Who Fought Guys With Lasers and Who Fought Guys With Paper Airplanes?

May 28, 2012; Foxborough, MA, USA; Loyola Greyhounds midfielder Pat Byrnes (6) carries the ball against Maryland Terrapins long stick midfielder Jesse Bernhardt (36) during the first half of the NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse National Championship at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE

I’ve been moving through some material the last week or so, trying to get things together for a 2012 decompress and, should the Internet still work at that point and not have been replaced by some other interface to find pictures of cats acting like humans, come up with a 2013 way-too-early-my-eyes-will-bleed preseason poll. (As publishing frequency has shown, I’m hedging my bets that the Internet is on its last legs.)

One of the things I’ve been staring at is the relationship between a team’s efficiency improvement or regression from 2011 to 2012 and eying it with reference to a team’s 2012 strength of schedule. Record improvement is one thing – especially if your clothes say "Wagner" and wins come every Olympic year – but it’s not the whole story: how much impact did a team’s slate of opponents have on that aggregated record?

It’s really hard to quantify that and I’m not going to try to. I enjoy the sun and I like actually seeing it; going through that kind of analysis would turn me into a hermit and I’d probably end up writing letters to the United States Postal Service asking why a pigeon can’t deliver my mail to my kitchen window. Instead, I’m just going to offer some brief comments about certain teams and let your minds wander into the deep recesses of "Whatever. . . ."

The chart immediately below shows two things: (1) the top ten in LaxPower’s strength of schedule rankings and the top ten in an efficiency universe’s strength of schedule; (2) the same exact thing except for the bottom ten in each measure. Some bullet point thoughts (because a running narrative is for the exceptionally motivated) follow after the jump.

2012 STRENGTH OF SCHEDULES
RANK EFFICIENCY LAXPOWER
1. Denver Pennsylvania
2. Maryland Duke
3. Pennsylvania Maryland
4. Duke Denver
5. Hobart Notre Dame
6. Johns Hopkins Virginia
7. Yale Villanova
8. Drexel Penn State
9. Colgate Drexel
10. Virginia Syracuse
* * * * *
52. VMI Bryant
53. St. Joseph's Marist
54. Sacred Heart Sacred Heart
55. Manhattan Siena
56. Siena VMI
57. Bryant Manhattan
58. Jacksonville Detroit
59. Mercer Mercer
60. Detroit Jacksonville
61. Wagner Wagner

More after the jump.

  • If you average out the ranks of teams included in each measure -- which is a terrible thing to do as each measure is built off different metrics – Pennsylvania barely edges out Denver and Maryland for having the toughest schedule in the country in 2012. (Duke and Virginia rounded out the top five.) This fact may shed a little light on why the Pioneers and Terrapins were somewhat mistrusted going into the NCAA Tournament: They had played brutal schedules, and with somewhat uneven results, their actual ability was underrated. As for Pennsylvania, it shows that they couldn’t quite put it together as well as they did in 2011 – last season, the Quakers were ranked seventh in LaxPower’s strength of schedule rankings and ninth in the efficiency measure. In other words, it wasn’t necessarily the schedule that Pennsylvania played that forced their regression from 2011 to 2012; there were other factors at play.
  • On the flip side, Wagner is Wagner and this is going to make me cry. The Seahawks were a one-win team playing the easiest schedule in the country. Combined with a new head coach and a player pool that needs serious refurbishing, there aren't too many nice things you can say about Wagner's results this year other than that they all managed to wear the same uniform on game day. Also, Bryant: I see you and I don't believe in false idols.
  • As if you needed more firepower to combat the cockamamie ACC Tournament: Three of the top five spots in the aggregated average are filled with an ACC team. The beast feeds itself at the detriment of giving another club a shot at a big scalp (and improved strength of schedule). It's a nonsense tournament and it is only doing its membership a favor (which if you're Cornell or Penn State or any team that was on the outside looking in this postseason, must make you want to burn things to the ground).
  • Looking back to 2011 to see which teams had the biggest improvements and regressions in terms of strength of schedule (averaged by ranking), Yale -- yes, the team that played a Girl Scout troop in 2011 and managed to win the Ivy League Tournament in 2012 -- was the biggest rankings jumper, moving up about 35.5 spots (and only slightly changing its record from 10-4 to 11-5). St. Joseph's went the opposite direction, significantly easing up its schedule and dropping 33.5 positions. Even though the Hawks' efficiency improved dramatically from 2011 to 2012 (and this accounts for strength of schedule), it wouldn't be out of the question to be a little skeptical about St. Joseph's improvement going into 2013.
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