Philadelphia Waterdogs draft pick Matt Brandau

Ivy League legend: How Matt Brandau’s dominance can translate to Waterdogs

By Wyatt Miller | May 21, 2024

Yale’s roster was gutted by injuries in 2024, and Matt Brandau was the last star standing. Without fellow attackmen Chris Lyons and Leo Johnson, the offense ran completely through Brandau, and his emergence was otherworldly.

Brandau’s 101 points lead the nation, and no other pick in this year’s PLL College Draft – dubbed “the greatest draft” – was within 25 points of that when Yale's season ended. In fact, his 6.73 points per game constitute the best NCAA scoring season since 2019, when Grant Ament scored 7.41 points per game for Penn State. Over the past 10 years, Lyle Thompson is the only other player to exceed Brandau’s 2024 points average.

Brandau is not a bowling ball with limbs like Brennan O’Neill, nor is he a bully near the crease like Pat Kavanagh. At 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, Brandau’s quickness, IQ and elite body control dictate his versatile success. He’s a master manipulator, and the Waterdogs could actually use more of that dodging prowess. Philadelphia head coach and general manager Bill Tierney’s first-ever draft pick should prove to be a valuable chess piece for an already-loaded offense.

"I've been around the Ivy League for a long time," Tierney said on ESPN's draft broadcast after taking Brandau seventh overall, "and for somebody to be able to break that scoring record and to carry his team the way he did this year with so many injuries, this is the kind of young man we want in our program."

The Point Guard

A good comparison for Brandau is someone Philadelphia sports fans deeply despise: Jalen Brunson. He’s undersized and won’t be the strongest or fastest player, but he knows how to attack leverage, get to his spot and move the defense at will. He simply gets the job done, but it doesn’t always look pretty.

Brandau thinks like a quarterback but dodges like a slot receiver. Plugging him into the Waterdogs offense will take some pressure off Michael Sowers and Kieran McArdle, as they now have three gifted quarterbacks with different strengths.

Sowers’ speed and elite footwork set him apart, while McArdle’s vision and pinpoint shooting always jump off the screen. Brandau almost combines the two with calculated dodges, utilizing bursts of speed and misdirection to free his hands or get topside. When he does, Brandau can become whatever his team needs him to be. 

The Waterdogs ranked seventh in shot percentage off the dodge last season, going 42-for-220 (19.1%), despite ranking third in scoring. Brandau’s skill set is tailor-made to improve that, as his dodging style doesn’t discriminate between big, small, fast, slow, long-pole or short-stick defenders. He will find a way, even if it means getting whiplash on the backend.

An Ivy League Legend

In his final year with the Bulldogs, Brandau put it all together, capping off one of the best offensive careers in Ivy League history with a record-breaking senior season. His 57 assists ranked second all-time in the Ivy League for a single season, and his 44 goals weren't even his career high (57 in 2022). Nobody else in Division I came remotely close to matching Brandau’s assists or points-per-game average this year – or even the last four years, for that matter.

Everyone knows about his records: all-time points and goals leader in the Ivy League, owner of multiple Yale scoring records, a 13-point game (tied for second all-time) and countless other achievements. But those don’t tell the whole story.

His advanced metrics support the notion that Brandau has been one of the best players in college lacrosse over the last decade. Lacrosse Reference has a statistic called Expected Goals Added (EGA), which is essentially the lacrosse version of Wins Above Replacement (WAR), measuring a player’s value. Brandau’s 5.1 EGA leads the nation and is 0.33 higher than the next-closest offensive player. He also ranks first in assist rate, accounting for 48% of Yale’s assists this season.

His career assist-turnover ratio (1.64) is in the 99th percentile for all qualified Division I players since Lacrosse Reference started tracking. Unsurprisingly, Brandau’s career EGA and EGA per game are also in the 99th percentile. 

This is a player who could not be any more pro-ready. Brandau peaked at the right time and has the talent to make an instant impact on a potent PLL offense. 

Brandau will be “the glue”

New Waterdogs offensive coordinator Dylan Sheridan said he doesn’t want to “reinvent the wheel.” The new coaching staff loves the selfless nature of the team’s offense and would never jeopardize that. One small change that Sheridan plans to make, however, is becoming more versatile and positionless. The Brandau pick was in service of that.

“To look at our offense, which is already deep and really talented, to find a guy that could come in and be the glue and fill whatever cracks there might be throughout the course of the season, who also brings a history of leadership and success … he was kind of a can’t-miss,” Sheridan said. “We would have taken him if we had an earlier pick.”

Another pull to take Brandau was his quarterback instincts. Sowers played almost exclusively behind the cage last season, but Sheridan doesn’t want to limit him to one spot. Sowers has shown prowess as a feeder and finisher above the goal line, but he hasn’t been able to showcase that much for the Waterdogs. Brandau gives Philadelphia the option to move people around and find rhythms in different spots. 

“I think that (X) role is super important, and we are going to create some clarity on what the job is,” Sheridan said. “We need that job to be locked down, but it doesn’t have to be done by one person, and I think that will make us a little more challenging to defend.”