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Hopkins-Syracuse: Stoke the Urge to Kill

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Do you see that clown pictured to the right?  Yeah?  Well, that's Dave Pietramala, head coach of the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays.  I'm a firm believer that he should take his sexual organ and insert it into an orifice located upon his person.  This should be done for either pleasure or pain.  I'm good either way.

Anyway, that man and his band of over-hyped knuckleheads come into the Carrier Dome tomorrow for an ass beating to be administered pursuant to the incorporation charter of Syracuse University.  Face-off is scheduled for 6:00 P.M.; the aforementioned beating of posterior is scheduled for "always."

Rather than pen a preview that makes me look like someone in a similar position to Dave Pietramala (I've done that before, and it was impressively stupid), this piece is going to go in a different direction: A focus on what Johns Hopkins does well, a focus on what Johns Hopkins does poorly (other than, you know, exist), and some quick points on what Syracuse may want to do to ensure the proper beating of the aformentioned blue and black rump.

Now, with the exception of the Princeton game in which the Blue Jays got shellacked, Johns Hopkins hasn't played a team worth a damn yet this season.  Johns Hopkins' strength of schedule with respect to opposing offenses faced is 37th nationally; the team's strength of schedule with respect to opposing defenses faced is 50th; and with respect to opponent efficiency margin, the Blue Jays are 46th in the country.  While the below tempo-free values are adjusted for such competition, the fact of the matter is this: We won't really know about Hopkins until they start getting into the meat of their schedule.  And that starts tonight.

Ready?  Set?  Words!


Other than piss me the hell off?

Balance on Offense

The focus here is on how well the Johns Hopkins' offense functions as a unit.  When examining this, there's one statistic that always stands out: offensive assist rate.  The Blue Jays are really getting it done in terms of sharing the bean and getting good looks at the cage.  Pietramala's micromanaged offense is currently sixth nationally in assist rate at .1982 (that just means that about 20% of Hopkins' offensive possessions involve an assist preceding a goal).  The scary part of this is that the assist rate isn't simply attributable to a couple of guys running the same two-man game in every offensive possession.  Johns Hopkins is spreading it around like free subsidies disbursed from a democratic government:

  • Chris Boland (13g, 8a)
  • Zach Palmer (11g, 9a)
  • Kyle Wharton (11g, 4a)
  • John Ranagan (6g, 8a)
  • John Greeley (6g, 6a)

What's the result of all this happy sharing?  Johns Hopkins is converting its shots at a pretty good clip (32.60% effective shooting percentage), most likely due to tons of good looks resulting from the ol' assist. That shooting value, incidentally, is the 14th best value in the United States of America.  The Japanese are in horror.

Ay-yi-yi.  Syracuse's defensive coordinator -- Leland Rogers -- is going to have his hands full trying to put a lid on all of this nonsense.

Control Tempo and Limit Defensive Exposure

As a preface: Hopkins is rolling two sophomores and a freshman at close defense.  Limiting defensive exposure is beyond important (Superduperimportant? Is that a thing?) for the Blue Jays.

Let's start with tempo and character of possessions.  Due to Pietramala's micromanagement, Hopkins is the 43rd (out of 61) "fastest" team in the nation (65.33 total possessions per game).  The Jays generally see about 36.17 offensive possessions per game (22nd-most nationally) against only 29.17 defensive possessions a contest (11th in the country).  That possession margin -- 7.00 -- is vitally important for Johns Hopkins: In its only loss of the season to Princeton, Pietramala's Mafia lost the possession margin by three and utlimately got beat 8-3.  Now, there were other factors that contributed to Hopkins' defeat, but that margin was certainly an important factor.

So, how are the Blue Jays generating these extra possessions?  It isn't due to their ride or their ability to clear (neither is significantly above the national average), but rather due to Hopkins' ability at the dot: The Jays are the fourth-best team in face-off percentage in the country (66.13%).  Syracuse's Daddio and Thompson are going to have to do work to keep Hopkins in check here.

The impact of Hopkins' diluted tempo and infrequent defensive possessions is paying dividends to its young close defense.  With fresh legs and few opportunities to screw up (Hi, 2010 Blue Jays!), Hopkins is second in adjusted defensive efficiency (18.89 goals per 100 possessions) and fourth in defensive effective shooting percentage (20.71%).  Again, there are other factors impacting both metrics, but limiting exposure to their defense through few defensive possessions is helping a bunch.


Other than not pissing me the hell off?

Man Down Scenarios

Hopkins certianly isn't all, "Look how many goals we score on the extra-man!" The real issue, though, is that they are even worse in man-down situations.  It's "funny, ha ha" bad, not "funny, weird" bad.

In totem, the Blue Jays have played one team with an adjusted offensive efficiency above the national average: Princeton.  You would think that having faced so many bad offensive teams that Hopkins wouldn't be getting burned in man-down scenarios.  Guess again, homeboy.  Not only is Hopkins pretty bad with the personnel imbalance, they're short a guy a lot: As it stands now, only 19 teams are in man-down scenarios more than Hopkins (13% of the Blue Jays defensive possessions are man-down possessions).  You can get away with that nonsense against Manhattan, but that shit won't fly against a team that isn't miserable.

The additional man-down numbers aren't terrific either:

  • Opponents are converting on 30.43% of these situations.
  • Opponents are actually relying heavily on these scenarios to score against Hopkins.  As it stands, a full 21.21% of the tallies logged against the Jays this season have been in personnel imbalance situations.  This really exposes how delicate the situation is with respect to how Hopkins deals with all of its youth on close defense.
  • Hopkins is 46th in man-down rate at .1394 (that's a metric that measures extra man goals against shots).  This shows me that opponents are getting their money's worth shot-wise when Hopkins is short.  This also buttresses the conversion rate noted above.

What's the moral of this little man-down tale? It sucks to be Pierce Bassett (Hopkins' sophomore goalie and functional punching bag).


I'm just throwing this out there and seeing what sticks:

  • Saturday would be a good time for Syracuse to get its extra man unit rolling.  If they don't get it done tomorrow, they may not ever get it done.
  • Whoever wins the face-off battle tomorrow moves into the driver's seat in terms of controlling the pace of play.  Syracuse wants lots of possessions; Hopkins couldn't care less.  Syracuse needs to tilt the possession margin balance in its favor to try and recreate a Princeton scenario.
  • In addition to face-offs, Syracuse has a chance to generate a few more possessions with its ride.  Hopkins isn't clearing all that well (26th nationally, 84.26%) and Syracuse, while not an amazing riding team in 2011, can make some easy money if they get after it.  The Syracuse clear-Hopkins ride should come out in a wash.
  • Lade and Company will need to lock-in against the Hopkins offense.  Syracuse hasn't been ball watching all season and Saturday wouldn't be the most opportune time to screw the pooch.  Get sticks on hands and don't let anyone set their feet.  Time to get nasty, Ricky.