Wednesday, February 15, 2012

the lacrosse schedule 2012

This weekend - it's just full of surprises and awesomeness, this weekend - is also the beginning of lacrosse season.  Only a few days away, which means we're only a few days from Saturdays mattering again, Quint Kessenich showing up everywhere, and having 15 seconds' worth of some trite-ass alt-rock song jammed into your head by ESPN's power drill, over and over, week after week.  (My bet for this year?  Dark Horses by Switchfoot.  It's not cool to be the favorite, no; the in thing these days is to be disrespected, and that song really captures the spirit of the thing.) UVA begins its title defense as it has for the last ten years: against Drexel.  If you're not ready for the season just yet, it's only four days away, so here's something to help you with that:

Now that you're good and hyped up, let's see who we'll be forging this title defense against. Spoiler alert: it's the exact same teams as last year. Here's a guide to the format:

Conference: The abbreviated name of the association of teams to which this particular lacrosse program belongs
Preseason rank: In the Inside Lacrosse media poll and USILA coaches' poll, respectively
2011 computer: LaxPower's final 2011 computer ranking
2011 record: Obvious
2011 tournament: Obvious
Last season: What we did to them or they did to us

2011 O-rating: My KenPomish calculation for this team's offensive prowess last year**
2011 D-rating: My KenPomish calculation for this team's defensive prowss last year

What you need to know about that calculation, by the way: it's an attempt to provide a tempo-free calculation of how good a team is on offense or defense, the same way Ken Pomeroy does for basketball only - for now - cruder.  (Much.)  If you want a more detailed explanation it can be found here; the quick and dirty is that the number represents how many goals a team would score (or allow) in a 100-possession lacrosse game.  It is not strength-of-schedule adjusted.  For the numbers to make much sense, you should know:

- the weighted average O-rating from last year is 14.16, and the range is from 19.01 (Stony Brook) to 7.81 (Mercer)
- the weighted average D-rating from last year is 14.06, and the range is from 10.68 (Notre Dame) to 22.70 (Wagner).
- UVA's O and D numbers were 16.64 (11th) and 13.90 (33rd).  Again: not SOS-adjusted.  Oh, and we're #1 in both polls, so there's that for comparison too.

You can find the full spectrum of numbers at the detailed explanation above.

**Eventually I'll come up with a better name than that, but the best I got so far is LER for Lax Efficiency Rating, and that doesn't excite.

Anyway, on to the opponents:

Drexel - Sat., February 18 - Away
Conference: CAA
Preseason rank: 20th/20th
2011 computer: 16th
2011 record: 8-6 (3-3 CAA)
2011 tournament: N/A
Last season: W, 12-9

2011 O-rating: 17.82 (5th)
2011 D-rating: 14.76 (43rd)

Drexel has been just on the cusp of the NCAA tournament for what seems like forever.  But they've never made it.  Nevertheless, they always play us tough, especially in recent years.  In fact, the last time we tried to defend a national title (2007) they beat us.  They make an excellent season opener because they're usually good so as to snap the team into game form right away, but not, like, Syracuse-good.

The Dragons have three long-time starters on defense - all seniors - in Dana Wilber, Frank Tufano, and Brian Teuber, and a quality senior goalie: Mark Manos.  Manos is the best of the bunch, though; Drexel allowed UVA 31 shots on net last year - more than one every two minutes (to say nothing of how many actual shots we had - and Manos saved an incredible 19 of them.  Despite the experience, it's not a great defense.  The primary danger on offense will be playmaking attackman Robert Church, although all three attackers return for Drexel as well.  Church is joined by Nick Trizano and finisher Brendan Glynn.  Once again it'll be a difficult offense to stop; if they find some replacement midfielders to join Kyle Bergman on the first line they could be explosive.

VMI - Tuesday, February 21 - Home
Conference: MAAC
Preseason rank: NR/NR
2011 computer: 57th
2011 record: 2-11 (0-6 MAAC)
2011 tournament: N/A
Last season: W, 22-6

2011 O-rating: 12.53 (47th)
2011 D-rating: 17.00 (57th)

VMI is always positively terrible, but you have to give them this: they're the only other team in the state to have the guts to have a men's lax team, let alone play us a game.  VMI's only wins last year came against Mercer and the now-defunct Presbyterian.  The reason they have an O-rating as high as 47th is because they're always ridiculously good at faceoffs; I can't help but attribute this to the fact that VMI cadets do a ton of hand-to-hand combat training.  If they didn't have that going for them, things would look even worse.  This is typically the game where we learn exactly what the goalie depth chart looks like, because the third guy almost always gets in by the end of the game.  That means we could have our first Austin Geisler sighting of his career.

Stony Brook - Saturday, February 25 - Home
Conference: America East
Preseason rank: NR/NR
2011 computer: 9th
2011 record: 10-4 (5-0 AE)
2011 tournament: N/A
Last season: W, 11-10 (OT)

2011 O-rating: 19.01 (1st)
2011 D-rating: 13.63 (30th)

The first televised game of the year - this one's on ESPN3 - which represents one more step out of the Dark Ages, as we didn't get to see the SB game in previous seasons.   Stony Brook was upset by Hartford in last year's America East tournament and lost out on the autobid, graduated 11 seniors, and then lost their coach to the Navy job, so they're no longer the favorite in their conference.

Among those 11 seniors were their top four scorers, starting goalie, and two of three starting defensemen, so the Seawolves have a lot of holes to fill.  Stony Brook didn't come cheaply by that #1 offensive rating.  They only dropped to sixth when I made some crude attempt at applying a SOS filter, and no team held them to fewer than eight goals.  They have some big shoes to fill on the offensive end.  You rarely know what to expect from a roster so full of new names, especially with a new coach, but it's likely Stony Brook won't present the same threat they have in years past.

Oh, in case you're wondering: Adam Rand graduated too.  So we might just win two or three faceoffs.

Mount St. Mary's - Tuesday, February 28 - Away
Conference: Northeast
Preseason rank: NR/NR
2011 computer: 36th
2011 record: 9-6 (4-1 NEC)
2011 tournament: N/A
Last season: W, 22-6

2011 O-rating: 18.01 (4th)
2011 D-rating: 15.43 (47th)

This is why I want to add a good SOS filter to the efficiency ratings, by the way.  These guys aren't the 4th-best offensive team in the nation.

That said, they did have three 30-goal scorers last season: a reasonably fearsome attack lineup of Andrew Scalley, Brett Schmidt, and Cody Lehrer.  In fact, all six offensive starters return, meaning the Mount will probably appear near the top of the offensive rankings again.  But they have to redo the whole defense, most of which graduated, including their starting goalie, so the bottom line is that MSM games could be awfully fun to watch this year.  Hope you like goals.

It's a pity for that group of explosive goal-scorers that the Mount is once again ineligible for the NCAA tournament.  Well, that's not 100% true; they could be an at-large pick.  The NEC played its first full season of games last year (it's the newest conference on the lacrosse scene thanks to having a sixth member, Bryant) and the conference tournament winner won't be autobidded to the NCAA tournament until next season.  But they'll definitely win some games.  This is part of the reason why UVA is always a tournament fixture: smart scheduling.  We really have no less of a chance to beat MSM than we do, say, Wagner, but MSM is a nice RPI boost because they're the best of a lousy bunch.

Syracuse - Sunday, March 4 - Home
Conference: Big East
Preseason rank: 7th/8th
2011 computer: 5th
2011 record: 15-2 (6-0 BE)
2011 tournament: #1 seed; lost to Maryland in quarterfinal
Last season: L, 12-10

2011 O-rating: 14.81 (20th)
2011 D-rating: 10.79 (2nd)

Yes, that's another reason I want to have a good SOS filter - kind of.  No, Syracuse shouldn't necessarily be as low as 20th.  Yes, they ought not to be near the top, because they were an excellent defensive team, but prone to offensive collapses.  Hence the tournament loss: 6-5 to Maryland.  And the 5-4 regular season win over Villanova.

However, they're awfully hard to score on.  Brian Megill is one of only six D-I defenders to be named to the Tewaaraton watch list, so the anticipated battle between him and Steele Stanwick ought to be something.  And there are two other watch listers on this team, too, one of whom (JoJo Marasco) is a reasonable outside shot to win it.  The other, attackman Tim Desko, missed the second half of last season and has otherwise been overshadowed up til now by guys like Stephen Keogh, so he's a legitimate X-factor for the Orange.

Syracuse lost too many players to graduation - including Keogh and excellent goalie John Galloway - for the poll voters to give them a top five spot.  But they're still Syracuse.  By virtue of winning by a single goal in 2010, that same margin became the all-time goal margin in the UVA-Cuse rivalry.  Cuse took the lead by one goal with a two-goal win last year in the Carrier Dome.  So you know what's up when it's time to play these guys.

Vermont - Tuesday, March 6 - Home
Conference: America East
Preseason rank: NR/NR
2011 computer: 31st
2011 record: 6-9 (1-4 AE)
2011 tournament: N/A
Last season: W, 14-6

2011 O-rating: 12.92 (45th)
2011 D-rating: 13.54 (27th)

Yeah, I wouldn't worry.  But I hope you liked the cupcakes because this is the last one on the schedule - as if playing Syracuse wasn't enough of a reminder that cupcake season is over.  Vermont doesn't present a major offensive threat, although Geoff Worley's terrific mustache probably scores a few postgame points If You Know What I Mean.

Cornell - Saturday, March 10 - Baltimore, MD
Conference: Ivy League
Preseason rank: 4th/3rd
2011 computer: 1st
2011 record: 14-3 (6-0 Ivy)
2011 tournament: #2 seed; eliminated in quarterfinal by Virginia
Last season: W, 11-9; W, 13-9

2011 O-rating: 16.83 (9th)
2011 D-rating: 11.76 (7th)

Ever been to the Cornell athletics web site?  If you never have, do so, and hover your mouse over the bear logo.  It rumbles.  That's a nice touch.  I just wanted to share that.

This has great potential to be the year's most interesting matchup.  For one, this is where Connor English ended up transferring after being squeezed out of playing time.  For another, it'll be the highly anticipated match between Tewaaraton winner Steele Stanwick, and the guy that a lot of people thought should've won it, Rob Pannell.  And I wouldn't have had a complaint if he had; 42 goals and 47 assists, man.  That's nuts.  The debate essentially came down to whether the voters should value the regular season or the postseason more; postseason won.  Cornell also brings back Roy Lang and 40-goal scorer Steve Mock; much respect is due their offensive capabilities.

A lot of the season will hinge on how goalie A.J. Fiore bounces back from a weak sophomore campaign.  Fiore started immediately as a freshman in 2010 and did pretty well; last year, his save percentage dipped to .504.  If they want to win the national title, Cornell also has to answer a few questions on defense and at the faceoff X; add that to their explosive offense and all in all, the Rumbling Bears are kind of our evil red twin.

Ohio State - Saturday, March 17 - Away
Conference: ECAC
Preseason rank: ARV/ARV
2011 computer: 23rd
2011 record: 8-8 (3-3 ECAC)
2011 tournament: N/A
Last season: W, 14-11

2011 O-rating: 13.78 (33rd)
2011 D-rating: 12.33 (10th)

You know I want to put a hurting on these brutes to prevenge the one they're likely to deliver on my plucky li'l Michigan Wolverines in their first D-I lacrosse season.  14-11 was not sufficient.  Unfortunately, OSU is getting to be sneaky good.  They surprised North Carolina last year, and though their offense is kind of anemic (4-3 win over Detroit, 6-5 over Penn State) the defense is tough.  And all three defensemen are back this year, along with the one guy who can consistently score and create: Logan Schuss, a Canadian.  Albeit more slowly than some teams, Ohio State is helping to lead an uprising of the western schools in the lacrosse world - one which I hope Michigan will join shortly.

Johns Hopkins - Saturday, March 24 - Home
Conference: Independent
Preseason rank: #3/#2
2011 computer: 2nd
2011 record: 13-3
2011 tournament: #3 seed; eliminated in quarterfinal by Denver
Last season: L, 12-11

2011 O-rating: 17.44 (6th)
2011 D-rating: 11.31 (6th)

What's to say, really?  After a brief flirtation with mediocrity a couple years ago, Hopkins is back where they belong.  They're led by their goalie: Pierce Bassett, a junior who, as a freshman, rescued Hopkins's tournament bid when inserted into the starting lineup midway through the season.  Bassett sported a sparkling .570 save percentage last year and is JHU's leading Tewaaraton watch lister.

Hopkins's departure from the tournament last year came as something of a surprise, as they'd had an excellent season.  They swept all three ACC teams, took #1 seed Syracuse to double overtime, and dispatched quality teams like Delaware and Hofstra with relative ease.  And most of that team returns this year; hence the high poll rankings.  Only one piece to the scoring puzzle departed, leaving the Jays with stars like leading scorer Chris Boland and watch-lister John Ranagan.  One loss that will hurt: like UVA, a starting SSDM (Phil Castronova) is out for the season with an injury suffered in the fall.  That said, they're still in great shape defensively with Bassett and all three starting defenders back.

The polls both have UVA on top, then a gap, and three teams jockeying for the next three spots; Hopkins is one; Cornell and Duke are the others.  Hopkins is the last game before the ACC murderer's row begins, and if the polls are to be believed, this game will be as tough as any of the next three.

Maryland - Saturday, March 31 - Away
Conference: ACC
Preseason rank: 8th/7th
2011 computer: 4th
2011 record: 13-5 (1-2 ACC)
2011 tournament: 9th seed; lost in championship
Last season: L, 12-7; W, 9-7 (WHEN IT COUNTED)

2011 O-rating: 17.22 (8th)
2011 D-rating: 11.90 (8th)

Hit A Terp With A Stick Week will be the last week of March, and except for the fact that we have to go play in the swampy quicksand of Byrd Stadium, I'm looking forward to it.  I'll bet the Terps are too.  Last season was a weird one for Maryland; they both beat and lost to all three ACC opponents and were 2-1 against UNC; they won the ACC tournament and made it to the last day of the season, and in between, lost to Colgate.

Maryland is almost all-new for this year.  New uniforms to start; in keeping with the school's new overall look, they'll mirror the football set except there (mercifully) won't be any mustard ones.  (And honestly, they're not that bad, once you put the explosion of wackiness from football season out of your head.)  New defensemen, new LSM, new attackmen, and almost a brand-new coach; it's Tillman's second year.  Who the hell is left?  Goalie Niko Amato, for one; a .583 save percentage last year made him one of the best in the country, and frankly it's a little baffling that he did not make the Tewaaraton watch list.  They also have a top faceoff guy in Curtis Holmes, who did make the list; Holmes won a whopping 63% of his faceoffs last year.  There's a deep midfield and one attackman holdover: Owen Blye, the third-leading scorer on the team last year.

But having to replace so many starters could be painful, especially early in the season; the third game on their docket is Duke.  Maryland got ranked about as low in the preseason polls as you can without losing royalty status; the pollsters appear to expect them to be good but not good.  I don't mind, of course; here's your occasional reminder why we hate them.

North Carolina - Saturday, April 7 - Away
Conference: ACC
Preseason rank: 6th/6th
2011 computer: 10th
2011 record: 10-6 (1-2 ACC)
2011 tournament: 8th seed; eliminated in 1st round by Maryland
Last season: W, 11-10 (OT)

2011 O-rating: 16.46 (12th)
2011 D-rating: 14.15 (37th)

The first thing you need to know is that Billy Bitter is gone.  So I don't know who it is that ESPN's announcers will irrationally fawn over whether or not that player is participating in the game in front of them, but if it's any consolation, Billy's brother Jimmy is a freshman this year at Carolina, so maybe they can carry on a family tradition.

UNC had a very solid, balanced attack last year, with four players scoring 20+ goals; but not much explosiveness, as nobody scored over 30.  The only one of those players that isn't back is Bitter, leaving a three-headed monster at attack of Nicky Galasso, Thomas Wood, and Marcus Holman.  Galasso was the best player the Heels had last year, and he was a freshman; it shouldn't surprise if he starts to put up some Tewaaraton-type numbers as early as this year.

It wasn't a great season for UNC last year; they had to beat Notre Dame at the tail end of the regular season to cement a tournament spot and get off the bubble, but other than that, not much went right against the teams Carolina wants things to go right against.  Expectations are higher this year with a solid group of returning players.

Duke - Friday, April 13 - Home
Conference: ACC
Preseason rank: 2nd/3rd
2011 computer: 8th
2011 record: 14-6 (3-0 ACC)
2011 tournament: #5 seed; eliminated in semifinals by Maryland
Last season: L, 13-11; L, 19-10

2011 O-rating: 17.34 (7th)
2011 D-rating: 12.98 (16th)

You know how it is.  Despite finally getting the streak monkey off our backs a couple years ago, and beating Duke to win the ACC tournament, that mental block is still there; a 19-10 embarrassment that wasn't as close as it looked, in the pouring rain, in last year's ACC tourney.... yeah, Duke is still a problem.

Like Carolina, Duke returns a pretty stacked lineup; only 43-goal scorer Zach Howell is missing.  Robert Rotanz will pick up the slack; he scored four in Duke's season opener against Rutgers - in which they scored 16 goals in all.  Not a bad start.  Duke is a little bit of an isolation team; they scored a lot of goals last year (most in the country, in fact) but only half were assisted; it looks like they'll continue both trends this year as they had only three assists against Rutgers.

I don't need to say much else; Duke's lacrosse team could consist of chipmunks in tiny blue jerseys and we'd still have a tough time until we can reel off a couple straight.  This game will be Senior Night, so extra motivation and so on and etc. and please just crush these fools.

Pennsylvania - Friday, April 27 - Denver, CO
Conference: Ivy League
Preseason rank: 16th/15th
2011 computer: 20th
2011 record: 8-7 (4-2 Ivy)
2011 tournament: 13th seed; eliminated in 1st round by Notre Dame
Last season: W, 11-2

2011 O-rating: 13.33 (39th)
2011 D-rating: 13.34 (26th)

Real mathheads think everything is probabilities, probabilities, probabilities.  I have quite a bit of interest in and sympathy for that view, but this is why I could never be a real mathhead: I remain convinced that last year's game against Penn was the most important of the year.  Real mathheads dismiss streaks as artifacts of probability; flip a coin enough times and it's certain to give you four heads in a row at some point.

Sometimes that's true; sometimes you know better, and in this case, I know better.  Penn came to town with the team smarting from giving up 19 goals to Duke; they retuned their antennae and allowed Penn just two.  They damn near shut Penn out.  Shutouts don't happen in lacrosse.  Even VMI scored six.  You'll never get me to believe anything but that that game regalvanized the team's psyche and launched the NCAA tournament run.  It was huge.  Absolutely huge.

This year, Penn is in the same slot - the week after the ACC tournament - but this time, the game will be part of the Mile High Classic in Denver.  So we'll see how the altitude affects things.  Likelihood of another win is high; Penn is a low-scoring team in the first place, and the only player to top 20 goals last year is gone.  They took advantage of Princeton's terrible season last year; they'll be hard-pressed to keep pace again this year, with two or three fellow Ivies ranked ahead of them, depending who you ask.


Tomorrow, there's no basketball game, and I'm pretty sure there wasn't one last night either, so Spring Preview Bonanza continues with a check on our own lacrosse team.

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