have played 17 one-goal games (about 39 percent of Hofstra's games) and have played 30 games with the final result being at three goals or fewer (about 68 percent of Hofstra's total games). That's an impressive volume of games that end in the red zone, and the Pride have struggled to yank out victories in those games: The team is a combined 13-17 (43.33 percent) in three-goal results and is 5-12 (29.41 percent) in one-goal results, the only season in which the team was at least .500 in three- and one-goal games coming in 2014 (the program went 9-5 in three-goal games last season and was 3-3 in one-goal games in 2014). With little margin for error inherent in a pragmatic pace -- Hofstra has finished the year ranked 60th or below in possessions per 60 minutes of player over the last three seasons -- the Pride have felt the sharp edge of playing tight games. This is a continued focus for Hofstra as the 2015 unfolds.

Massachusetts

  • The Minutemen are going to have a different offensive look than they did last season. Three of the team's top seven point producers from last season have departed either through graduation or transfer, taking around 34 percent of the Minutemen's points from last season with them. Somewhat interestingly, though, the returning quartet of double-digit point generators for UMass accounted for 46.56 percent of the team's points last season, a fairly decent core of contributions that will transition into 2015. This core features two seniors and two sophomores, enough experience to steady an offensive approach that finished 2014 ranked 39th in adjusted offensive efficiency. The difficulty for this quartet, though, is that at least three contributors -- Grant Whiteway, Grant Consoletti, and Andrew Sokol -- will need to increase their production and efficiency to fill the voids of players that have departed Amherst, allowing other contributors to assume the position they held last year:
    MASSACHUSETTS' RETURNING QUARTET: PERCENTAGE OF OFFENSE IN 2014
    PLAYER GOALS ASSISTS POINTS SHOTS
    Nick Mariano 29 10 39 76
    % of Team 24.37% 14.29% 20.63% 16.96%
    Grant Whiteway 18 6 24 50
    % of Team 15.13% 8.57% 12.70% 11.16%
    Grant Consoletti 6 7 13 20
    % of Team 5.04% 10.00% 6.88% 4.46%
    Andrew Sokol 8 4 12 39
    % of Team 6.72% 5.71% 6.35% 8.71%

Towson

  • There is some real potential in Towson's offense this season. The Tigers had issues last spring in putting tallies on the board -- the team ranked just 39th in adjusted offensive efficiency -- and narrowly avoided having Penn State pitch a shutout against them, but 2015 provides a measure of hope: Four seniors -- Greg Cuccinello, Justin Mabus, Ben McCarty, and Andrew Hodgson -- are set to pace the midfield and a capable attack with sophomores Joe Seider and Ryan Drenner and senior Max Siskind constitute a septet of contributors with enough experience and pop to complement the team's defense. The issue around whether this offense can create lightning likely turns on two factors: (1) Can the Tigers generate enough offensive opportunities to allow this offense to run over opposing defenses with possession margin in their favor; and (2) If the Tigers play at a deflated pace (which has been the program's profile), will the offense exhibit enough efficiency to make the team's weapons all that more powerful. This isn't a glamorous offensive team, but if things fall in place for the Tigers, they could have enough to make sufficient combustion to upset the perceived pecking order in THUNDERDOME!

Argumentation

Four important conference games that will define the discussion.

  • GAME I: Fairfield at Drexel -- March 28

  • GAME II: Towson at Drexel -- April 25

  • GAME III: Hofstra at Fairfield -- April 24

  • GAME IV: Massachusetts at Hofstra -- March 21

Description

Illustrating the landscape of the universe.

THUNDERDOME! will likely feature five teams residing in the same national competitive tier, creating circumstances conducive for a Mexican standoff. This is the beautiful aspect of college lacrosse's most explosive league: Almost the entirety of the conference is locked in a firefight where the would-be assassins are all armed with the same quality and quantity of weapons. There are reasonable arguments that any of the conference's presumed top five teams could finish anywhere from first to fifth, mostly because there is such density in the league's performance attributes.

PREDICTED COLONIAL ORDER OF FINISH: 2015
RANK TEAM
1. Fairfield
2. Drexel
3. Towson
4. Hofstra
5. Massachusetts
6. Delaware

Two-ish tiers are likely to emerge in THUNDERDOME!: Tier I: The mess of Fairfield, Drexel, Towson, Hofstra, and Massachusetts, teams with top 20 potential and all within a nail gun's firing distance of each other; and Tier II: Delaware. Forming a subtier within Tier I is kind of pointless: Any potential positive is balanced with a potential negative, and the reality is that those are five teams with minor differences between their competitive ceilings, energy that is often released in uncontrolled ways once league play starts and the conference's postseason event takes shape. Trying to understand what will certainly devolve into anarchy is maddening and ultimately a fruitless effort.