rundown of Michigan's riser
A Primer on Michigan's Lacrosse Opponents
Greetings, faithful. Believe it or not it's the spring sports season already, and Michigan lacrosse will begin its second season as a varsity program this Saturday, the 9th, when they take on Penn State at Oosterbaan. That makes this a pretty good time to bring everyone up to speed on the opposition they'll face this season.
A guide to what you'll see:
|Preseason rank||Inside Lacrosse media poll and USILA coaches poll, respectively|
|2012 computer||LaxPower's computer ranking (out of 61 teams)|
|Last season||What we did to them or they did to us|
|2012 O-rating||see below|
|2012 D-rating||see below|
The O-rating and D-rating are something I've created to quantify a team's tempo-free performance. It's pretty good, if I do say so myself. It's SOS-adjusted and the numbers essentially represent how many goals a team would score or give up in a 100-possession game based on how they performed over the year. Last year's average comes out to an even 15 (ok, 14.99) and most teams are in the 10-20 range.
Getting on with it:
Penn State - Sat., February 9th - Home
|Last season||L, 16-9|
|2012 O-rating||14.61 (34th)|
|2012 D-rating||13.12 (15th)|
This is the first game of the three-way Creator's Trophy series between Michigan, PSU, and the Buckeyes. Penn State of late typically has been a team sitting just on the outside of the 16-team NCAA tournament - I do weekly lacrosse bracketology on my blog and Penn State was my first team out in last year's final projection. Always on the cusp, never quite there. The pollsters appear to have them there again this year. CAA coaches voted them second by a narrow margin in the CAA preseason poll, and if they can get past UMass they might win it. The CAA is a solid mid-level conference.
PSU is generally a better defensive team than offensive one. Their top returning scorer will be attackman Jack Forster, with 27 goals and 12 assists last year. Their foundation is their defense, though. Austin Kaut is the CAA's top goalie and one of the better ones in the nation, and Kessler Brown made the CAA preseason team as an LSM. Expect a difficult season opener. Also, Yak Fact: PSU has a guy named Tom LaCrosse.
Bellarmine - Sat., February 16th - Away
|2012 O-rating||13.20 (42nd)|
|2012 D-rating||15.18 (33rd)|
A piece of history here, really, since this is Michigan's first official conference game. Last year they played as a sort of provisional ECAC member and the conference tried to accommodate them by playing as many games as could be scheduled, but none of them counted in the conference standings. Now it matters. Michigan's team is a little bit of a wild card, and I don't think any of us will be able to make much of a guess about their quality til they actually hit the field. But this is a decent chance to pick up a win and start the season off right. Bellarmine has been slowly moving toward respectability lately, and is no longer a day off for the powerhouse schools, but they've so far managed only to lose close. Still looking for that signature win. They're a little bit offensively challenged, with attackman Michael Ward the only player that would strike fear in most opponents. Can Michigan open some eyes and sit atop the ECAC standings two games into the season? Possible.
Johns Hopkins - Sat., February 23rd - Away
|2012 O-rating||16.50 (18th)|
|2012 D-rating||10.66 (2nd)|
Even people who aren't big into this stuff know Johns Hopkins for two things: a medical school and a lacrosse team. Coach John Paul and JHU's coach, Dave Pietramala, are best buds, hence the scheduling of this game, which may turn into an annual series. This will be Michigan's brush this year with royalty, and it probably won't be pretty. Pierce Bassett is a top goaltender and Hopkins brings back the nation's top defenseman from last year, Tucker Durkin. Plus Hopkins returns six of their top seven scorers, led by Zach Palmer and Brandon Benn. They're a legitimate national title contender. The slaughter will be televised online by ESPN.
Army - Sat., March 2nd - Neutral
|2012 O-rating||15.66 (26th)|
|2012 D-rating||13.19 (18th)|
No doubt thanks to the influence of well-known Michigan grad Stephen Ross, Michigan will play a neutral-site game against the Black Knights of West Point at Ross's house. Well, his stadium, anyway; this game takes place in Miami at the home of Ross's Miami Dolphins. Army tends to make occasional appearances in the NCAA tournament but lately has been on the outside looking in - still, they're a good team. Garrett Thul is an all-American attackman and scored 39 goals last year. Army has problems in net and has been getting sub-par goalie play, but Brendan Buckley is an excellent close-in defenseman who caused 30 turnovers last year. The Black Knights will be a very stiff test.
High Point - Wed., March 6th - Away
2013 is High Point's first lacrosse season, so there's not a lot to go by. Michigan should probably expect to win; these southern mid-majors offer a very promising avenue of expansion for the sport at the D-I level, but none are very good. High Point has actually already played this season, a 12-10 loss to Delaware as the national season opener, but I think that speaks more to Delaware's fall from grace than any threat from High Point to make national waves. Michigan ought to win, or else maybe take some lessons from the Panthers on how to build a program.
Hobart - Sat., March 9th - Away
|2012 O-rating||15.69 (24th)|
|2012 D-rating||16.00 (38th)|
Hobart is a venerable, traditional old program that dominated D-III lacrosse in their day. They're less successful in D-I, obviously, but they'll expect to beat Michigan. Their 4-9 record is a little deceiving because they like to fight above their weight class, and always play Cornell and Syracuse, as well as a bunch of the better mid-majors like Robert Morris and Colgate. Plus the ECAC is starting to turn out some quality lacrosse programs.
I think Michigan has a smallish chance to surprise and pull off a win here, certainly more so than in games like Army, but it'll be tough. Hobart has a great combination of attackmen in Cam Stone and Alex Love; Stone had 29 assists in 2012. At 2.23 per game he was tied for 4th in the nation last year, and Love was 5th in goals per game. This is Michigan's second conference game, but conference play doesn't get any easier from here on out.
Fairfield - Thu., March 14th - Away
|2012 O-rating||16.15 (22nd)|
|2012 D-rating||14.02 (23rd)|
Time to start getting into the conference schedule for serious. Fairfield made a serious run at the NCAA tournament last year and almost made it, but they weren't quite strong enough to earn an at-large bid and they couldn't get past Loyola in the ECAC championship game. I think they take a step back this year, but they're still a formidable opponent for Michigan with 35-goal scorer Sam Snow playing offensive midfield and a terrific face-off guy in Michael Roe.
Colgate - Sun., March 17th - Neutral
|2012 O-rating||19.21 (3rd)|
|2012 D-rating||13.04 (12th)|
It's another installment in the "Filthy Rich Alums Want To See The Shiny New Team Without Going Anywhere" series. Michigan appears at the home stadium of Fred Wilpon's New York Mets this time, giving the sizable NYC diaspora a chance to see the team in action as well. Don't expect a fun result. By now the team will be good and tired of the road, and Colgate is one of the best offensive teams in the nation. They still have Tewaaraton Trophy (lacrosse's Heisman) winner Peter Baum, who stats are off the gobdanged charts: 67 goals, 30 assists in 2012. That wasn't a close Tewaaraton vote. Ryan Walsh scored 38 goals and 22 assists himself, which would lead most teams, and Brendon McCann and Matt Baker return as well, both dangerous scores. Colgate won't lose much firepower from 2012, and between that and the road-weariness, this could be the biggest or second-biggest slaughter of the year. It's also the other TV game, featured on ESPNU.
Loyola - Sat., March 23rd - Home
|Last season||L, 15-8|
|2012 O-rating||18.00 (10th)|
|2012 D-rating||11.54 (4th)|
Finally back at home, and outdoors; this one, as with the rest of the season's home games, will be at the Big House. It's no reprieve though: the Greyhounds are the defending national champions. That game last year wasn't really as close as the score indicates as Loyola let up off the gas in the second half.
The pollsters apparently expect Loyola not to lose much, because both votes made them the overwhelming #1. They had two 50-goal scorers last year, one of which (Mike Sawyer) is back this season, and they've got quite a lineup of good-looking players ready to step into the gap. Another laugher could be in the cards here.
Air Force - Sat., March 30th - Home
|Last season||L, 15-6|
|2012 O-rating||14.51 (37th)|
|2012 D-rating||13.69 (20th)|
Air Force had a rough conference season last year, but then, it was a tough conference, and the Falcons were a young team. I seem to remember going into this game thinking that we had a chance to steal one and coming out wondering what in the hell just happened. On the plus side, we don't have to play in the altitude this year; that trip to Colorado was pretty disastrous. On the minus side, Air Force should be better this year than they were last year. The record might not show it as the ECAC is pretty competitive, but this'll be a tougher game than the above numbers might indicate.
Delaware - Sat., April 6th - Away
|Last season||L, 11-7|
|2012 O-rating||14.90 (31st)|
|2012 D-rating||15.04 (31st)|
Historically Delaware is pretty good, but this season, I wonder. Winning by two points against High Point is a danger sign, and this is a very young Hens team. They were picked 5th of 7 in a conference where the #7 team is always the same, so, basically bottom of the barrel. None of their returning players had more than 20 goals last season, and letting in 10 goals to High Point could portend defensive troubles as well. Last year they were the very definition of the average team as quantified by O- and D- ratings, but Michigan played them tight. This may be the best chance we have to win a game against a "traditional" old lacrosse team.
Ohio State - Sat., April 13th - Home
|Last season||L, 12-9|
|2012 O-rating||14.11 (38th)|
|2012 D-rating||11.59 (5th)|
Boo this man. Ohio : lacrosse :: Wisconsin : basketball - a slow-it-down team that practically begs for a stall warning every time they get the ball. It'll be interesting this year to see what the 30-second shot clock following a stall warning does for (or to) their offense.
Like last year, this is the companion to the football spring game, which last year made for a decent Big House atmosphere. Michigan played a very competitive game against a team that had tournament aspirations at the time. They can score some; Logan Schuss is one of the better attackmen in the country. Pace aside, they're also a very, very tough defensive team. It'll take a pretty good effort to beat these guys, but even a repeat of last year would be fun.
Detroit - Wed., April 17th - Home
|Last season||L, 13-9|
|2012 O-rating||11.83 (54th)|
|2012 D-rating||16.14 (40th)|
This was the season opener last year, but Michigan's two D-I lax teams will wait til near the end of the season before renewing the instate rivalry. The Titans are definitely a low-major team, and the MAAC is the country's worst conference, but they have some players who can be dangerous. LSM Jordan Houtby has gotten some national recognition, and Shayne Adams was a 33-goal scorer. But UDM is not deep and if their primary scoring options are shut down, they don't have much else, and they're crap on faceoffs, one of the worst teams in the country in that area. One of Michigan's better chances at a win this year.
St. Joseph's - Sat., April 20th - Home
|2012 O-rating||10.23 (59th)|
|2012 D-rating||15.94 (37th)|
Outside of High Point, which is a wild card but likely to be awful, St. Joe's is the worst team on the schedule. Only Wagner and Mercer - which combined to go 2-26 last year - had worse O-ratings. Ryan McGee must feel awfully lonely on offense - he put up 38 goals last year, and only three other players were in double digits....and none more than 13....and most of them graduated. Defensively, the Hawks aren't awful, but they have a new netminder this year and likely will be worse. Their six wins in 2012 are impressive for as bad as this team is, but that was mostly against really awful competition and probably won't be repeated. This and High Point are the two games that Michigan should actually expect to win.
Denver - Sat., April 27th - Away
|Last season||L, 17-5|
|2012 O-rating||20.35 (2nd)|
|2012 D-rating||13.36 (18th)|
Happy time is over as Michigan heads back to Colorado for the season finale, probably to get killed like last year. Bill Tierney is showing everyone how to build a program without relying on the usual hotbeds for talent; most of Denver's team is from the west and Canada. Their top two scorers are gone, but Jeremy Noble, Wes Berg, and Eric Law all scored 20+ goals and scored on close to 50% of their shots, an excellent percentage. Plus Chase Carraro is a 60% faceoff man. They'll reload pretty well and be one of the top contenders in the ECAC again.
For quick reference, here's a table of the O- and D-ratings of all of Michigan's opponents, and Michigan at the bottom:
This is an, um, ambitious schedule. Michigan's opponents can be categorized like so:
Gonna get killed: Hopkins, Colgate, Loyola, Denver
Losses, most likely: Penn State, Army, Fairfield, Air Force, Ohio State
Outside shot: Hobart, Delaware
Decent shot: Bellarmine, Detroit
Favored: High Point, St. Joseph's
This of course presumes improvement over last year, which should be expected. Set the baseline expectation at three wins; I think we should definitely be disappointed with only one, and two would also be a little disappointing in that it wouldn't represent much if any improvement over last year. Remember that the lone win was over Mercer, another fledgling program, and the other mostly winnable game was an OT loss to Jacksonville, probably a better team than St. Joe's. Three wins is doable and it would almost definitely mean turning around a loss from last year.