Michigan Preview: Canisius

Michigan will try to get back on the winning side of the ledger after taking a sledgehammer to the face against Notre Dame last weekend.

Canisius

Canisius College Griffins Lacrosse

Fear the Griffin!

Feb. 28, 2015. 1 p.m. EST
Oosterbaan Fieldhouse
Live stats.
@UMichLacrosse.
Michigan Preview.
Canisius Preview. .pdf notes.

Tempo-Free Profile

The TempoFreeLax.com numbers displayed here are last year’s. We’re getting close to the point where I’ll flip to this year’s marks. That day is not today. It might be Tuesday.

Canisius 2014
Pace 55.87 (65)
Poss% 51.31 (19)
Off. Eff. 29.09 (45)
Def. Eff. 33.14 (43)
Pyth% 43.99 (39)

Although the MAAC is generally one of the faster conferences (a lot of bad defense and a lot of failed clears will do that to ya), Canisius manages to be real slow. Part of that is because they’ve been able to dominate the ball on opponents (and presumably sit on it until the shot clock hits :02).

The offense and defense are parallels of each other: they’re similarly bad-to-mediocre. Part of that is the strength of schedule adjustment – playing in the MAAC does no favors there, as stellar a lacrosse team as Manhattan traditionally is – but part of it just, well is what it is. The Golden Griffins haven’t been particularly good at anything except controlling the ball, and that can be enough to win in a mid-major league.

So far this year, Canisius is 0-3, with losses to Boston University (bad), Furman (bad), and Air Force (wouldn’t be that bad, but they got destroyed, 13-6). I don’t really think they’re going to be setting any new records for competency.

Offense

The offense has been well-rounded thus far, albeit through three losses. Senior midfielder Tim Edwards is the leading scorer with four goals and five assists, and his younger brother Jeff (a sophomore and fellow midfielder) has three and three. Fifth-year senior Christopher Kane has three goals and two assists. Nick Tuttle played a big role last year (14 goals and one assist), but hasn’t done much this year despite starting all three games.

Junior attack Billy Jacobbi is the true finisher, with five goals and no assists so far on the year. He hasn’t started any of the games so far, so his production may be a matter of circumstance. Starter Vince Gravino has just a single goal on the year.

Either way, this is an offense that initiates through the midfield, but creates opportunities for the attack to rack up points. That means Michigan will need strong LSM (yes) and d-middie (maybe, but usually yes) play.

Defense

The defense has been real bad against some (probably) real bad offensive teams so far. That’s – you guessed it – bad.

Senior goalie Alex Govenettio has played every minute between the pipes (and did most of the dirty work last year – gave up just a few minutes in late-game situations), but has not done very well. He saved .535 last year, but is at just .478 so far this year. Either he got worse, or the defense in front of him did.

Senior Adam Donner and junior Rich Stapleton are returning starters, so it really shouldn’t be that diminished. Sophomore Paul Burich has moved into the starting lineup after getting just a few minutes last year, so unless he’s an epic weak link, there’s probably been an issue with the defensive midfield.

LSM Kevin Collins and defensive midfielder Mike Vavonese played a bunch last year. They even had some offensive production. I’m at a loss for how essentially the same set of players gets a lot worse (against really bad competition) in a year.

Part of it has to do with how much they’ve been on the field (and how they got there – a quick perusal of the play-by-play data indicates that six of their goals conceded this year have come directly off failed clears)…

Special Teams

Tim Edwards was a .611 faceoff guy last year, and he’s down to .458 so far this year. Against a good (albeit streaky) FOGO like Brad Lott, he could struggle to around .400, or take over and force Michigan to put in LSM Chase Brown to control the game. Freshman Steven Coss has been worse than Edwards.

The worst aspect of all, however, has been the clear. Canisius is dead last in the nation among teams that have played more than one game, at just under 70%. Inside Oosterbaan Fieldhouse (a traditionally tough clearing venue for opponents) and against a U-M team that’s willing to ride hard, this could be a struggle. They’ve made up some of the discrepancy by riding relatively hard – 16.22% success – but it’s not enough. They’re a poor possession team.

Canisius has played aa very clean game in comparison to opponents this year, though they haven’t been great at converting on the EMO. Meanwhile, Furman and Air Force each converted 1/2 man-up opportunities. You’d like to think Michigan is comparable or better on the extra-man than those two, though chances to employ it will be slim.

Big Picture

This is a chance for Michigan to get off the mat after Notre Dame gave them the ol’ “think you’re a top-20 team? I’ll show you a top-20 team” treatment. Canisius seems to have taken a big step back from last year, even though most of their personnel remains the same. That can be a double-edged sword: hey probably snap out of it at some point.

It would be pretty impressive for that point to be against a fringe ranked team like Michigan. They’ll probably do most of their damage in the MAAC, because they’ve already fallen to two of their easier non-conference opponents.

Michigan can build up a nice resume and help the Big Ten (the league has struggled so far this year), and if they win enough in the non-conference, they could be in position to challenge for an at-large tournament bid if they make a surprising run through the league.

Predictions

Michigan is a pretty good team, Canisius is a pretty bad one to date in 2015.

  • Despite playing one of their toughest opponents of the season, Canisius probably starts a long road of rounding into form this afternoon. It shouldn’t be enough to beat Michigan, but there’s a good chance they move up the national TFL rankings even with a loss.
  • They’ll really struggle to clear in Oosterbaan Fieldhouse. Even good clearing teams do so, with the white ceiling and walls, and the intimidation factor of limited sideline clearance. A bad clearing team like Canisius… Michigan should ride them hard and find success doing it.
  • Transition offense will be important for Michigan if they’re going to turn this one into a blowout. Rideback goals and clean faceoff wins should allow them to make this a very comfortable one. If they don’t get those opportunities, it should still be a win, but will be a closer-than-expected one.
  • I’m done trying to figure out Michigan’s faceoffs. Brad Lott is a really good faceoff guy… but is prone to major downturns where he can’t seem to get anything going. He’s a 60%-plus guy this year in my opinion, but it seems like the majority of those 40% on he wrong side will come in just four or five games.
  • Michigan’s defense should have what it takes to slow down (though not shut down) Canisius. That should be enough to get the win.

Michigan is the better team, and though Canisius will improve over the course of this season from there they’ve started it, they’re off to a rocky beginning. The more talented team across the board playing at home (in a venue that’s given it one of the best home-field advantages possible) should get the win. Michigan takes it, 14-7.

Share your predictions, discussion, etc. in the comments.

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The Next Level: Feb. 27, 2015

Our weekly look at Michigan natives who are playing college lacrosse at division-1 institutions this spring.

Binghamton 9, Marist 12

  • Freshman midfielder Liam Reaume (Brother Rice) – Did not see game action.

Canisius 8, Furman 9
Canisius 6, Air Force 13

  • Freshman midfielder Keith Pravato (Novi) – Did not see game action
  • Sophomore midfielder Steve Wizniuk (De La Salle) – Did not see game action.

Delaware 11, Mount St. Mary’s 10

  • Senior defenseman Bennett Packer (Brother Rice) – Did not see game action.

Detroit 11, Robert Morris 10 (OT)

  • Senior midfield/attack Brandon Beauregard (Notre Dame Prep) – Started, scored two Goals on three Shots (all on goal), added two Assists, and picked up one ground ball. Also committed four turnovers.
  • Sophomore attack Kyle Beauregard (Notre Dame Prep) – Started and scored three Goals – including the game-winner – on six Shots (three on goal).
  • Senior midfielder Mike Birney (Detroit Catholic Central) – Started, scored a Goal on four Shots (three on goal), added two Assists, and picked up three ground balls. Also committed two turnovers.
  • Freshman midfielder Sean Birney (Detroit Catholic Central) – Played, but did not accrue any statistics.
  • Senior midfielder Scott Drummond (Birmingham Seaholm) – Started, recorded an Assists, took six Shots (three on goal), and picked up two ground balls. Also committed one turnover.
  • Sophomore goalie Connor Flynn (Rockford) – Did not see game action.
  • Senior defenseman Joe Gifford (Notre Dame Prep) – Played, but did not accrue any statistics.
  • Redshirt freshman attack Alex Gilhooly (Detroit Catholic Central) – Played, but did not accrue any statistics.
  • Sophomore midfielder Ben Gjokaj (Walled Lake Central) – Did not see game action.
  • Sophomore midfielder Brad Harris (Saline) – Scored a Goal on two Shots (one on goal). Also committed two turnovers.
  • Freshman midfielder Charlie Hayes (Utica Eisenhower) – Played, but only made the scoresheet by committing one penalty for 0:30.
  • Junior midfielder Andy Hebden (Brother Rice) – Took one Shot on goal and picked up one ground ball.
  • Sophomore LSM JD Hess (Birmingham Seaholm) – Caused one turnover. Also committed two penalties for 2:00.
  • Sophomore attack/midifeld Connor Maks (UD-Jesuit) – Played, but only made the scoresheet by committing one turnover.
  • Sophomore midfielder Greg Marzec (Brother Rice) – Picked up one ground ball. Also committed one turnover.
  • Redshirt freshman defenseman Bryan Matney (Ann Arbor Pioneer) – Played, but did not accrue any statistics.
  • Freshman midfielder Chris Perry (Utica Eisenhower) – Played, but did not accrue any statistics.
  • Freshman LSM Austin Ross (Warren Mott) – Did not see game action.
  • Senior midfielder Thomas Sible (Forest Hills Central) – Picked up one ground ball. Also committed one turnover.
  • Freshman midfielder Brett Spanski (Traverse City Central) – Did not see game action.
  • Freshman defenseman Travis Sparling (Novi) – Did not see game action.
  • Junior midfielder Mike Spuller (Dexter) – Played, but did not accrue any statistics.
  • Redshirt freshman attack Adam Susalla (Birmingham Seaholm) – Did not see game action.
  • Junior defenseman Jordan Yono (Detroit Catholic Central) – Started, caused one turnover, and picked up one ground ball. Also committed one turnover.

Marquette 11, Richmond 10 (OT)

  • Junior midfielder K.C. Kennedy (Brother Rice) – Won 13/23 faceoffs, picking up five ground balls.
  • Junior attack Henry Nelson (Brother Rice) – Did not see game action.

Michigan 8, Notre Dame 17

  • Sophomore faceoff specialist Brian Archer (Brighton) – Did not see game action.
  • Senior defenseman Mack Gembis (Cranbrook) – Started, caused two turnovers, and picked up one ground ball. Also committed one turnover.
  • Junior midfielder Riley Kennedy (Brother Rice) – Did not see game action.
  • Senior attack Will Meter (Brother Rice) – Started, scored two Goals on four Shots (all on goal), added an Assist, and picked up two ground balls.
  • Senior midfielder Thomas Orr (Detroit Catholic Central) – Played, but only made the scoresheet by committing one turnover.
  • Junior defenseman Chris Walker (Brother Rice) – Started, caused two turnovers, and picked up one ground ball. Also committed one penalty for 1:00.

NJIT 4, Stony Brook 18

  • Freshman midfielder Brent Lubin (Orchard Lake St. Mary’s) – Did not see game action.

Notre Dame 17, Michigan 8

  • Sophomore midfielder Sergio Perkovic (Brother Rice) – Started and scored two Goals on five Shots (four on goal). Also committed one turnover.

Penn 7, Marland 11

  • Sophomore goalie Ahmed Iftikhar (Detroit Country Day) – Did not see game action.

Providence 12, Vermont 9

  • Freshman midfielder Joshua Keller (East Grand Rapids) – Took one Shot. Also committed one turnover.

Providence 7, Boston University 4

  • Freshman midfielder Joshua Keller (East Grand Rapids) – Did not see game action.

Richmond 10, Marquette 11 (OT)

  • Sophomore attack JP Forester (Brother Rice) – Started, scored a Goal on two Shots (one on goal), added two Assists, and picked up three ground balls.

Robert Morris 10, Detroit 11 (OT)

  • Sophomore attack Kento Nakano (Rockford) – Did not see game action.

Rutgers 5, Virginia 14

  • Junior midfielder Jacob Coretti (East Grand Rapids) – Did not see game action

Rutgers 13, Wagner 10

  • Junior midfielder Jacob Coretti (East Grand Rapids) – Played, but only made the scoresheet by committing one turnover.

VMI 3, St. Joseph’s 11

  • Senior midfielder Andrew Erber (Dexter) – Did not see game action.

Yale 10, Maryland 6

  • Sophomore midfielder John Lazarsfeld (Ann Arbor Greenhills) – Did not see game action.
  • Freshman midfielder Jason Alessi – Played, but did not accrue any statistics.

As always, discussion, corrections, and statlines from other divisions can be shared in the comments.

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Detroit Preview: Marquette

This is going to be a brief one. Game’s at 3:30, and I’m on a time crunch. Also: haven’t even recapped last weekend’s games, or done the latest Next Level feature.

Marquette

Marquette Golden Eagles Lacrosse logo

Not many good Marquette lacrosse logos available on the internet :/

Feb. 27, 2015. 3:30 p.m. EST
Louisville, Ky.
Live stats. Live video.
@DetroitTitans.
Detroit Preview. .pdf notes.
Marquette preview.

Tempo-Free Profile

The TempoFreeLax.com numbers displayed here are last year’s. We’re getting close to the point where I’ll flip to this year’s marks. I’ll also add some notes from this year’s squad to the end of this section to make up for it a bit.

Marquette 2014
Pace 58.38 (59)
Poss% 47.75 (52)
Off. Eff. 34.07 (19)
Def. Eff. 35.86 (54)
Pyth% 39.24 (45)

Marquette was slow and didn’t have a lot of the ball last year. That means very few offensive possessions, but also not a ton of defensive ones.

One thing they did was turn those offensive possessions into goals at a pretty reasonable rate. They had a good offense (more about it in a moment).

The defense, however, was really bad. It was just outside the national bottom-10, and when opponents are getting much more of the ball than you anyway, it’s a recipe for disaster.

For this year’s marks, Marquette is slightly above average on both offense and defense. They’re an early-season media darling with a 3-0 record, but all three victories have been by one goal (even against mediocre teams – the TFL numbers love Hofstra because they blew out Manhattan, but when everyone else on the Jaspers’ schedule does the same, they’ll normalize a bit).

Offense

The offense is led by junior attack Conor Gately, a Tewaaraton candidate… who isn’t within four points of his team’s leading scorer. Gately has as many asissts (five) as leading scorer Jordan Greenfield, but only six goals to Greenfield’s 10. Greenfield is a sophomore middie who seems to be doing much more for the Marquette offense – though obviously some of Gately’s contributions don’t show up in the statbook.

Junior midfielder Kyle Whitlow is third on teh team in scoring with six goals and three assists, with sophomore middie Ryan McNamara (three and one) and junior middie Blaine Fleming (two and two) rounding out the serious scoring threats.

That’s five leading scorers and only one attackman, which means 1) Gately is doing a lot of the ball-carrying duties for the Eagles’ offense 2) there’s probably some positional versatility there, and 3) this is a midfield-driven offense, outside of Gately’s contributions.

Sophomore attack Kylan Clarke has started all three games, but has just two assists to show for it. To a certain extent, the stats just aren’t robust enough to draw any sweeping conclusions.

Defense

Marquette has made big stride on D from last year, albeit not having played a team yet that was actually good on O in 2014 (though the schedule looks generally devoid of those types of teams this season, with a couple exceptions).

Sophomore Jimmy Danaher has been the only player to see time between the pipes thus far, with a pretty good .540 save percentage and a just-OK 9.61 goals-against average. He was the primary starter last year, and both of those marks are pretty significant improvements over his performance in 2014.

Senior Logan Tousaw and redshirt juniors B.J. Grill and Dan Mojica have started all three games on close D so far. None has really done anything statistically notable thus far, and they’re actually allowing more shots on goal per game than the defense did last year (Danaher’s improvement is either the driving force behind defensive improvement, or they’re giving him easier saves to make).

I would expect that a really good offensive team could give this defense more trouble than they’ve seen so far.

Special Teams

Brother Rice alum K.C. Kennedy is a pretty good faceoff guy, winning .538 so far and picking up a GB on 39.2% of his wins (unfortunately, a factor that is only descriptive to true FOGOs, since multi-dimensional midfielders are going to get a wider range of all sorts of ground balls, not just off faceoffs). Freshman Owen Weselak has gotten about a quarter of attempts, and is right at .500 so far.

Marquette’s clear is terrible (especially against the competition they’ve faced, though Lehigh has been a decent riding team), and that’s something Detroit can exploit, especially with its occasional tendency to pressure. Marquette is just above-average in the ride, but against an iffy clear like Detroit’s has been at times, that might be good enough to garner an advantage.

Marquette has been pretty clean this year relative to opponents, but their games overall have had quite a few penalties on both sides. Against Detroit, look for that to continue. MU hasn’t allowed many goals on the rare man-down opportunities they’ve given up, and have had a decent-not-great EMO.

Big Picture

Detroit has put together a nice early-season resume, with the only loss coming against Michigan. The win over Ohio State is an outstanding pelt to have collected, and the current “new program media darling” would be another one.

In the grand scheme, as I’ve said about Detroit, collecting wins is primarily to prepare for the MAAC schedule and to build up some good vibes. In terms of reaching the postseason, they won’t be able to do enough (unless a lot of UDM’s non-conference opponents have unbelievably good years) to make the tournament a possibility through any method other than the conference auto-bid.

Predictions

In case it’s unclear, I’m not super-sold on Marquette. That said, they aren’t playing the ’85 Bears, either.

  • Golden Eagles dominate on faceoffs, but don’t get too much transition offense to show for it.
  • With a midfield-heavy offense, they play into Detroit’s defense in a way, because a good keeper (as Jason Weber certainly is) should have an easier time stopping bombs from outside than all sorts of attackman trickery.
  • That’s what makes Conor Gately the key player in this game. Limit his contributions both scoring and feeding, and Detroit should be able to slow down the Marquette offense.
  • On the other side of the ball, it might sound crazy, but I think Detroit will probably be the stiffest test to date for MU. They certainly have the variety of weapons (especially with young standout Mark Anstead stepping up as a serious complement to Shayne Adams on the first attack) to make some hay.
  • This should see a lot of penalties. Both teams are and have been susceptible to infractions.

Based on what they’ve done thus far in the regular season, I’m not big on Marquette. However, I also saw Michigan treat Detroit like they didn’t belong on the same field, and this Marquette team handled Michigan relatively well in scrimmage action (with the caveats that come from that format, of course). I think Marquette is the better team, but Detroit is better than they showed against Michigan. Golden Eagles take this one, 12-11.

Share your predictions, discussion, etc. in the comments.

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Michigan Preview: Notre Dame

Michigan gets a chance to back up one of its wins from last year. It would be the second opponent over whom the Wolverines have more than one win (Mercer is the other).

Bellarmine

Notre Dame Fighting Irish Lacrosse Logo

Classic stick design

Feb. 21, 2015. 1 p.m. EST
Oosterbaan Fieldhouse
Live stats. Audio.
@UMichLacrosse. @UofMLaxManagers.
Michigan preview. .pdf notes.
Notre Dame preview.

Tempo-Free Profile

The TempoFreeLax.com numbers displayed here are last year’s, because Notre Dame has played even fewer games than Michigan. Their lone contest thus far was a win last week against Georgetown. With just one (close) win against a team for whom that was also the only game by nature puts the Irish at the middle of the Tempo-Free table. They won’t be there for long.

Notre Dame 2014
Pace 65.50 (26)
Poss% 50.30 (35)
Off. Eff. 37.50 (9)
Def. Eff. 26.24 (5)
Pyth% 75.83 (6)

Notre Dame played at a reasonably quick tempo for a power team – who tend to play slowly unless they’re dominant in the possession game or really productive on offense. The Irish were very much not the former, and were in fact near the middle of the nation when it comes to possessing the rock.

What they were is elite on both settled ends of the field. The Irish have been known for strong defense, and last year was no exception. They had a top-five unit on that side of the ball.

Offensively, they’ve been a bit more pedestrian over the years, and that’s where they took some nice steps in 2014 – with reason to believe they’ll continue this season. More about that once you get through the next heading…

Offense

Matt Kavanaugh and Sergio Perkivoc (product of Brother Rice and unfortunate possessor of one of the worst nicknames in sports, “Motor City Hitman”) are a couple of the country’s top players at their respective positions. Kavanaugh is a jitterbug attackman who had 42 goals and 33 assists last year, capable of doing it all. Perkovic is an outside-bombing midfielder who’s added some serious versatility – particularly with his off-hand – in a couple years with the Irish. He had 28 goals and five assists last year, and already boasts three goals and two assists in 2015.

That’s not where Notre Dame’s offense begins and ends, however. Attackman Conor Doyle was the second-leading scorer behind Kavanaugh last year, and already has a goal and two assists this season. Fifth-year midfielder Jim Marlatt had 22 points, with a slight bias toward scoring, rather than assisting.

Midfielders Nick Ossello (also a faceoff specialist) and Jack Near also return, along with attack Eddy Lubowicki. That’s every double-digit point-scorer from last year except for attackman John Scioscia, who, to be fair, was the team’s second-leading scorer. This is a talented, deep offensive group, and one that returns almost entirely intact from last year.

Notre Dame should have a heck of an offense this year.

Defense

On the other hand, giving up 12 goals on 38 possessions (.316) to Georgetown (proud owners of the sixth-worst offense in the country last year) is not a super-great sign about the Irish. The offense is going to have to put up big numbers, because the defense should take a step back.

Stephen O’Hara departs after a first-team All-America performance last year, and fellow starter Brian Buglione has also graduated. That’s a big hit.  Garrett Epple is a sophomore who started seven games last year, and junior Matt Landis is expected to be one of the best poles in the country (preseason third-team All-American according to IL). However, they haven’t been able to make the keeper feel comfortable just yet.

That’s led to some really bad numbers for the goalies, even though the two who played against Georgetown are the same platoon that was available to the Irish last year. Conor Kelly was the more often used (and better, with a .505 save percentage) keeper last year, but was chased against the Hoyas after saving just five of 13 shots faced. Shane Doss was better more because of less rubber faced than anything else, saving three of seven shots against.

If Michigan can exploit the personnel turnover in the close defense to find some openings inside – and they have the talent to do that with Ian King and David McCormack, and the midfielders to stretch the field a bit with Mikie Schlosser and David Joseph – these goalies aren’t going to bail out their defense often.

Special Teams

If Michigan is to get a win, it will have to come through limiting Notre Dame’s opportunities to score – because if they get those chances, they will turn them into goals. Fortunately, excellent faceoff specialist Liam O’Conno has graduated, meaning the Irish don’t have a surefire dominator. Nick Ossello was last year’s primary backup, but struggled in a big way against Georgetown (and was a sub-.500 guy last year anyway). Sophomore P.J. Finley entered and did very well. Georgetown is trotting out a new specialist this year, so it’s undetermined just how strong the competition was for that duo.

Notre Dame was about average in clears last year, and through one game, is middle-of-the-pack again this year. Given that Georgetown has been a heavy-ride team (but one less talented than many of the ACC teams Notre Dame faces during the regular season), I would guess they’ll be about average this year.

Notre Dame has been a great riding team, and it looks like, through one game, they intend to keep that up. They rode the Hoyas into fails on a quarter of their attempts. Michigan seems to have the talent to improve its clearing, so this will be a strong test.

Notre Dame was the beneficiary of many more man-up opportunities than opponents last year, but Michigan has been a clean team through three years (and two games) as well. The Irish were absolutely ruthless in converting on EMO – which I guess is expected with their level of offensive talent – so a key for Michigan will be to not put itself into man-down situations.

Big Picture

The Wolverines were expected to win their first two games, sure, but the manner in which they did so certainly indicates they’re making more progress this season than they did over the first three years of the program (perhaps combined). If they were to get an upset over Notre Dame, it would be a strong indication that they’re easily a top-20 team this year, and could contend to make not only the Big Ten conference tournament, but also challenge for an NCAA bid.

Of course, that win will be a tall task, to say the very least. The Irish are really good at intercollegiate lacrosse, and Michigan isn’t there yet. U-M wants to make its stamp on the lacrosse world, and this is a chance to do that. With a tough schedule, there will be others, as well. A big non-conference pelt (most of the remaining tough games come in Big Ten play) would be huge.

Preview from Notre Dame blog One Foot Down.

Predictions

This is one heck of a game early in the season, as long as Michigan is able to back up its performance from the first two games…

  • The biggest key in the game for Michigan, as noted above, will be to win the possession battle. They have to clear better than most teams do against the Irish. Riding their way into a turnover or two would be nice. But the biggest task is to win on faceoffs. Brad Lott has been streaky already this season, and he can’t let one loss on a draw snowball in to four or five more in a row. The wing players for Michigan will be challenged – Notre Dame has great ball skills at LSM and in the midfielder – and they have just as important a job as Lott.
  • The reason possession is so important? Notre Dame gon’ score. I don’t see Michigan – even if Gerald Logan has a great game, which he must for U-M to have a chance – holding the Irish below .350 offensive efficiency. There’s just too much offensive talent in South Bend, and not yet quite enough in Ann Arbor, to say “oh, this elite offense will be slowed down.”
  • On the other end, I think Michigan has a chance to score some goals of its own, but living up to the Irish’s offensive efficiency is a pipe dream (hence the important of the possession game). The Notre Dame goalies are mediocre at best, and finding the windows to shoot on them should see a lot of rubber thrown their way.
  • Ian King’s diversified offensive game, along with a weakened Notre Dame defensive unit, should see him have opportunities to both score and feed. Michigan has initiated through both attack and midfield (primarily Mikie Schlosser) this year, and having the chance to do either is a key to beating an inexperienced defensive front.

The more I look at this game, the less I think it’s going to be an Irish blowout. The ND offense is nothing short of elite – it could challenge for one of the best in the nation this year – but everything else on the team seems varying degrees of “only pretty good” down to “a serious question mark thus far.” Some of those questions marks, particularly goaltending and faceoffs, are rife for exploitation by Michigan. U-M is still a year away from really having expectations to win this one, but they’ll be close enough that it’s not out of the question. Notre Dame takes it, 14-11.

Share your predictions, discussion, etc. in the comments.

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Detroit Preview: Robert Morris

Bobby Mo is off to a rough start, losing to both out-of-state teams I’ve previewed thus far (Ohio State for Detroit, Bellarmine for Michigan). The Colonials were pretty bad last year as well, so they might be… not very good.

Robert Morris

Robert Morris Colonials Lacrosse Roster

Robert Morris signed the Declaration of Independence. Also: looked nothing like this picture.

Feb. 21, 2015. 1 p.m. EST
Ultimate Soccer Arenas
Live stats.
@DetroitTitans.
Detroit Preview. .pdf notes.
Robert Morris preview.

Tempo-Free Profile

The TempoFreeLax.com numbers displayed here are last year’s, for at least a couple more previews for each team until the data is robust enough to be meaningful. They’re adjusted for strength of competition, so the Colonials’ No. 48 slate drags the numbers down a bit, but it’s pretty clear they weren’t so hot to begin with.

Robert Morris 2014
Pace 71.07 (5)
Poss% 45.83 (64)
Off. Eff. 28.30 (51)
Def. Eff. 31.56 (36)
Pyth% 30.05 (55)

Robert Morris played blazing fast last year, but given how little they had the ball, that probably wasn’t much of their doing. Opponents controlled the pace (we’ll get into some of the details there in a bit), and although Robert Morris had a decent defense, there’s a reason they ran up a big possession deficit at such a fast pace.

The offense was pretty poor – not terrible, but bottom-quarter nationally – and part of the reason for its apparent struggle was the adjustment for strength of schedule. Bobby Mo played some good defenses, but some real dogs, as well.

As noted, the defense wasn’t bad – in fact was by far the best aspect of the team last season. The high-variance schedule plays a big part in that. Shutting down Wagner may impress the stats a little bit, but giving up nearly 20 to Drexel, Maryland, and Michigan is bad. They played well against bad teams and poorly against good teams (for some definition where last year’s Michigan team fit into the latter category). An about-average overall mark is warranted.

Offense

Fortunately for an offense that struggled last year, its key pieces are back to continue building and progressing. Eric Rankel, Luke Laszkiewicz, and James Rahe were in a tier by themselves with 35, 34, and 32 points, respectively. Laszkiewicz is the lone attackman of the trio, but all three had very similar 2/3-finish, 1/3-feed scorelines. All return.

The fourth leading scorer was A/M JonPatrik Kealey, but he was definitely a finisher first, with 23 goals to 7 assists. Although he is a sophomore, he has yet to see action in either of Bobby Mo’s first two games.

Redshirt junior Eric Wales, who missed last season, has stepped into a feeding void – the Colonials were one of the least assist-happy teams in the country last year – with a goal and four assists through two games. That added aspect probably makes for a more well-rounded offense, and one that’s more difficult to defend.

Pending the status of Kealey, midfielder Taylor Graves is the only double-digit point scorer from last year not to return to this year’s team, so it’s an experienced, more well-rounded group that last year’s offense, and should be much better.

Defense

The defensive side of the ball is a different story. Four goalies saw time last year, with starter Brian Bohn playing the lion’s share of the minutes (fellow senior Brian Czerwonka got 49 seconds). He’s gone, but neither of the returning players has seen a  minute this year. Instead, freshman Chase Rose has played the entirety of the season, and his save percentage is actually pretty good (.521) but he’s seen plenty of rubber – and that’s against an Ohio State team that has yet to find its stride and a Bellarmine team that doesn’t pack much offensive firepower at this point in the year.

LSM Tyler Rankel and defenseman Alex Kelly are out the door with Bohn, so that’s a pretty significant hit to the defensive corps. Joe Scenna is back as a fifth-year senior. Junior Clay Fickenscher has started both games at LSM despite not playing a second last year. This is a unit in a bit of flux – there’s been some shakeup even between the first two games of the year – and I wouldn’t expect it to repeat last year’s performance.

Special Teams

Robert Morris was one of the worst-clearing teams in the country last year, which plays a huge role in the fast pace it played (and the possession deficit, to a degree). Things are looking better this season, maybe something of a surprise given the inexperience in the defense and defensive midfield. Again, sample size, etc. The Colonials aren’t riding at all – at least not successfully – but against a team like Detroit that has had its own struggles clearing over the years, they might try to play just a bit more pressure. Still seems like UDM should be able to get end-to-end without much difficulty.

Faceoffs were real, real bad last year (bottom-six in the country despite playing a lot of teams who were terrible on draws), and through a couple games, they aren’t any better this year. I like Detroit’s specialists, particularly Damien Hicks, and I saw good things out of the wing play against Michigan. Drawing even here is probably enough.

Robert Morris was really reliant on EMOs to score last year, despite their inability to stay out of the box themselves. They had a strong conversion rate, but obviously not as good as UDM’s record-setting unit. Assuming Detroit can keep penalties about even, that’s advantage Titans.

Big Picture

Detroit has already defied early expectations with a win over Ohio State, and building up a few non-conference victories would certainly be nice. In the grand scheme though, they’re ultimately meaningless when it comes to the season goal: NCAA Tournament. No matter how many games UDM wins, the RPI hit from playing the schedule it does will keep them from qualifying for the tournament as an at-large. They have to win the conference, and that’s the only thing that can get them to the Big Dance.

On the other hand, winning is good (#hotsportstake right there), and building up the quality of the program through earning wins is a positive. The Titans will have to pull upsets instead of coming close to them to get that momentum going, but they seem to have made strides with the Ohio State win.

Predictions

It’s tough to say whether terrible possession and a diminished defense will be bad enough to counteract what could be a good Robert Morris offense this season.

  • Jason Weber is the key player for Detroit in this one. The Titans have a solid defense, but it’s clear Robert Morris’ offensive talent is there as well. Weber making a few saves that he shouldn’t (although it’s become the norm, so “shouldn’t” might not be the right word) can be the difference-maker.
  • I like Detroit to win the faceoff battle, something that’s been very rare in recent seasons. Robert Morris is about as bad as they come at the X, and UDM has specialists and wing play to take down teams like that. They’ll still be dominated by the Ohio States or Michigans of the world, but can return the favor.
  • Look for Mike Birney to have a nice day – if he can keep the ball on cage. He accomplished that against Ohio State, struggled with it against Michigan. Robert Morris’ defensive midfield is a major question mark, and two talented attackmen for the Titans should be able to set up each other and Birney.
  • Speaking of those attackmen, I like Shayne Adams and Mark Anstead to find space and score against a softened Bobby Mo defense.

I’m going with Detroit’s ability to prevent goals in a battle of two good offenses against defenses with question marks. Jason Weber is the difference-maker, and Detroit should be able to do enough in the possession game to give itself a few more chances to score goals, even if the efficiencies aren’t radically different. Detroit wins, 14-10.

Share your predictions, discussion, etc. in the comments.

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Michigan 15, Detroit 6

I incorrectly predicted this game in the preview, but even had I picked Michigan to win the game, it certainly wouldn’t have been by this type of margin. The expected has happened: U-M’s program is well past Detroit’s.

Any rivalry wins at this point for the Titans (and there will be some, probably many over time) will be of the “plucky underdog” variety, not two approximately even teams doing battle.

Tempo Free

From the official box score, a look at the tempo-free stats:

Michigan-Detroit 2015
Detroit Michigan
Faceoff Wins 10 Faceoff Wins 15
Clearing 13-19 Clearing 18-20
Possessions 31 Possessions 41
Goals 6 Goals 15
Offensive Efficiency .194 Offensive Efficiency .366

Michigan dominated possession (it probably could have been worse, honestly), and still managed to nearly double up the Titans in terms of efficiency. That’s… that’s a pretty good recipe for a bigtime win.

UDM had some nice answers on faceoffs, but despite a decent game from Jason Weber, just couldn’t compete in the other facets of the game.

Notes

Going to the big picture, it’s clear that Year Four is Michigan’s turn to finally show that it wants to compete with the top-20 programs in the nation. A Detroit-oriented source mentioned to me after the game: “You see what happens when one team gets top-5 recruiting classes full of hotbed kids, and one gets a few polished players with a lot of good Midwest athletes.” Michigan will be able to play with some of the country’s best teams in short order, and Detroit will be a really good mid-major team (one of the best mid-major teams year-in and year-out, in my opinion), but one that’s looking to pull upsets, not play with the country’s best on a weekly basis – because that’s not what the schedule’s going to ask them to do.

I joked last week about Ian King’s rebirth as a feeder (no goals and three assists against Bellarmine), and while he’s going to be a goal-scorer first and foremost, it’s clear that he’s taking a more well-rounded approach in his second year in D-1. Both he and John Paul said after the game, “Two assists is still two assists” but he’s a goal scorer – with six in addition to those two helpers, a program record – first and foremost.

“I guess scoring never really goes through my mind,” King said of setting a new program mark with six goals in a game. “I don’t go out like, ‘I want to score goals just to score them and break a school record.’ The coolest thing is that we won as a team.

“Somebody [mentioned the record] on the sideline, and it didn’t really register until they said it on the speaker. I was just going out there to win the game. That’s all I cared about.”

Other offensive standouts for Michigan were Mikie Schlosser (whose emergence after showing promise last year is going to let Michigan take a big step forward offensively) with two goals and two assists, Will Meter with two goals and one assist, and David Joseph with a goal and two assists.

“We’ve got a lot of guys,” Joseph said. “Our attack is producing more than they ever have. Mikie Schlosser is playing out of his mind. It’s good. We’re playing good team offense: we get the ball 6-on-6 and good things happen.

“We’ve got Will Meter, Dave McCormack, seniors coming into their own, and Ian King had a great game, too. I think it’s experience coming in as fourth-years for the seniors, and playing good lacrosse.”

On the other side of the coin, despite the result, Jason Weber showed that he’s one of the elite keepers in the game. He let in a couple in the second half that he probably wouldn’t have if his team was within striking distance. Early in the game, he intimidated Michigan shooters to a degree (nine shots off-cage by the Wolverines in the first half, before they dialed in a bit), and despite the late softies, managed a .545 save percentage.

His defense didn’t do him a ton of good, causing only five turnovers all contest (led by Paul Bitetti’s two), but that goes back to the argument at the top that Michigan is just good enough to not have those type of mistakes anymore.

For the Titans’ offense, Shayne Adams was an expected standout, with two goals and an assist, but freshman attack Mark Anstead also showed that he’s primed for a breakout year, especially when the softer underbelly of the schedule hits. He had a goal and two assists, and should only see that production improve.

Michigan’s Brad Lott was strong on faceoffs, but honestly should have been a bit better. He lost the first faceoff of the second quarter (despite winning the clamp – he popped the ball into no-man’s land and UDM won a 50/50 ground ball), and went into a bit of a funk for the rest of the quarter. It does show that Detroit’s Damien Hicks, who I’ve been high on despite the occasional poor statistical outcome, is due for a pretty good year. He won some clamps against a really good faceoff specialist, and his wing play was better than I’ve seen from the Titans in recent years.

Detroit was unable to make up possessions in the clear/ride game in part because Michigan rode really well (and that’s with extremely limited use of the 10-man, from my vantage point), and Detroit did not. much of UDM’s schedule will be against less-skilled teams, and given their result against a strong Ohio State program, it’s not much of a matter of concern yet.

This was truly a Michigan-dominated game, with the Wolverines boasting almost twice as many shots and twice as many ground balls over its duration (and of course, nearly three times as many points on the scoreboard). I think it says more positives about Michigan than it does negatives about Detroit.

Elsewhere

Michigan recap. Boxscore. Michigan highlights. Michigan notes. King was the Inside Lacrosse player of the week. Detroit recap. Photo gallery. UDM highlights. Anstead was named the MAAC Rookie of the Week. ALM has a recap and photos.

Up Next

Michigan hosts Notre Dame inside Oosterbaan Fieldhouse in a significant early-season test. The Irish are the No. 2 team in the country. The games faces of Saturday at 1 p.m.

Detroit heads back to Pontiac to take on Robert Morris. Game time is 1 p.m. Tempo-Free Lax likes the Colonials right now, but I feel like UDM’s a favorite there.

Previws of both games forthcoming.

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BTN Coverage of 2015 lacrosse season

Press release time..

CHICAGO – BTN will provide unprecedented coverage of the inaugural seasons of Big Ten men’s and women’s lacrosse, televising at least 25 men’s and women’s games and streaming approximately 30 additional games on BTN Plus. Additional events may be added to the schedule later.

Men’s television coverage begins Sunday, March 29, when Maryland hosts Michigan. Highlighting the schedule is No. 9 Johns Hopkins vs. No. 7 Maryland, and No. 17 Penn State vs. No. 7 Maryland.  In addition, BTN will televise the entire Big Ten Men’s Lacrosse Tournament, hosted by Maryland, set for April 30 to May 2.

The reigning NCAA champion Maryland women’s team opens play on BTN at 7 PM ET Wednesday, March 18, when the top-ranked Terrapins host the University of Pennsylvania at 7 PM ET. Other key women’s games of note on the schedule are No. 3 Syracuse vs. No. 5 Northwestern and No. 1 Maryland at No. 5 Northwestern. BTN also will televise the semifinals of the Big Ten Women’s Lacrosse Tournament, hosted by Rutgers fromApril 30 to May 3.

Leading BTN’s coverage is a group of analysts that includes Mark Dixon, who played lacrosse at Johns Hopkins, has covered NCAA Men’s lacrosse for 18 seasons; Greg Bice, a former lacrosse standout at Ohio State and first overall selection in the 2006 MLL draft; and Courtney Connor, who played at Maryland, coached at Mount St. Mary’s and has also served as a TV analyst. Joining them in the booth will be play-by-play announcers Joe Beninati, Mike Wolf and Pete Medhurst.

The network’s lacrosse coverage will also include a 60-minute BTN Lacrosse Preview Show at 4 PM ET on March 24, and a special BTN Originals mini-series, in which the cameras go behind-the-scenes with the Penn State and Maryland men’s teams leading up to the highly anticipated April 4 contest. More details will be announced at a later date.

The latest United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) Division I men’s poll includes three Big Ten squads ranked in the top 20, with No. 7 Maryland, No. 9 Johns Hopkins and No. 17 Penn State. Four Big Ten women’s lacrosse teams are ranked in the top 20 of the latest Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) poll, including top-ranked Maryland, No. 5 Northwestern, No. 10 Penn State and No. 11 Ohio State.

Despite this being the first season as official Big Ten sports, the 12 competing lacrosse programs boast a rich history of success. The six men’s teams have won a combined 56 national championships, with Johns Hopkins leading the way with 44. Big Ten women’s lacrosse will feature teams that have won 24 National Championships, including nine of the last 10.

Men:

Date Visiting Team Home Team Time (ET)
3/29/2015 Michigan Maryland 5:00 PM
4/4/2015 Penn State Maryland 4:00 PM
4/5/2015 Johns Hopkins Ohio State TBD
4/12/2015 Maryland Rutgers TBD
4/18/2015 Maryland Ohio State 11:00 AM
4/19/2015 Rutgers Penn State TBD
4/25/2015 Penn State Michigan 6:00 PM
4/25/2015 Johns Hopkins Maryland 8:00 PM
4/30/2015 Big Ten Tournament: Semifinal 1 Big Ten Tournament: Semifinal 1 5:30 PM
4/30/2015 Big Ten Tournament: Semifinal 2 Big Ten Tournament: Semifinal 2 8:00 PM
5/2/2015 Big Ten Tournament: Championship Game Big Ten Tournament: Championship Game 8:00 PM

Women:

Date Visiting Team Home Team Time (ET)
3/18/2015 Pennsylvania Maryland 7:00 PM
3/22/2015 Syracuse Northwestern 1:00 PM
3/22/2015 Colorado Michigan 3:00 PM
3/26/2015 Maryland Northwestern 7:00 PM
3/28/2015 Penn State Rutgers 1:00 PM
3/29/2015 Louisville Northwestern 1:00 PM
3/31/2015 Lehigh Rutgers 7:00 PM
4/2/2015 Northwestern Michigan 7:00 PM
4/4/2015 Ohio State Penn State 6:00 PM
4/9/2015 Michigan Penn State 7:00 PM
4/16/2015 Rutgers Ohio State 7:00 PM
4/23/2015 Penn State Maryland 7:00 PM
5/1/2015 Big Ten Tournament: Semifinal 1 Big Ten Tournament: Semifinal 1 5:30 PM
5/1/2015 Big Ten Tournament: Semifinal 2 Big Ten Tournament: Semifinal 2 8:00 PM

Michigan will not host a “Battle at the Big House” this year, which is a garbage move by both its own athletic department and the Big Ten Network. (Michigan’s spring football “game” is at 2 p.m. April 4, the lacrosse game against Rutgers will be the following day at noon). Missed opportunities for both the athletic department and TV Network, but it is what it’s gonna be.

Enjoy your Purdue Campus Programming, folks.

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