This will double as our official preview for Saturday's home game against Villanova, so let's provide you with some important details about that contest. It's going to start at 1pm up at Uihlein Park at 71st Street and Good Hope Road. Here's a map, so you don't even have to track that down on your own:
There will be buses running from the Sports Annex on campus starting at noon on Saturday, and all students get in FOR FREE, so you can't beat that deal. If you can't make it out to the park, live stats will be here.
Now on to the conference preview!
For each team, we've got their record and their goals, assists, and goalie statistical leaders. We're also using the numbers from the wonderful Tempo Free Lax to first show you each team's ranking next to their record in the heading, plus rate the best wins and worst losses of the season for each team. It's essentially KenPom.com, except for lacrosse. When you're looking at the TFL rankings, please keep in mind that there are only 67 schools that play Division 1 lacrosse, so anything at 34 or lower means that team is in the bottom half of the country.
We'll go in alphabetical order here, which actually allows us to start with the clear #1 team in the Big East this season.
Denver (6-2, #11)
Warrior Media Poll Ranking: #5
Goals Leader: Zach Miller, 20 goals
Assists Leader: Jeremy Noble, 12 assists
Top Goalie: Ryan LaPlante, 9.60 GAA, .538 SV%
Best Win: vs #6 Notre Dame, 10-7 (neutral site)
Worst Loss: at #19 Penn, 12-10
When I was putting together these statistic profiles for each team, Denver's goalie situation drove me crazy. I'm officially listing Ryan LaPlante as their top goalie because he's been getting the nod as the starter. But in each of the last four games, LaPlante has been lifted at halftime for Jamie Faus, who has started two games this season as well. Faus actually has 20 more minutes played this season and better statistics than LaPlante: a goals-against average of just 8.05 and a save percentage of .577. I have no idea what head coach Bill Tierney is doing, but he is a lacrosse coaching legend, having won six national championships in nine years at Princeton, so it's not like any of us are in a position to doubt him.
Denver and Marquette are both newcomers to the Big East this season, and they essentially couldn't be more different. While Marquette is a second year program still trying to find its footing in the world of Division 1 lacrosse, Denver has turned into a Rocky Mountain power under Tierney. After just one NCAA tournament appearance in the first 11 seasons in Division 1, the Pioneers haven't missed the tournament at all under Tierney. They've been to two Final Fours, including last season, and have been to the quarterfinals each of the last three seasons. The Pioneers immediately provide legitimacy for a Big East conference that was suddenly lacking in depth with the departures of Syracuse and Notre Dame to the ACC. It works out in Denver's favor as well, since the Eastern Coast Athletic Conference was fracturing due to realignment issues and the Big Ten beginning to sponsor men's lacrosse next season.
Georgetown (3-5, 0-1 Big East; #38)
Goals Leader: Peter Conley, 16 goals
Assists Leader: Peter Conley & Bo Stafford, 10 assists
Top Goalie: Jake Haley, 9.69 GAA, .512 SV%
Best Win: at #20 Navy, 9-8 (OT)
Worst Loss: at #39 St. John's, 15-7
Oh, Georgetown. The Hoyas spent the early part of the season trending towards landing in the Warrior Media Poll top 20, including ended up at #21 in the first in-season polling. Then they lost three in a row., which turned into five of the last six. None of the losses were particularly terrible (all five teams are in the top half of the country), but the streak itself is bad times. The Hoyas offense is sputtering, having only tallied 10 or more goals twice this season. Even worse, those two times came against the two worst teams in the country, Mt. St. Mary's (10-4) and Furman (16-9). Their biggest problem this season has been possession. While they're winning face offs at a decent clip (12th in the country), they're struggling to clear the ball from their defensive zone (58th in the country).
Marquette (2-5, #50)
Goals Leader: Tyler Melnyk, 20 goals
Assists Leader: Tyler Melnyk, 8 assists
Top Goalie: Jimmy Danaher, 13.01 GAA, .340 SV%
Best Win: at #31 Hofstra, 11-9
Worst Loss: at #59 Jacksonville, 9-8
Marquette's goals leader has more goals that the top guys on four of the other teams in the conference. I'm counting that as a small victory for the second year Golden Eagles. It's obviously been a challenging season for MU so far, having come out on the business end of three games against nationally ranked opponents, as well as losses to two teams ranked in the 50s on Tempo Free Lax. Marquette is coming off of a win against Detroit last weekend, and head coach Joe Amplo called it "the biggest win of the year." While obviously that doesn't match with that Best Win marker above, Amplo was referring to the complete effort shown by his men. Marquette dominated at the face off X, and they showed great improvement on minimizing unforced turnovers against the Titans. The Big East schedule is not going to be a cake walk for MU, but it's clear that steps are being taken in the right direction to improve this season.
I should note that I've listed Jimmy Danaher as Marquette's top goalie here because the freshman has earned the starting nod in Marquette's last three games. Senior JJ Sagl had started every game for Marquette since the start of last season, but since the start of the Spring Break three game road trip, it's been Danaher's net. Given that Sagl was the third guy off the bench in the bloodletting against Duke, I think it's safe to say that this will be a permanent change for the Golden Eagles going forward.
Providence (3-4, 0-1 Big East; #44)
Goals Leader: Alex Corboy, 17 goals
Assists Leader: Andrew Barton, 10 assists
Top Goalie: Tyler Himes, 11.23 GAA, .492 SV%
Best Win: at #18 Fairfield, 14-11
Worst Loss: at #54 Sacred Heart, 11-10
The Friars have a confusing pair of Best Win and Worst Loss, but I suppose that kind of thing is to be expected when you have six road games and just one home game so far this season. That kind of thing can grind on a team after a while, and it'll leave you prone to odd losses. You can't even fault them for getting doinked in their home game 12-6, as they ran straight into the buzzsaw known as the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, but more on that later.
Two things jump out at me statistically for the Friars. First of all, they're tied for first in the Big East in man up success rate, scoring on 44% of their extra man chances. A lot of penalties in lacrosse are of the 30 second variety, so approaching 50% on the power play is impressive, as 30 seconds is not a lot of time to get a quality shot off, much less one that goes in. The other thing is their ride percentage. For you newbies out there (and I include myself in that category as I just figured this out), all that means is the percentage of times that their opponent fails to clear the ball out of their defensive end after gaining possession. Providence has the second best ride percentage in the country, forcing turnovers in their offensive end 27% of the time. That's quite an impressive forecheck, especially considering that Providence doesn't even lead the conference in caused turnovers.
Rutgers (6-2, 1-0 Big East, #9)
Goals Leader: Scott Klimchak, 24 goals
Assists Leader: Scott Bieda, 9 assists
Top Goalie: Kris Alleyne, 8.66 GAA, .593 SV%
Best Win: at #5 Army, 9-8 (OT)
Worst Loss: at #25 Stony Brook, 12-9
Well, hellooooooo Scarlet Knights! Fancy meeting you here. Rutgers is only in the Big East because they have nowhere else to put their lacrosse program this year. The American refuses to sponsor men's lacrosse (or women's lacrosse, or field hockey), so the Big East is providing a warm shelter for the gentlemen from Piscataway until they can bolt to the newly formed Big Ten lacrosse conference next season.
In the meantime, Rutgers has been - brace yourself - good at a sport. They finished in a tie for second to last with Providence in the preseason coaches polling, but RU has been quite the terror. A quick skim of this page will show you that Scott Klimchak is currently leading the Big East in goals, while goalie Kris Alleyne leads the conference in both goals-against average and save percentage. I presume at this point, you're not going to be surprised to find out that Rutgers is both the most potent offense in the league at 13.1 goals per game and the stingiest defense in the league, allowing just 8.19 goals per 60 minutes. They're also the best penalty killing team in the Big East, shutting down extra man opportunities at a 78% clip.
St. John's (4-3, 1-0 Big East; #35)
Goals Leader: Kieran McArdle, 19 goals
Assists Leader: Kieran McArdle, 19 assists
Top Goalie: Joseph Danaher, 10.96 GAA, .507 SV%
Best Win: vs #31 Hofstra, 11-10 (OT)
Worst Loss: at #27 Drexel, 16-10
It's been a bit of a rough start to the season for the Red Storm, but that's the kind of thing that happens when your three toughest games so far this season were all away from home and all while you're breaking in a freshman goalie. Still, it's worth noting that preseason Big East Offensive Player of the Year Kieran McArdle broke the program's all time points record on Tuesday night against Hofstra. The senior had an eight point night on six goals and two assists, including the overtime game winner. The record breaking point came on an even strength goal with just 31 seconds left in overtime that knotted the game at seven heading to the break.
I can't confirm it, but it would appear that St. John's freshman goalie Joseph Danaher is somehow related to Marquette freshman goalie Jimmy Danaher. Same last name, same home state, a bit of a physical resemblance, but different parents. If true, this could make for a fascinating ongoing rivalry between the Red Storm and the Golden Eagles for the next four years.
Villanova (1-5, #45)
Goals Leader: Kevin O'Neil, 11 goals
Assists Leader: Austin Frederick, 5 assists
Top Goalie: Dan Willis, 10.29 GAA, .464 SV%
Lone Win: vs #27 Drexel, 11-10 (OT)
Worst Loss: at #34 Delaware, 11-9
Ok, yes, the record looks bad, especially for a team that started the year as the preseason #20 team in the country. But as you may have guessed from their worst loss up there, the record is misleading. The game against Delaware was their only game this season against a non-ranked opponent. The Wildcats have losses to at the time #15 Lehigh (in 3 OTs), #14 Penn, #1 Maryland, and #13 Princeton. That is a tough row to hoe, and it's turned into four straight losses for VU. They do have an overtime win over Drexel, who was ranked #15 in the country at the time.
The fourth toughest schedule in the country has led to a lousy offensive efficiency (#50 in the country on Tempo Free Lax) for the Wildcats, but they have been stout on defense (#10), even if they have been allowing their opponents to succeed on clears 93% of the time. The root cause of that defense might be their ability to force turnovers, as they're the only team in the Big East that causes more than 10 per game. Of course, the defensive strength shouldn't be that surprising, as VU put three defenders on the preseason all-conference team, including long stick midfielder John LoCascio, the preseason Defensive Player of the Year.