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

The Tar Heels are favored to advance to the Annapolis regional.

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

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

From 10,000 Feet

Date and Time: Sunday, May 10, 2015 at 5:15 PM (ET)
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
Winner Advances To Play?: The winner of Yale-Maryland
Television/Internet: ESPNU/WatchESPN; Joe Beninati and Mark Dixon have the call
Game "Fun Factor": 5.77 ("Very Good")
Massey Ratings Victory Probabilities:

North Carolina Colgate North Carolina // 81% Colgate // 19% North Carolina (13.12) - Colgate (9.15)

Massey's model is heavily favoring the Tar Heels, and while North Carolina is a lightning strike, the Heels' win probability against the Raiders is perceptibly inflated. Brian Coughlin at Inside Lacrosse has North Carolina with a 63.97 percent win probability, which aligns with the 65.87 percent probability that College Crosse calculated in a similar environment. Massey's strong win probabilities for favorites has been a recurring theme throughout these previews, and it may signal a need to view Massey's model with a degree of caution.

What's Your Deal?

North Carolina
NCAA Tournament Appearances: 29 (Last: 2014)
NCAA Tournament Championships: Four (Last: 1991)
NCAA Tournament Bid Type: At-Large
Record: 12-3 (3-1, ACC)
Combustibles: Jimmy Bitter (A) (34G, 35A); Joey Sankey (A) (27G, 36A); Chad Tutton (M) (33G, 6A); Austin Pifani (D) (35GB, 17CTO)

NCAA Tournament Appearances: Three (Last: 2012)
NCAA Tournament Championships: None
NCAA Tournament Bid Type: Automatic Qualifier (Patriot League)
Record: 10-5 (6-2, Patriot League)
Combustibles: Ryan Walsh (A) (30G, 17A); Matt Clarkson (M) (20G, 27A); Brandon Burke (G) (54.08 Sv%); Matt Yeager (D) (23GB, 15CTO)

Truncated Scouting Reports

Estimated Pace 60.27 (50) 69.93 (8)
Estimated Opportunities per 60 Minutes Margin -2.99 (57) +0.33 (30)
Estimated Lost Functional Opportunities Margin Ratio +2.59% (26) +9.34% (2)
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 37.19 (10) 42.10 (2)
Shots per Offensive Opportunity 1.03 (56) 1.24 (10)
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Offensive Opportunity 63.57% (8) 60.67% (18)
Offensive Shooting Rate 35.52% (4) 33.23% (9)
Offensive Assist Rate 20.19 (15) 25.81 (4)
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 27.25 (10) 26.00 (7)
Shots per Defensive Opportunity 1.11 (28) 1.11 (29)
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Defensive Opportunity 51.80% (1) 54.66% (5)
Defensive Shooting Rate 24.86% (11) 25.34% (12)
Defensive Assist Rate 15.76 (21) 16.67 (26)
Faceoff Percentage 37.54% (68) 48.32% (35)
Clearing Percentage 84.50% (40) 89.20% (7)
Turnover Margin +2.45 (28) +9.73 (3)
"Run of Play" Groundballs Margin +4.41 (9) +9.06 (2)
Penalties Margin +0.88 (17) -0.86 (53)
Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 29.83 (63) 32.57 (41)
Team Save Percentage 52.01% (32) 53.63% (24)

Carolina may be the favorite, but Colgate has the potential to cause a lot of trouble for the Tar Heels. The Raiders are balanced on both ends of the field and, despite a troubling estimated possession deficit that the team plays with on a 60-minute basis, have been able to establish a residence among the top 15 teams in the nation. The two teams' defensive profiles are similar in a lot of ways -- both concerns get decent ball-stopping from the crease; the two teams don't yield a high ratio of shots on goal; each teams' defensive shooting rate is deflated and virtually identical; and the defensive efficiencies of both the Raiders and Tar Heels are exceptional and in the same shade of the spectrum -- but Colgate and North Carolina deviate a bit in how they create offense and the preferred style of a game. It's those deviations that are especially interesting with respect to how the matchup will develop: pace considerations are pressing; possession margin factors may shape the game; and Colgate's ability to align with Carolina's offensive firepower could open the Ark of the Covenant.

Two Things

  • Digging into Colgate's estimated possession profile helps understand how the Raiders are playing at almost a three-possession deficit per 60 minutes:
    Estimated Possession Margin per 60 Minutes -2.99 57
    Faceoff Percentage 37.54% 68
    Clearing Percentage 84.50% 40
    Ride Percentage 20.18% 8
    The Raiders are making up some possessions with a solid ride -- the team has killed 45 opponent clears this season and is earning about 10 percent of their offensive opportunities from opponent failed clears -- but it simply isn't enough to overcome an average clearing effort and very poor performances at the dot. To even its possession margin per 60 minutes, Colgate would have needed to win 44.28 percent of its draws in 2015 or clear at 91 percent -- which would rank third nationally -- and win 41.59 percent of its faceoff attempts. The Raiders' possession profile isn't going to suddenly change at this point of the season as so much of its margin deficit is attributable to a faceoff situation that hasn't solidified over the course of 15 games. This isn't a deathblow for Colgate -- the Raiders have withstood their possession situation all season and can lean on a top 10 defense to generate three extra stops per 60 minutes -- but it is somewhat concerning against Carolina given the Tar Heels' offensive strengths.
  • North Carolina seems to carry more skepticism than any team in the country when the calendar turns to May. The team's absence from Championship Weekend for over 20 years is obviously an influential factor in how Carolina is considered in the context of the full NCAA Tournament bracket, but the Heels are as good as any team in the nation in 2015 and are built to make a sustained push toward Philadelphia:
    Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 42.10 2
    Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 26.00 7
    Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 81.97% 4
    It's not like the Tar Heels have accumulated rankings in these metrics due to facing a bunch of lames. North Carolina's schedule ranks fourth nationally and the Heels have answered its slate with a 12-3 record, the team's trio of losses attributable to Syracuse, Notre Dame, and Maryland, those three teams standing among the five best in Division I in adjusted Pythagorean win expectation. Coughlin is giving North Carolina an 11.25 percent chance to win the national championship and a very strong 20.71 percent chance of advancing to the Final Four. This is arguably the best opportunity that North Carolina has had to advance deep into the tournament, the team's draw looking very favorable for the Tar Heels to not only break the team's Championship Weekend drought but to also collar a title for the first time since Spin Doctors were cool.