Who's the Big Winner in Lacrosse Conference Realignment?

May 20, 2012; Chester, PA USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish attack Ryan Foley (15) drives against Virginia Cavaliers Scott McWilliams (27) during the 1st half of the NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Quarterfinals at PPL Park in Chester. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

Luke Winn of Sports Illustrated is one of the best college basketball writers going these days. He's sharp and his pen is mighty, which is a deadly combination for a sport that is usually features a bunch of scribes that write things like, "Look how tall that guy is! National championship contender!"

In piece that ran late last week over on SI.com, Winn attempted to try and figure out which conferences were making out the best and worst with all this movement that is happening across the college landscape. His findings aren't all that important to us (it turns out that the ACC will eventually have the strongest hoops league while the Big East is now in a big steaming pile of monkey poo), but what is important is the process: To make determinations as to conference strength (historic and future), Winn utilized Pythagorean expectations based on team efficiency on a conference-wide basis.

It's a super bright way to address all of this, and as I'm smart enough to recognize a good idea when I see it, I'm going to shamelessly rip it off and apply it to college lacrosse.

So, the approach is the same: I'm using four years worth of efficiency data as the foundation for the analysis. Any kind of "new" expectation values rest on Loyola departing the ECAC for the Patriot League and Syracuse and Notre Dame departing the Big East for the ACC. All old moves -- teams departing the ECAC for wherever, teams leaving the MAAC for wherever, etc. -- are embedded within the "old" expectations. In other words, the "new" expectations are everything that is known about conference membership in the future; everything "old" is how things were for a particular season from 2009-2012. Also: (1) I ignored the Great Western Lacrosse League because, well, it only existed for one season in this data set and I'm not dealing with that noise; and (2) I'm not considering Boston University or Marquette University in any of this.

The table below details how everything shook out. The ACC solidifies its place atop the throne of Division I lacrosse with the additions of Notre Dame and Syracuse (no doink) and the Patriot League -- yes, the Patriot League -- was the biggest mover of them all in terms of conference rankings with its addition of Loyola. The Big East, which was a top-heavy conference to begin with, is the biggest loser in ranking positions (as well as overall expectation winning percentage).

CONFERENCE REALIGNMENT: THE PATRIOT LEAGUE IS THE BIGGEST GAINER
NEW RK. CONFERENCE NEW WIN% OLD WIN% OLD RK. DIFF.
1. ACC 72.77 71.82 1.
2. Ivy 56.38 56.38 2.
3. Patriot 50.87 49.15 6. +3
4. Colonial 50.23 50.82 3. -1
5. ECAC 47.11 50.17 4. -1
6. America East 42.69 42.69 7. +1
7. Big East 42.13 49.96 5. -2
8. Northeast 37.47 38.91 8.
9. MAAC 34.02 33.10 9.

Some quick notes:

  • You're probably wondering why the MAAC's winning percentage is going up in all of this and the Northeast's is going down? It's a layered answered that has a little to do with some pre-2013 movement and a lot to do with Wagner existing.
  • Since 2009, only two conferences -- the Ivy and America East -- have had static memberships. (Well, technically, the Big East's membership was static since the start of the lacrosse conference and Syracuse and Notre Dame's departure down the line. Whatever.) That . . . that says a lot about college lacrosse, I think. What's really scary is that the America East, with potential issues around Albany and Stony Brook's football concerns now located in the CAA, is possibly looking at further erosion of its participation base.
  • This is what the Big East is looking at if nothing changes over the next year or so: Georgetown and Villanova attempting to carry the torch for the conference, St. John's and Rutgers looking to fall in behind, Providence trying to get its act together under Chris Gabrielli, and Marquette just looking to grab a few wins each season. As things stand right now, that's not much better than a one-bid league. I've written this before and I'll write it again: There are no more big wins in the Big East; if teams are going to separate themselves, they need to find wins elsewhere.
  • There is such a huge gap between the ACC and the rest of the country that it's almost comical. I'm not sure what else to write about that fact other than to say, "Welp."
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