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Monday, January 24, 2011

UMich Lacrosse 2010: Tempo-free

Lacrosse is a sport that's fairly new to the mainstream - if you even consider it to have arrived - and considering advanced statistics are a niche market for a sport as popular as basketball, it stands to reason that they're practically non-existent for "the fastest game on two feet."

Enter Syracuse blog Orange:44, which tried to establish a possession-based method of analysis for the sport. This is similar to tempo-free statistics in basketball, though the possessions aren't equal for each side, as faceoffs and the ride/clear game combine to mean teams won't each possess the ball the same number of times. The method is imperfect, and record-keeping in lacrosse isn't widespread (particularly at the club level, where I'm focusing in this post), but it's better than nothing, no?

Without further ado, the stats are derived like so:

  • Possessions = Faceoff wins + clearing attempts + opponent failed clears.
  • Efficiency = Goals/Possessions.
For discussion of why those equations are what they are, visit the above-linked Orange:44 post.

Arizona
Arizona Michigan
Faceoff Wins 9 Faceoff Wins 15
Clearing 7-18 Clearing 18-26
Possessions 35 Possessions 52
Goals 5 Goals 15
Offensive Efficiency .143 Offensive Efficiency .288

In the opening game of the season, Michigan dominated possession (as we'll see, that will be a theme throughout the season), and also was more efficient in scoring goals on each of those possessions than were the Wildcats.

Arizona State
Arizona State Michigan
Faceoff Wins 4 Faceoff Wins 21
Clearing 18-36 Clearing 17-25
Possessions 48 Possessions 64
Goals 10 Goals 11
Offensive Efficiency .208 Offensive Efficiency .172

Another theme we'll see over the course of the season: Michigan is less efficient on a per-possession basis than the top-flight competition that they face.

BYU
BYUMichigan
Faceoff Wins8Faceoff Wins17
Clearing13-21Clearing24-30
Possessions35Possessions55
Goals9Goals13
Offensive Efficiency.257Offensive Efficiency.236

Again, the Wolverines were less efficient than the opponent on a goals-per-possession basis, but dominated possession in order to come away with a comfortable win.

Simon Fraser
Simon FraserMichigan
Faceoff Wins10Faceoff Wins27
Clearing16-33Clearing27-29
Possessions45Possessions73
Goals10Goals22
Offensive Efficiency.222Offensive Efficiency.301

In the first home game of the year, Michigan dominated possession once more (look at that gaudy number on clears), and was also more efficient than the opponent.

Eastern Michigan
Eastern Michigan Michigan
Faceoff Wins 8 Faceoff Wins 17
Clearing 8-25 Clearing 16-18
Possessions 35 Possessions 52
Goals 2 Goals 19
Offensive Efficiency .057 Offensive Efficiency .365

Eastern Michigan was terrible (as were most of Michigan's CCLA opponents), so this number isn't particularly meaningful going forward.

Oregon
Oregon Michigan
Faceoff Wins 5 Faceoff Wins 7
Clearing 16-27 Clearing 21-30
Possessions 41 Possessions 48
Goals 4 Goals 5
Offensive Efficiency .098 Offensive Efficiency .104

This game took place on a horrible, windy, snowy day in Dallas, and both teams' offenses were unable to put the ball in the back of the net with any efficiency. The Wolverines won on an overtime goal.

Minnesota-Duluth
Minnesota-Duluth Michigan
Faceoff Wins 11 Faceoff Wins 13
Clearing 12-22 Clearing 13-24
Possessions 44 Possessions 47
Goals 7 Goals 14
Offensive Efficiency .159 Offensive Efficiency .298

This was the closest any opponent came all year to Michigan in terms of sheer number of possessions, but the Wolverines were still able to come away with the win because they were much more efficient offensively.

Western Michigan
Western Michigan Michigan
Faceoff Wins 12 Faceoff Wins 26
Clearing 14-26 Clearing 21-25
Possessions 42 Possessions 63
Goals 5 Goals 29
Offensive Efficiency .119 Offensive Efficiency .460

CCLA competition. Make mental adjustments accordingly.

Central Michigan
Central Michigan Michigan
Faceoff Wins 2 Faceoff Wins 22
Clearing 8-20 Clearing 15-18
Possessions 25 Possessions 52
Goals 1 Goals 19
Offensive Efficiency .040 Offensive Efficiency .365

This was by far Michigan's best game of the year - though again, keep in mind that the level of competition was low - dominating possession and efficiency.

Colorado
Colorado Michigan
Faceoff Wins 8 Faceoff Wins 18
Clearing 19-29 Clearing 20-27
Possessions 44 Possessions 55
Goals 12 Goals 10
Offensive Efficiency .273 Offensive Efficiency .182

In Michigan's lone loss of the year, they had a sizable advantage in possession, but were unable to put the ball in the net - mostly on account of a stellar day by Buffs goalie Bradley MacNee - whereas Colorado had one of the most efficient performances of any offense against Michigan's defense.

Colorado State
Colorado State Michigan
Faceoff Wins 5 Faceoff Wins 15
Clearing 18-31 Clearing 19-27
Possessions 44 Possessions 55
Goals 6 Goals 10
Offensive Efficiency .136 Offensive Efficiency .182

Michigan rebounded from their first loss in more than two years by sticking to their gameplan: dominate possession. They were also more efficient than the Rams on this day.

Purdue
Purdue Michigan
Faceoff Wins 4 Faceoff Wins 30
Clearing 15-29 Clearing 22-24
Possessions 35 Possessions 68
Goals 2 Goals 28
Offensive Efficiency .057 Offensive Efficiency .412

Good day against bad competition.

Michigan State
Michigan State Michigan
Faceoff Wins 7 Faceoff Wins 15
Clearing 16-34 Clearing 18-22
Possessions 45 Possessions 55
Goals 8 Goals 11
Offensive Efficiency .178 Offensive Efficiency .200

In the first matchup between the in-state rivals, Michigan won the possession battle and was slightly more efficient than the opponent. That's a great recipe for success.

Miami OH
Miami OH Michigan
Faceoff Wins 7 Faceoff Wins 24
Clearing 11-26 Clearing 14-18
Possessions 37 Possessions 57
Goals 5 Goals 23
Offensive Efficiency .137 Offensive Efficiency .404

CCLA Competition.

Michigan State
Michigan State Michigan
Faceoff Wins 9 Faceoff Wins 18
Clearing 14-19 Clearing 14-22
Possessions 36 Possessions 45
Goals 11 Goals 13
Offensive Efficiency .306 Offensive Efficiency .289

Michigan, per usual, won the possession battle - but they were actually less successful on their clears than were the Spartans. This game was won at the faceoff X, as Stats was slightly more efficient offensively, as well. State's great goalie, Dean Hall, had a hand in that.

Texas State
Texas State Michigan
Faceoff Wins 6 Faceoff Wins 20
Clearing 13-32 Clearing 23-24
Possessions 39 Possessions 63
Goals 3 Goals 19
Offensive Efficiency .077 Offensive Efficiency .302

The opening game of the MCLA National Tournament was a demonstration of the enormous gap between the #1 team and the #16 (ish) team in the country.

BYU
BYU Michigan
Faceoff Wins 7 Faceoff Wins 24
Clearing 11-26 Clearing 14-18
Possessions 37 Possessions 57
Goals 5 Goals 23
Offensive Efficiency .137 Offensive Efficiency .404

Though BYU is a national power, and gave Michigan a (somewhat) competitive game earlier in the year, Michigan rode the Cougars into a horrible clearing percentage, owned faceoffs, and nearly tripled up the Cougars' efficiency mark en route to a dominant win.

Chapman
Chapman Michigan
Faceoff Wins 11 Faceoff Wins 14
Clearing 9-19 Clearing 16-23
Possessions 37 Possessions 47
Goals 10 Goals 12
Offensive Efficiency .270 Offensive Efficiency .255

Michigan was less efficient than Chapman (unsurprising, given the wealth of offensive talent the Panthers had last year), and only had a slight edge on faceoffs. The riding game was the key to this win.

Arizona State
Arizona State Michigan
Faceoff Wins 9 Faceoff Wins 17
Clearing 15-23 Clearing 15-16
Possessions 33 Possessions 41
Goals 11 Goals 12
Offensive Efficiency .333 Offensive Efficiency .293

The national championship game was an instant classic, as ASU scored with 34 seconds left to bring the game within a single mark. The Sun Devils were very efficient, but Michigan's typical advantage in possession helped them win the day.

So What Does it All Mean?

So, uh, we've seen Michigan's possession and efficiency numbers over the course of the year, so what conclusions can we draw from the numbers?

  • The CCLA is bad. Outside of Michigan and Michigan State, the teams in the CCLA were very bad last year. There's been some conference reorganization, but don't expect the Wolverines to get many serious challenges in the league except from Michigan State.
  • Michigan dominates on faceoffs and clears. The Wolverines won the battle at the center of the field in every single game, typically in dominating fashion, for a year-end win percentage over 70. They also had a better clear% in nearly every game (thanks in part to the trademark 10-man ride), to dominate possessions for the season.
  • Against good competition, Michigan doesn't have an efficiency edge. Arizona State (twice), BYU, Colorado, Michigan State, and Chapman were all able to operate on a more efficient level than Michigan in individual games this year. However, only Colorado was able to get the win, as Michigan dominated possession.
So, now we know that, while the Wolverines had high and low moments in efficient offensive play, that's not how they won games. They also had high and low moments in defensive play, but again, that's not the driving force behind the 3-year run of 58-1. It's dominating in possession, both on the ride/clear game and on the faceoff.

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