Friday, March 2, 2012
game preview: Syracuse
Date/Time: Sunday, March 4; 4:30
Record against the Orange: 14-13
Last matchup: Cuse 12, UVA 10; 3/4/12; Syracuse
Last game: UVA 17, MSM 5 (2/28); Cuse 10, Army 9 (2/26)
Opposing blogs: Troy Nunes
(Stats explanation: Tempo is the number of offensive possessions (OPs) per game (faceoffs won + clears + opp. failed clears - own failed clears). Average is about 30. Faceoff and clearing percentage: self-explanatory. Scoring %: percentage of offenOPs that result in goals. O-rating and D-rating are my own special sauce based on the above numbers. D-I average for each (for 2011) is about 14.10. Numbers not adjusted for strength of competition.)
Exactly a year ago to the day was the last Syracuse game, and it kicked off what can only be called a disappointing regular season. (For reasons that should be wicked obvious, nobody cares.) As with practically every season, it started off with the expected wins; after the Syracuse game, we beat only two of the opponents that define the season.
This year is starting off no different than the last, like, four or five. We're off to a 4-0 start and Syracuse is 2-0. Per usual, it's the first chance for both teams to really define their season.
-- UVA on offense
This will be the strength-on-strength matchup of the game. The Hoos haven't had much trouble scoring, and offense was always expected to be our strong suit. The best part is that the team is proving that Steele Stanwick doesn't need to carry the load. So far this year, he's mostly drawn the attention of the opponent's best defender, which allows the whole rest of the team to run wild. The scoring has been balanced, with six players (including Stanwick) having at least four goals (count taken before the MSM game) and better yet, it's been assisted. Last year at this time (and for the next month or two) I was lamenting the one-on-one nature of the offense. This year, 31 of 40 goals have had an assist attached. That is a very difficult offense to stop.
Of course, if anyone's equipped to stop it, they're likely to be Syracuse. Defenseman Brian Megill is a Tewaaraton watch-lister, and the Cuse defense has been very stout through two games. A perfectly good Army team, which has been scoring on 41% of OPs and has a 17.51 O-rating, only hit on 9 of 32 for 28% against Cuse. Syracuse's ride was also excellent against Army, allowing just 20-of-32 clears.
In net, John Galloway has graduated, leaving what appears to be an ongoing goalie battle. Matthew Lerman and Dominic Lamolinara have split the time, with Lerman taking the first half against Albany and Army and Lamolinara taking the second half. So far, Lamolinara - a transfer from Maryland - has outplayed his rival, with 15 saves and 9 goals allowed compared to 10 and 7 for Lerman. Lamolinara actually earned the win against Army, as Syracuse trailed by 1 at halftime but eked out a 10-9 victory.
I think the result here will be too many weapons for Syracuse to handle all at once. Obviously, don't expect the goals to be counted by the multitude. Cuse has an additional advantage in faceoff man Chris Daddio (a name which writes its own jokes) who is winning better than 67% this year. Our guys will have their hands full, and this'll limit our possessions in a way that hasn't happened yet this season. But there are so many different combinations for the UVA offense to score with that there shouldn't be a lot of trouble making it happen. Relatively speaking.
-- UVA on defense
Syracuse has been puzzlingly bad on offense so far. Truth is they were kind of average last year, too, but this year they're subpar, and at a time of year when the numbers of good teams should be inflated due to competition. For starters, they've scored on just 25% of their OPs; 22 goals in 86 possessions. Their clearing has been average at best at 83%; if they didn't have such a good faceoff percentage, their O-rating would be down in Manhattan territory. (Manhattan's O-rating was 53rd of 61 last year.)
Of course, me saying this is all the lacrosse gods need to give Syracuse 18 goals. They have a talented front line. The playmaker is Tommy Palasek, who has five of Cuse's 11 total assists, and top dog JoJo Marasco has four goals and two assists. Tim Desko continues to be something of an enigma; he can do some spectacular things with the ball, but so far has three goals on 11 shots, among the worst shooting percentages on the team.
This offense has a chance to be multidimensional, if Desko is allowed to present a threat; besides Marasco, Derek Maltz also has four goals on the year. However, with just a 50% assist rate (11 assists on 22 goals) it may be a sign that their offense will be like ours last year; too dependent on individual shot creation and not enough on good passing.
Don't take all this the wrong way; Syracuse will still be the most talented offensive team we've faced. Last year's offense was very well-balanced indeed, so there's no reason to think they've suddenly become a selfish lot. That said, it also seems clear they're still finding their way around, having had to replace a lot of parts. Maltz only even played in seven games last year; now he's one of the primary goalscorers. There's some gelling to be done here.
I think we're getting Syracuse at a good time. Playing at home, having an offense that's had the opportunity to mesh (and not needing much at that).... I think I'd feel a lot less at ease if Syracuse had played more than two games so far. But they haven't. Because of the name on the front of the uniform, it'll be a tough test. Always is. But in the all-time series, we are one goal down, and I think we'll get a good chance to reverse that on Sunday. Come the end of the season, if we have to play Cuse again, it might be different, but UVA should have the advantage in this one.
-- Final score: UVA 12, Cuse 9