Revisiting the Fun Factor: Division I Lacrosse's Most and Least Watchable Teams

The season is coming to a close and there's action all over the place. Where should you focus your attention?

At this point in the season you know which teams are strong, which teams are going to have their teeth kicked in, and which teams are VMI (hint: VMI). What you may not know is what teams are eminently watchable and which teams should have rotten tomatoes and cabbage thrown in their direction for being totally unwatchable. Now, everyone has a different taste in what they like to see in a lacrosse team, but for me, I like to see three things:

  • Competitiveness: It's fun to watch good teams that win lots of games. Sure, following the competitors in Reverse Survivor is exciting, but if you want to see lacrosse played at its apex, nothing beats watching competitive teams. (Unless, of course, we're talking about robot-on-robot lacrosse action, which is just creepy but probably crisper than what human lacrosse teams can do.)
  • Pace: It's not absolutely necessary that a team plays at a thousand miles per hour, but I prefer watching teams that get up and down the field a little bit. It's not a primary concern, but it's definitely something that I want etched into my headstone.
  • Offensive Capability: I'm not ashamed to admit that I like goalie embarrassment. Teams that can really can the bean are a sight to behold, so they hold a special place in my much larger internal special place.

To find out which teams fit that mold, I came up with a cockamamie formula called the "Fun Factor." It's far from scientific and it has some known blind spots, but it does a decent job at identifying which teams will earn my eyeball-time and which ones will be accepted only in doses certified by the Surgeon General. Through Tuesday's games -- because Detroit and Michigan couldn't find a way to make lacrosse happen last night in Ann Arbor -- this is how the top 10 and bottom 10 shake out in the "Fun Factor" scale:

FUN FACTOR: MOST AND LEAST WATCHABLE TEAMS
RANK TEAM FUN FACTOR RANK TEAM FUN FACTOR
1. Albany 7.2168 54. Mercer 1.1752
2. Cornell 5.9031 55. Vermont 1.1123
3. Denver 5.6825 56. Binghamton 1.0975
4. Maryland 5.4831 57. Manhattan 0.9169
5. Syracuse 5.1740 58. Wagner 0.8135
6. North Carolina 5.0670 59. High Point 0.7584
7. Duke 4.7527 60. Canisius 0.7539
8. Robert Morris 4.5911 61. St. Joseph's 0.5589
9. Stony Brook 4.4418 62. Michigan 0.5484
10. Loyola 4.3382 63. VMI 0.2371

Some notes:

  • In case you're looking to have your face destroyed, St. Joseph's-Michigan, Vermont-Binghamton, and Manhattan-VMI are all this weekend. That's . . . that's crippling.
  • It's a no-brainer that Albany tops the list: No team plays more possessions per 60 minutes of play than the Great Danes; no team shoots the ball at a better rate than Albany; and Albany's Pythagorean win expectation value (65.07 percent) ranks 19th in the nation. The Great Danes are your density, college lacrosse. Go to them.
  • Never change, Bobby Mo. Never, ever change.
  • I, like you, was a little surprised to see Maryland ranked so high, above teams like Syracuse, Carolina, and Duke. The Terps are getting a big bump from their Pythagorean win expectation value (77.30 percent, third in the country) and the fact that only three teams are shooting the ball better than Maryland. Terrapins games still don't feature all that many total possessions (about 63 per 60 minutes of play, 50th nationally), but Maryland still rates highly on the scale. These things happen, people.
  • Stony Brook, eh? Sure! While just 6-7 on the year, the Seawolves should be closer to 7-6 and only Albany has more deadly assassins -- in terms of finding twine -- than Stony Brook. The Seawolves aren't playing with jet packs (their pace ranks in the bottom third of the country), but Stony Brook still has watchability inherent in how they play. I don't know if the Seawolves will meet Albany in the America East Tournament, but it wouldn't be the worst thing on the planet if they do.
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