Friday, March 7, 2014

game preview: Cornell

Date/Time: Saturday, March 8; 12:00

TV: None

Record against the Big Red: 9-4

Last meeting: CU 12, UVA 11; 3/9/13, Charlottesville

Last game: UVA 17, Cuse 12 (3/1); CU 19, Canisius 6 (3/4)

Rankings: UVA #2/#2. JHU #15/#15

Efficiency stats:

UVA: 51.8% (#30)
CU: 60.6% (#9)

Clearing (offense):
UVA: 89.8% (#17)
CU: 88.6% (#21)

Clearing (defense):
UVA: 77.6% (#7)
CU: 85.3% (#34)

Scoring % (offense):
UVA: 40.2% (#11)
CU: 43.2% (#6)

Scoring % (defense):
UVA: 35.5% (#43)
CU: 31.3% (#28)

UVA: 17.59 (#13)
CU: 18.56 (#8)

UVA: 14.26 (#22)
CU: 15.33 (#33)

(Ratings are my KenPom-esque measures of efficiency for lacrosse. Numbers are schedule-adjusted. National average is about 15.4.)

I'll bet you expected a Maryland thing.  Two reasons this ain't that: one, the game means nothing except for maybe sending Maryland off to their new Midwestern friends in style (admittedly, I actually really want that for them.)  Two, there's a fair enough chance that Maryland will be the Friday opponent in the ACC tournament and thus I don't want to use up all the material this week.

Lacrosse it is, then.  UVA travels to Ithaca this weekend as the yardstick portion of the schedule starts to kick into gear.  Last week's win over Syracuse did little to dispel questions about whether this team is good enough - but it did change the scope back to what we're used to.  Instead of "can they get to the tournament" we're back to "can they win the whole thing."  (Almost definitely, and probably not.)  Wins over Loyola and Syracuse provide a decent resume foundation, and with VMI and Bellarmine yet to be played, getting to eight wins (you need to be over .500) should be little trouble.

On the other hand, this team is almost definitely overrated at #2.  Despite the torrid scoring pace put on by Mark Cockerton and James Pannell, the O-rating in my system is less elite than I would've expected.  This is due somewhat to the earliness in the season; it takes a while for those to settle down and UVA has played six games whereas most teams have not - when others catch up, a lot of the teams above UVA will regress to the mean some.

Still, there are legitimate concerns.  Faceoff percentage is a component of that rating, and UVA needed a faceoff blitzkrieg last week just to nose slightly above 50%.  Cornell will not be the faceoff pushover Syracuse was; FOGO Doug Tesoriero has won 61 of 100 this year so far (I hope I don't need to translate the percentage) and ought to be salivating this week.

Cornell hasn't been especially excellent this year, but not through any fault of their offense.  Though they've played some pretty awful defensive teams, they've certainly taken advantage, increasing their goal-scoring from game to game all year and culminating with a 19-goal outburst against Canisius this week.  They've got some good shooters; veteran attackmen Dan Lintner and Matt Donovan have stepped out of the shadows of Rob Pannell and Steve Mock to lead Cornell with 15 and 12 goals so far, and midfielder John Hogan has proved a shooting threat as well.  All are shooting at least 43%.

Cornell's defense has left something to be desired, though.  Goalie Brennan Donville has had a tough time filling the shoes of A.J. Fiore, starting his career as a starter with a .458 save percentage.  They've had their share already of close shaves against really bad teams; down 7-6 after three quarters to (currently) 0-4 Hobart, they needed a 6-1 4th in order to close it out.  And third-year program Michigan took them to overtime before succumbing, 15-14.  The same Michigan team that scored just 7 goals against High Point in their next game.

This game looks a lot like Syracuse redux.  Two offenses that are way ahead of their defenses.  Despite what the ratings say I think UVA has an edge on offense, and you don't need ratings or anything else to see how Cornell's defense has struggled as well.  UVA simply isn't going to have the kind of faceoff and groundball dominance they held against the Cuse though; meanwhile, Cornell's D looks kind of bad but UVA has some players who could make it look really bad.  Two undefeated records are on the line here; cautiously, I like the Hoos to pull it out, but they need to at least win more than 4 of 10 faceoffs.

Final score: UVA 16, CU 14

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