Both Loyola and UMass were ranked #1 this week in the USILA’s NCAA Division 1 Men’s College Lacrosse Coaches’ Poll, and both teams sit undefeated at 11-0. Fans from both sides have been making some compelling arguments for why their team should be the sole #1 squad, and yet others think NEITHER team should be #1 (you will find out who that is later!). So let’s take a look and try to find some truth. Maybe I need to lay off watching the X-Files on Netflix before I go to bed.
Since both Loyola and UMass won last weekend, and both UVA (last week’s #1) and Hop (last week’s #3) lost, there is simply no doubt that UMass and Loyola should be at the top of the polls, but no one likes a tie… So let’s try to figure out who the REAL #1 is in D1 lax right now!
First off, let’s look at the Coaches Poll a little closer. Loyola got 6 of the 10 first place votes, while UMass got 4. Both teams received 193 total points to put them in first place overall. No other teams received first place votes. The week before, Loyola had been ranked #4, and UMass had been #2. Virginia was the then #1 team, and Hopkins filled the third spot.
If Loyola got more first place votes (6 to UMass’ 4), but the teams are still tied at the top, it tells us that every coach but one had UMass at either #1, or #2. The last coach could only have put UMass at #3. That’s the lowest the math allows for. Loyola clearly got more #1 votes, but with the overall tie, it means that out of the 4 coaches who did not rank them first in the poll, only one ranked them second. The other 3 must have ranked Loyola third. Or two of the coaches put Loyola at #2, and one put them at #3 and another at #4.
Either way, the takeaway from the polls is that, in the eyes of the coaches, UMass is a #1 or #2 team and Loyola is a #1, #2 or #3 team. Loyola’s #4 ranking last week backs this point up to a certain extent, but it is also possible that one coach in the poll simply doesn’t like Loyola and is ranking them much lower than the other coaches in the poll. Even one vote at #6 or #7 could drag a team way down.
So basically what we’ve learned from the Coaches Poll is that it is really tough to gauge, lacks enough info to really make a comprehensive interpretation, and is decided by the men who coach the games being played. There is a lot of potential for bias and uncertainty in the Coaches Poll.
Our next set of polls also has its issues, but while there is just as much bias in a LaxPower D1 Forum Poll, the amount of information supplied is staggering, at least when compared to the USILA version. In the forum poll, which is put together using the brains of the LaxPower forumites, Loyola is a CLEAR CUT #1. Every single pollster put Loyola at #1 and UMass at #2. This seems compelling until you start looking at some of the rationale laid out:
– Loyola gets the nod at #1 over UMass because they beat Duke. Really? Duke is good this year, but a win over the Blue Devils isn’t a seal the deal win, is it? Also that game was played on March 10th. Seriously?
– Loyola has been getting smoked on face offs sometimes but still holds teams to under 10 goals. Ok, I actually like this one. They have a GREAT defense. That’s a fair reason to make them #1, I guess. But face offs and offense will probably matter at some point very soon.
– Loyola beat Denver on the road by 3. Yes, this was the first home loss for Denver, and yes, all of their other losses were in TIGHT games. But Denver also lost to Ohio State, and a close loss is still a loss. But let’s go down that road anyway. Drexel has lost 7 games this year. That doesn’t look good. Against Villanova early in the year, they lost by 5. Rough. But against EVERY other team, they lost by 1 goal… except UMass, who won by 2. So if Loyola’s big win (by 3) over Denver bumped them up, UMass’ win over Drexel could be used in the exact same way.
When Denver loses, they lose tight and Loyola won by 3. Drexel does the same thing and UMass wins by 2. Yes, Denver is ranked much higher than Drexel in the polls, but the Power Rankings are another matter! Basically, the above argument is one of comparative scoring and absolute nonsense. A win is a win, and both these teams have 11 good ones.
– The best argument for Loyola is their SOS. Loyola has played, and beaten three top 20 teams, including one top 10 team in Duke. UMass has beaten two top twenty teams and no top 10 teams. Now THAT is a fair point to make. Finally. Honestly, I expected better from the D1 Forum Pollsters as far as rationale goes.
Now if you use the Power Rankings, also on Laxpower, you see a completely different picture, and this one is the most surprising. UMass perches at #1 of the PRs, while Loyola is at #3. The #2 spot is occupied by Princeton. Wait, what?
Yes, Princeton is the #2 team in D1 when it comes to LaxPower’s Power Rankings… but don’t laugh it off just yet. The Power Rankings are based in science!
Loyola drops in the Power Rankings for ONE reason, and that is their recent close game with Ohio State. Loyola won the game by a single goal at home, and they had been predicted to win by 5 goals. And this is what drops them out of the number 1 spot. UMass, on the other hand, has been almost spot on with the predicted scores, and when you combine that with a perfect record, the #1 spot is theirs.
To give you a little more idea on how the PRs work, we’ll look at why Princeton is at #2. They have three losses, by 4 goals in total, to Hopkins, UNC and Cuse. All games were predicted to be close, and they were. But then Princeton went out and SMOKED some teams that should have given them good games. BIG wins over Villanova, Brown, and Dartmouth made up for Princeton’s one or two goal losses.
The Power Rankings take a very “big picture” approach to ranking teams, and they don’t get too caught up with a win over a young Duke team in early March. They take it into account, but only as another piece of information.
Now that we have looked at two top level polls AND the best Power Rankings for D1 I’m ready to make my call on who the REAL number 1 is…
WHAT? I know, I know, they lost to Virginia earlier this year, and I know the Big Red has played in a ton of close games. But I’ve seen them play a couple of times now, and I really like what Cornell is doing on the field right now. Plus, if the injury reports can be believed, Rob Pannell might be coming back soon. In Cornell’s preview of their game with Brown, they don’t say Pannell will play, but they certainly mention him a lot. Makes me think he’s on his way back.
Cornell just plays great team ball, and they play disciplined lacrosse. If Pannell comes back and provides that next level spark, the sky is the limit.
I really like both Loyola and UMass this year, and think either team could make a serious run and even win the National Championship. But my #1 pick at this point in the season goes to the team that I think has the best chance to win the National Championship this year, and for me, that team is Cornell.
You didn’t see that one coming did you? Ok’, let me have it in the comments, Loyola and UMass fans.
LACROSSE IN OTHER NEWS:
– Some Franklin & Marshall Women’s Lacrosse team members suspended, and Coach fired, after hazing complaint | Washington Post
– Mike Messere reach 747 wins at West Genessee High School, and it was his way or the highway | MaxPreps
– Wesleyan beats #15 Trinity 12-8 behind 6 points (3, 3) from John Froats | Wesleyan.edu
LACROSSE VIDEO OF THE WEEK:
I just love lacrosse videos like the one above. I’m thrilled more people are able to play our sport and learn about its history and traditions. A lot of the above was filmed at the White House, so big ups to Barack Obama for backing the game!