The Wolverines have a chance to earn a winning streak over an opponent, something they’ve previously only accomplished with Mercer. The Hawks, on the other hand, come to Michigan Stadium looking to avenge their loss there last season.
The TempoFreeLax.com numbers displayed here are up to date for this season, since there’s enough data nationally that the numbers are pretty meaningful. The figures are also adjusted for strength of schedule, and St.Joseph’s has played a dreadful slate to date – the third-easiest in the nation, in fact. All numbers take that into account.
|St. Joseph’s 2014|
|Off. Eff.||29.67 (41)|
|Def. Eff.||32.24 (39)|
St. Joe’s plays a pretty slow brand of lacrosse, and they do the majority of it in possession of the ball. They’re well above average in that metric, the only thing they’re truly really good at. Combining pace and possession means very limited opportunity for the opposition.
When the opponent does get the ball, however, they generally have reasonable success scoring it. The Hawks’ defensive efficiency is just below the national average.
On the other end of the field, SJU struggles even more. The Hawks’ offense isn’t particularly good, and though the natural bump downward from playing poor competition is a part of that, so too is only getting seven goals against High Point and Richmond.
Redshirt junior attack Ryan McGee, junior midfielder Mike Dougherty, and Sophomore attack Matt Blasco are responsible for the majority of the scoring for St. Joseph’s. All are more scorers than assist men, and as a team SJU isn’t a very assist-heavy bunch, with barely more than half of their goals coming of a helper.
McGee (17 goals, eight assists) and Blasco (nine goals, four assists) are definitely in that category, whereas Dougherty is the closest thing on the roster to a feeder, with nine and eight.
Freshman attack Michael Rastivo is fourth on the team in points despite only playing in three games to date. If healthy, he’s trouble. He has six goals and three assists in his limited time.
Senior midfielder Johnny Simanski and freshman attack Ray Vandegrift are Nos. 5 and 6 on the roster in scoring, but with just 13 points between them, the above-listed players are the majority of the offense.
The midfield-fed scoring is something that Michigan shouldn’t have too much trouble with, but true scoring attackmen have consistently been trouble for this program to deal with. If they can slow down McGee – stopping the lead attackman is something they’ve never accomplished really, so easier said than done – they should go a long way toward bottling up the offense.
St. Joe’s has gone with two goalies, and top option Dustin Keen has been by far the more successful keeper. In 285 minutes, he’s allowing 7.16 goals per game (remember, that’s for a slow team), and saving .547 of shots faced. Freshman TJ Jones has played nine quarters worth of action, and is far weaker with a .417 save percentage.
Senior Jack Moran, junior Kevin Barrow, and sophomore John Winchell have earned the lion’s share of the playing time on close defense. Winchell is the dangerman there with five caused turnovers and a team-leading 20 ground balls. The other two have relatively pedestrian stats.
The LSM has been junior Will Farrell, and he’s probably the best player on the whole team. He has caused 12 turnovers on the season, and picked up 13 ground balls. He’s also a bit of a threat going forward, with an assist and a shot to his credit.
Freshman Anthony Joaquim is the team’s top short-stick defensive midfielder, with five caused turnovers and 16 ground balls on the year. He also factors into the offense.
St. Joseph’s has been a really good faceoff team, so it’s odd to see that they’re splitting time among several specialists. It makes more sense when all three players with at least 25 draws are doing really well, of course. The least-deployed is freshman Danny Manning, who has won .621 of his 29 draws. The most-used (but least successful) is senior Will Abbott, one win over .500. Freshman Mike Lanham is at .706. We’ve seen Brad Lott run hot-and-cold in recent weeks, but this should be a good test for him – and that’s typically when he’s at his strongest.
St. Joe’s is a very solid clearing team, approaching a 90% success rate (albeit against the Sister of the Poor and a Penn team that doesn’t ride very hard). Michigan should be the stiffest test there so far in 2014, should the Wolverines decide to run any heavy riding. St. Joe’s also has a strong ride, right around the top third nationally.
The Hawks aren’t particularly penalty prone, but opponents are committing several infractions per game. Part of that, again, is the competition they’ve faced, but look for a relatively clean game out of St. Joe’s. They have a pretty poor man-up offense, but a strong man-down D.
U-M once again has the chance to get to .500 on the year, and against an opponent that most of the players on the team have already beaten once before. That provides confidence, if nothing else. U-M knows they can win.
That said, this is a different – and better – St. Joseph’s team than last year’s moribund unit. The Hawks have improved in just about ever facet, and while Michigan has improved as well, the difference isn’t quite as stark in Ann Arbor. A win in this one would give U-M an outside shot at finishing the season with a .500 record.
What’s interesting is that St. Joe’s has played one very good team in Penn, and nobody else who is even mediocre. Michigan falls in that mediocre range in the national sense, so if the Hawks are capable of beating weak teams like the No. 32 team in the nation would, but they crumble against stronger squads, that’s a boost for the Maize and Blue.
Michigan is coming off a strong performance against Maryland, on the heels of a two-game win streak. Add in the familiarity, and there’s reason for confidence.
- I’m not betting against Brad Lott for the rest of the year. even if he occasionally has a struggling performance, he’s too consistently good to bank on anything other than success. That’s true even against a strong faceoff unit from St. Joe’s. Given that their success has come against weak competition and Lott’s has come against Drew Kennedy, Cornell, and the like, I’m going with Lott.
- Michigan should be able to ride St. Joseph’s pretty hard. While their clear looks strong, it’s come against some of the weakest rides in the nation. Michigan’s ride is pretty good, even against some of the best clears in the nation.
- The SJU defense is just decent, but most of their power comes from the LSM. Michigan’s deep midfield should be able to find openings, and the Wolverines are probably on the verge of seeing an attackman other than Ian King break out. This could be that chance.
- The St. Joseph’s offense isn’t good, but we’ve seen Michigan struggle against offenses that are only OK in the past. Look for the Hawks to surpass their season average for offensive efficiency.
Michigan will be a tough test for St. Joseph’s, which has seen only two teams (High Point and Penn) remotely in the Wolverines’ talent range – and lost to both. Meanwhile, Michigan has played some of the country’s best teams, along with some of those weaker squads. U-M beat a Bellarmine team that is better than the Hawks just last weekend, and I think they show SJU the virtues of playing some tough competition in this one. Michigan wins it, 11-8.
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