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2015 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament Preview: Ohio State at (4) Denver

Can Ohio State replicate its regular season upset of Denver?

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Everything that's worth knowing about Ohio State-Denver in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Tournament.

From 10,000 Feet

Date and Time: Saturday, May 16, 2015 at 5:30 PM (ET)
Location: Denver, Colorado (Sports Authority Field at Mile High)
Winner Advances To Play?: The winner of Albany-Notre Dame
Television/Internet: ESPNU/WatchESPN; Mike Corey, Matt Ward, and Ryan Boyle have the call
Game "Fun Factor": 4.58 ("Fair")
Bradley-Terry Victory Probability on Massey Power Ratings:

VICTORY PROBABILITIES
HIGHER SEED LOWER SEED FAVORITE UNDERDOG
(4) Denver Ohio State Denver // 59.66% Ohio State // 40.34%

Ohio State is facing virtually the same odds the Buckeyes faced last weekend against Duke. This isn't to imply that Ohio State is destined to replicate its insanity from last week, but if Team Weird engages in another bonkers performance that pushes Brutus into Championship Weekend, the Buckeyes will have pulled off two huge upsets facing notable odds. The universe tends to even out over time -- Kim Kardashian's career arc is a notable exception -- and that probably isn't the best news for Ohio State, but the fact that the Buckeyes are in this position -- breaking through to the NCAA Tournament as a dicey at-large candidate and progressing to the national quarterfinals -- is more than enough to render the team's season a success.

What's Your Deal?

Denver
NCAA Tournament First Round: Beat Brown, 15-9
NCAA Tournament Championships: None
NCAA Tournament Record: 8-7 (53.3%)
Best 2015 Wins: v. Duke (17-13); Notre Dame (11-10 OT); Brown (15-9)

Ohio State
NCAA Tournament First Round: Beat (5) Duke, 16-11
NCAA Tournament Championships: None
NCAA Tournament Record: 3-4 (42.9%)
Best 2015 Wins: Denver (13-11); at Towson (7-6); Johns Hopkins (15-12); at Maryland (9-6); at Duke (16-11)

Truncated Scouting Reports

OHIO STATE-DENVER: TRUNCATED SCOUTING REPORT
METRIC OHIO STATE DENVER
Estimated Pace 59.32 (56) 56.96 (63)
Estimated Opportunities per 60 Minutes Margin +3.60 (7) +9.87 (1)
Estimated Lost Functional Opportunities Margin Ratio -5.81% (56) +7.71% (6)
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 31.29 (35) 42.78 (2)
Shots per Offensive Opportunity 1.04 (52) 1.17 (25)
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Offensive Opportunity 61.08% (17) 64.80% (4)
Offensive Shooting Rate 29.95% (21) 36.00% (3)
Offensive Assist Rate 16.73 (43) 25.79 (4)
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 29.16 (22) 33.14 (47)
Shots per Defensive Opportunity 0.64 (48) 0.76 (5)
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Defensive Opportunity 60.36% (45) 55.69% (8)
Defensive Shooting Rate 28.65% (39) 26.08% (16)
Defensive Assist Rate 14.91 (14) 20.95 (59)
Faceoff Percentage 57.75% (10) 68.97% (1)
Clearing Percentage 88.46% (11) 86.34% (29)
Turnover Margin -2.70 (47) +8.25 (6)
"Run of Play" Groundballs Margin -0.28 (34) +1.21 (24)
Penalties Margin +3.17 (2) +1.32 (12)
Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 34.99 (27) 40.05 (7)
Team Save Percentage 52.54% (29) 53.17% (25)

Tempo -- that beautiful thing that creates a blur in front of your eyeballs -- should be in short supply during Ohio State-Denver. Neither of these teams enjoys a hectic atmosphere, both playing fewer than 60 estimated opportunities per 60 minutes. This pragmatic style with clash with what Albany and Notre Dame will exhibit during the opener of the Denver doubleheader, and that may create feelings of unfulfilled expectations. It takes two willing teams to generate acceleration, and with Ohio State and Denver content to accomplish their tasks at their own velocity, end-to-end-to-end motion isn't likely to appear in Denver's thin air. The Buckeyes may desire this kind of environment of structure, but if the Pios are able to dominate possession margin, a deflated pace could provide a whipsaw effect for Brutus.

Two Things

  • The follow statement is lined with "No doink!" but it's important: If Ohio State doesn't value the ball, the Buckeyes are going to get into a ton of trouble. Brutus has had issues with limiting turnovers all spring, and the team's turnover rate ranks 41st nationally (the team's unforced turnover rate ranks 54th in Division I). This is a potential issue for the Buckeyes in three ways against Denver: (1) There aren't going to be a lot of total possessions in the game, and any opportunity to find twine that is lost via a giveaway robs the Buckeyes of a valuable opportunity to remain within striking distance of a superior opponent; (2) Denver could hold a notable possession margin advantage against the Buckeyes, decreasing Ohio State's margin for error given the rational difference between the two teams' opportunities; and (3) Denver's projected high offensive efficiency could create an imbalance in scoring output if Ohio State kills its offensive possessions with turnovers, the scoring rate differential exponentially increasing if the Buckeyes are in a possession deficit. If things go sideways for Brutus, it's likely because Ohio State aimed a nuclear weapon at its foot and pulled the trigger.
  • Here's the beat on Denver's offense: Highly efficient, scoring on almost 43 percent of its trips; despite playing at a deflated overall pace the team's estimated possession margin provides its offense with around 33 offensive opportunities per game, a mark that ranks 17th nationally; the team's clearing percentage isn't fantastic but the team's ratio of estimated functional offensive opportunities -- offensive possessions that find their way into the attack box -- is among the top 10 nationally at over 94 percent; the team rarely loses a functional offensive opportunity through a turnover, seeing an estimated 31.55 of their functional possessions killed through a giveaway (that ranks third nationally); and the team is heroically accurate with its shots, willing to share the ball and challenge opposing keepers and field defenses. This is Matt Brown's monster, a thing that exists in science fiction novels and conversations over beers in a parking lot 20 years into the future. Denver doesn't miss, and the Pioneers have a unique ability to create problems for their opponents without giving an inch of room to opposing defenses. This comparison probably epitomizes the work that the Pioneers' offense puts in: Denver's opponent save percentage is sixth nationally at 44.44 percent and the team's lost estimated functional opportunities margin ratio is 7.71 percent, sixth in Division I. The best way to stop the Pioneers' defense is to not play Denver.