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2015 College Lacrosse Preview: The Second-Year Programs

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I remember when Boston University, Furman, Monmouth, and Richmond were *this* tall.

Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

The most important thing for Boston University, Furman, Monmouth, and Richmond last season was learning how to get on and off the bus like a Division I team. Wins and losses mattered, but they mattered only in the context of the following question: In the reality of college lacrosse, is the team performing at a baseline level of competence? Growth and development is painful, but foundational elements of program momentum are necessary cogs to creating a lacrosse machine.

Looking back at last season, Richmond put together a solid campaign while Boston University, Monmouth, and Furman slotted in behind the Spiders. None of these teams would be confused with high-major conference contenders, but most finished around the sweet spot of where new programs have found residence in recent seasons. Some of the detail here is both promising and expected:

BOSTON U/FURMAN/MONMOUTH/RICHMOND: FRESHMAN EFFORTS
METRIC BOSTON U. FURMAN MONMOUTH RICHMOND
Record 2-12 1-12 0-13 6-11
Adj. Offensive Efficiency 24.70 (59) 23.22 (63) 22.10 (64) 27.68 (53)
Adj. Defensive Efficiency 35.81 (58) 40.61 (65) 33.85 (49) 30.26 (30)
Adj. Pythagorean Win Expectation 22.75% (60) 13.79% (63) 15.01% (62) 35.69% (53)
Adjusted Underachieved/Overachieved -8.46% (56) -6.10% (51) -15.01% (63) -0.40% (31)
S.o.S.: Opponent Adj. Pythagorean Win Expectation 49.18% (37) 50.07% (33) 43.45% (57) 40.63% (61)

Between the four programs, Richmond had the best season of the bunch. The Spiders advanced to the NCAA Tournament as champions of the Atlantic Sun and finished with more wins -- both actual and expected -- than any other team that entered college lacrosse's highest level of play last season. The efforts of these four teams in 2014, however, are only an indication of what 2015 may hold for each program. Here's a short outlook on each program heading into their second campaigns at the Division I level:

BOSTON UNIVERSITY

Head Coach: Ryan Polley
Nickname: Terriers
Conference: Patriot
A Thing:

  • The little things were not pretty for the Terriers last season. First-year programs are often prone to struggling in certain metrics -- clearing, mitigating turnovers, vacuuming groundballs, etc. -- and Boston University was not immune from putting together efforts that reflect a need for growth in such areas of play:

    LITTLE THINGS, BIG ISSUES
    METRIC VALUE NT'L RANK
    Clearing Percentage 76.86% 66
    Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 61.77 67
    Turnover Margin -16.60 65
    Unforced Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 26.57 57
    Opponent Caused Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 35.20 66
    Team Run-of-Play Groundballs per 100 Opportunities 23.11 64
    Run-of-Play Groundball Margin -10.18 67
    With almost 60 percent of the Terriers' dates in 2015 coming against solid Patriot League competition and two non-conference games against Harvard and Duke, Boston University is looking to erase some of its problems in tiny aspects of play that can contribute to bigger picture performance points. An increased focus on clearing the bean can dramatically impact the team's overall offensive efficiency, and a stronger valuation of the ball in the offensive end can maximize opportunities to blow the ball past opposing keepers. A renewed industriousness in corralling loose balls in the run of play can either maintain possession or generate it, leveling the turnover playing field and bringing the Terriers in closer range to their opponents in the possession war. Boston University's achievement in these particular functions may help define the program's ceiling in an important second season on the Green Line.

FURMAN

Head Coach: Richie Meade
Nickname: Paladins
Conference: Southern
A Thing:

  • The Paladins played a brutal, unrelenting schedule in their first season of Division I lacrosse, and that includes five games against competition in a league that finished dead last in the nation in conference strength in 2014. Playing a slate rated 33rd nationally in average opponent adjusted Pythagorean win expectation is tough for an established program, never mind for one that didn't exist prior to embarking on its suicide mission. The Paladins will, once again, test their capacity for pain in 2015: Furman has dropped Army, Duke, Georgetown, and Michigan from their 2014 schedule for Canisius, Denver, and Mount St. Mary's, while still playing a nonconference schedule that features Air Force, Lehigh, and North Carolina. The team's slate has arguably come down a tick from last spring, but Furman is still running against a decidedly difficult schedule that features few decent non-Southern Conference opportunities for victory. Much as last season, the team's league slate potentially offers light relief: The team's average margin of defeat was about six goals lower per game against opponents participating in the Southern Conference in 2015 compared to the team's moments against nonconference competition. Even if Furman makes strides in 2015, though, the team's win total may not significantly change due to the look of the Paladins' schedule.

MONMOUTH

Head Coach: Brian Fisher
Nickname: Hawks
Conference: MAAC
A Thing:

  • Can Monmouth earn their first win as a Division I program in its first game of the 2015 season? The Hawks suffered through 13 consecutive losses last spring, an agonizing streak of defeats that marks the first time since 2011 that a program at college lacrosse's highest level of play failed to earn a victory. Luckily, the Hawks open up their sophomore campaign with Wagner, a team that Monmouth pushed to four overtimes last season before eventually putting a number in the right-hand column of their win-loss record. The Hawks should have a decent shot at bagging a kill on their home field against the Seahawks, but if Monmouth should fall, it gets a little dicey for Monmouth to earn a victory until the calendar turns to mid-March: Dates against UMBC, Rutgers, St. Joseph's, and Marist follow the Hawks' game against Wagner, and none of those games look likely to merit Monmouth more than learning experiences. Opening the program's reality with 18 straight losses isn't the kind of existence that makes greeting the sun an enjoyable experience, which is why coming correct against Wagner at the sunrise of the season so important for the Hawks. Monmouth was in three solid spots for victories in 2014 -- losses to Wagner, Canisius, and Lafayette were either opportunities for a toss-up win or an instance where the Hawks played above their heads and almost stole a win -- but ultimately lost all three games. The Hawks' history in those types of games could change right at the start of 2015 with a victory against the Seahawks.

RICHMOND

Head Coach: Dan Chemotti
Nickname: Spiders
Conference: Southern
A Thing:

  • Richmond entered Division I lacrosse with one of the strongest first-year efforts that the nation has seen going back to 2011 when Mercer made the jump to the cohort:

    "BEST" FIRST-YEAR PROGRAMS: 2011-2014
    METRIC MARQ ('13) MICH ('12) MERC ('11) RICH ('14)
    Record 5-8 1-13 0-12* 6-11
    Adj. Offensive Efficiency 28.07 (46) 24.39 (55) 15.37 (61) 27.68 (53)
    Adj. Defensive Efficiency 36.70 (57) 35.94 (55) 38.55 (60) 30.26 (30)
    Adj. Pythagorean Win Expectation 26.77% (55) 19.54% (59) 2.60% (61) 35.69% (53)
    Adjusted Underachieved/Overachieved +11.69% (4) -12.40% (52) -2.60% (61) -0.40% (31)
    S.o.S.: Opponent Adj. Pythagorean Win Expectation 49.64% (35) 50.23% (38) 41.05% (60) 40.63% (61)

    *Mercer earned one win against a non-Division I opponent in 2011.

    Pressure isn't necessarily on Richmond to take a major leap forward in 2015 after securing a trip to the NCAA Tournament last spring, but there is a level of expectations on the program that did not exist at this time last year: As the Class of 2014's flag bearer and one that completed a strong first season in Division I, the Spiders have a little bit of a tailwind pushing them into the coming spring. Richmond will be tested right out of the gate in 2015, though: A February filled with St. Joseph's, Rutgers, Marquette, and UMBC will press Richmond to find their purpose early, something difficult to achieve with only 17 games included in the program's record book. Exercising a level of caution is important with the Spiders -- they're still trying to understand balance as they careen around the room! -- but there is evidence that Richmond may be situated well to dovetail their nice first tour with a second of comparable value.