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Face-Off Classic: Syracuse to Throttle Georgetown

Hugs, not drugs. via <a href=""></a>
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Did you know that the college lacrosse season is about a third over?  It's true!  The year is almost in its second trimester, which is perfect timing for Dr. Syracuse, M.D., to abort Georgetown's season.

In case you didn't know -- and judging by the site stats, you don't -- Syracuse is heading down to Baltimore on Saturday to deck Georgetown square in teeth.  The venue is M&T Bank Stadium; the affair is the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic; the result should be a massacre of epic proportions, with the streets of the Charm City running blue and grey with the blood of sacrificed Hoyas.

Sure, Georgetown is ranked in the media poll (although that will change after the Hoyas' hilarious loss to an average Harvard on Tuesday), and sure, Georgetown has a superficially respectable 2-2 record.  But the fact of the matter is this: Syracuse is a miserable match-up for this Hoya squad.  This game should get ugly, and it should get ugly quick.

John Desko is a little worried about a letdown from the Orange on Saturday, but it shouldn't matter for the following three reasons:

  1. Pace;
  2. Possessions;
  3. Georgetown is terrible.

Let's pick this apart a little bit after the jump.

Right off the bat: I'm using some of those fancy pants lacrosse statistics I developed.  So, stay with me and such.  Or don't.  Whatever; it's your life.


If you're going to race against a predator, you better be toting an elephant gun because you're going to eventually lose mano-a-dangerous-animal-that-sees-you-as-lunch-instead-of-a-human-being-with-a-small-pension-and-a-family-to-support.  That's kind of like what Saturday shapes up to be: Georgetown running wild and Syracuse quickly stalking its prey.

Georgetown is currently ranked sixth in the county in pace (total possessions per game); Syracuse, despite an 80 possession game against Virginia, is 18th.  Why is this dangerous for Georgetown?  Well:

  • There isn't a conscious person on the planet that doesn't know that the Orange has the ability, and the proclivity, to play quick.  Georgetown is potentially running a demolition derby in the nitroglycerin plant if the Hoyas try and out-pace the Orange.
  • The other big point -- other than style preference -- turns on efficiency.  Georgetown, despite its unglamorous record, had opportunities to take advantage of their opponents this year with high pace.  The Hoyas offensive efficiency -- 32.7502 (around 16th best nationally) -- was good enough to keep them in games that required a starter's gun and 100 meters of track.  The issue, though, is that if Georgetown tries this against Syracuse (and I think they might), they're going to get burned: Georgetown schedule is all of 49th best in the country in terms of opponent defenses faced.  Syracuse is a different kind of animal compared to Jacksonville, Maryland, St. John's, and Harvard: The Orange is 10th nationally in defensive efficiency.  More importantly, Syracuse has shown great offensive efficiency against pretty good defensive teams (the Orange is fifth in offensive efficiency at 36.2617 and has faced the fourth most difficult schedule in terms of opponent defenses).  In short, Syracuse will take advantage of a quickened pace whereas Georgetown's other opponents didn't have the attribute set to do so (save the Maryland game).

The only way Georgetown has a chance on Saturday is if the Hoyas try and slow it down, but a) I don't think they'll 100% adopt that approach, and b) I don't think Syracuse will let them adopt that approach.


This ties into pace, but not in the way that I'm going to talk about it.  I'm thinking about possession usage: what kind of possessions and what's happening on the possessions.

Let's talk about kinds of possessions.  Only three teams play more defensive possessions per game than Georgetown: Mercer, Dartmouth, and Holy Cross.  Why is this important?  Well, only seven teams play more offensive possessions per game than Syracuse.  So, you're thinking, "Will this happen on Saturday?"

Probably.  Syracuse is eighth nationally in face-off percentage; Georgetown is 35th.  Georgetown is 52nd (!) nationally in offensive clearing percentage; Syracuse is 13th.  In short, Georgetown is going to be playing its defensive midfielders a ton on Saturday.

"But why is this important?"

Shut up for a second and let me explain.  First, and we spoke about this: Syracuse has pretty damn efficient offense; Georgetown has a pretty damn inefficient defense.  Second, and this is a little more subtle, Georgetown is really great at just sitting around and watching the ball (the Hoyas are 61st in defensive assist rate) and teams are bombing away at the net against Jack Davis (the Hoyas defensive effective shooting percentage is 50th in the country).  Now, while Syracuse has not excelled at either metric this year, I think that the Orange should improve in both on Saturday for two reasons:

  1. Georgetown's track record speaks for itself;
  2. Syracuse has faced the fourth hardest schedule in terms of defenses faced.

You see, right?  Good.

Finally, and this is a little point: Georgetown relies a lot on its man-up unit to put scores on the board.  The Hoyas' offensive extra-man opportunity rate (man-up goals over total shots) is around seven percent; the team's extra-man conversion rate is a reputable 48%; and 13% of the team's offensive possessions are man-up scenarios.  While Syracuse has not been terrific in man-down scenarios (the Orange is only 25th nationally in the man-down (the Virginia game is providing a lot of noise in that metric), Georgetown should not have the same kind of success on Saturday: The Hoyas have played the 41st, 59th, 45th, and 18th (this is St. John's and I don't believe an ounce of the aggregation here) best man-down teams in the land. 

In short, things are going to change on Saturday.  WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE.

So, relax folks.  Saturday should be easy times against America's least favorite institution.