First Look: Michigan remaining opponents Part. 1

I took a look at the Titans’ common opponents with Michigan a few days ago. Now, it’s Michigan’s turn to run down the rest of the docket.

Penn State

Penn State Nittany Lions Lacrosse

Fear the Nittany Lion!

Michigan: Feb. 9 (Oosterbaan Fieldhouse)

2012

9-6 (5-1 CAA), #20 LaxPower, #20 Tempo-Free Lax

Penn State spent several years not living up to potential and pretty much mired in mediocrity. That changed in a big way with the hiring of Jeff Tambroni. The Nittany Lions  were probably the first team out of the NCAA Tournament, and a first-round CAA Championship loss kept them from making the big dance. There were hiccups for PSU during the course of the year, but the upward trajectory is still evident.

The Past Results

In Michigan’s first-ever game participating in the Creator’s Cup series, they were unable to stick with Penn State, falling by seven goals. Faceoffs were actually pretty even – an uncommon occurrence for this Michigan team – and the resulting possession deficit (only six in an 80-possession game) wasn’t too bad, despite an awful day clearing for Michigan. That’s where the happy times ended, however.

Michigan just didn’t have the horses to score on the Nittany Lions, nor were they able to stop PSU from getting goals of their own. Will Meter, Alex Vasilleff, and Doug Bryant all contributed two goals and an assist for Michigan. Trevor Yealy scored just one goal.

Defensively, this was in the era when Michigan was rolling with Dylan Westerhold, the only healthy goalie on the roster. He was OK in net, but a huge liability on the clear, committing four turnovers (and letting Penn State generate fast break opportunities on himself, probably not the best strategy if he wanted to inflate his goalkeeping stats).

The Forward-Thinking Look Back

Penn State 2012
Pace 63.07 (44)
Poss% 50.53 (22)
Off. Eff. 28.80 (38)
Def. Eff. 25.61 (9)
Pyth% 60.57 (20)

It should come as no surprise that a Jeff Tambroni game slows down the pace of the game. The Nittany Lions like to minimize the number of possessions and make the most of the opportunities they do get.

Of course, that makes it troublesome that the offense was pretty bad last year. That generally means it’s bad that the leading scorer Matt Mackrides is gone, but just about everyone else returns. That includes last year’s No. 4 scorer, Brother Rice alum Nick Dolik, his high school teammate Danny Henneghan (a faceoff specialist), and the spectacularly named Tom LaCrosse. The offense was attack-driven last year (Dolik and LaCrosse were the top scorers among midfielders at No.s 4 and 6, respectively), and that should continue.

Defensively, The Nittany Lions were excellent – in fact borderline elite – last year. It started with sophomore keep Austin Kaut, now a junior. The starting defense was hitjust a bit by graduation: d-middie Ryan Link and defenseman Ryan McGarvey are gone, but the rest of the D returns, led by Kessler Brown, Jack Donnelly, and JP Burnside. None of those guys are even seniors this year, so next year’s PSU defense could be scary.

Henneghan is a solid faceoff guy, and controlling possession (if only slightly) allows PSU to slow the game down.

Johns Hopkins

Johns Hopkins Blue Jays lacrosse logo

A Blue Jay is just a blue cardinal, right?

Michigan: Feb. 23 (Baltimore, Md.)

2012

12-4, #10 Laxpower, #4 Tempo-Free Lax

This… it is not going to go well. Sure, the Blue Jays of the past few years haven’t been the vintage Hopkins squads, but they’re still right near the top of the nation in team quality. They probably aren’t the best opposition that Michigan will face this year, but walking into Homewood will be an intimidation factor on its own.

The Past Results

Michigan has never played the Blue Jays in an official game, but the Wolverines did scrimmage Hopkins in 2005. Weirdly, it’s possible that this is a conference game in the future.

The Forward-Thinking Look Back

Johns Hopkins 2012
Pace 66.13 (27)
Poss% 53.50 (4)
Off. Eff. 30.43 (26)
Def. Eff. 23.17 (4)
Pyth% 78.25 (4)

Johns Hopkins was really good at a few things, and just OK at… one thing (pace is a style item, not a factor that it’s quantitatively better to be ranked highly in). It should come as no surprise that the defense was good – that’s a Pietramala calling card – but the offense was a little underwhelming given the talent at the Jays’ disposal.

About that offense… Part of its “struggle” is attributed to a really tough schedule. Defenseive efficiencies faced: No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Princeton, No. 5 Loyola (the Hounds’ only loss on the year, for the record), No. 8 Maryland (twice), and No. 11 Syracuse, among others. While the numbers are designed to account for schedule strength, there’s a certain futility in going against a murderer’s row like that. Senior attack Zach Palmer and junior Brandon Benn were the team’s leading scorers last year. No. 3 Chris Boland is gone, as is No. 9 Rob Goodrich, but that’s a lot of returning talent.

Defensively, Hopkins was one of the nation’s elite. Tucker Durkin and Chris Lightner are seniors this fall after starting every game last season. Goalie Pierce Bassett was among the nation’s best last season, and he’s also a senior this fall. Gavin Crisafull is the biggest contributor who is gone this year, but the unit should be exceptional.

Hopkins was good on faceoffs, good on clears, but the key to their possession advantage was the country’s best ride (oddly, Michigan was No. 2). That wasn’t accomplished against terrible clearing teams, so it should sustain this season.

Army

Army Black Knights lacrosse

Sword not strung to 2013 spec.

Michigan: March 2 (Miami, Fla.)

2012

7-8 (4-2 Patriot), #26 Laxpower, #24 Tempo-Free Lax

Army’s record was pretty poor last year, but the team actually wasn’t so bad – it’s a strength of schedule thing. UMass (No. 1 in Tempo-Free, despite not making it to the NCAA final, Syracuse, and Hopkins were all on the docket. Oddly, the Black Knights performed well against a pretty strong Patriot League schedule, and that wasn’t where their record suffered.

The Past Results

Michigan scrimmaged Army in the same event as the Hopkins scrimmage referenced above during the 2007 fallball session. Obviously, it’s a different animal with a regular season game.

The Forward-Thinking Look Back

Army 2012
Pace 68.27 (17)
Poss% 50.00 (31)
Off. Eff. 30.00 (29)
Def. Eff. 27.44 (16)
Pyth% 56.89 (24)

Army was middle-of-the pack in just about everything, but a somewhat fast team, and one that was pretty good defensively. They were almost dead center of the nation on offense and in the possession game (at exactly 50%, they were the mean in that).

Army’s top two scorers are back and both are pre-season All-Patriot picks according to Inside Lacrosse. Senior attack Garrett Thul is a known commodity in the lacrosse world, but sophomore middie John Glesener is a bit more under-the-radar to date. The Black Knights’ third and fourth leading scorers from last year, Conor Hayes and Devin Lynch, have both graduated, so younger players will have to step up and pick up some slack. Army has a pretty even scoring split between attack and midfield all down the ledger.

The defense was high-quality last year, but looking at the returning roster, it’s plain to see one reason why: this was an experienced unit last year. Goalie Zach Palmieri is out the door (his backups, both of whom return, combined for less than a game’s worth of action last fall). Starting defenseman Larry LoRusso and twin brother Brian, a short-stick defender, have graduated. Part-time starter Drew Kearns is gone. The returners have some experience – Pat Hart took away Kearns’ starting job at times, and Brendan Buckley is a pre-season all-conference pick to IL, but that’s a lot of attrition, and it might be unfair to the players stepping up to expect a similar performance to least year’s D.

Army had a pretty good ride and an OK clear, and was just above-average in faceoffs. Faceoff specialist Derek Sipperly is gone, so Army will be looking for some new answers there, but given their possession percentage wasn’t how they were winning games, it shouldn’t be crippling.

High Point

Michigan: March 6 (High Point, N.C.)

2012

N/A

Oh, hello new program. Michigan is no longer the new kid on the block in the Midwest, and Detroit’s fellow Jesuit institution will try to make waves in its first year.

The Big Picture

High Point is generally considered the lesser of this year’s expansion teams. Marquette pasted HPU 13-7 at the Nick Colleluori Classic (caveats about fall ball go here), and has the big-name coach, some high-profile transfers, and a lot of momentum.

Still, High Pent about adding a program in a very different way from Michigan – announcing and then taking a year or two to build up – so it’s not a mix of recruited guys and some who may not be D-1 caliber athletes. Michigan should get the win here, but we won’t know much until the Panthers take the field.

Hobart

Hobart Statesmen lacrosse logo

Let's hear it for generics!

Michigan: March 9 (Geneva, N.Y.)

2012

4-9 (204 ECAC), #37 Laxpower, #36 Tempo-Free Lax

Hobart was a middling ECAC program, finishing ahead of only Air Force and winless Bellarmine in the ECAC standings. They have some pieces to build upon, and also some upside: they played in five one- or two-goal games last year, losing four of them. If they can learn from that experience and mature as a team, the Statesmen could improve the record quite a bit without improving the advanced numbers by much.

The Past Results

Hobart was one of the few ECAC teams that Michigan didn’t play last year (Fairfield was the other). Considering the Wolverines lost to both teams that finished behind the Statesmen – including a pasting at the hands of Air Force – I’m thinking it wouldn’t have gone so well.

The Forward-Thinking Look Back

Hobart 2012
Pace 74.23 (4)
Poss% 50.16 (28)
Off. Eff. 29.95 (31)
Def. Eff. 32.93 (43)
Pyth% 43.17 (36)

Hobart was a fast team – mostly on account of some close, high-scoring games (though there’s clearly a chicken-and-egg argument going on there). Their clear was bleah, which can speed up the game, but their ride was very poor, which should slow things down. The defense also didn’t cause a lot of turnovers. I think they just don’t like to take their time with things.

The offense was mediocre, but there’s reason to believe it will improve this season, namely IL pre-season All-ECAC attack Alex Love. He and fellow junior Cam Stone are not just all-name team candidates, they account for well over half the returning points from last season’s team. Midfielder Chris Pedersen and attack Sam Miller are gone, so even more of the onus of the offense should fall to that pair. Middie Taylor Vanderbeek made a big impact as a true freshman, and should take a step forward this spring.

The defense was pretty poor. One of the bright spots, goalie Peter Zonino (older brother of U-M recruit Robbie Zonino) is back as a junior, as are senior defensemen Reid Rosello and Sean Regan. Enough pieces return to project improvement on that side of the ball. Defenseman Stephen Doodian, who started nine games and played in all 13, is the biggest loss.

Faceoff specialist Bobby Dattilo was outstanding last year – but he’s gone. His backup, Griphyn Kelly, was really bad (as in, 30% bad), and will likely either improve or be replaced.

Fairfield

fairfield stags lacrosse logo

#Stagswag

Michigan: March 14 (Fairfield, Conn.)

2012

12-4 (4-2 ECAC), #23 Laxpower, #23 Tempo-Free Lax

Fairfield isn’t an old-blood program, really, but the Stags see themselves that way – and more importantly, the results on the field bear that out. The 2012 edition was pretty darn good, losing only to Loyola and Ohio State in-conference (and the Greyhounds again in the conference tournament). Although they rarely blew anyone out, it’s the W-L ledger that counts in the end – they may be the opposite of Hobart, coming off a year with six one-goal wins – but that may bode ill for replicated last year’s success.

The Past Results

Fairfield is the other ECAC team that Michigan didn’t play last year. They were really good, so it was probably for the best, if we’re being honest here. Going forward… could the all-sports MAAC member be entering a twilight period as a member of the ECAC?

The Forward-Thinking Look Back

Fairfield 2012
Pace 62.75 (46)
Poss% 52.59 (9)
Off. Eff. 29.87 (32)
Def. Eff. 29.95 (29)
Pyth% 57.75 (23)

Fairfield’s offense and defense were both worse than they pythagorean win expectation, so you can bet dominance in possession was a key to their success… and it was. They dominated that metric, led by Michael Roe’s .617 success on faceoffs. He’s back, so expect more of the same from the Stags.

The offense was mediocre. It faced some pretty damn good defenses, but at the end of the day, a team as good as Fairfield’s record seems to imply would not be squeaking by in so many one-goal games. There’s room for improvement here. Midfielder Sam Snow led the team in scoring last spring, and is a pre-season IL all-conference pick. He’s the Stags’ only selection, however, and the rest of the offense is gone. Midfielder Brent Adams and attack John Snellman, the Nos. 2 and 3 scorers both depart, so players will have to step up. The remaining four double-digit scorers are back, so there is definitely talent to step in.

Like the offense, the defense just kind of… was. Goalie Charlie Cipriano was a big part of its success (or lack of failure, I guess), and he’s gone. Defenseman Drew Palmer is out. Defenseman Greg Perrault is not listed on the spring roster, though he was just a sophomore last spring. Defenseman Brendan McTague is gone. That’s the entire starting back four. LSM Gordie Wells is the only returning “starter” (he was not listed as such, though he almost certainly did start every game – sometimes a weird record-keeping situation when it comes to LSMs). He’s not going to be enough to maintain the performance, so pending Perraut’s status, this could be a pretty terrible defense. SSDMs Bryan Barry and Shawn Honovich should help, but again the No. 1 player at that position (Reid Marko) is gone.

Dominating possession and running an efficient offense will be huge points of emphasis, because I just don’t think the horses will be there on D (or deer things if we’re making a mascot reference).

A look at the remainder of Michigan’s opponents coming up.

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One Response to First Look: Michigan remaining opponents Part. 1

  1. AndyD says:

    Looking forward to the rest of your analysis on the UM schedule. I see 6 winnable games this year. Could they win one of the other 9 games? Yes, but unlikely. Will they win all 6 I think they can compete in? Chances are slim. I’m sure they are more talented, but with all the youth on their roster I’d be pretty satisfied with a 3-12 season and a competitive showing in most of the rest of their games. Progress.

    Of course they could also be one injury away, especially at goalie, from completely tanking. Too bad Weiss didn’t come back so they would have depth there. Hopefully Logan is the answer and stays healthy.

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