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2015 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament Preview: Marist at (2) Syracuse

The Red Foxes will travel to the Carrier Dome looking to deal Syracuse a first round defeat.

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

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

From 10,000 Feet

Date and Time: Sunday, May 10, 2015 at 7:30 PM (ET)
Location: Syracuse, NY
Winner Advances To Play?: The winner of Johns Hopkins-Virginia
Television/Internet: ESPNU/WatchESPN; Eamon McAnaney and Paul Carcaterra have the call
Game "Fun Factor": 5.50 ("Sneaky Good")
Massey Ratings Victory Probabilities:

Syracuse Marist Syracuse // 96% Marist // 4% Syracuse (15.71) - Marist (7.33)

Syracuse is a big ol' favorite in the Carrier Dome on Sunday night, but likely isn't as strong of a favorite as the Massey Ratings project. A log5 analysis using tempo-free metrics tags the Orange with about a 70 percent chance of victory, a value that appears a little more grounded in reality. Regardless, Syracuse is a heavy favorite holding a significantly greater probability for victory in its first round game compared to last season. A Red Foxes win in this spot would probably tear a hole in the space-time continuum.

What's Your Deal?

NCAA Tournament Appearances: 35 (Last: 2014)
NCAA Tournament Championships: 11* (Last: 2009)
NCAA Tournament Bid Type: Automatic Qualifier (ACC)
Record: 12-2 (2-2, ACC)
Combustibles: Kevin Rice (A) (29G, 39A); Dylan Donahue (A) (44G, 17A); Brandon Mullins (D) (13GB, 14CTO); Ben Williams (FOGO) (67.59%)

NCAA Tournament Appearances: Two (Last: 2005)
NCAA Tournament Championships: None
NCAA Tournament Bid Type: Automatic Qualifier (MAAC)
Record: 14-3 (6-0, MAAC)
Combustibles: Dave Scarcello (G) (58.73 Sv%); Joseph Radin (A) (51G, 17A); Mike Begley (M) (26G, 16A); J.D. Recor (A) (28G, 40A)

Truncated Scouting Reports

Estimated Pace 61.98 (42) 66.11 (19)
Estimated Opportunities per 60 Minutes Margin +3.11 (13) +8.73 (2)
Estimated Lost Functional Opportunities Margin Ratio +6.11% (12) +5.57% (15)
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 35.74 (17) 40.51 (6)
Shots per Offensive Opportunity 28.54 (19) 1.14 (33)
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Offensive Opportunity 61.61% (16) 62.90% (10)
Offensive Shooting Rate 32.23% (12) 33.78% (8)
Offensive Assist Rate 22.02 (11) 22.58 (10)
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 28.54 (19) 27.41 (11)
Shots per Defensive Opportunity 1.20 (55) 1.15 (40)
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Defensive Opportunity 53.91% (3) 59.40% (38)
Defensive Shooting Rate 22.46% (1) 28.08% (33)
Defensive Assist Rate 16.17 (24) 16.83 (30)
Faceoff Percentage 54.57% (17) 66.05% (3)
Clearing Percentage 86.29% (30) 90.76% (3)
Turnover Margin +6.00 (16) +7.14 (15)
"Run of Play" Groundballs Margin +1.99 (19) +0.64 (27)
Penalties Margin -1.99 (65) +1.40 (11)
Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 37.72 (15) 35.89 (22)
Team Save Percentage 58.33% (6) 52.73% (28)

It probably isn't going to severely impact the outcome of the game, but an eye should be kept on Marist's proclivity for committing penalties. No team in the nation plays in more man-down postures on a per possession basis than the Red Foxes. Opponents rely on such situations to make the scoreboard blink against Marist, goals in such postures accounting for 14.81 percent of the markers registered against the Red Foxes. While Marist's kill rate is high (it ranks in the top 10 nationally), getting feisty against the Orange is probably a bad idea: Syracuse's extra-man rate ranks sixth in Division I. In a game in which Marist has performance aspects that signal an ability to give the Orange headaches, taking penalties and allowing Syracuse to operate in preferable scoring opportunities is probably a miserable idea (not unlike hot sauce-flavored Gatorade).

Two Things

  • Ben Williams has been the talk of Central New York for the better part of four months. Williams' ability to dominate draws has been a big piece of the Orange's ability to swamp opponents in 2015, but here's the thing: The Orange would still be pretty damn good even if Williams was average. Assuming that all of Syracuse's performance aspects remained the same (including the rate at which the Orange score and prevent goals on a per possession basis), changing only the team's faceoff percentage to 50.13 percent, the Orange would rank sixth nationally in adjusted Pythagorean win expectation -- this measures how many games a team is expected to win based on a series of inputs, including adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency values and possession margin -- and have its estimated possession advantage per 60 minutes move from plus-nine to just about even. The dent in Syracuse's record would be about one win (the team would be expected to go 11-3 instead of 12-2). Williams isn't the reason that the Orange are winning (putting goals in the scoresheet and successfully ending defensive opportunities still dominates a team's win expectation), but he does help Syracuse get down the road. The Orange's bonkers output in the run of play simply amplifies what Williams accomplishes at the dot, and Syracuse would still be in a very strong position to make a run at a victory lap on Memorial Monday if Williams wasn't among the top five faceoff specialists in the nation. (For what it's worth, Williams is expected to win 69.9 percent of his attempts against Dominic Montemurro this weekend, which helps the Orange align to its possession profile earned throughout the spring.)
  • Marist's top five offensive players -- Radin, Recor, Colin Joka, Begley, and Drew Nesmith -- are a potent core to the Red Foxes' underappreciated offense. This quintet has provided combustion for Marist all season long and the group has leveraged responsibility within itself. All five players have accumulated at least 37 points this season and all have taken at least 66 shots, the fivesome shouldering a heavy load and delivering in important ways.
    Joseph Radin 51 17 68 145 35.17% 97 52.58%
    J.D. Recor 28 40 68 66 42.42% 45 62.22%
    Colin Joka 40 8 48 99 40.40% 59 67.80%
    Mike Begley 26 16 42 75 34.67% 58 44.83%
    Drew Nesmith 27 10 37 115 23.48% 56 48.21%
    TOP FIVE 172 91 263 500 34.40% 315 54.60%
    TEAM 204 122 326 633 32.23% 390 52.31%
    % TEAM 84.31% 74.59% 80.67% 78.99% 80.77%
    That's a ton of offense -- the basis of an offense that clicks on north of 35 percent of their estimated offensive opportunities -- concentrated within a small group. Radin, Recor, and Joka are the key pieces to the quintet, but Begley and Nesmith -- indispensible midfielders that take heat off of the team's big three attackman -- are important parts to the machine, even if their individual efficiencies aren't as high as that of the Red Foxes' biggest weapons. These cats make good things happen.