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2015 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament Preview: Albany at (1) Notre Dame

The weekend kicks off with a beauty.

Rob Carr/Getty Images

Everything that's worth knowing about Albany-Notre Dame in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Tournament.

From 10,000 Feet

Date and Time: Saturday, May 16, 2015 at 3:00 PM (ET)
Location: Denver, Colorado (Sports Authority Field at Mile High)
Winner Advances To Play?: The winner of Ohio State-Denver
Television/Internet: ESPNU/WatchESPN; Mike Corey, Matt Ward, and Ryan Boyle have the call
Game "Fun Factor": 7.78 ("Brain 'splosion")
Bradley-Terry Victory Probability on Massey Power Ratings:

(1) Notre Dame Albany Notre Dame // 51.88% Albany // 48.12%

This is the show that everyone wanted to see. It's kind of rare that the NCAA Tournament delivers exactly what's desired -- one-off games have a way of screwing things up -- but Mile High Stadium will feature arguably the most anticipated game of 2015, doing so at the sunrise of the quarterfinal round. This is essentially a tossup in the fabricated model utilized, and there's no reason to believe that Great Danes-Irish won't deliver. There are games that are must-watch and then there's Albany-Notre Dame, a game that could define the season even with the year's biggest moments still lingering on the horizon.

What's Your Deal?

Notre Dame
NCAA Tournament First Round: Beat Towson, 12-10
NCAA Tournament Championships: None
NCAA Tournament Record: 16-19 (45.7%)
Best 2015 Wins: at Virginia (11-9); Ohio State (9-0); Syracuse (13-12 2OT); Duke (15-10); North Carolina (15-14)

NCAA Tournament First Round: Beat (8) Cornell, 19-10
NCAA Tournament Championships: None
NCAA Tournament Record: 3-6 (33.3%)
Best 2015 Wins: Yale (12-11); at Cornell (19-10)

Truncated Scouting Reports

Estimated Pace 75.94 (4) 69.49 (9)
Estimated Opportunities per 60 Minutes Margin +1.83 (20) -0.31 (35)
Estimated Lost Functional Opportunities Margin Ratio +5.93% (12) +5.24% (15)
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 43.82 (1) 38.21 (9)
Shots per Offensive Opportunity 1.22 (13) 1.12 (36)
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Offensive Opportunity 65.46% (2) 61.49% (14)
Offensive Shooting Rate 36.89% (2) 34.38% (7)
Offensive Assist Rate 28.00 (2) 19.43 (19)
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 25.98 (6) 23.09 (2)
Shots per Defensive Opportunity 0.96 (4) 0.69 (24)
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Defensive Opportunity 61.28% (53) 56.37% (12)
Defensive Shooting Rate 27.37% (27) 25.70% (12)
Defensive Assist Rate 12.44 (3) 12.25 (2)
Faceoff Percentage 46.28% (43) 49.70% (33)
Clearing Percentage 89.52% (5) 84.85% (39)
Turnover Margin +8.71 (5) +7.31 (14)
"Run of Play" Groundballs Margin +9.22 (1) -0.66 (35)
Penalties Margin +1.76 (6) -0.11 (37)
Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 32.68 (40) 31.07 (54)
Team Save Percentage 55.33% (16) 54.41% (18)

There is so much balance between the two teams and that's what elevates Albany-Notre Dame into the stratosphere. Neither team is a possession margin monster and both have made their bones this spring with highly efficient offenses and defenses capable of suffocating opponents. Probably the most exciting aspect of the matchup is the pace that both the Irish and Danes lust to create: Notre Dame and Albany want around 70 possessions on a 60-minute basis, and when the teams are thrown together on the same field with circumstances conducive to accelerating reality, the Irish and Great Danes could really turn up the heat on each other, especially if the two teams pound the net at a towering rate. It's the combination of a distaste of pragmatism, offensive brilliance, an inability to dominate possession, and competent defenses that adequately complement their offensive counterparts that provides a kind of perfect confluence of substantive performance attributes that implies a special meeting between two exceptionally strong teams.

Two Things

  • Blaze Riorden was remarkable against Cornell at Schoellkpof Field, but he will be tested in unique ways against the Irish. The Great Danes aren't concerned with leaning on Riorden to make saves -- the team's defensive ratio of shots on goal to total shots per defensive opportunity is very high -- and Riorden has generally responded to such postures with an ability to turn away attempts in his save radius at a high rate. Yet, the Irish are both willing to challenge opposing goalkeepers with shots on cage and have converted their overall attempts at over 34 percent in 2015. This combination of alacrity in threatening keepers and launching the pill into the net with incredible accuracy could present a situation that Riorden has not had to face throughout most of Albany's season. The Great Danes have only faced a slate of opposing offenses that ranks 34th nationally, and in games in which Riorden has faced teams ranked in the top 10 nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency his save percentage has hovered around 42 percent. Notre Dame has the means to attack and attack and attack and vary the point of intrusion on a possession by possession basis, and Riorden is going to need to maintain his pivot and use his large frame to keep things at a manageable level at altitude. Albany's field defense factors into this as well, but Riorden's efficacy at producing stops is a non-neglible item going into Saturday's game.
  • It will be interesting to see whether Notre Dame can benefit from unforced turnovers from Albany. The Great Danes play loose and are willing to get aggressive, and the residue has been an unforced turnover rate that ranks right around the middle of the nation (over half of the Great Danes giveaways are unforced). Notre Dame's defense has excelled at witnessing its opponents pitch the ball into the seats in an unforced manner: Notre Dame ranks fourth nationally in defensive unforced turnover rate with about 55 percent of the Irish's opponent's turnovers not being caused. A high frequency of unforced turnovers from Albany would permit Notre Dame to run and build a possession advantage, limiting exposure to the Great Danes' exuberant offense and changing the volition of the contest. Not all giveaways are equal to all teams, especially when stylistic considerations come into play. Any lack of focus from Albany benefits the Irish in notable ways, and successful defensive opportunities ended through unforced Great Danes turnovers could bend the game in Notre Dame's favor.