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2015 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament Preview: (6) Maryland at (3) North Carolina

Can North Carolina avenge its regular season loss to Maryland?

Everything that's worth knowing about Maryland-North Carolina in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Tournament.

From 10,000 Feet

Date and Time: Sunday, May 17, 2015 at 2:30 PM (ET)
Location: Annapolis, Maryland (Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium)
Winner Advances To Play?: The winner of Johns Hopkins-Syracuse
Television/Internet: ESPNU/WatchESPN; Eamon McAnaney, Quint Kessenich, and Paul Carcaterra have the call
Game "Fun Factor": 4.82 ("Solid")
Bradley-Terry Victory Probability on Massey Power Ratings:

(3) North Carolina (6) Maryland North Carolina // 55.21% Maryland // 44.79%

This is the trickiness of a rematch: How consistent does a prior result hold on the continuum of a thousand meetings between the two teams? The Terps gave the Tar Heels their first loss in 2015 after bullying Carolina into the ground in a 10-8 triumph in California. Yet, North Carolina -- based on the entirety of each team's performances throughout the spring -- resides as a favorite -- a tight one, but a favorite nonetheless -- against its former conqueror. This is the inherent fear associated with rematches: The universe has a unique way of evening out over time, and the more times that teams meet, the more likely that sustained victory probabilities will influence win count.

What's Your Deal?

North Carolina
NCAA Tournament First Round: Beat Colgate, 19-12
NCAA Tournament Championships: Four
NCAA Tournament Record: 28-24 (53.9%)
Best 2015 Wins: Johns Hopkins (13-11); Denver (12-10); Duke (15-14); at Virginia (10-6); Syracuse (17-15)

NCAA Tournament First Round: Beat Yale, 8-7
NCAA Tournament Championships: Two
NCAA Tournament Record: 51-35 (59.3%)
Best 2015 Wins: v. North Carolina (10-8); at Ohio State (10-9); Yale (8-7)

Truncated Scouting Reports

Estimated Pace 57.51 (62) 70.38 (6)
Estimated Opportunities per 60 Minutes Margin +3.10 (12) +0.75 (27)
Estimated Lost Functional Opportunities Margin Ratio +10.94% (1) +9.24% (2)
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 33.08 (24) 42.70 (3)
Shots per Offensive Opportunity 1.27 (5) 1.25 (8)
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Offensive Opportunity 53.80% (61) 60.70% (19)
Offensive Shooting Rate 26.33% (50) 33.38% (8)
Offensive Assist Rate 14.93 (53) 25.83 (3)
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 22.70 (1) 26.25 (7)
Shots per Defensive Opportunity 1.04 (16) 1.11 (29)
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Defensive Opportunity 56.80% (15) 55.11% (6)
Defensive Shooting Rate 23.25% (2) 25.77% (13)
Defensive Assist Rate 13.21 (7) 17.41 (33)
Faceoff Percentage 52.48% (23) 49.22% (35)
Clearing Percentage 86.52% (28) 88.82% (9)
Turnover Margin +10.59 (2) +9.73 (3)
"Run of Play" Groundballs Margin +6.68 (4) +9.15 (2)
Penalties Margin +0.22 (27) -0.89 (53)
Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 34.85 (28) 32.50 (43)
Team Save Percentage 59.07% (4) 53.24% (24)

There aren't many analogies that seems to make sense when considering the stylistic profiles of North Carolina and Maryland. The Tar Heels and Terrapins are polar opposites in aesthetics: North Carolina only believes in the green light and Maryland exercises maximum caution. This is kind of like going into a room in an art gallery with Yves Klein's Blue Monochrome competing for your attention against a postmodern sculpture of a lumberjack with a maniacal grin using a chainsaw to open a can of soup. There should be no reason that these two things exist in the same time and space, and yet it is impossible to escape the contrast they exhibit. There isn't a stylistic dominance as much as there's a stylistic preference, and the dissonance that each promotes when in conflict creates an odd allure that shouldn't otherwise endure.

Two Things

  • Maryland isn't built to out-offense North Carolina, but that doesn't mean that the Terrapins are a frozen corpse going into their meeting with the Tar Heels. With a hyper efficient defense and an ability to build possession margin, the Terps have performance aspects that mitigate the team's offensive issues through the development of offensive volume. It's the latter of the two considerations that is especially important for Maryland: Without possession margin in the team's favor, the team's ability to generate markers at a volume to keep pace with elite offenses diminishes significantly. This has been a dominating theme for the Terrapins all season, and situations in which Maryland struggles to create opportunity volume often complicates and already problematic struggle. This table should illustrate the principle (it details how many possessions each team needs to score a certain number of goals based on each team's adjusted offensive efficiency value):
    GOALS UNC POSS. (42.70%) UMD POSS. (33.08%)
    2 5 6
    4 9 12
    6 14 18
    8 19 24
    10 23 30
    12 28 36
    14 33 42
  • There really isn't a consistent theme in North Carolina's three losses this season, but two out of the three games stand out with a somewhat universal theme: The Tar Heels suffered defeats in defensive-oriented scrums. It's almost eerie how similar the team's losses to Maryland and Syracuse were in 2015: (1) The possession count in both games was estimated at 64 possessions with the Terps and Orange holding identical plus-10 estimated possession margins; (2) North Carolina registered goals on only around 27 percent of their estimated offensive opportunities against Syracuse and Maryland while the Tar Heels' opponents cashed in on about 25 percent of their estimated offensive possessions; (3) North Carolina only shot about 25 percent against the Terrapins and Orange, well below the team's usual hit rate; and (4) Kyle Bernlohr and Bobby Wardwell were each well above 55 percent in save percentage against the Tar Heels, far exceeding the rate at which the Heels generally abuse opposing keepers. Save for North Carolina's performance against Notre Dame -- a game in which the Heels held a possession advantage, its offense clicked, but its defense massively struggled -- there is almost enough evidence here to believe that when North Carolina faces top 10 defenses it struggles to collar wins (based solely on its trio of defeats). It's not quite clear that this is a thing, but it's interesting enough to indicate that a very specific confluence of circumstances have occurred in the majority of Carolina's three losses this spring, and if Maryland is able to create similar circumstances in Annapolis, a backslide from the Tar Heels could come to fruition.