NCAA Lacrosse Tournament: Quarterfinals Stategories

Mitchell Layton

Condensing three boring posts into one boring post.

This past weekend was big: 16 teams threw hands and eight managed to not droop their head and head back to parts unknown. This weekend is even bigger: Those that remain will chart a course for either Lucas Oil Stadium or Byrd Stadium to try and pillage the place for an invitation to Championship Weekend at Lincoln Financial Field.

To get your face ready for hot, barely legal lacrosse action (Goals! Goals! Goals!), I turned on various genius machines to set the scene for the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals. These machines did a decent job at projecting what the first round would look like, and I'm almost not willing to throw them out of my third floor office window given what they've spit out for the round of eight. Here's how things shake out in various ways.

THE LOG5 MACHINE SAYS. . . .

log5 is a straightforward way of determining a team's probability for success against another team. The calculation -- for this exercise -- is based off a team's Pythagorean win expectation. The log5 machine went 6-2 last weekend, those two losses being Duke's double overtime defeat of Loyola (an acceptable miss, although the log5 machine gave the Greyhounds a 58.28 percent chance of victory) and Yale's defeat of Penn State (another acceptable miss given that the log5 machine essentially had that game as a "push" (the Nittany Lions only held a 51.76 percent chance of victory). This is how things look for the quarterfinals:

log5 PROBABILITIES: NCAA LACROSSE TOURNAMENT QUARTERFINALS GAMES
GAME FAVORITE UNDERDOG GAME FAVORITE UNDERDOG
(7) Duke // (2) Notre Dame Notre Dame (54.77%) Duke (45.23%) (4) Denver // (5) North Carolina North Carolina (61.79%) Denver (38.21%)
(1) Syracuse // Yale Syracuse (56.49%) Yale (43.51%) (3) Ohio State // Cornell Cornell (69.02%) Ohio State (30.98%)

Some brief notes:

  • Remember: The log5 analysis doesn't factor in things like possession margin or other game-altering factors that could ultimately drive the outcome (injuries, suspensions, etc.). The log5 analysis has Yale-Syracuse as a ridiculously close game, and Dylan Levings' work at the dot -- assuming the Elis' offense can hammer the brick that is the Orange's defense -- could blow that probability out of the water.
  • Here's what's going on with the North Carolina-Denver calculation: The Pioneers' defense is a cause for concern. Against Albany this was masked a bit as the Great Danes didn't play much defense, but the Tar Heels' defensive effort this season currently ranks 16th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency (Denver ranks 36th). I think that the game will be closer than what the log5 analysis currently illustrates, but it is important to note that just about every computer-based assessment of Carolina has the Heels in the hyper elite of the nation and the Pioneers a cut below.
  • I think the nation finally saw what Cornell is capable of in their dismantling of Maryland on Sunday. The Red's success probability against the Buckeyes is actually greater than it was against the Terrapins, and Cornell sunk Maryland's battleship.
  • It's up to you how you want to feel about that Duke-Notre Dame analysis. I like the Irish in that game, but I think that's closer to a 51-49 type of game at this point than a 55-45 situation.

THE FUN FACTOR MACHINE SAYS. . . .

If you have plans this weekend that don't involve lacrosse (I'm not sure what other plans you'd make that would trump watching these games, other than attending your own funeral), here are the games ranked by something called the "Fun Factor" -- a simple determination that considers the competitiveness between the two teams, the projected pace of the game, and the offensive capabilities of each team:

FUN FACTOR: NCAA LACROSSE TOURNAMENT QUARTERFINALS GAMES
RANK GAME FUN FACTOR RANK GAME FUN FACTOR
1. (3) Ohio State // Cornell 5.4536 3. (1) Syracuse // Yale 4.0602
2. (4) Denver // (5) North Carolina 5.3620 4. (2) Notre Dame // (7) Duke 4.0078

Some brief notes:

  • Watch all of these games, jerk. At worst, the two most excitement-filled games on the board -- Cornell-Ohio State and North Carolina-Denver -- are on opposite days, allowing you to watch at least one game and leaving you time to do whatever the hell it is you do when you're not frantically refreshing this Internet computing page.

THE EFFICIENCY MACHINE SAYS. . . .

TEAM RANKINGS: ADJUSTED EFFICIENCY MARGIN AND PYTHAGOREAN WIN EXPECTATION
TEAM ADJ. EFF. MARGIN OVERALL RANK PTYH. WIN % OVERALL RANK
Cornell 14.81 1. 81.62% 1.
North Carolina 13.77 2. 78.37% 2.
Syracuse 9.90 4. 73.31% 4.
Denver 9.65 5. 69.14% 10.
Duke 7.55 10. 66.47% 14.
Notre Dame 7.51 11. 70.59% 8.
Ohio State 6.91 12. 66.59% 13.
Yale 6.79 13. 67.90% 11.

Some brief notes:

  • There are no more beauty pageants; in a tournament setting, prior performance is only loose prologue for what could happen in the future. Weird stuff happens in a knockout situation, and really good teams are often jettisoned into the nothingness if they put in a poor performance or if the opposition plays above its head. These rankings at this point of the year are only a guide as to relative strength; matchups and performance-in-the-moment are the most important drivers with Memorial Monday in the windshield.
  • I don't think it's bonkers theory to assert that Cornell and North Carolina are in their own tier at the moment, sitting atop the Division I hierarchy. Behind these two teams is a bit of a mess when you try and determine a pecking order. Syracuse is running in front of that logjam, but trying to rank those five teams -- Denver, Duke, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Yale -- is futile.
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