Welcome back to the next edition of our collaboration with Zack Capozzi over at Lacrosse Reference. Each week, we are putting together a stat of the week to highlight a game, team, or individual from Men’s or Women’s lacrosse to focus on.
It might be from a game the previous weekend, or it might be for an upcoming matchup. But either way, it will allow me to use some stats combined with a little bit of commentary for why I think that particular one jumps out to me in a given week.
This week’s focus: Offensive Efficiency. Specifically, why it was a major part of Ohio Stat’s massive upset over North Carolina.
For Capozzi, Offensive Efficiency is: “Efficiency is calculated by dividing the number of goals scored by the total number of possessions. The total number of possessions does not include failed clears and it does count possessions sandwiched around a faceoff win as 2 distinct possessions.”
Why I decided to focus on this particular game is that it was worth seeing if this was a fluke for Ohio State or UNC. Ohio State getting this win at this point in the season gave them one of the biggest jumps in the polls I’ve ever seen. There are many reasons for the Buckeyes to take that jump that like having no non-conference games in 2020, and losing in the first round of the Big Ten tournament to the lower seeded Michigan.
Basically, expectations were pretty low for the Buckeyes while they were sky high for the Tar Heels. So an upset here caused a big switch. But enough of the background, let’s bring in why Offensive Efficiency is the key for this game.
Looking at Ohio State’s other game by game metrics, it’s obvious that offensive efficiency jumps out for this game.
Here are Ohio State’s offensive efficiency against Detroit Mercy, Cleveland State, and UNC.
Here are Ohio State’s defensive efficiency against Detroit Mercy, Cleveland State, and UNC.
So then, the obvious question for me was: did everything play like this against UNC? With two games under their belts already, I took a peak at the efficiency numbers for the Tar Heels previous opponents Richmond and Colgate.
Richmond’s offensive efficiency against UNC and Marist.
Colgate’s offensive efficiency against High Point, UNC, and Airforce.
The takeaway here is that it was something specifically with Ohio State’s offense that led to the win. Richmond and Colgate were both in the in the 25-30% range for efficiency for their UNC games while Ohio State was in that same range for their non-UNC games. Ohio State in this game was absolutely an outlier. So let’s take a look at why.
One initial thought to originally look into is of course faceoffs. OSU did do well in this category, winning about 2/3 through the game, but this was actually a slight drop in how they normally do. So, they’re used to getting more initial possessions, but they don’t always turn into points. But out of the 20 OSU goals in this game, they did score three right off the faceoff, which does help their case slightly.
What else jumps out to me is UNC was perfect on clears for the game, so it wasn’t like OSU was just milking the clock and wearing down the defense to the point where they could score some easy goals on broken plays as a tired defense tries to clear. The other area to peek at is penalties. OSU definitely had opportunities here and it did factor in a bit. Overall, they scored 3 goals off 5 extra-man opportunities to UNC’s 1 goal off 3. So between faceoffs and penalties, OSU is sitting on 6 goals. What about the other 14?
That’s where just pure offense comes into play. Those other 14 goals were coming from a barrage of shots. In total, OSU sent the ball flying 53 times, and 35 of those were on cage. That in itself is a good percentage, but it also means that a bit under half of their gross shots resulted in a goal, including those off cage.
Where this leads us next is looking to see if this offensive explosion from the Buckeyes winds up being a fluke or not. Based on current information, which is a very small sample size, it is. But all it would take is one or two more games like this to completely flip the script and have us saying “nope, the Detroit and Cleveland State games were the flukes”. But where everyone does seem to agree that statistical fluke or not, the Ohio State team is for real. They have a potent offense that is looking to bring them back to postseason again.