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2015 ACC Lacrosse Tournament Preview

The ACC opens its tournament with Notre Dame in the pole position.

Rob Carr/Getty Images

Everything that's worth knowing about the ACC Tournament.


1. Notre Dame 4-0 Virginia, Syracuse, Duke, North Carolina None
2. North Carolina 3-1 Duke, Virginia, Syracuse Notre Dame
3. Syracuse 2-2 Virginia, Duke Notre Dame, North Carolina
4. Duke 1-3 Virginia Syracuse, North Carolina, Notre Dame

Times, Dates of Matchups

Friday, April 24, 2015 (Semifinals -- at PPL Park):

  • (4) Duke v. (1) Notre Dame: 5:30 PM (ET)
  • (3) Syracuse v. (2) North Carolina: 8:00 PM (ET)

Sunday, April 26, 2015 (Championship -- at PPL Park):

  • Semifinal I Winner v. Semifinal II Winner: 1:00 PM (ET)


ESPNU will carry both semifinal games as well as the championship game. All broadcasts will be live. The semifinals and title games will also be available on the WatchESPN app (the link for the first semifinal is here; the link for the second semifinal is here). The ACC-Penn Classic -- pitting Virginia and the Quakers against each other -- will be an ESPN3-only situation (the link for the sandwich game is here). The showcase game starts at 7:30 P.M. (ET) on Saturday.

League Tournament Spirit Animal

Something that is 50 percent human armed with a bowgun that shoots arrows with poisonous tips, 50 percent Kodiak bear that roars so loud that it shakes prey from trees, and 100 percent pissed off as it's built to kill whenever it's awake.

Conference Attribute Profile

Here's how the ACC compares to the rest of the nation:

ACC 79.32% 1 0.0802 1 79.64% 1

Truncated Scouting Reports

The stylistic profiles of the ACC Tournament's participants looks as follows:

Estimated Pace 68.25 (11) 70.36 (8) 67.58 (15) 67.79 (13)
Estimated Opportunities per 60 Minutes Margin +0.50 (30) +1.07 (26) +9.83 (2) +3.21 (12)
Estimated Lost Functional Opportunities Margin Ratio +6.36% (15) +8.87% (3) +8.80% (4) +4.10% (20)
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 38.95 (8) 42.55 (2) 41.66 (3) 41.47 (4)
Shots per Offensive Opportunity 1.11 (40) 1.25 (7) 1.14 (33) 1.29 (3)
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Offensive Opportunity 62.44% (12) 60.26 % (24) 64.07% (7) 62.97%(9)
Offensive Shooting Rate 35.75% (3) 33.65 % (9) 34.91% (5) 32.19% (13)
Offensive Assist Rate 21.04 (14) 26.00 (4) 23.31 (10) 23.54 (8)
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 22.71 (2) 26.53 (7) 27.16 (10) 31.26 (35)
Shots per Defensive Opportunity 1.06 (19) 1.12 (34) 1.13 (38) 1.15 (45)
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Defensive Opportunity 53.99% (5) 54.14% (6) 59.67% (39) 60.92% (51)
Defensive Shooting Rate 24.24% (6) 25.41% (14) 27.90% (33) 31.03% (57)
Defensive Assist Rate 12.57 (7) 16.91 (29) 15.63 (21) 21.02 (57)
Faceoff Percentage 50.00% (33) 49.11% (35) 67.76% (2) 55.26% (16)
Clearing Percentage 85.56% (36) 89.89% (5) 90.50% (4) 59.08% (9)
Turnover Margin +7.87 (13) +9.96 (5) +10.17 (4) +4.45 (24)
"Run of Play" Groundballs Margin -3.48 (58) +8.43 (3) +1.87 (21) +9.80 (2)
Penalties Margin -0.29 (42) -0.71 (48) +1.60 (9) -0.21 (38)
Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 31.58 (54) 32.16 (45) 35.94 (25) 34.51 (31)
Team Save Percentage 55.10% (18) 53.06% (32) 53.24% (30) 49.06% (51)

Three Things

  • The ACC Tournament may stand as the most offensively-inclined conference-sponsored postseason event in Division I. The four teams that will challenge for the league's automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament are all among the nation's strongest in three lightning-forged metrics -- efficiency, shooting rate, and assist rate. The ability of these offenses to embarrass opposing goalkeepers both with laser-sighted accuracy and a willingness to spread the wealth to create preferable scoring opportunities elevates not only the quality of the offensive assaults but also the effectiveness of the offensive possessions the teams generate. The confluence of these elite offenses with estimated tempo values well within the top third of the nation should -- even though tournament scenarios often feature deflated pace due to the dire nature of win-or-go-home circumstances -- create lifted goal totals at PPL Park, defensive considerations notwithstanding. There just isn't a two-round tournament at college lacrosse's highest level that can tout what the ACC has on the offensive end of the field in its four tournament participants: Half of the top 11 percent of Division I's offenses will collide in a soccer stadium outside of Philadelphia, leaving -- hopefully -- nothing in its wake but a scoreboard blinking toward singularity.
  • With such a prominent collection of offenses, it's not unreasonable to think about how these teams are generating their offensive opportunities. Teams generate offensive opportunities in different ways, and while faceoff proficiency is the most delineated of the methods, it is not the only method in which to create an offensive possession (despite the fact that it receives a heightened level of scrutiny). The following table illustrates that while these four teams are all exceptional at finding twine, they have generated their offensive opportunities in slightly different ways:
    Estimated Percentage of Offensive Opportunities from Faceoff Wins 37.46% (30) 38.80% (22) 48.02% (3) 46.48% (4)
    Estimated Percentage of Offensive Opportunities from Clearing Postures 51.87% (52) 53.40% (43) 46.62% (65) 47.89% (63)
    Estimated Percentage of Offensive Opportunities from Opponent Failed Clears 10.66% (10) 7.80% (42) 5.36% (64) 5.63% (62)
    This is interesting in a very specific context: In the semifinals, two teams that rely on faceoff victories to generate a chunk of offensive opportunities will face two teams that rely less on faceoff victories to generate offensive opportunities. This isn't necessarily a question of possession margin but rather the ratio of offensive opportunities earned through a particular aspect of play. (As an aside -- how will Notre Dame's furious ride impact the volition of the Irish's offense? The team's percentage of offensive opportunities coming from blown opponent clears is high and ties nicely to the team's 19.89 ride percentage (eighth nationally).)
  • Much of the ACC Tournament's purpose -- other than to send a team to the NCAA Tournament on an automatic basis -- is to increase the profiles of its participants for invitation to The Big Barbeque. The farcical nature of the ACC Tournament prior to 2014 has eroded since the league earned an auto-bid to the show, but the ACC Tournament still remains an RPI bonanza for teams permitted to throw hands below the Commodore Barry Bridge. Simply playing and losing in the semifinal round can be beneficial: As 75 percent of a team's RPI ranking is built on its opponents' records and its opponents' opponents' records, who a team plays can be more important that whether a team wins or loses. All four teams already have high RPI positions and exceptional RPI strength of schedule rankings, but the ACC Tournament should cement all four teams as protected concerns going into May (the only issue is how those concerns shake out in the selection committee's eyes). Duke could use a victory or two in the event as the Blue Devils are the only ACC Tournament team without four RPI top 10 wins, but even if Duke crashes out of PPL Park early, the Devils are still in an enviable NCAA Tournament position and should have its profile confirmed as such after the close of the weekend. As for Notre Dame, North Carolina, and Syracuse: Each is looking to make a move for the top NCAA Tournament seed, and this weekend marks the last big opportunity for each to do so.