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NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Tournament First Round Preview: (7) Denver vs Loyola

In one of the most anticipated matchups of the first round; the Pios welcome a streaking Loyola team coming off a turbulent week

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The 10,000 Foot View

Date and Time: Sunday, 7:30 PM ET

Location: Peter Barton Stadium, Denver, Colorado

Network: ESPNU

Your Guys Anticipation Level: Palpable

The Nitty Gritty Numbers

Numbers Extravaganza

THE STATS Denver Loyola
THE STATS Denver Loyola
Adjusted Offensive Eff. 35.1% (9th) 32.9% (16th)
Adjusted Defensive Eff. 26.7% (16th) 25.4% (8th)
Adjusted FO% 64.6% (6th) 53.2% (26th)
Clearing Percentage 86.6% (23rd) 90.2% (3rd)
Ground Balls Per Game 32.62 (21st) 34.79 (10th)

The Key Match-Ups

  • Denver’s Offensive Midfield vs Loyola’s Defensive Midfield
  • This matchup is sort of a game within the game. Both Denver and Loyola boast offenses that have had ups and downs but are capable of going on hot stretches; and both have strong defenses as well, with Loyola 8th in the country in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency and Denver 16th. It figures to be a race to 10 game, or perhaps 11 or 12 and maybe the game with the lowest scoring winner of any first round tilt. The matchup within the larger Denver vs Loyola matchup will come down to the Pioneers midfielders and the Loyola short stick defensive midfield. As we wrote about with the most impactful players of the tournament, Denver’s midfield outside Jack Hannah has gone quiet for the Pioneers and considering they will consistently be drawing short sticks throughout the playoffs as teams likely triple pole the attack with Alex Simmons emergence, they need to step up and be able to exploit those shortie matchups. Against Georgetown they were unable, scoring only five goals from their 2nd-6th offensive midfielders (Lucas Cotler, Ted Sullivan, Riley Curtis, Schuyler Blair, Ellis Geis.) That was a key factor in their defeats. Loyola’s defense is built similarly to Georgetown’s. While the Hounds always have great rope units under Charley Toomy, the strength of this years squad is in their two main poles, Cam Wyers and Ryan McNulty. Loyola ranks 15th in the country in caused turnovers per game with 8.8, and Wyers and McNulty have about 25% of those. However, Peyton Rezanka as turned into a CT fiend for the Hounds as well, up to 14 on the season, as has Matt Higgins with 14 as well. Those two combined for 8 in Loyola’s last 3 wins over Georgetown, Navy, and Army; their best games of the season. If Rezanka and Higgins are performing similar thefts of Denver midfielders, it could be a long day for the Pios at home.
  • In Between The Lines
  • The perception of the game in between the lines between these two teams likely largely centers around Denver’s two headed monster at the X with Alec Stathakis and all time great TD Ierlan. The Pioneers are 6th in the country in Adjusted FO%. Stathakis has won a whopping 64% this year and since joining the team in late March, Ierlan has been....well TD Ierlan. Winning 70%. While Bailey Savio is still a very strong FOGO, he’s dropped from 69% in the shortened season last year to 55% this year and while he’s been banged up, the Hounds haven’t replaced him. It’s an advantage for Denver. However the other areas in this matchup really favor Loyola. They are a phenomenal clearing team, the best in this NCAA Tournament. And while Denver wins more faceoffs, Loyola actually scoops up more groundballs per game, speaking to how good they are off the carpet whereas this is a comparative weakness for Denver. Charley Toomey teams always possess phenomenal rope units and this one while not a vintage unit is still excellent whereas Denver is still solid but not quite up to Loyola’s level. If Loyola can force the faceoffs into groundball scrums and get their wings involved, plus their excellent clearing, I believe you could see the possessions in this game turn out to be fairly even and get to the 6-on-6, where this game looks very finely poised

All stats courtesy of Lacrosse Reference. Subscribe to Lacrosse Reference PRO at LacrosseReference - PRO.