Welcome back to the next edition of our collaboration with Zack Capozzi over at Lacrosse Reference. Each week, we are putting together a stat of the week to highlight a game, team, or individual from Men’s or Women’s lacrosse to focus on.
It might be from a game the previous weekend, or it might be for an upcoming matchup. But either way, it will allow me to use some stats combined with a little bit of commentary for why I think that particular one jumps out to me in a given week.
This week’s focus: college lacrosse upsets.
Now, we missed this topic last week because I needed to verify exactly how some of these numbers were working with Capozzi, and fortunately a few of my assumptions were correct, and I learned a few things as well. So, that allows me to dive into quite a bit surrounding the upsets that actually have been happening so far this season.
For Capozzi’s site, college lacrosse upsets are not based on the poll value, but it’s based on each team’s head to head ELO rating and turning that into a pregame win probability. If you want to do a deep dive into how he developed the ELO system for lacrosse, take a look at his write-up here.
For these purposes, all I had to do was look at what each team’s win probability was based on the projections and see if the favored team won. Easy enough. But in going through those, there were some interesting nuggets
So who are the upset kings of men’s Division 1 college lacrosse? Turns out, there are four right now.
In looking at total upsets won there are four teams with three upsets. Ohio State, Jacksonville, Mount St. Mary’s, and Utah. But how those four went about their upsets was quite a bit different. The other helpful things with Capozzi’s ELO system is each game winds up with an “ELO Transfer”, meaning how much does one team go up or down based on that one game. In other words the bigger the upset, the more the points will swing. So let’s start with the team with the smallest upsets and work our way up to the team with the largest.
Mount St. Mary’s
Starting things out, which is not too much of a surprise is Mount St. Mary’s. In the objective eyes of the poll voters, the 3-5 squad had one of the smallest upsets (UMBC), and even their Hampton win was considered an upset based on the ELO rankings, which happened to be their biggest statistical upset mostly due to the final score being 17-5. Their other two wins over UMBC and Navy were by one and 2 points respectively. Working against them in the overall standings is the fact they were the victims of two upset losses, making five out of their eight total games were some form of upset.
After The Mount, we have Utah, who have lost two games they “should” have. Their three wins have all been upsets, starting with Marquette and Vermont. But their biggest win was over Jacksonville, which just like the Mount St. Mary’s games was their largest win in score by far. Their Marquette and Vermont wins were both by a single goal but the Jacksonville win was by six which was also after the Dolphins’ three major wins.
Before we go to Jacksonville, we need to talk about the highest ranked team, which also scored the largest upset out of the four and the second largest statistical upset this season. That’s THE Ohio State Buckeyes. Their two wins over Harvard and Notre Dame were notable but relatively small. Their dominating win over UNC was a massive 70 point ELO transfer, which was almost as much as Mount St. Mary’s and Utah’s entire 3 wins each. Needless to say, it was well justified why that particular win shot the Buckeyes way up in voter’s eyes to go from unranked to the Top 10. Also notable is the Buckeye’s one loss was not an upset loss, and they won the two other games they “should” have.
Finally, we can dive into the team that most may have known as the 2022 upset king (so far). Jacksonville! The 6-2 Dolphins have score big wins over Denver, Duke, and even their early Mercer win counted as one. Duke was obviously the largest and the game that really put the Dolphins on the map nationally. But following that up with the Denver win was what cemented this team as legit. As previously mentioned, one of their losses was to fellow upset king contender Utah, but the other was a close one to Hopkins at the start of the season.
While we can congratulate Jacksonville on this title so far, they obviously would prefer to have the SoCon championship at the end of the year and a deep NCAA run after that, but being the best upset team is fun to talk about for now.
There were a few other interesting nuggets that came out of the numbers in trying to figure this out. So here are some quick hitters.
-Most Upset Losses: Vermont (4).
-There are 16 schools that have not been involved in an upset yet. Either by losing in won or winning it. These are: Richmond, Maryland, Virginia, Canisius, Holy Cross, NJIT, Army, Syracuse, High Point, Monmouth, Albany, Umass-Lowell, Detroit, Cornell, St. Bonaventure, and Merrimack.
-Of those, only Maryland, Virginia, and Cornell are undefeated.
-BU is undefeated, but two of their wins are considered upset.
-Bellarmine (1-8), Colgate (1-4), VMI (2-5), and Utah (3-5) only have upset wins.
-Teams only with upset losses: Drexel (4-2), Michigan (7-1), Harvard (3-1), Duke (7-3), UMBC (2-2), Rutgers (7-1), Yale (3-1), and Georgetown (5-1).