Friday, March 15, 2013

game preview: Ohio State

Date/Time: Saturday, March 16; 3:00

TV: Cavaliers Live

Record against the Buckeyes: 6-0

Last meeting: UVA 11, OSU 9; 3/17/12, Columbus

Last game: Cornell 12, UVA 11 (3/9); DU 10, OSU 9 (3/9)

Rankings: UVA #11/#9, OSU #12/#12

Efficiency stats:

UVA: 54.7% (#11)
OSU: 58.3% (#17)

Clearing (offense):
UVA: 93.2% (#3)
OSU: 91.8% (#7)

Clearing (defense):
UVA: 79.5% (#8)
OSU: 90.5% (#57)

Scoring % (offense):
UVA: 34.8% (#23)
OSU: 35.5% (#19)

Scoring % (defense):
UVA: 30.1% (#21)
OSU: 28.5% (#12)

UVA: 16.20 (#20)
OSU: 15.97 (#21)

UVA: 12.84 (#14)
OSU: 13.01 (#15)

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

With one bubble team now having fallen very ingloriously off the bubble for good (I think a close loss to NC State would've at least kept us on the horse, but losing by twenty is the likely coup de grace), it's time to turn our attention to another bubble team: the lacrosse one.

This blog's yearly lacrosse bracketology will make its 2013 debut this Sunday, and already I fully expect the Hoos to be starting from a lower position than we're used to.  With very narrow losses to Syracuse and Cornell, each week now brings more or less a must-win game in order to stake a tourney claim.  Remember, the autobids expanded by one, which leaves even less margin for error for UVA in the weeks ahead.  The Hoos must find a feather for their cap somewhere.  Ohio State isn't it, but without one, we really can't afford a loss, either.

-- UVA on offense

If truth be told, I would point to the offense as the reason the Hoos couldn't quite get past Syracuse or Cornell, and had trouble with Vermont besides.  UVA is scoring at a slightly lower rate than they did in 2011 and 2012, and that's with the schedule still mostly composed of cupcakes and lacking Hopkins and the ACC.  And, come to think of it, Ohio State's not-shabby defense.

Actually, the Buckeyes are a little less of a wall than they've been in the past.  They're playing faster, too; in the past, they've had the reputation of being the UVA of the lacrosse world, but they're more or less mid-pack in terms of possessions per game now.  Both should help UVA.  Goalie Greg Dutton hasn't been on top of his game, with a save percentage south of .500 after posting a .575 last season.

OSU also brings a revamped defense, with only Dominic Imbordino returning from last year.  Partly as a result (I would imagine) OSU is way near the bottom of the NCAA charts in caused turnovers.  Their results this year have been a mixed bag.  Allowing only 10 goals to Denver, even in a loss, is pretty good - that's a season-low for the Pioneers.  Allowing 8 goals to Detroit, one of the worst offensive teams in the country, is bad.  That would be Detroit's second-highest total of the year, and Dutton was frankly outplayed by Detroit's goalie in that game.

On the good-guy side, Dom is slowly settling down the lineups, but not completely.  Nick O'Reilly has become a fixture, and oftentimes the offense lives or dies with his quarterbacking, which he's doing a nice job of with 15 assists already this year.  I still want to see Matt White play closer to the net and end this midfield experiment, but I've resigned myself to not getting my way.  Otherwise, there isn't so much a first and second line of midfielders as there is a first and second group that gets shuffled up at times.  We're getting there, though.

Faceoffs continue to scare me, even with Mick Parks winning at a .567 clip.  The reason is that our wing play, if I may be so blunt, stinks.  Chris LaPierre has been missing a ton of time and it shows.  Our wings are always last to the play, it seems.  I'd like to maybe solve that by putting the speedy Pat Harbeson on the wing, but Harbeson's no defender at all and only marginally skilled on offense.  Besides, there's no guarantee he'd take any better an angle to the ball or be any better anticipating its motion than anyone else.  Can't be much worse, though.

Still, as long as we can get some possession I'd like to think we can score on Ohio State.  Maybe not, like, VMI-style, but UVA was doing well against a very stingy Cornell defense for a while.  Continuing to gel should help, and the game is at home.

-- UVA on defense

It was probably fair to say that OSU was a one-man show last year.  Attackman Logan Schuss had twice as many points as the next guy.  It's much more diversified this year.  Freshman Carter Brown has joined Schuss at the attack and played well.  Along with top midfielder Jesse King, OSU finds itself with a much more efficient offense than they had last year.  King and Brown are both scoring on 40% or more of their shots.

The battle between Schuss and Scott McWilliams should be a good one.  McWilliams already has 20 caused turnovers, and while he's a little bit of a risk-taker and prone to getting beat, Schuss is one notch below the country's elite.  Which McWilliams has now had his crack it in guarding Rob Pannell.

If there's an X-factor it might be midget midfielder Turner Evans, who missed the Buckeyes' first couple games.  Evans is judicious with his shots, but he's been a sniper when he gets open for one, scoring six times on nine shots.  As he's not very big, he has a tough time getting open on his own, but he'll probably have a short stick on him more often than not and that defender can't be caught out of place.

-- Outlook

A tough matchup awaits.  Ohio State has tourney aspirations and this is one of their best chances to play their way in.  And this is a year in which UVA is going to struggle to play at the level we're accustomed to seeing.  Last year OSU jumped out to like a 6-1 lead before UVA got back into the game and eventually won.  So don't be exactly blown away if we lose.  That said, I'll be damned if I predict a loss to these bastards.

Final score: UVA 10, OSU 8

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