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2015 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament Preview: Brown at (4) Denver

The Bears and Pioneers will meet at Peter Barton in a clash of styles.

Rob Carr/Getty Images

Everything that's worth knowing about Brown-Denver in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

From 10,000 Feet

Date and Time: Sunday, May 10, 2015 at 3:00 PM (ET)
Location: Denver, CO
Winner Advances To Play?: The winner of Ohio State-Duke
Television/Internet: ESPNU/WatchESPN; Scott Corrigan and Jamie Munro have the call
Game "Fun Factor": 5.42 ("Very Good")
Massey Ratings Victory Probabilities:

Denver Brown Denver // 86% Brown // 14% Denver (15.62) - Brown (10.34)

This is an aggressive win probability from Massey's computing machine, but it is very similar to a KRACH analysis utilizing KRACH's balanced schedule winning percentage in a log5 environment (that determination gives Denver an 84 percent win probability against Brown). Looking at this from a log5 perspective in an efficiency environment, though, the Pioneers are closer to holding a 62 percent win probability. Regardless, the metrics indicate that Denver is a legitimate favorite against Bruno's hectic universe, one in which a win from the Bears would be somewhat surprising.

What's Your Deal?

NCAA Tournament Appearances: Eight (Last: 2014)
NCAA Tournament Championships: None
NCAA Tournament Bid Type: Automatic Qualifier (Big East)
Record: 13-2 (5-0, Big East)
Combustibles: Trevor Baptiste (FOGO) (72.55%); Connor Cannizzaro (A) (48G, 31A); Wes Berg (A) (43G, 17A); Ryan LaPlante (G) (51.67 Sv%)

NCAA Tournament Appearances: 13 (Last: 2009)
NCAA Tournament Championships: None
NCAA Tournament Bid Type: At-Large
Record: 12-4 (4-2, Ivy)
Combustibles: Jack Kelly (G) (56.59 Sv%); Dylan Molloy (A) (59G, 30A); Will Gural (FOGO) (59.67%); Larken Kemp (LSM) (73GB, 32CTO)

Truncated Scouting Reports

Estimated Pace 80.56 (1) 56.49 (64)
Estimated Opportunities per 60 Minutes Margin +4.92 (4) +10.66 (1)
Estimated Lost Functional Opportunities Margin Ratio +5.75% (13) +8.62% (3)
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 32.65 (27) 42.39 (2)
Shots per Offensive Opportunity 1.11 (39) 1.16 (27)
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Offensive Opportunity 57.63% (43) 64.91% (4)
Offensive Shooting Rate 30.00% (21) 35.78% (3)
Offensive Assist Rate 19.68 (18) 26.19 (3)
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 27.16 (9) 33.84 (51)
Shots per Defensive Opportunity 1.04 (15) 1.34 (68)
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Defensive Opportunity 56.60% (14) 56.18% (10)
Defensive Shooting Rate 25.76% (16) 26.90% (22)
Defensive Assist Rate 14.99 (16) 21.80 (63)
Faceoff Percentage 58.78% (10) 70.90% (1)
Clearing Percentage 86.80% (26) 87.08% (22)
Turnover Margin +8.05 (8) +9.65 (4)
"Run of Play" Groundballs Margin +4.41 (10) +1.53 (23)
Penalties Margin -0.70 (49) +1.18 (14)
Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 31.96 (47) 39.24 (9)
Team Save Percentage 54.49% (19) 52.12% (30)

There won't be a game in the first round of the NCAA Tournament that features two teams with such disparate pace profiles. Brown is basically The Flaming Lips and Denver is Paul Simon. Teams that prefer and create deflated tempo are in a better position to dictate the volition of a game as constructing heightened pace requires a host of factors to come to fruition: pressing defense, the presence of turnovers, a desire to take advantage of transition opportunities to attack the cage, a scoreboard that blinks at a rate that helps elevate the number of possessions in a game, etc. Bruno likes to press -- its riding rate is among the top 15 in the nation and the Bears cause turnovers at a rate that ranks in the top 10 in Division I -- and the Bears have no fear in pushing in transition, but the issue here is whether Denver is going to break from its identity and fall into Brown's gravity. Opponents have attempted to turn the Pioneers away from their character all season and it hasn't influenced Denver all that much. The Pios have an inherent advantage in establishing the style the team desires for their meeting with Brown, but it will be interesting to see how Bruno attempts to counter Denver's pursuit of pragmatism.

Two Things

  • Brown's ability to run with Denver may turn in large part on the Bears' ability to generate defensive stops against the Pioneers' hyper-efficient offense. Not only will this permit Bruno to increase the tempo of the game, but will also help neutralize Baptiste at the dot. It's easy -- and far too simple -- to pin a team's possession issues solely on performance on draws; possession margin isn't only determined through faceoff competence, and mitigating Denver's possession margin dominance requires an increased ability to produce defensive stops that lead to functional offensive opportunities. Bruno has a keeper capable of orchestrating successful defensive opportunities, but how Brown approaches the other elements to a profitable defensive strategy is unclear. The Bears are fantastic at causing turnovers, but the Pioneers are among the best teams in the country at avoiding being dispossessed of the ball. Brown has a lucrative ride, but Denver has a good enough clearing rate. If Bruno attempts to create discomfort with a pressing defense, the Pioneers excel at ball movement to find opportunities in vacated space. If the Bears pack it in around the crease, Denver isn't afraid to take to its time to promote the team's ridiculously accurate shooting acumen. This is the existential crisis for Brown: It needs the defensive stops, but the sightline to such circumstances is clouded and relies, in part, on Denver deviating from their season-long profile.
  • Take a look at Denver's opportunities profile:
    Percent of Estimated Offensive Opportunities from Faceoff Wins 53.17% 1
    Percent of Estimated Offensive Opportunities from Clearing Postures 41.47% 69
    Percent of Estimated Offensive Opportunities from Opponent Failed Clears 5.36% 65
    Percent of Estimated Defensive Opportunities from Faceoff Losses 31.98% 58
    Percent of Estimated Defensive Opportunities from Opponent Clearing Postures 60.17% 13
    Percent of Estimated Defensive Opportunities from Failed Clears 7.85% 35
    The Pioneers are the only team in the nation that gets more than half of its estimated offensive opportunities from faceoff victories. In fact, Denver has earned 59 more offensive possessions from faceoff wins compared to clearing opportunities. This possession profile just isn't normal in Division I. There has been an average of 25 faceoffs in games Denver has participated in this season and only 28 total clearing postures. No team in the nation features such a tight margin between the two metrics, the average difference among Division I teams being plus-11 in favor of clearing postures (this is partly why clearing rate correlates better to winning percentage than faceoff percentage). How have the Pioneers developed this profile? A combination of Baptiste's faceoff dominance and an offense that generates tallies on over 40 percent of their opportunities. "Make it, take it" lacrosse gets thrown around far more often than it should, but for Denver the tenet applies.