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2015 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament Preview: Albany at (8) Cornell

Upstate -- stand up!

Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

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

From 10,000 Feet

Date and Time: Saturday, May 9, 2015 at 12:00 PM (ET)
Location: Ithaca, NY
Winner Advances To Play?: The winner of Towson-Notre Dame
Television/Internet: ESPNU/WatchESPN; Eamon McAnaney and Paul Carcaterra have the call
Game "Fun Factor": 6.01 ("Excellent")
Massey Ratings Victory Probabilities:

Cornell Albany Albany // 59% Cornell // 41% Albany (13.61) - Cornell (12.39)

If the Great Danes open the first round with a victory over the Red, it will be an upset only in the context of a seeded team falling to an unseeded concern. Albany is a freak show capable of running with the best teams in the country, and Cornell's domination of the Danes' in Texas back in February isn't reflective of the relative competitiveness of each team at this stage of the season. Drawing the Albany straw is never an easy situation, and it's especially difficult for the Big Red given the vitality of both teams.

What's Your Deal?

NCAA Tournament Appearances: 27 (Last: 2014)
NCAA Tournament Championships: Three (Last: 1977)
NCAA Tournament Bid Type: At-Large
Record: 10-5 (4-2, Ivy League)
Combustibles: Matt Donovan (A) (38G, 23A); Connor Buczek (M) (38G, 13A); Domenic Massimilian (FOGO) (64.47%); Jordan Stevens (D) (41GB, 16CTO)

NCAA Tournament Appearances: Seven (Last: 2014)
NCAA Tournament Championships: None
NCAA Tournament Bid Type: Automatic Qualifier (America East)
Record: 15-2 (6-0, America East)
Combustibles: Lyle Thompson (A) (48G, 59A); Blaze Riorden (G) (55.56 Sv%); Connor Fields (A) (56G, 21 A); Seth Oakes (A) (51G, 10A)

Truncated Scouting Reports

Estimated Pace 76.24 (4) 65.23 (26)
Estimated Opportunities per 60 Minutes Margin +2.24 (19) +5.39 (3)
Estimated Lost Functional Opportunities Margin Ratio +6.39% (10) +4.71% (17)
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 43.21 (1) 32.91 (24)
Shots per Offensive Opportunity 1.20 (16) 1.22 (14)
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Offensive Opportunity 65.01% (3) 57.58% (44)
Offensive Shooting Rate 36.86% (2) 26.65% (49)
Offensive Assist Rate 27.89 (2) 16.01 (47)
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 25.99 (6) 27.95 (12)
Shots per Defensive Opportunity 0.95 (3) 1.02 (12)
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Defensive Opportunity 60.97% (51) 57.67% (24)
Defensive Shooting Rate 27.81% (30) 30.24% (51)
Defensive Assist Rate 12.56 (3) 19.34 (46)
Faceoff Percentage 47.59% (40) 64.84% (4)
Clearing Percentage 89.74% (5) 84.02% (45)
Turnover Margin +9.24 (5) +7.50 (14)
"Run of Play" Groundballs Margin +9.49 (1) +3.63 (14)
Penalties Margin +1.77 (6) -0.71 (50)
Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 31.48 (51) 27.91 (67)
Team Save Percentage 54.40% (20) 47.57% (58)

There's a reason that no team wants to face Albany in the first round: The Great Danes are a matchup nightmare and the short time given to prepare for whateverthehellthisthingis complicates the ability to go into a one-off game with feelings of rock-solid confidence. The Great Danes play as fast as any team in the nation, Albany's offense is beyond spectacular and is anchored by one of the best offensive players in the last 40 years, the team is willing to challenge opposing defenses, and the Danes never deviate from what makes them special. There just aren't a lot of teams like Albany in Division I lacrosse, and although Cornell has the luxury of leaning on a prior meeting between the two teams to color their preparation plan, the Red need to contest with the oppressive atmosphere that the Great Danes are so good at creating.

Two Things

  • Albany's scoring defense value and ranking is massively distortive. The Great Danes rank only 25th nationally in goals allowed, yielding 9.76 markers per game. This implies that Albany's defense has been shaky, but it ignores the fact that only four teams in the country play more estimated defensive opportunities per 60 minutes than the Danes. Albany's desire to create tempo necessarily carries with it an associated increase in the number of defensive possessions that the team will play, and the Great Danes exhibited that in 2015: The team's 37.00 estimated defensive opportunities per 60 minutes is exceeded only by Brown among NCAA Tournament participants and the Danes only play 16 fewer defensive opportunities per 60 minutes than Towson plays total possessions per 60 minutes. Albany is going to have an inflated per game scoring defense value simply due to the fact that the Great Danes are playing a million possessions in an average game. Removing pace from the situation digs into just how strong Albany has been on the defensive end of the field this season: The team is yielding tallies on only around 26 percent of its estimated defensive possessions in 2015, one of the strongest rates in the nation. Don't be fooled by the fact that Albany has yielded double digit counts in over 40 percent of their games this spring; it's more important to consider the rate at which the Danes are giving up scores on a per possession basis instead of a per game basis.
  • Cornell's goalkeeping situation is concerning given what the Big Red will face at Schoellkopf. Christian Knight has manned the crease for Cornell this season and has had a tough time turning away attempts:
    Team Save Percentage 47.57% 58
    Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 27.91 61
    Shots per Defensive Opportunity 1.02 12
    Shots on Goal per Defensive Opportunity 0.59 9
    Raw Defensive Shooting Rate 30.24% 51
    Raw Defensive Shots on Goal Shooting Rate 52.43% 58
    Defensive Assist Rate 19.34 46
    Knight hasn’t seen an aggressively high volume of shots on a per possession basis nor are a high volume or ratio of those shots coming on-goal. Yet, Cornell is holding a save percentage south of 50 percent. The Red have faced a ton of strong offenses this season which is impacting the overall profile, but this still isn't the profile of a team getting a powerful level of play from the net in terms of raw ball-stopping ability. Exacerbating Cornell's goaltending issues is the team's suspect defensive assist rate: The Red's high volume of assisted goals on a per possession basis indicates that Cornell is having some trouble against off-ball movement, and that could limit the Big Red's ability to control Albany's offense given how well the Danes move the bean. This is a wart -- a notable one -- that is troubling for an otherwise solid team.