Rivalry Week: Johns Hopkins-Maryland and the Jays' Reality

Rob Carr

Private v. Public! Bunsen burners v. Burning things! It's Hopkins-Maryland!

Rivalryweekheader_medium

There probably isn't a stronger rivalry in college lacrosse than what Maryland and Johns Hopkins have going. Snuggly nestled in the heart of the game, the Terrapins and Blue Jays will meet for the 110th time this weekend, a series that began in 1895 and has built itself into an unmitigated war between two of the strongest programs in the NCAA era:

  • Eight of the last 16 meetings between the two schools have featured a one-goal margin of victory;
  • Five of the last 16 games in the series have been decided in overtime;
  • Only once in the last 52 meetings have both teams been ranked outside the top 10 (1990); and
  • Maryland has been ranked number one eight times against Johns Hopkins; the teams have split the eight games.

It's that last note that holds the most value going into Saturday, creating intrigue around this particular iteration of the rivalry: Barring an epic collapse from the Terrapins over its remaining slate -- games against Yale, Colgate, and whatever team or teams it draws in the ACC Tournament -- Maryland is going to be in a strong position for NCAA Tournament selection and seeding; Johns Hopkins, contrastingly, is staring the abyss and attempting to avoid it staring back at them. Thus, this instance of the rivalry holds special importance for both teams: (1) Maryland has the opportunity to potentially ruin the season of their arch-rival, helping to keep Johns Hopkins out of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the Jays were excluded in 1971; and (2) Johns Hopkins has all the motivation necessary to both knock the Terrapins off their perch atop Division I lacrosse and at the same time resuscitate postseason hopes that are on life support, on the verge of receiving last rites. The significance of that importance, however, is different for both teams:

  • Simply playing Maryland is likely to improve Johns Hopkins' RPI ranking (75 percent of a team's RPI value is attributable to the records of that team's opponents and the opponents of those opponents; only 25 percent of that value is attributable to a team's actually win-loss record). This, in turn, will also increase the Jays' RPI strength of schedule ranking. While this will all occur regardless of whether Hopkins' actually wins -- the RPI is silly, right? -- the Jays don't have the luxury of resting on this mathematical inanity: Currently sitting at 6-4 and with zero -- zilch, nada, diddly-squat -- RPI top 20 victories under their belt, Johns Hopkins has a skeleton NCAA Tournament resume without a victory over Maryland. (To be fair, the Terrapins still have a date with Loyola to earn an impressive pelt.) Without a victory over their rival, the best that Hopkins can hope for as the season reaches its sunset is an 8-5 record, with only a single notable victory (over the Greyhounds), an RPI ranking somewhere around 20, and an RPI strength of schedule ranking somewhere in the 15-20 vicinity. That's not a resume that screams NCAA Tournament in 2013 with such a crowded field jockeying for position. Saturday is arguably the breaking point for the Jays, and a loss to the Terps may pull the plug on Hopkins' plans for a May adventure. There is more on the line than bragging rights and pride for the Jays; their season hangs in the balance at Byrd Stadium.
  • As for Maryland, the game on Saturday is for pride and keeping their momentum going. Honestly, the Terrapins are what they are at this point in the year; Maryland's ceiling is Championship Weekend-focused, and while the Terps haven't stomped through March, April provides an opportunity to get their pistons firing smoothly. Beating Johns Hopkins doesn't substantially change the Terps' NCAA Tournament resume at this point in the year -- the Jays may or may not end up being a top 20 RPI win at the end of the season and the team's RPI strength of schedule isn't particularly emboldened with a win over Hopkins -- but it does assert two things: (1) That Maryland has assumed ownership over the rivalry, winning its third straight game against the Jays and fourth out of its last five meetings; and (2) At 9-1, there isn't a scarier chainsaw-wielding masked man in Division I's nightmares.

These unique undercurrents make Saturday's Hopkins-Maryland game a little odder than their previous meetings in the rivalry, but it also adds a layer of interest that the game hasn't had in the past. Here's the tale of the tape going into the weekend affair:

JOHNS HOPKINS-MARYLAND: THE RIVALRY
METRIC JOHNS HOPKINS BLUE JAYS (6-4) MARYLAND TERRAPINS (8-1, 2-1 (ACC))
Adj. Offensive Efficiency 31.12 (20) 37.35 (9)
Adj. Defensive Efficiency 25.82 (13) 24.58 (9)
Adj. Efficiency Margin 5.30 (20) 12.76 (3)
Pythagorean Win Expectation 64.08% (19) 78.52% (2)
Pace 71.50 (10) 63.11 (51)
Possession Margin +6.90 (1) +6.89 (2)
S.o.S.: Opponent Adj. Efficiency Margin 1.10 (22) 1.81 (16)
S.o.S.: Opponent Pythagorean Win Expectation 53.69% (21) 55.87% (16)
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