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2015 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament Preview: High Point at Towson

The Panthers and Tigers will meet for the right to face Notre Dame this weekend.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Everything that's worth knowing about High Point-Towson in the play-in round of the NCAA Tournament.

From 10,000 Feet

Date and Time: Wednesday, May 6, 2015 at 7:30 PM (ET)
Location: Towson, MD
Winner Advances To Play?: Notre Dame on May 9, 2015 at 5:00 PM (ET)
Television/Internet: will provide a stream for the game. No television.
Game "Fun Factor": 2.59 (weaker of the two play-in games)
Massey Ratings Victory Probabilities:

Towson High Point Towson // 72% High Point // 28% Towson (9.45) - High Point (6.97)

There is only superficial dissonance between the Tigers' win probability value and the expected margin of the result. Towson plays at a drastically deflated pace and struggles to efficiently can the bean and High Point isn't exactly running at light speed over 110 yards. The stylistic thrust of the two teams is impacting the predicted margin more than the difference in strength between the two teams.

What's Your Deal?

NCAA Tournament Appearances: 12 (Last: 2013)
NCAA Tournament Championships: None
NCAA Tournament Bid Type: Automatic Qualifier (THUNDERDOME!)
Record: 11-5 (3-2, THUNDERDOME!)
Combustibles: Joe Seider (A) (32G, 6A); Tyler White (G) (57.52 Sv%); Alec Burckley (FOGO) (54.07%); JoJo Ostrander (D) (31GB, 9CTO)

High Point
NCAA Tournament Appearances: One (First)
NCAA Tournament Championships: None
NCAA Tournament Bid Type: Automatic Qualifier (Southern Conference)
Record: 10-6 (4-2, SoCon)
Combustibles: Austin Geisler (G) (54.84 Sv%); Matt Thistle (A) (29G, 20A); Dan Lomas (43G, 4A); Jamie Piluso (FOGO) (56.87%)

Truncated Scouting Reports

Estimated Pace 63.50 (33) 53.10 (69)
Estimated Opportunities per 60 Minutes Margin +1.30 (24) +1.23 (25)
Estimated Lost Functional Opportunities Margin Ratio +2.27% (29) +5.47% (15)
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 34.65 (20) 30.41 (43)
Shots per Offensive Opportunity 1.10 (41) 1.28 (3)
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Offensive Opportunity 64.64% (6) 53.12% (64)
Offensive Shooting Rate 30.50% (18) 23.89% (59)
Offensive Assist Rate 18.55 (28) 15.23 (50)
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 32.12 (41) 28.13 (15)
Shots per Defensive Opportunity 0.71 (17) 1.21 (55)
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Defensive Opportunity 62.69% (65) 54.64% (5)
Defensive Shooting Rate 26.94% (23) 23.47% (4)
Defensive Assist Rate 16.73 (27) 14.05 (9)
Faceoff Percentage 56.28% (12) 51.78% (26)
Clearing Percentage 91.22% (2) 88.28% (12)
Turnover Margin +4.95 (21) +7.23 (15)
"Run of Play" Groundballs Margin -0.68 (38) -1.05 (41)
Penalties Margin +0.29 (26) +.047 (21)
Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 41.24 (5) 37.62 (15)
Team Save Percentage 57.02% (9) 57.04% (8)

These teams are spectrum poles of each other: Towson leans on its defense to create success while dragging an anchor of an offense to victories; High Point is riding its offense to triumphs and straining to get to the finish line with a defense that maintains efficiency issues. This is the kind of conflict that makes a play-in game interesting: (1) Which team will elevate its weakness to shape the eventual outcome; and (2) Which team's strength will remain a powerful enterprise against a competing concern. Static volition is rare, and in a tournament environment where the stakes are exceedingly high, the relationships that the preceding two questions address should focus the game's scope.

Two Things

  • High Point's approach to attacking Tyler White is a subtle storyline in this deal. The Panthers have not been afraid to challenge opposing goalkeepers this season -- the team's ratio of shots to shots on goal is among the highest in the nation and High Point isn't triggering a ton of shots per estimated offensive opportunity this season, indicating that the Panthers are aggressively going after the opposition's face in the crease -- but Towson presents two problems for High Point relative to the Panthers' desire to blow the bean through a goaltenders' save radius: (1) White has been a death machine in the cage, turning away a high percentage of saveable shots while seeing a low percentage of attempts requiring him to make a stop (the Tigers' defensive ratio of shots that go on-net is among the nation's lowest); and (2) Towson is probably going to pull the pace of the game down below 60 total possessions, decreasing High Point's ability to continually hammer the brick. With a limited number of opportunities to can the bean and an atmosphere that makes taking preferable shots difficult, High Point is going to have to value its attempts and run with high efficiency and accuracy. That's a lot of pressure for an underdog to assume, and given that the Panthers have created their path primarily through the team's offense, generating heat where it does not want to exist is a hurdle that High Point will need to pass.
  • Towson is pretty good but the Tigers aren't exactly a team that is built to gestate excitement. Towson ranks only 49th nationally in the "Fun Factor," a scale that considers a team's pace, overall strength, and offensive predilections in order to assign an enjoyability score. The "Fun Factor" is obviously biased toward teams that are expected to win a ton of games and do so with firepower and a willingness to run up and down the field, and that provides the contrast to Towson's identity: No team in the nation plays fewer total possessions per 60 minutes than the Tigers; Towson's offense fosters goals on a per-possession basis that ranks on the cusp of the bottom third of the nation; and the Tigers have struggled to shoot 24 percent on the year, the team's ranking in raw offensive shooting rate standing above only 10 teams in Division I. This is brutalist, pragmatic, defensive-led lacrosse that suffocates opponents into submission. The style has worked for Towson this year -- the Tigers have won over two-thirds of their games and are a decent plus-15 in scoring margin against a schedule that ranks 30th nationally -- but it is not a saxophone solo that rips your brain apart due to inconceivable improvisations. Towson is completely comfortable in its approach and its profile almost necessarily draws opponents into the Tigers' gravity due to the oppressive nature of Towson's strict adherence to hyper-disciplined lacrosse. The Tigers may make blood leak from your eyes, but Towson knows exactly what it is and what it hopes to accomplish.