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Thursday, March 15, 2007
Albany soaring, Georgetown struggling

By Quint Kessenich
ESPN.com

Why is Albany ranked so low? They currently sit at No. 6 in the Nike/Inside Lacrosse Media Poll but are respected at No. 2 in the USILA Coaches Poll. Last I checked, the Great Danes beat Johns Hopkins at Homewood Field. If they wore Orange jerseys and had the name Princeton, Syracuse or Virginia stiched on their chests they'd be the unanimous No. 1 team in the nation.

Merrick Thomson
Merrick Thomson makes the Great Danes an even more formidable foe.
"We're playing hard and focused," says Albany coach Scott Marr. "Our goal is to make the playoffs and win a game in May."

Albany has never won a game in the NCAA Tournament, but it would relish the idea of competing in the quarterfinals with a chance to advance to championship weekend.

Why has Albany had success this year? They shoot the ball extremely well (34 percent versus 23 percent by their opponents), they are plus-5 in specialty situations and have the nation's most improved defense. The Great Danes lost five games in 2006 by a total of nine goals.

"Last year we had to play zone," says Marr. "This fall we concentrated on defense, and we haven't been forced to go zone except maybe once.

"The zone concepts have been helpful with our off-ball defense and support. Guys are seeing both their man and the ball and understand the strategy behind sliding and being the second slide."

Albany is making teams earn their goals. The Danes have two of the game's best finishers, so they can take a third less shots and win because their accuracy is superior. Merrick Thomson and Frank Resetarits rarely miss the net, and it's scary to realize that they haven't shown up big in the same game yet this spring.

It's an exciting time on campus in the capital city of New York. The men's basketball team plays Virginia on Friday in the NCAA Tournament and the men's lacrosse team is in the midst of a breakout season. Albany faces another Cinderella team on Saturday in Drexel, the squad who started the insanity of 2007 with an upset at Virginia in February.

Albany should be ranked above Hopkins, and considerably higher in the Media Poll. It's not even debatable.

Film Breakdown: Georgetown vs. Syracuse
The 52-shots stat doesn't tell Georgetown's full story from Saturday's 14-9 loss to Syracuse. Quantity is meaningless; quality is everything.

I love watching tape and making shot charts. Reading a box score can be a misleading pursuit.

At the end of the day, the Hoyas' biggest problem is their lack of passers on offense. They have only one true feeder: Brendan Cannon. Everyone else is an iso dodger or time-and-room shooter. Not once did Georgetown dodge the alley, spin the ball through X and attack the backside.

Only two of their nine goals were assisted, one on an out-of-bounds play off a reset on the backline. In the big picture, this means they aren't generating transition or getting inside, that they're relying on isolation goals and that their EMO (extra-man offense) is struggling. Their lack of off-ball movement on offense is alarming.

Lacrosse on ESPNU
Take a timeout from March Madness action and catch a little lax action Saturday on ESPNU. Hofstra takes on Johns Hopkins at noon ET, and Maryland-Towson will be aired at 8:30 p.m. ET.

Lacrosse TV schedule

A top-caliber Division I goalie will save 90 percent of the shots taken from outside 12 yards. Georgetown took 13 shots from 12 yards or beyond against the Orange. I categorize those outside bombs as bad decisions. Luckily most of them went wide; they would have been turnovers if they were on cage.

Their inside shooting (5 yards and in) was poorly orchestrated. Syracuse goalie Peter Coluccini is left-handed. His best save from the inside is offside high. If you watched last year's Princeton game in the Carrier Dome you'd know that offside high is not where you want to finish when 1-on-1 with Coluccini.

The Hoyas generated nine shots from inside 5 yards. They scored on four. The ideal conversion rate is 8-of-10 from in tight. Too many of these shots came from severe angles - where the goal isn't 6-by-6 for the shooter.

A sample of my notes of the Hoyas' shots from inside 5 yards:
• Inside roll, weak angle, wide.
• B. Cannon: iso, RH, floater.
• Out of bounds play: J. Samperton stuffed by Coluccini, bad location.
• A. Baird: LH on the crease, great catch, shot low, goal! Baird needs to get more shots.
• B. Cannon: One-handed shovel shot while running away from the goal, 0 percent chance.
• B. Cannon: LH iso hit Coluccini in the chest.
• T. Casey: back to the goal, rushed it, wide.
• G. Wilson: in transition, missed goal by 5 yards, defense good with trail check.
• D. D'Agnes invert vs. pole: LH to 5-by-5, low shot 5-hole, goal, well done.
• T. Casey on EMO: inside shot hit goalie in the thigh, good stop.
• B. Cannon: LH sneak to 3 yards, Coluccini moved off the pipe and dropped his stick, guessed low and moved out of the way, goal.

So the Hoyas took 30 shots from what is referred to as "mid-range." A championship weekend-caliber goalie is going to stop 40 percent from mid-range. Of those 30 Hoya shots, half missed the goal and two hit the pipe. Too often Georgetown midfielders dodged down the alleys and took away their angle. Rarely did they work their way back to the middle of the field, where your shooting percentage soars. Credit the SU defense for limiting roll-backs.

The shot-making decision process is easy to fix. Coach Dave Urick and his staff will emphasize selection and location this week in practice. But the major concern isn't as easy to fix. The offense isn't flowing well -- too much reliance on isolations and not enough ball reversal and ball movement.

Meanwhile, Syracuse shared the ball, passing their way to easy inside finishes. Their midfielders dodged to excellent angles and converted early in the game. They never let Hoya goalie Miles Kass get comfortable.

Quality beat quantity.

Quint Kessenich played goalie for Johns Hopkins in 1990 and is a lacrosse analyst for ESPNU. E-mail him at quint@insidelacrosse.com. ESPN.com is working with Inside Lacrosse to provide you with news and analysis. Click here for more coverage.