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Devious Video Recap: The Argument Against Hopkins

5 - Published May 10, 2010 by in College, NCAA

Damn you, Tom Welling. Damn you for making me do this.

Devious Video Recap: Hopkins vs. Loyola

I’ve been staring at a blank Word document for about an hour now.  The game is almost over.  I can’t write anything.  It’s not writer’s block.

I think I’m in shock.

This team…this Hopkins team is going to play in the NCAA championship tournament.

I thought if I watched this game and saw something …different from this Hopkins team that I would be okay with it.  I’d just chock it up to strength of schedule and be done with it like everyone else.

I think you know by now that I’m not like everyone else.

Let me get this out there: I have nothing against Johns Hopkins.  I’ve been to the campus.  I’ve coached a regular season game at Homewood two years ago when my team went on spring break to Delaware/Maryland/Virginia.  I saw Hop practice in person and it was like watching gladiatorial games; Homewood is the coliseum of lacrosse, not the Carrier dome.

I talk about Paul Rabil in hushed tones like people in the Middle Ages talked about Charlemagne.  I see Dave Pietramala as one of the greatest defensive coaches in the history of the sport as well as the best take-away defenseman that has ever lived.

Paul Rabil, circa 808 AD

My respect is not an easy thing to achieve and Hopkins surely has it in spades.

But the Hop had a bad season.  Not by their standards.  Not by my standards.  By general lacrosse standards, Hopkins had a subpar year.  Maybe just “par” if you want to stretch the metaphor.

You disagree.  I see.  Well then, I shall prove it to you.

Hopkins won seven games this season.

They beat, in order: Manhattan, Delaware, Siena, UMBC, Albany, Towson and Loyola.

Manhattan finished at 7-9 with all of their wins coming against teams that never entered the top 20.  Not too much else to say, here.

Delaware ended with a record of 10-6 and may have been eligible as a “quality win” at some point in the season.  The Hens beat Drexel (twice, once in the regular season, once in the CAA playoffs) as well as UMass, and Towson in the CAA tournament.  Hopkins’ victory over Delaware came in each teams;’ second game and was likely one of the biggest factors in the Blue Jays’ inclusion in the tournament itself.

Delaware was sneaky good all year, despite close losses to Georgetown (11-13) and Hofstra (11-12) and a fairly inexcusable drop to Villanova (8-11) midseason.  The Hens are in the tournament themselves, so perhaps that was taken into account when addressing the strength of Hopkins’ wins over their losses.

Siena is the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Powerhouse that tripped up in the MAAC tournament and lost to Mount Saint Mary’s by one goal this weekend.  They beat everyone they were supposed to beat all year, except for Binghamton (8-9, double OT) and Hartford (11-13). Hopkins only beat Siena by one goal.

Permission to buzz the tower? That’s a negative ghost rider, the pattern is full.

UMBC.  Well, UMBC was shockingly awful this year.  At 5-10, The Retrievers were put out of their misery by Albany in the America East conference tournament semi finals to end their season.  Highlights of the 5-10 campaign include a nationally televised destruction by Maryland (7-13), an embarrassing loss to Hartford (12-14) and a defeat to their cross-town doppelgangers Towson (7-10).  UMBC played six ranked opponents and lost to all of them by a combined score of 76-50 – a goal differential of -26.

Albany was one of my dark horse teams going into the 2010 season.  I saw them play at the Catamount classic and watched as they toyed with their opposition like Jon Favreau’s Bear did to his beautiful baby’s bunny in Swingers.  And then the regular season happened and everything went down the tubes like this season of “Smallville”. (The game finished and I had to put something on as I write – apparently “Smallville” is all I have left on my Devious Video Recorder.  Sorry, for the doubling up of pop-culture references, I felt like I was losing you.)

The Danes finished at 5-11 and lost all of their games against ranked opponents as well.  Their win over Bucknell (7-6) might be their most impressive feat, which should tell you all you need to know.  A season to forget was made all the more miserable by Hopkins running up the score during their contest.  19-7 was JHU’s largest margin of victory all season besides Manhattan.

The fact that Towson was considered a big win for the Blue Jays when their record finished at 7-8 is a testament to the favoritism that Maryland teams receive at the eyes of the media.

Towson was ranked for the last few weeks of the season somehow, but I NEVER voted for them once.  (I may have mentioned before that I have a vote in the media poll.  I don’t know how it happened either, but it did and we have to live with it.)

Towson beat UMass twice and Drexel once.  They also managed to upset Navy (10-9) early in the season when everyone thought Navy was going to be a factor this season.   Apparently those results were enough to con the B-More faithful, but not this guy. Still, it’s probably Hopkins’ third most important win.

Ah, the final Devious Video Recap game.  What you came here to read.  I’d say I’m sorry, but I’d be lying.  This is more important than my musings on one game.  Loyola joins Delaware in the “They made the NCAA’s so we have to consider them a quality win” category.

Let’s test that theory.  Loyola holds fairly decent victories over Navy (who didn’t beat Navy? – oh that’s right, Hopkins didn’t), Fairfield, and Georgetown.  They also bested Towson, but we have already established that such a feat is quite attainable and not to be overly praised.   The greyhounds also lost to Denver, which should basically disqualify them for a tourney birth, themselves.

Frankly, this entire ordeal is Loyola’s fault.  All they had to do was beat the Hop.  You’re not allowed to enter the NCAA tournament with an at-large bid if your final record is under 500.  So thanks, Loyola the lacrosse world really appreciates your malfeasance.

Before we get into the losses, let’s address one more thing.  The dreaded strength of schedule issue.  I shall address it with this: the RPI (strength of schedule measurement) means nothing.   Division one Lacrosse does not have enough teams OR research behind it to justify anything like a strength of schedule measurement.

Football benefits from nearly a century of traditions and teams to analyze.  Lacrosse barely kept statistics until the 90’s.  We are infants.  Terrible, scary, title-IX-killing infants, but infants nonetheless.

More importantly, how much can strength of schedule matter when you LOSE HALF OF YOUR GAMES?

Well allow me to characterize and retort.

Hopkins lost seven games this season.  Their first loss of the season was in overtime against Princeton.  As losses go it’s not so terrible.  Princeton turned out to be the Ivy League champion and went on to beat several top teams along the way.

The second loss is where it all comes unglued for the Jays and their fans.  Johns Hopkins was humiliated by Hoftsra 14-6.  No one saw it coming. Hofstra had hung with Princeton a few weeks previous to the game, but no one expected the Pride to take it to the Jays with such ferocity.  Still, at that point in the season it was just one loss. No one was panicking.

The losses to Syracuse and North Carolina were less surprising and carried much closer score lines of 7-10 and 7-11 respectively.  North Carolina had already established itself as a powerhouse in 2010, and Syracuse was the returning NCAA champion.

The humiliating loss to UVA was really past the tipping point for Hopkins, but was endemic of the Jays entire season.  A 15-6 drubbing by the #1 team in the nation may seem like an inevitability, but Hopkins had played UVA very tight the last few years and traditionally had raised its game whenever they played the Cava-‘Hoos.

A one goal loss to Maryland was made all the more painful by a roaring UMD comeback against a flailing Hopkins defense.  The Hop dropped out of the top 10 permanently.  But the lowest point was yet to come.

On April 28th, 2010 Navy beat Johns Hopkins in Overtime in Annapolis and the final nail was hammered into the playoff coffin.  Still there were those who championed the Hopkins cause.  But everyone knew it was over.  The bandwagon rolled back into Homewood on borrowed wheels with just the player’s parents and a few Baltimore Sun journalists in the back.

Hey, is that Edward Lee?

So how did two wins against Towson, a sub .500 team that choked in their conference playoffs and Loyola, an overachieving team that also choked in their conference playoffs lead to Johns Hopkins making the NCAA tournament?  Why not Georgetown?  A team that actually beat the same team (Delaware) and also beat teams that Hopkins lost to (Navy).  G-Town also lost to the same teams that Hopkins did (Loyola, Maryland, Syracuse) with similar goal differential.  Is the loss to UMass REALLY that bad?  Is it any worse than Hopkins’ loss to Navy?  There has to be something else at play right?

Our sport is often seen as a sport steeped in tradition.  Lacrosse once settled disputes among Native American tribes.  It was born out of war.

In reality, our sport has become shackled by the tradition of the absolute power – Television.

John’s Hopkins is playing Duke in the opening round of the 2010 NCAA tournament.  It is the only game that is going to be aired on ESPN.  Not ESPNU.  Not ESPN2.  ESPN uno.

Uh...it's going to be on regular ESPN, actually.

Why?

No one had more games televised on the ESPN family of networks in 2009 AND 2010 than John Hopkins University.  They were the first, and to my knowledge the only, team to sign an independent contract to air their games exclusively on ESPN.

Coincidence?

Tradition?

Try Money,  TV and  Ratings.

We’re well on our way to the big time, lacrosse folks.  I just didn’t know that we had to surrender our integrity to get there.

Dollah Dollah bill, Y'all.

Today’s Devious Video Recap is brought to you by the fine folks at Proathletics.com.

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About the author: Kyle Devitte has written for The Boston Cannons, LaxUnited, The MLL, Inside Lacrosse, LaxNation and the New England Lacrosse Journal. He is currently head coach of the Daniel Webster College men’s lacrosse team.

Read all his Devious Video Recaps and relive the best NCAA lacrosse action from 2010.

Want to contribute to Lax All Stars? Drop us a line at info@lacrosseallstars.com.

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