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Maryland's Merciless Ball Valuation

The Terps believe in valuing possession and it's making things tough for their opponents.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland has done a lot of things well this season -- the team's soul-crushing defense has been the most notable aspect of the Terps' rush toward a 10-1 record and a presumed seeded position in the NCAA Tournament this coming May -- yet there's an area of play relative to Maryland's push toward the top of college lacrosse's hierarchy that hasn't earned much ink this season: The Terrapins are pretty maniacal at valuing the bean.

This feature of Maryland's profile -- one that helps increase the relevance of the Terps' large estimated possession margin per 60 minutes (Maryland is in the top five nationally in opportunities margin per 60 minutes) and sloth-like pace (the Terps are among the 16 slowest teams in the country) -- is a somewhat surprising facet of Maryland's overall volition. The Terrapins experienced a fairly conspicuous amount of turnover in the offseason yet Maryland is among the nation's best teams at valuing the ball with respect to a series of metrics that demonstrate a dedication to accomplishing the little things, parts of play that build into and help shape the big things. The following table illustrates a team that does not take micro-level elements for granted:

Estimated Lost Functional Offensive Opportunities Ratio 29.88% 2
Estimated Lost Functional Opportunities Margin Ratio +14.20% 1
Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 35.75 4
Turnover Margin +13.74 2
"Run of Play" Groundballs per 100 Opportunities 29.53 9
"Run of Play" Groundballs Margin +8.83 3
Clearing Rate 85.65% 35

The only thing that sticks out as less than exceptional in that table is the Terps' clearing rate: Stuck about a percentage point above the national average, Maryland has not done a great job at matriculating the ball from its defensive end into the green zone. This blemish on the team's otherwise pristine profile in the little things is not without issue: (1) Opponents are getting approximately 10 percent of their offensive opportunities from blown Maryland clears, additional chances that opponents desperately need to attack the Terps' angry defense; (2) Almost 59 percent of Maryland's offensive opportunities are coming from clearing postures (the 17th highest ratio in the nation), these postures contributing to the team's wide possession margin per 60 minutes; and (3) Considering the rate of efficiency the Terps' offense maintains at canning bean (Maryland's adjusted offensive efficiency value ranks 29th nationally and the Terrapins are shooting just 25.16 percent on a raw basis), the team's clearing rate is denying the Terrapins' offense important box opportunities to work and make the scoreboard blink.

Yet, the team's clearing issues are still in the shadow of incredible ball valuation: The Terps simply aren't ending functional offensive opportunities with turnovers, the team's rate helping Maryland to an almost inconceivable ratio margin in the same metric; the Terrapins may struggle at beating opposing goalkeepers, but the team isn't aiming a nuclear weapon directly at their face and pulling the trigger via turnovers; and Maryland has adopted a blue collar mentality around non-faceoff groundballs, collaring loose balls in the run of play at a rate that has led to one of the best margins in the country. Great teams tend to do the little things better than their opponents, and Maryland has accomplished that in important ways over the course of its first 11 games in its 2015 campaign.