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2015 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament Preview: Ohio State at (5) Duke

The Blue Devils are favored to move on to the Denver regional.

Rob Carr/Getty Images

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

From 10,000 Feet

Date and Time: Saturday, May 9, 2015 at 7:30 PM (ET)
Location: Durham, NC
Winner Advances To Play?: The winner of Brown-Denver
Television/Internet: ESPNU/WatchESPN; Joe Beninati and Ryan Flanagan have the call
Game "Fun Factor": 4.07 ("Good")
Massey Ratings Victory Probabilities:

Duke Ohio State Duke // 89% Ohio State // 11% Duke (14.24) - Ohio State (8.51)

Massey's model really likes Duke in this spot and the machine's probability system may be overvaluing the Blue Devils a bit. Duke holds around a 68 percent win probability in a tempo-free environment utilizing a log5 approach to determining the matchup, and that feels more palatable than the Blue Devils running with a 90 percent chance of victory against an uneven-but-capable Buckeyes team. That aside, an Ohio State win would carry a big impact on the bracket and shift the universe sideways a bit.

What's Your Deal?

NCAA Tournament Appearances: 19 (Last: 2014)
NCAA Tournament Championships: Three (Last: 2014)
NCAA Tournament Bid Type: At-Large
Record: 12-5 (1-3, ACC)
Combustibles: Myles Jones (M) (39G, 36A); Justin Guterding (A) (50G, 17A); Deemer Class (M) (33G, 19A); Jack Rowe (FOGO) (54.21%)

Ohio State
NCAA Tournament Appearances: Five (Last: 2013)
NCAA Tournament Championships: None
NCAA Tournament Bid Type: At-Large
Record: 11-6 (3-2, Big Ten)
Combustibles: Jesse King (M) (37G, 27A); Christopher May (FOGO) (61.31%); Robby Haus (D) (27GB, 12CTO); Carter Brown (A) (31G, 17A)

Truncated Scouting Reports

Estimated Pace 57.87 (60) 68.24 (13)
Estimated Opportunities per 60 Minutes Margin +3.69 (8) +3.41 (11)
Estimated Lost Functional Opportunities Margin Ratio -5.58% (54) +4.50% (18)
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 30.79 (38) 40.84 (5)
Shots per Offensive Opportunity 1.06 (51) 1.25 (8)
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Offensive Opportunity 59.96% (28) 62.34% (13)
Offensive Shooting Rate 28.90% (28) 32.28% (12)
Offensive Assist Rate 16.95 (43) 22.99 (8)
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 29.90 (26) 30.59 (30)
Shots per Defensive Opportunity 1.13 (33) 1.15 (43)
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Defensive Opportunity 59.42% (40) 59.59% (43)
Defensive Shooting Rate 28.46% (39) 30.19% (50)
Defensive Assist Rate 14.94 (14) 19.96 (51)
Faceoff Percentage 59.03% (9) 56.02% (14)
Clearing Percentage 87.94% (13) 87.33% (19)
Turnover Margin -2.26 (47) +4.70 (22)
"Run of Play" Groundballs Margin 0.00 (32) +7.84 (3)
Penalties Margin +3.34 (1) -0.26 (40)
Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 34.85 (28) 33.94 (34)
Team Save Percentage 52.10% (31) 49.34% (50)

The major plot point in the scouting report is the relationship between the estimated lost functional opportunities ratios for Duke and Ohio State and the connected turnover margin values for each team. If the Buckeyes are able to play square with the Blue Devils in terms of maintaining a tight possession margin, Ohio State's proclivity for spiking their offensive possessions in the box through giveaways and Duke's rate of maximizing offensive possessions in the green zone -- via goal scoring and committing fewer turnovers than their opponents -- could dictate the outcome of the game. The Buckeyes don't need to be perfect against the Blue Devils, but the team does need to erase some of its issues around failing to make offensive possessions mean something. Duke is superior to Ohio State in many ways, and an upset only starts to focus for the Buckeyes if the Devils deviate from their trajectory and Ohio State increases its overall capacity. The ability of both teams to breathe life into their offensive opportunities is a significant factor in the scope of the matchup.

Two Things

  • Ohio State has issues but the Buckeyes aren't making things unnecessarily difficult for themselves in terms of taking penalties. No team in the nation is cleaner than Ohio State and this has permitted the Buckeyes to force its opponents to score against them without the personnel imbalance:
    Man-Down Postures per 100 Estimated Defensive Opportunities 5.41 1
    Man-Down Posture Kill Rate 68.00% 22
    Opponent Extra-Man Posture Reliance 5.41% 1
    Team Penalties per 100 Estimated Opportunities 2.63 1
    Ohio State's kill rate isn't exceptional, but the team is never in man-down postures. The Buckeyes are playing about 1.5 man-down postures per 60 minutes and is only yielding about half a man-down goal per 60 minutes. The residue has been opponents tallying only around five percent of their goals against Ohio State in postures featuring a personnel imbalance. This may not exist as a huge factor in the Buckeyes' meeting with Duke -- the Blue Devils do not draw many penalties and aren't especially potent in the extra-man -- but it does illustrate that Ohio State is not likely to burn itself at the stake through self-indulgent over-aggressiveness. In terms of overall value to the team's defense, though, Ohio State's ability to avoid committing violations has helped sustain a defense that ranks just outside the top third of the country, smartly dodging circumstances that could exacerbate an average goalkeeping situation. This is a subtle aspect to the Buckeyes' profile that doesn't move the meter in significant ways but does build into what Ohio State is and how it accomplishes its tasks.
  • One of Duke's great attributes in 2015 has been the team's balanced offense. The Blue Devils had the look of a team that would be midfield-dominate this spring, leaning on Class and Jones to create offense through hard dodging and a willingness to carry Duke forward on the duo's ability to create their own space and shots. Jones and Class have satisfied their expectations this year, but what has made the Devils especially difficult to deal with is that Jones and Class have spread the bean around from their position in the midfield while talented options have emerged in their orbit. Duke's top five have been simply exceptional this season:
    Myles Jones 39 36 75 127 30.71% 69 56.52%
    Justin Guterding 50 17 67 125 40.00% 91 54.95%
    Jack Bruckner 44 11 55 106 41.51% 71 61.97%
    Deemer Class 33 19 52 114 28.95% 58 56.90%
    Case Matheis 19 17 36 54 35.19% 40 47.50%
    TOP FIVE 185 100 285 526 35.17% 329 56.23%
    TEAM 246 140 386 762 32.28% 475 51.79%
    % TEAM 75.20% 71.43% 73.83% 69.03% 69.26%
    This quintet is Duke's core and the relevancy of the five players is difficult to discount. The midfield options are as important as the attack options, all five players shoot the ball well when the bean is put on cage, and the team's assist rate -- Duke's rate of generating assists on a per-possession basis ranks eighth nationally -- is heavily concentrated within this group's performance. These are the cogs that make the Devils' machine tear a sociopathic path through its opposition. Everything that's excellent about Duke's offense starts in this fivesome and branches out accordingly.