Detroit Preview: Jacksonville

Detroit has picked itself up off the deck (at least for now) by picking up the first win of the season. However, Jacksonville ain’t VMI, so this team will be challenged in a big way, especially on the road. However, this game is also an opportunity to build serious momentum going into the end of the year.

 

Jacksonville University Dolphins Lacrosse

Fear Flipper!

Jacksonville

1 p.m. EST
March 30, 2013
Jacksonville, Fla.
Live Stats. Live Video.
@DetroitML - caution: has not tweeted yet, no idea if it ever actually will.
Ticket information.
Detroit pregame notes. Gameday Central.
Jacksonville pregame notes.

Tempo-Free Profile

The TempoFreeLax.com numbers displayed here are adjusted for strength of schedule. Jacksonville’s schedule is No. 61 (third-from-last) nationally.

Jacksonville 2013
Pace 62.57 (52)
Poss% 50.91 (22)
Off. Eff. 26.99 (52)
Def. Eff. 36.52 (55)
Pyth% 28.08 (51)

Jacksonville is pretty bad all around – though better than the Titans in many aspects. The offense and defense are both near the bottom of the country, with the offense juuuust a bit better, outside of the national bottom 10.

What has allowed Jacksonville to remain competitive – and indeed win more than half of their games – is doing well enough in the possession game. Decent faceoffs and a great clear can go a long way.

Of course, that’s not the whole story. The Dolphins have also played some clunkers – High Point and Marquette among them – and the stats looked much better in those games than they did in uncompetitive losses to Duke and Robert Morris.

Offense

The Jacksonville offense is not dominated by one or two guys – and in many ways that’s much scarier than knowing the one player to shut down in order to stop an offense. Five players are in double-digit points, but non over 15 yet.

The leading scorer by a hair is senior midfielder TJ Kenary. He has nine goals and six assists, just beating out classmate and linemate Cameron Mann, who has nine and five. The third leading scorer on the team is yet another midfielder, David Goldman, a junior who boasts seven goals and five assists.

Shockingly, the fourth leading scorer is also a midfielder. Junior Conor Igoe has seven goals and four assists. He’s listed as a starter at both midfield and attack across different games, but for the most part JU’s starting lineup lists four starting midfielders and two attackmen.

Getting into that attack unit, sophomore Ari Waffle and senior James Trentini have gotten every start thus far in 2013, and have put up ten and nine points, respectively.

In addition to its utter lack of reliance on the attack unit, this is also a team that doesn’t rely on feeders, either. A defenseman and faceoff specialist Dan McNulty are the only players on the entire roster with more assists than goals. Oddly enough, Jacksonville isn’t that low on assist totals. They simply spread the wealth.

With Jacksonville’s plethora of midfield scoring options, two of them will get poles when JU is going to a 4-mid, 2-attack offense, but the short-stick d-middies will have their work cut out for them. Unfortunately, the Titans should be down one Nick Garippa in this game, so that makes the matchup quite a bit tougher.

Defense

Sophomores Austin Curtis and Charlie Archer and senior Tanner Gard are your starting close defense. It’s junior LSM Tyler Black that leads the team in caused turnovers with 11, though. Curtis has added seven of his own, while the other close D starters have six apiece.

This is a defense – like the Titans’ defenses of the recent past – that creates a lot of turnovers. That’s going to be their game, and with Detroit’s predilection for committing TOs… well, it’s easy to see what one of the keys to the game will be.

Between the pipes, it’s been mostly Pete DeLuca. He did miss the Duke game (in which his backups got shelled for 21 goals on 28 shots – neither has played since), but has played every minute outside of Durham, N.C. His stats are good-not-great with a .574 save percentage in not that much action, but the Dolphins’ style of defense likely means he needs to stand on his head from time-to-time, so that makes it a little more impressive.

Special Teams

Jacksonville has been a one-man show on faceoffs, for the most part, and it’s a pretty good show. Dan McNulty wins .533 of his draws, and controls a lot of the GBs himself (that would be an interesting stat to have a chance to look at, but faceoff specialists who are also offensive or defensive midfielders full-time would skew it). He has two assists and five shots among his 34 GBs, so even if he does control, he’s not a huge offensive threat. Still, controlling possess and playing slowly will be cornerstones of the JU strategy.

Jacksonville’s clear is pretty good, something that’s a little surprising for a recent expansion team, especially one playing far from the hotbeds. However, their 88.00% mark is 17th-best in the country. Coming the other direction, Jacksonville doesn’t put a lot of effort into the ride, so limiting self-inflicted wounds will be key for UDM.

Jacksonville commits approximately equivalent penalties to the opposition, but as we know, the Titans are almost always going to be the more-penalized squad, regardless of opponent. Jacksonville’s man-up offense is kind of bad, and the man-down is mediocre at best.

Big Picture

As mentioned at the top, winning this game give the Titans a chance to close the year with a serious run, after failing to win any of the first six games. Outside of a game against Siena in a couple weeks, all the games remaining on the schedule are winnable – or better.

That’s especially true of next weekend’s Manhattan game, but Michigan, Marquette, and Canisius aren’t exactly going to strike fear into the hearts of the Titans. Beat Jacksonville, and a trip to the MAAC tournament is likely, and a very strong close to the year.

Predictions

Despite the opportunity in front of the Titans, I see Jacksonville as the clear favorite in this one.

  • The offense moved in fits and starts last week against VMI’s Worst Defense Ever, and Jacksonville is a stiffer test (if only by a bit). The Titans, however, are more used to playing without Shayne Adams, so some of those rough patches should get smoothed over.
  • The defense, on the other hand, will be adjusting to life without Nick Garippa, who was injured against VMI last week. With a skilled set of opposing midfielders, that’s a scary proposition. Jacksonville will make it look easier than it should be a couple times.
  • The Titans will likely not stay with last week’s aggressive strategy that paid off against VMI. Caused turnovers were the path to success for this defense against VMI, but this Jacksonville team has much better sticks (evidenced by the clearing ability), and Detroit isn’t at 100% with defensive personnel.
  • Faceoffs could get ugly, depending on which Titans are available to take draws in this one.

Overall, this is a winnable game. It should be a low-scoring one with the pace Jacksonville likes to use and UDM down soem of the players who would otherwise help them play fast. It’s a battle of bad-on-bad when it comes to Detroit’s end of the field, and bad-on-”I don’t know how they’ll be without Garippa” on the other. Jacksonville’s home field advantage and possession advantage make the difference in a 9-5 Dolphins win.

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

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