Friday, March 30, 2012

game preview: Maryland

Date/Time: Saturday, 3/31; 12:00


Record against the Terps: 42-45

Last matchup: UVA 9, Md. 7; 5/30/11; Baltimore, MD - NCAA championship game

Last game: JHU 11, UVA 10 (3/24); UNC 11, Md. 10 (3/24)

Opposing blogs: none for lacrosse

Efficiency breakdown:

Faceoff %:
UVA: 57.4 %
Md.: 47.7%

Clearing %:
UVA: 90.0% off., 85.3% def.
Md.: 91.8% off., 82.1% def.

Scoring %:
UVA: 39.5% off., 29.1% def.
Md.: 38.1% off., 28.3% def.

UVA: 20.00 (4th of 61)
Md.: 17.88 (7th of 61)

UVA: 13.14 (20th of 61)
Md.: 12.31 (11th of 61)

(Stats explanation: Faceoff and clearing percentage: self-explanatory. Scoring %: percentage of offensive possessions (faceoff wins + successful clears + opp. failed clears) that result in goals. O-rating and D-rating are my own special sauce based on the above numbers. D-I average for each is currently about 14.70.  Ratings ARE adjusted for strength of competition.)
It's time for the ACC season.  Or at least, our part of it.  As tends to happen, everyone else has completed their portion of the ACC schedule except for the part where they play Virginia, and the three other teams have engaged in a triangle of doom that I always hate when I'm trying to do things like bracketology or the Blogpoll.  Maryland beat Duke which beat UNC which beat Maryland.  Therefore, it's up to us to disentangle the mess.

I'd rather not though; I'd rather just beat them all and let them all be 1-2 instead of 1-1.  Last year it was us going 1-2 and we were like a couple seconds away from going 0-3, as the UNC game was an ugly mess that we tried our best to give away.  It was all good, though.  There's such a thing as winning when it counts.

-- UVA on offense

Last year, Maryland was the only team to hold UVA to single-digit goals, and they did it twice.  That's the bad news.  The good news is that most of the players who did so are gone.  Maryland is breaking in an entirely new close-in defense consisting of two sophomores and a freshman.  The bad news again is that they're not bad; Maryland has a very respectable D-rating of 12.30.  Part of that is because Maryland, like Hopkins, has an outstanding goalie who's good enough to narrow any gap in talent between his defense and opposing offenses.  The diminutive Niko Amato, just a sophomore yet, has a .615 save percentage.

Then there's the good news to trump it all: Johns Hopkins has the second-best defense in the country, and UVA scored 10 goals on them.  In fact, despite my bellyaching about lost opportunities, UVA scored on 30% of opportunities, against a defense that's otherwise allowing only a 22% conversion rate.

Maryland has often been stout on defense this year; their best performance is probably limiting Duke to seven goals.  But they've also had their collapses, as young teams are occasionally wont to do.  The UMBC loss was the result of a five-goal run in the fourth quarter by the Retrievers.  Faceoffs and defense broke down simultaneously; UMBC is a 50/50 faceoff team but won 15 of 19 against the Terps.

The way the Maryland defense is set up might cause some untraditional matchups.  The best defender the Terps have is LSM Jesse Bernhardt, a junior captain.  Might Bernhardt end up behind the cage defending Tewaaraton winner Steele Stanwick?  Very possible, I think.  That would shuffle the usual matchups, and also ensure Maryland's young defenders are guarding veteran attackmen like Chris Bocklet.  Hopkins got caught ball-watching once or twice last week, and catching you ball-watching is Stanwick's favorite move.  If even Hopkins is prone to it, Maryland's inexperienced defenders will certainly end up with that problem too.

This is not to disparage Maryland's defense and suggest we should have an easy time scoring; it's a pretty good defense overall.  But Amato is probably the biggest factor.  UVA is multi-dimensional and thrives on the doorstep shot.  As long as UVA is patient and doesn't try to win the game in the first quarter (where Maryland, by the way, is outscoring opponents 25-8) the chances will be there.

-- UVA on defense

The biggest story, I suppose, is that Maryland's second-line midfielder Kevin Cooper will miss the game, his NCAA-mandated punishment for going to town with his fists on a UNC ballcarrier.  I don't think much of it.  Cooper only has three goals and six assists this season, and Maryland's offense has plenty of balance; there will not be a time on Saturday when we say, "man, they really miss Kevin Cooper."

Like UVA, Maryland gets offense from every corner of the starting lineup, and second-line middie Michael Shakespeare is dangerous too.  The Terps are a little less explosive, but also a little slower-paced and deliberate.  There's little divide between "playmakers" and "scorers" - Shakespeare and doorstep attackman Jay Carlson (also not a starter) are the only ones who can be called finishers only.  Leading scorer Joe Cummings isn't lighting the world on fire with his numbers (12 G, 7 A) but he does put 65% of his shots on net.  Overall, it's a veteran, patient unit.

Dare I say it, however - UVA might actually have an advantage on faceoffs, helping to keep the ball on the right side of the field.  FOGO Curtis Holmes won 63% of faceoffs - last year.  This year, he's a shade under .500.  And it's not due to the competition; most of Maryland's opponents are .500ish teams at the X.  So that's maybe a little puzzling, but Ryan Benincasa is winning at a .607 pace, and if he can take advantage of Holmes's sudden mediocrity, it should bode well.

-- Outlook

Never say never with Maryland.  The game is on the road, and it's supposed to rain overnight in Maryland, meaning the field - if the past is any guide - will be a disgusting slop.  And to a certain extent, you always throw out the records with these teams.  That said - UVA is the better team.  Nothing happened last week to convince me UVA can't contend with and beat the best teams in the country, which is as it should be.  I think Maryland's individual scoring numbers, which are fairly low, could lull us as fans into a false sense of security, but I also think as long as patience rules the day, UVA will break down the Terp defense.

-- Final score: UVA 12, Md. 9

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