Brown is getting all kinds of deserved attention for its combustible offense this season. The Bears -- under the direction of first-year offensive coordinator Sean Kirwan -- have scored fewer than 10 goals in a game only once this season and are averaging 15.60 buckets per game, the second highest mark in the nation (trailing only Albany's merciless tank that has a cannon strong enough to blow up the moon). The catalyst for Bruno's angry offense has been something that many Division I teams have avoided in recent seasons -- a desire to submerge opponents in offensive opportunities. As Matt DaSilva writes in Lacrosse Magazine, Brown's mentality is one of a serial killer that needs to find bodies to demolish in rapid succession:
If you haven't watched college lacrosse for the last 25 years, if the last time you paid attention to the game was during the 1980s, then the way Brown plays today might not stop you in your tracks.
"That is the way lacrosse is played," said Bears coach Lars Tiffany, who grew up in Lafayette, N.Y., under the influence of the nearby Onondaga Nation. "It's First Nations-inspired lacrosse."
Only it's happening in 2015, in the Ivy League, under the direction of a 25-year-old offensive coordinator and with the weight of the lacrosse world seemingly on every college coach's shoulders. It's not easy for Tiffany to bite his tongue after Brown commits a turnover or when his inner control freak wants to nurse a five-goal lead.
But it works.
With an up-tempo style derived from what assistant coach Sean Kirwan ran at Tufts, the Bears are 5-0 while averaging nearly 18 goals and 54 shots per game.
Fifty-seven minutes of go. Three minutes of no. That's Brown's philosophy.
"Inhibition has been abandoned," Tiffany said. "There's never a bad time."
Think of Brown's offense this way: It's easy to drink water out of a glass, and if someone tips the glass at a steep angle while you're trying to drink, you probably won't have your lungs flooded; if, however, you attempt to drink directly from a firehouse spitting out water at maximum capacity, you will be drenched, drowned, and dead. That's what the Bears are doing to opponents this season with its offense, leaning on offensive inundation rather than pragmatic efficiency.
Looking at Brown's offensive profile this season, Bruno does not stand out as an offensive juggernaut in many metrics: The team's adjusted offensive efficiency ranking is right around the middle of the nation and the team is shooting -- on a raw basis -- 29.83 percent, a mark that ranks 20th nationally (the team's raw offensive shots on goal shooting rate is much stronger at 52.88 percent, a value that ranks 11th nationally). This isn't a classic offense wherein a team makes the numbers on the scoreboard change through a surgeon's precision. Rather, Brown is using the power of volume to erase its offensive efficiency issues. The following table helps illustrate that fact:
|Estimated Offensive Opportunities per 60 Minutes||45.17||1|
|Estimated Offensive Opportunities per 60 Minutes Margin||+6.47||3|
|Estimated Functional Offensive Opportunities per 60 Minutes||42.09||1|
|Estimated Functional Opportunities Margin Ratio||93.17%||20|
|Estimated Lost Functional Opportunities Ratio||34.52%||15|
|Estimated Lost Functional Opportunities Margin Ratio||+8.09%||10|
No team in the country plays more offensive opportunities per 60 minutes on an estimated basis than Bruno. None. To provide context to this, Brown plays almost as many offensive possessions per 60 minutes on an estimated basis (45.17) as the slowest team in the nation -- Monmouth -- plays total offensive and defensive possessions per 60 minutes of play (53.10). Basically, Bruno is using a nuclear bomb to heat up its pizza rolls.
That volume has paid dividends for the Bears. If Brown was playing around 32 offensive opportunities per 60 minutes -- the estimated national average -- the Bears would only be putting about 11 goals per game on the board. That's about a five-goal difference per game based on a decrease of around 13 offensive opportunities per contest. Offensive production for Brown ties heavily to the team's ability to generate a buttload of offensive opportunities in a game in order to freak out the scoreboard the way the team has in 2015. Possessions matter in different ways for different teams, and Bruno's desire to create an insane number of offensive opportunities has masked the team's relative offensive inefficiency and permitted circumstances conducive to elevated goal output through heavy offensive opportunity quantities.
This creates lots of questions: What happens to Brown when teams attempt to possession-starve the Bears? What happens to Bruno when opponents fervently attempt to deflate tempo? What happens to Brown when the Bears face elite defenses that are capable of taking advantage of Bruno's non-elite efficiency? What happens to Brown if the Bears get sloppy with the bean and its ratio of lost functional offensive opportunities weakens? What happens to Bruno if the team is unable to dominate possession margin, thereby shrinking the team's ability to inflate its offensive opportunities? These are questions that opposing defensive coordinators will face and attempt to address as the season unfolds, but for the moment, Brown's system built around "GO!" has merited the team the kind of possessions it needs to dump buckets of beans in the net and outpace its opponents.