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2015 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament Preview: Johns Hopkins at (2) Syracuse

Can Johns Hopkins beat Syracuse for the first time since 2012?

Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Everything that's worth knowing about Johns Hopkins-Syracuse in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Tournament.

From 10,000 Feet

Date and Time: Sunday, May 17, 2015 at 12:00 PM (ET)
Location: Annapolis, Maryland (Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium)
Winner Advances To Play?: The winner of Maryland-North Carolina
Television/Internet: ESPNU/WatchESPN; Eamon McAnaney, Quint Kessenich, and Paul Carcaterra have the call
Game "Fun Factor": 4.58 ("Very Good")
Bradley-Terry Victory Probability on Massey Power Ratings:

(2) Syracuse Johns Hopkins Syracuse // 55.12% Johns Hopkins // 44.88%

Johns Hopkins played its best game of the 2015 season against Virginia at Klockner Stadium last weekend, but the lacrosse computing machine is still only giving the Blue Jays around a two-in-five chance to drop the Orange in Annapolis, the predicted goal differential in the game hovering around plus-three in Syracuse's favor. These aren't terrible odds, especially at this stage of the season where an exceptional performance in a single-elimination format tends to shrink the spectrum, but the Orange are still holding an advantage over the Blue Jays in a huge spot for both programs.

What's Your Deal?

NCAA Tournament First Round: Beat Marist, 20-8
NCAA Tournament Championships: 11*
NCAA Tournament Record: 63-20 (75.9%)
Best 2015 Wins: Cornell (14-6); Virginia (15-9); Johns Hopkins (13-10); Duke (19-7); Albany (17-12); v. North Carolina (9-8); v. Duke (15-14)

Johns Hopkins
NCAA Tournament First Round: Beat (7) Virginia, 19-7
NCAA Tournament Championships: Nine
NCAA Tournament Record: 68-33 (67.3%)
Best 2015 Wins: at Maryland (15-12); v. Ohio State (13-6); at Virginia (19-7)

Truncated Scouting Reports

Estimated Pace 62.70 (38) 66.10 (19)
Estimated Opportunities per 60 Minutes Margin +1.36 (23) +9.35 (2)
Estimated Lost Functional Opportunities Margin Ratio +3.71% (22) +6.39% (10)
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 40.24 (6) 41.05 (4)
Shots per Offensive Opportunity 1.21 (16) 1.14 (33)
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Offensive Opportunity 60.61% (21) 63.58% (8)
Offensive Shooting Rate 33.01% (9) 34.41% (6)
Offensive Assist Rate 24.86 (6) 22.85 (8)
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 30.48 (29) 27.56 (9)
Shots per Defensive Opportunity 0.73 (9) 0.72 (11)
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Defensive Opportunity 57.17% (19) 58.94% (36)
Defensive Shooting Rate 29.78% (39) 28.05% (33)
Defensive Assist Rate 17.10 (29) 17.06 (28)
Faceoff Percentage 53.94% (18) 66.34% (3)
Clearing Percentage 86.59% (27) 91.01% (3)
Turnover Margin +3.26 (27) +8.20 (7)
"Run of Play" Groundballs Margin -0.98 (40) +2.31 (18)
Penalties Margin +2.46 (4) +1.60 (8)
Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 29.98 (64) 35.51 (23)
Team Save Percentage 47.91% (58) 52.41% (31)

There isn't a drastic difference in the number of estimated possessions that Hopkins and Syracuse play on a 60-minute basis, but there is a notable differential in the estimated possession margin that each team has run with throughout the spring. This is important when viewed in the context of the relative qualities of each team's defensive sides: While Syracuse is yielding a high number of goals on a per game basis (the Orange's scoring defense value ranks 19th nationally), Syracuse isn't doing a bad job of killing defensive opportunities on a per possession basis; Johns Hopkins, contrastingly, is struggling to efficiently end its defensive possessions with stops and its scoring defense ranking aligns much more consistently with the rate that its defensive postures are closing with positive consequences. If the Orange are able to generate an advantage in possession margin, this could create an issue for the Jays: Assuming that (1) Syracuse plays at a conservative plus-three possession advantage, (2) there are approximately 64 possessions in the game, and (3) the teams make defensive stops at a rate that's consistent with each team's defensive performances against opponents ranked in the top 10 in adjusted offensive efficiency, Johns Hopkins would be expected to yield 11 goals to Syracuse while the Orange would only permit eight Hopkins goals to breach its net. If both teams were performing at the same defensive rate, the possession advantage -- considering only defensive output -- would merit Syracuse a net two-goal advantage (an extra goal deposited and an extra goal denied). Thus, from a high level, the comparative strength between Johns Hopkins and Syracuse earns the Orange a margin of error of about a goal in an atmosphere where Syracuse is able to exhibit a positive possession margin against the Jays.

Two Things

  • Despite Eric Schneider's solid performance in the cage for the Jays over his last three games, Schneider will need to deal with a different kind of animal against Syracuse. The Orange are exceptional at varying its points of attack, are unafraid of challenging opposing netminders, and finish an insane ratio of its total shots and shots on goal, residing among the nation's best in shooting accuracy. Virginia, Ohio State, and Penn State aren't exceptional offensive teams -- Virginia is the best of the bunch and the Cavaliers were almost as boneheaded with the bean as the Jays were at stifling any legitimate opportunities to make the scoreboard blink -- and aren't in Syracuse's area code when it comes to sharing the ball and finding twine. This is the ultimate fear for Johns Hopkins: Has Schneider's improved play been the function of opposing offenses failing to have the kind of capacity to burn the keeper, or is Schneider now performing like a goalie that is far stronger than a 48.54 save percentage? (The answer is probably in the dense grey surrounding both questions.) The Orange's offense is a handful for even the best netminders in the nation, and for one that has experienced an uneven 2015 season, Schneider's performance in oppressive circumstances should signal whether Hopkins has enough capacity in the crease to contend with a difficult and layered attack that remains relentless in its hyper efficiency.
  • There is little reason to believe that Johns Hopkins' offense is going to flee in terror when it meets Syracuse's defense in Annapolis. Against its three strongest defensive opponents this season -- Maryland, North Carolina, and Syracuse -- the Jays held an adjusted offensive efficiency value of north of 41 percent, in line with the team's adjusted offensive efficiency value for the entirety of the season. This isn't a Hopkins team that has inflated its offensive output against a run of glass jaws; instead, the Blue Jays have hammered the brick each and every time the team has taken the field, scoring at least 10 goals in 14 of its 16 games and shooting at a rate that stands in the top 10 nationally. It still feels awkward to identify Johns Hopkins as an elite offensive team given the team's history in recent seasons, but the data is there to support the position -- the Jays can generate markers as well as any team in the country and its the team's ability to create buckets that has buoyed the Blue Jays in a season of defensive questions. It's not a coincidence that Ryan Brown is bumping up on 60 goals in 2015 on 35.58 percent shooting or that Wells Stanwick is approaching 50 assists or that Shack Stanwick has an inconceivably balanced 44 points on 23 goals and 21 assists -- Johns Hopkins' system of putting its most productive players into positions to succeed heightens all aspects of the Jays' offense.