Saturday, March 23, 2013

game preview: Johns Hopkins

Date/Time: Saturday, March 23; 4:30


Record against the Blue Jays: 28-56

Last meeting: JHU 11, UVA 10; 3/24/12, Charlottesville

Last game: OSU 11, UVA 10 (3/16); Cuse 13, JHU 8 (3/16)

Rankings: UVA #13/#14. JHU #11/#10

Efficiency stats:

UVA: 54.1% (#16)
JHU: 68.8 (#1)

Clearing (offense):
UVA: 93.9% (#1)
JHU: 84.9% (#42)

Clearing (defense):
UVA: 80.5% (#9)
JHU: 79.7% (#7)

Scoring % (offense):
UVA: 34.3 (#22)
JHU: 34.5 (#20)

Scoring % (defense):
UVA: 31.1% (#25)
JHU: 31.1% (#24)

UVA: 16.28 (#23)
JHU: 16.23 (#24)

UVA: 12.70 (#11)
JHU: 11.88 (#7)

(Ratings are my KenPom-esque measures of efficiency for lacrosse. Numbers are schedule-adjusted. National average is about 15.1.)

And those ratings would seem to augur a pretty even rivalry game.  The stakes are even too: both UVA and Hopkins find themselves in need of a win to help build a tourney resume, as neither has beaten anyone likely to be in the tourney themselves.  It's technically a neutral-site game, but you're gonna have a hard time convincing me of that when the game's about five miles from the opposing campus.  It's not any great injustice, really, since the game was at Klockner last year, but the large stage and obvious prestige of the opponents will draw plenty of attention to both the winner and the loser.

-- UVA on offense

Frankly, it's likely only a matter of time before Hopkins gets the win(s) they need to climb into the tourney, and their defense will be the reason.  Expected to have a strong one before the season, they haven't disappointed, and goalie Pierce Bassett has more or less rebounded from a 2012 sophomore slump.

It wouldn't be a stretch to suggest that Hopkins has the best set of defensemen in the country.  Tucker Durkin was last year's top defender nationwide.  Chris Lightner and Jack Reilly also have a ton of experience.  Even so, UVA has proven capable of scoring against man-to-man defenses.  Hopkins doesn't play cautious, but they're not extra-aggressive either.  They put a lot of faith in Bassett and their defensemen to keep the ball in front of them.

Even so, sooner or later Hopkins will almost certainly break out a zone.  Dave Pietramala would be stupid not to, after the way the latest few games have gone.  UVA has not properly solved a zone defense all year.  We're really not that far from the same territory we were in with basketball a few years ago when the shooters couldn't buy a bucket in a million years.  There was no point in analyzing things because nothing was going to matter unless a few shots started falling.  It's getting there now with this offense and the zone defense.

Also, someone's percentages are getting semi-ruined here, because UVA is the best clearing team in the country and Hopkins's ride is resulting in better than 20% failed clears.  I forget which broadcast I was watching, but the announcer pointed out that no team in NCAA stats-keeping history had ever been better than 90% on clears for three years in a row until UVA did it from 2010-2012.  The general idea was, hmmm, three years of 90% clearing, three years of Chris LaPierre - coincidence?  But UVA is at nearly 94% even with Shocker having missed five of eight games and now being shut down for the season.  This is going to be a no-margin-for-error game, so the clearing game will be vital.

-- UVA on defense

Even more vital: clamping down on defense.  UVA hasn't been bad at all, but this is a game that will demand near-perfection.  Hopkins is absolutely dominant on faceoffs this year, with primary FOGO Mike Poppleton winning at a ridiculous 71% clip.  Put that up against UVA's struggles this year - I don't care what the stats say, we've been bad - and it's gonna be make-it-take-it out there.  For Hopkins only.

Steele Stanwick used to terrorize Johns Hopkins - he had more than one 7-point game against them in his career.  I guess it's our turn to be on the receiving end of that stuff, as Steele's brother Wells Stanwick is the ringleader of the Hopkins offense.  He's got the Stanwick deadeye shot, too; a shooting percentage of .577 and a SOG percentage of .769 are on the books for him.  He leads his team in assists with 12 and is second in goals with 15.

Brandon Benn is the recipient of his generosity, scoring 19 goals for Hopkins this year, with a shot that's not much less accurate than Stanwick's.  Both are attackmen, and Zach Palmer rounds out the attack with 8 goals and 11 assists.  Hopkins also gives plenty of time at attack to Ryan Brown, so out of their top five scorers, four are attackmen.  That could help UVA a little bit, as easily the strongest defensive play this year has come from the long-stick guys, and yes that's accounting for the fact that they're supposed to.  The biggest weakness on defense has been when midfielders break down our short-stick defenders, which happens a little more frequently than it should.

The biggest advantage UVA will have in this game, mathematically anyway, is on the ride, where Hopkins's clear is surprisingly poor at 85%.  It's not horrible, but it's clearly in the bottom half of the country, and it's not a function of playing a bunch of great teams because they were fine against Princeton and not that bad against Syracuse, the only two contenders they've played.

-- Outlook

Is not so good.  Start with the faceoffs, where I've got very little doubt we'll get crushed.  Mick Parks will have his hands full.  Even though he's 2-for-8, I'd like to see Tanner Ottenbreit get a few more shots with his long stick, just to throw Poppleton off his game a little.  I never get my way with the Matt White thing, though, so I'm not getting my hopes up.

Hopkins's defense is a problem too.  Especially if we let things get too settled.  I think UVA's best chance in this game is turn it into a raggedy transition affair.  So much the better if UVA can make Hopkins's clearing attempts miserable; I like our chances better in a protracted ground ball fight than a long possession - regardless of whose possession it is.  If the Hoos can force turnovers, either on the ride or on settled defense, and turn those into quick-strike points, they'll at least keep it close.  If not, Hopkins's faceoff dominance is going to settle this one.  Unfortunately, I think the latter is more likely.

Final score: JHU 14, UVA 7


I haven't had the time nor the wherewithal to make the time to create a baseball preview for the weekend series against NC State, but you're reminded that it's a doubleheader on Saturday followed by a Monday night TV game on ESPNU.  A rare opportunity to see them on your big lightning box.

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