@JoeKeegs is @BostonCollege diehard, a contributor at @LacrosseMag & College Crosse, & in his 3rd full season covering the @MLL_Lacrosse. Additionally, Joe was also an intern for the @BostonCannons in 2012 and did a little lax writing in 2013 as well.Joe is one of the leading proponents of analytics in lacrosse and one of the best writers on the subject. He's one of the best overall writers on the pro game and I highly encourage you all to read his work, here's is his most recent article in Lacrosse Magazine about the revamped Chesapeake Bayhawks.
Joe's a big fan of the college and pro game and he was gracious enough to answer some questions for the Nation about the MLL, what rookies should expect at the next level, and some other tips for how to follow if you are a pro game novice. Hope you all enjoy it. Thanks again, Joe!
Let's get after it! (CC questions in bold.)
1. If you're mostly a college lacrosse fan, what are some parts of the pro game different from college? Are their parts of the college game that carryover well into the pro game?
The 2-point line is the obvious difference because it catches everyone's eye just by looking at the field. But the two most influential differences are the 60-second shot clock and the ability to crease dive.
2. Is there an aspect of the either the college or pro game you wish the other would adopt?
Not exactly a #hottake, but the NCAA needs a shot clock that starts upon change of possession or crossing midfield. I'm tired of leaving this up to the referee's discretion.
Most MLL-specific rules speed up the game, but one change from NCAA rules that I don't like: possession does not carry over from quarter to quarter in extra-man or man-down situations in MLL. I get why -- a team sitting on the ball for the final :06-:08 of a quarter is boring. But you know what's more boring? A 3v2 faceoff that gets mucked up for 10 or 12 seconds and washes out the extra-man opportunity.
Across the league, teams are converting 31.3% of their EMO chances. For context, Wagner converted 31.1% of its extra-man opportunities, finishing 47th in the country. Major League Lacrosse teams score on 32.2% of their possessions! There's almost no downside to committing a penalty with the current rules, so I don't think ripping more EMOs from a team's hands is right.
3. How does the 2-point shot change the game? Are 2-point shots/goals a rarity? Is there a Golden State Warriors type of team that takes an inordinate amount of 2s as compared to the league?
The 2-point shot changes the way we view close games and blowouts. There's a sense -- even down three or four late -- that any team can come back. It might be a false sense of hope, though. Nobody really gameplans around the 2-point line offensively. Only the Atlanta Blaze (6.3 attempts per game) shoot more than five times beyond the arc per game. The best time to shoot them is on fast breaks (17.5%), but that also happens to be one of the best times to shoot a 1-pointer (35.5%). It's just not an optimal strategy.
I've been an advocate for trimming the arc at poor angles. The NBA has a corner three, why not have a corner two? Once you get wider than the hash marks, you're not going to blow a 16-yard shot by a goalie. Part of what makes 2-point goals so scarce is that there is one tiny speck of space on the field where a 2-point shot is worth taking. Getting to the top of the arc with your hands free might be easier than we think with creative off-ball screens, but it's not something teams look to set up until desperation time.
4. If I'm trying to build a roster or draft a player, what skills am I looking for that best translate to the pro game? Are teams scouting in Canada and aboard more or is that still a few years away?
At a high level, being able to win your one-on-one matchup is the most important skill. There are only 171 gameday spots in MLL, though -- everyone on both ends of the field is capable of doing that. Rebuilding teams or expansion teams are really looking deeper than that. They are looking for chemistry that they can build upon. Certain styles of play mesh better with some styles than with others. Skill only gets you so far in a league where everyone is skilled; you need to have 19 guys bought into playing the same brand of lacrosse.
5. The season is in swing by the time seniors graduate and report, how does this impact a rookie's learning curve? Have you seen rookies get accustomed to the pro game faster in recent years as opposed to 5 years ago?
Rookie learning curves are still very real. I think the biggest change in the last five years is the disappearance of the "sophomore slump." Guys like Will Manny and Marcus Holman are getting endorsement deals and representing their brand. There's a two-fold benefit from that. First, they have more time to train than guys who work on Wall Street. Second, they have to maintain a high level of play, otherwise they will lose that endorsement. Brands like STX, Warrior, Brine, Maverik, Under Armour -- they've all hopped in and enabled these players to perfect their craft. In turn, those players have more responsibility and accountability than MLL players had in the past.
6. The league has gone through a bit of expansion and contraction and then expansion again in a rather short period of time. We are now at 9 teams, up from 6 only a few years ago, in your opinion, is their a mood for further expansion? What does a market need to demonstrate for it to be a serious contender?
Three things: Strong interest in the sport, a stadium and ownership. The first two are obvious, and can go hand-in-hand. From what I've heard, the Chicago Machine played far away from the lacrosse-heavy areas of Chicago, which was a big reason for that team's lack of success. The third is an interesting aspect. It's what fell through in Houston last year. It's important to remember that MLL has a single-entity structure, like MLS. Investors don't own "franchises" -- instead, they own a share of the league. Finding dedicated individuals or groups who are passionate about the growth of the sport and this league is key.
7. The Myles Jones trade was surprising to many people, could Atlanta have gotten more before the draft? What did both teams achieve with the deal? How does it help them in their pursuit of a title?
There were offers for that pick in January. There probably would have been other offers in June if they asked -- but they didn't. The Blaze front office went after what they wanted. They needed a veteran presence, and Matt Mackrides is a guy who assistant coach Dave Huntley is very familiar with. There aren't many touches to go around in Atlanta with the way Kevin Rice and Randy Staats are playing offensively; Mackrides is a guy who can make the most with limited touches. Myles Jones has the ability to be an elite downhill-dodging midfielder in the six-on-six. He'll have a better opportunity to develop into that in Chesapeake than Atlanta.
Lots of people have their opinions on the trade. "Chesapeake is rebuilding" or "Atlanta gave up on Jones" or, my personal favorite I saw on Twitter, "Jones probably got to Atlanta and was like, 'Nah'." That's all wrong. Every contact I've reached out to in Atlanta says this was a lacrosse decision. This deal gave a young team a much-needed veteran, and it gave an older team some much-needed youth.
8. Besides Dylan Molloy, what rising senior do you think has the best chance at being the #1 draft pick next year?
Can't rule out Sergio Perkovic. Dude has had 2-point range since his freshman year.
9. What are you watching outside of sports right now?
I'm so busy during the season, but I make time for 'Game of Thrones' on Sundays. That's about it. Maybe a re-run of 'Seinfeld' or 'Always Sunny' here or there in the background. I need some offseason suggestions for binge-watching. Last offseason it was 'The Wire' -- that'll be tough to top.
10. What's a good place to go to eat in Boston?
Sam LaGrassa's. It's only open for lunch on weekdays. Sandwich, sub, hoagie or hero -- whatever you call it, they make it better than anyone. If you're in town on a weekend, I'd suggest El Pelon. Best burrito in this time zone.