A really poor midweek result against Jacksonville, and a tough test this weekend. It could be a rough week for the Maize and Blue, or a chance for redemption.
The TempoFreeLax.com numbers displayed here are last year’s. Brown has only played three games so far, and impressive though they’ve been in that time, there’s not enough data quite yet. The Bears appear to be quite a bit better than last year’s team, so be forewarned.
|Off. Eff.||28.77 (47)|
|Def. Eff.||30.30 (29)|
Last year’s Brown team played very fast, but barely had more than half of those possessions. This year’s team, on the other hand, is much faster (thanks in part to a more potent offense), and is way better at dominating the ball. They’re above 80 possessions per game, and are at nearly 60% in their own sticks.
The offense and defense are both a degree better than last year’s marks (the O far more so), but the majority of the team’s improvement has been due to the blistering pace and the possession game. More possessions = wider possession margin – big wins.
There is one caveat: strength of schedule. Last year’s Brown team played the No. 31 slate nationally, and to date, this year’s is just No. 44. Especially with the numbers as volatile as they are this early in the year, that’s fairly meaningful. The Bears will see tougher competition this season than they have thus far, potentially starting with this weekend’s Michigan game.
Brown has played three games. Sophomore attack Dylan Molloy has 18 goals. Is that good? I think it’s good. Molloy has added a pair of assists to lap the field in terms of point output. He’s the dangerman on this offense, no doubt.
A pair of juniors, attack Henry Blynn and midfielder Brendan Caputo, have nine points apiece, with a slight skew toward goals, rather than assists (this will be a theme: it’s surprising to see an offense as prolific as the Bears’ with barely more than half the goals assisted). Another couple juniors, attack Kyle Bellistri (5G, 2A) and midfielder Matt Graham (2G, 0A) have started a pair of games each, with seniors Tim Jacob and Tyler Landis filling in once each in the starting lineup.
Brown, for all its 17- and 18-point games, has been good-not-great on offense. If you can shut down a piece or two – the hope would be Molloy, though that’s likely unrealistic – you can really limit their efficiency. They’re still certain to get theirs by sheer volume of possessions, but they’d have to do just that to run up a big score.
The defense has been pretty good, a touch behind the offense. There are two sides to not facing a ton of possessions: the unit gets to rest, but they can get just a bit rusty (and each individual goal has more impact on the efficiency mark than each offensive goal).
Junior goalie Jack Kelly has been the man between the pipes, though a range of blowouts in the first three contests has allowed sophomore Peter Scott and freshman Brad Peters to see a half combined between then. Kelly will play while the game is competitive, and he’s saving .660 of shots faced. He’s only had to make 31 saves to reach that mark through the Bears’ torrid start.
Sophomore Alec Tulett slots into a starting lineup with seniors Stephen Loudon and Will Swindell at close defense. Surprisingly given the possession disparity (and, we’ll see shortly, no huge advantage in most of the special teams), this isn’t much of a takeaway team. Swindell leads the squad with seven total, and LSM Larken Kemp – who also leads the team in ground balls despite missing a game (hello, excellent faceoff wing play) – has five.
Freshman defenseman Jake Miller is one of the key backups as well, making appearances in all three games and figuring near the top of the GB chart. It’s tough to say who the true short-stick defensive midfielders are from the stats at this point. Either they are given carte blanche to go forward, or they simply don’t factor in much in the defensive stats.
Brown was absolutely outstanding on faceoffs through two games, with Will Gural winning 34/49 draws, Ted Ottens 3/6, and Jodan Schochet 2/3. Things weren’t so great against Hartford’s only-decent faceoff unit, with Gural struggling to 5/14 before Otten and Schochet came in to calm things down and get it back to a .500 mark. That’s one killer aspect of this team: if one really talented faceoff guy struggles, others can come in to stem the tide and get wins.
The majority of Brown’s possession advantage has been built up through that .612 faceoff mark, because they’re above-average, but not exceptional in both phases of the transition game. With this contest shifting indoors to Oosterbaan (after being initially scheduled for the Big House), this could play a bit of a role. Expect some failed clears in both directions, because Brown is talented enough to force them in one direction, and because they’ll be a bit disoriented in Oosterbaan (as is often the case for visitors).
Brown has played in some really physical games this year, with double-digit combined EMOs in two of the three contests. Michigan is traditionally a clean team (whereas through three games, Brown is not), so the Wolverines should have the chance to play some with the man advantage. Unfortunately, Brown’s man-down defense has been fantastic thus far in 2015, so converting will be a tall task.
Before Tuesday’s clunker against Jacksonville, this would have been viewed as an opportunity to put the Maize and Blue firmly in the national discussion for the 2015 season. Instead, it’s a chance to continue building a solid (though less solid than it had the potential to be) non-conference record, and prepare to win enough games in Big Ten play to make the conference tournament.
Springing the upset would be big here, but make no mistake that it would indeed be an upset. U-M is a year away from avoiding the types of letdown games that Jacksonville was, and cementing itself as a top-20 team, rather than one that can compete to be on the fringe of that.
Brown is really good, Michigan should come out angry in a comfortable home venue…
- U-M will struggle offensively. I don’t believe they’ll be at full strength when it comes to their personnel in that phase of the game, and they’d need to be in order to do enough scoring to make up for a likely possession deficit while keeping pace with Brown.
- That said, Michigan should be able to slow the game down to a degree. After a couple years trying to do that while under-manned, they’ve upped the pace. Against Brown, that’s not going to be the path to a win. Look for some zone defense (expecting Logan to – as he’s capable – carry the D) to bog things down on that end of the field, and while they won’t play stall-ball on the other side, some very patient offense.
- In the possession game, look for Michigan’s ride to frustrate Brown a bit should the Wolverines try to implement it. Oosterbaan Fieldhouse has given them more opportunities to use a heavy ride than they might otherwise have, and if nothing else, forcing the Bears to use plenty of clock to clear will slow things down.
- I have no idea what to expect on faceoffs. Michigan has a very good specialist, but one who is capable of struggling if things start to go poorly. Brown seems to be in a similar boat, but has more bullets in the chamber. Look for Michigan to go with LSM Chase Brown at times to slow things down on draws and try to get wins, but more importantly settle the defense.
I might have come close to picking the upset if not for Michigan’s egg laid against Jacksonville. Indoors, they’re a better team (when not playing Notre Dame, at least), and Brown’s gaudy scorelines have been accomplished through exploiting some advantages – namely possession – that Michigan would normally be able to limit. However, I have to go with the head on this one, and though they’ll be held t0 a season-low offensive output, Brown wins 15-9.
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