Tension Score
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Tension Score: Stat of the Week

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: Tension Score.

The whole basis for Lacrosse Reference was calculating live in-game win odds based on the play-by-play. What is interesting is Capozzi was able to take a look at that final output of information and create a tension score to see how close, or not, any particular game was.

Essentially it boils down to how much of a “nail biter” a game was. We’ve all see those games where neither team ever really pulls ahead and it feels like either team can win from the opening whistle. Alternatively, there are the blowouts where someone jumps out to a massive lead right away and the outcome is never in question. Based on this scoring system, the game with the lowest tension score, which means it was the most intense, was the 9-8 Air Force win over Canisius with a value of 35. The highest, AKA the biggest blowout, was the early season Duke win over Robert Morris where they won 21-12 after the Blue Devils built a massive early lead.

Looking at these games in particular, here’s what the probability graphs looked like.

Air Force (9) – Canisius (8)

As you can see, it’s back and forth line until the very end, when Air Force scored the game winner in overtime. Now, when you compare that to Duke’s win, it looks quite a bit different.

Duke (21) – Robert Morris (12)

This was truly straight in some sections and the game barely dipped below 80% for Duke’s win probability.

Now, with those two extremes seen, the next question for me is which team can we characterize as the Cardiac Kids? Namely, whose tension score has the lowest average across all of their games? Well, here are the Top 5 and their average tension scores.

Top 5 Teams Based on Average Tension Scores (Close Games)

TeamAvg Tension# Games
Marquette77.77
Drexel80.97
Manhattan81.37
St. Bonaventure85.98
Utah86.26

Marquette’s your winner! If you like close games, time to hop over to the Big East and check out the Golden Eagles. When you look at their schedule so far, it’s not a shock to see them lead the way here. Out of their seven games, three have been decided by just one goal, which include both Utah and Drexel from this list. The other game was their 9-8 win over Bellarmine.

The game with their largest margin was a six point win over Detroit Mercy, but even that one was close to the 50% line for most of the first quarter:

Marquette (13) – Detroit Mercy (7)

Alternatively, who has been playing in the most “boring” games? Meaning, which teams play in games where the outcome is rarely in doubt? My guess going in is it would be the top teams like Maryland who enjoy very large win margins, but that’s not the case. It’s actually teams on the other end of the spectrum that are often on the wrong side of blowouts.

Top 5 Teams Based on Average Tension Scores (Blowout Games)

TeamAvg Tension# Games
Hampton163.05
Holy Cross146.17
Detroit Mercy141.85
NJIT141.07
Providence140.38