Each week, we are going to highlight some of the sneaky-hard matchups that ranked teams face. To us, bad matchups are not just about going up against great offenses or stifling defenses. Everyone knows that Connor Fields makes Albany a bad matchup, no matter who they play. Highlighting those isn’t especially interesting.
Instead, we are going to focus on more subtle challenges. If a top team gets a lot of offensive opportunities from unsettled situations off faceoff wins and they are facing a team that is very good in transition defense, then even if the matchup overall doesn’t seem threatening, that facet of the game could cause problems and make the game tighter than expected.
To be clear, these are not predictions, just match up curiosities that could mean that the match up is a bit tougher than some might expect. And if any of these games do result in closer than expected results, these statistical clues might help explain what happened.
Week 11 Tough Matchups
Bad Matchup #1 Duke vs Marquette on Sat
Marquette is the kind of team that can cause problems for #4 Duke because Duke struggles when they play slower than normal, and in this one, they are going up Marquette, a team that has slowed offenses this year. In 8 of 11 games, Marquette’s opponents have been forced to attack more deliberately than their season averages. Only 8 teams slow down their opponents more than the Golden Eagles.
Look to see whether Duke is able to create good opportunities early in possessions before the Marquette defense is able to settle into a rhythm. If Marquette is able to dig in on defense and force Duke to be more probing and deliberate, this could be a close one.
Bad Matchup #2 Air Force vs Richmond on Sat
Richmond has not clicked in games where they’ve slowed it down following faceoff wins and in this game, they’ll face a team in Air Force that has really slowed offenses down in those exact situations. Duke was a great example; in all of the Spiders’ non-Duke games, they’ve managed to get a shot off after a faceoff win after about 41 seconds. And in those games, they’ve averaged about 25% efficiency for those faceoff possessions. Against Duke, they took, on average, 71 seconds to get off their first shot after a faceoff win, and in those 8 possessions, they tallied exactly zero goals. In their two losses, they’ve averaged just about one minute before getting off their first shot after faceoffs. In their 10 wins, it’s been 41 seconds.
This is particularly challenging because Air Force has been the best team in the nation at preventing quick shots in transition after losing the faceoff win. Ironically, they actually have the 12th best faceoff winning percentage in D1 (57%). But it doesn’t appear that they are selling out to win the ground ball and then leaving their defense exposed to a quick counter. (This Air Force faceoff performance may be something worth looking into in more depth.)
Watch to see whether Richmond is able to find opportunities to strike in transition or whether Air Force is able to get their defense set and force some long possessions.
Bad Matchup #3 Johns Hopkins vs Michigan on Sat
Michigan is not a good match up for #8 Johns Hopkins because Johns Hopkins struggles when they take a quick shot after making a defensive stop, and in this one, they are going up Michigan, a team that has forced teams to do just that.
I know I know, we highlighted Michigan as a potentially bad matchup for OSU last week, and that may seem like a big fat miss. But we highlighted that game for the same reason we highlighted this one, because of Michigan’s effects on teams after they take possession off a defensive stop. Ohio State managed to side-step our insight because they only had 7 possessions that started off of a missed shot/defensive stop. They did however have 29 possessions that began with a ground ball or faceoff win, and in those possessions, they scored 16 goals (55% eff). So the fact that Michigan held OSU to 0 shots on 7 possessions that started with a defensive stop technically validates our insight. But OSU’s domination in the rest of the game rendered it irrelevant.
Keep an eye on whether the Blue Jays are able to rack up goals on unsettled possessions. If they are, like OSU was, then this may look silly again. But if Michigan is able to limit the transition offense and force Hopkins to attack full field, then this one could be closer than expected.