Lacrosse: Orange Hosts Big Red in Color War

Problem. via www.laxmagazine.com

Holy crap.  I did it again. Another beauty of a headline. 

Tonight is one of those huge ones.  In fact, it's huger than a huge one.  It's a really huge one.  Really, really, really huge.  Even Billy Fucillo is, like, "Man, it's 'Uge!"

Huge.

Syracuse hosts Cornell in what should be the biggest game on the Orange's schedule until a showdown in the Dome against Notre Dame at the end of the season.  Cornell is no slouch, arguably better than their current number-five ranking shows.  The Big Red are talented offensively and have been through the fire all season, sitting pretty atop the Ivy League with an unblemished conference record.

When you talk about Cornell you start and end the conversation with attackman Rob Pannell.  I've written about Pannell before, and the scary truth remains: He is the primary cog in the most efficient offense in the country.  It's not just that Pannell is an individual monster, it's that he makes everyone around him better.  He makes Steve Mock better. He makes Lang and Lau better.  And he can single-handedly beat you off the dodge with aplomb.

He is, in my mind, the most important player in the college game right now and is the most dangerous player in pads and a helmet.

Here's a quick chart that summerizes some of Cornell's overall tempo-free profile:

CORNELL: "DANGER, LELAND ROGERS!"

METRIC VALUE RANKING AVERAGE
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 38.65 1 28.28
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 25.29 17 27.40
Adjusted Efficiency Margin 13.37 2 0.88
Offensive Shots Per Possession 1.14 6 1.00
Defensive Shots Per Possession 0.92 12 1.00
Offensive Effective Shooting Percentage 33.50% 6 28.65%
Defensive Effective Shooting Percentage 29.60% 38 28.72%
Offensive Assist Rate 19.43 7 15.31
Defensive Assist Rate 11.27 6 15.15
Face-off Percentage 47.01% 39 49.94%

So, yeah.  Duh.  Cornell is a juggernaut offensive team. They can bury it and they do so at a tremendous rate.  What's really scary is that the Big Red are doing it without having to resort to volume aggregation: Cornell is seeing about 34.87 offensive possessions per 60 minutes, about 23rd nationally.  This is an offensive team, thanks in large part to Pannell being The Highlander, that gets it done when they have the bean.

Defensively is where Cornell is a little susceptible to faltering. A.J. Fiore has been beatable in the net this season (he was actually lifted in the third quarter for Andrew West against Harvard), holding a save percentage right around 50 percent (he's 50th, nationally).  The Big Red, though, aren't relying on Fiore to end defensive possessions.  Cornell is 52nd nationally in saves per defensive possession.  This is troublesome, as team's are shooting at a fairly good clip against the Big Red on a deflated number of shots. 

So, if you can get the ball on net, teams are converting at a notable rate against Cornell.  The problem -- and it's only a problem to opponents and not the Big Red -- is that there aren't a bunch of opportunities to do that.  Cornell only plays about 35 defensive possessions per game. That's right around the bottom-third in the country.

Here's what to keep an eye on:

  1. Will John Lade play?  If he does, the Pannell problem can be mitigated a bit.  And if you can cut the head off of the monster maybe the rest of the animal will die.  If Lade doesn't go, Dave Hamlin is going to have to put together a solid effort.
  2. Marasco, Keogh, Miller, Amidon, Thompson, Desko, et al.  Time to get that offense chugging.  Syracuse is 20th in adjusted offensive efficiency.  We can talk about face-offs all we want, but when the Orange has actually had the ball they haven't rammed it in the cage at a rate that'd be considered elite.  Fiore can be beaten, especially with the offensive talent that Syracuse has.
  3. Face-offs. This should be the perennial number one point, but I'm sick of writing it.  Cornell isn't exactly Hopkins at the dot. 
  4. Seven defenders working as one.  It's not just that Cornell shoots well.  It's also that they really share the ball (they're 7th in assist rate).  No ball watching out there and manage the slide.  Don't make Galloway be the hero (although, if Galloway wants to go ahead and do that, I'd be fine with it).
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