NCAA Lacrosse Tournament: National Championship Stategories

Drew Hallowell

There's one last bullet in the chamber.

Do you want to know what the computing machine thinks about tomorrow's national title game? No? Too bad. We've come too far and you're going to have this shoved down your throat.

THE LOG5 MACHINE SAYS. . . .

log5 is a straightforward way of determining a team's probability for success against another team or in a tournament setting. The calculation -- for this exercise -- is based off a team's Pythagorean win expectation. The log5 machine went 1-1 in the semifinals and is 9-5 overall. (Duke's upset of Cornell blew to pieces a perfect weekend. The Big Red were a heavy favorite to advance to Memorial Monday and take the title home to Ithaca.) This is how things look for the national championship:

log5 PROBABILITIES: NCAA LACROSSE TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIP
GAME FAVORITE UNDERDOG
(7) Duke // (1) Syracuse Syracuse (61.16%) Duke (38.84%)

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.). Notably, Brendan Fowler's work at the dot for Duke draws the Blue Devils closer to Syracuse when possession margin considerations are included in a log5 analysis.
  • Duke entered the weekend with the longest odds to win the national championship -- the computing machine gave the Devils just an 11.85 percent chance of taking a victory lap at Lincoln Financial Field on Monday afternoon. This was primarily due to the fact that Duke went into their semifinal game with Cornell with only a 28.14 percent chance of beating the Big Red. Now? Duke has a chance to do that mouth fart thing at math: With about a 39 percent chance of victory against the Orange (about the same odds that the Devils had before Championship Weekend began), the Devils -- after playing arguably their best game in the last month -- are looking to knock off another notable favorite in the biggest moment of the season.
  • Syracuse was a 56-44 favorite against Yale and earned a one-goal win (in comeback fashion); Syracuse as a 57-43 favorite against Denver and earned a one-goal win (in comeback fashion). Syracuse as a 61-39 favorite should bring you a similar conclusion: The Orange may be in for another war.

THE FUN FACTOR MACHINE SAYS. . . .

Most people have a similar problem on Memorial Monday: Enjoy the holiday and watch the national title game on DVR or run from the sun and watch the championship live? If you're stuck in that spot this extended weekend, here is how the game rates on the "Fun Factor" scale -- 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 CHAMPIONSHIP
RANK GAME FUN FACTOR
1. (7) Duke // (1) Syracuse 4.7820

Some brief notes:

  • That's a pretty good value. It is, however, the second lowest-rated game relative to the four permutations that could have occurred for Memorial Monday. The most exciting game on the board would have been Cornell-Syracuse, followed by Cornell-Denver (which rates very close to Cornell-Syracuse), then Duke-Syracuse slots in the ranks, and finally a Duke-Denver final (essentially the same game in terms of excitement as Duke-Syracuse) brings up the rear. There's nothing wrong with Duke-Syracuse -- it actually rates as one of the most interesting games this season -- but it's in the tier below what a Cornell-related final could have offered.

THE EFFICIENCY MACHINE SAYS. . . .

TEAM RANKINGS: ADJUSTED EFFICIENCY MARGIN AND PYTHAGOREAN WIN EXPECTATION
TEAM ADJ. EFF. MARGIN OVERALL RANK PTYH. WIN % OVERALL RANK
Syracuse 10.44 3. 74.84% 3.
Duke 7.08 11. 65.39% 14.

Some brief notes:

  • The efficiency ratings obviously like Syracuse more than Duke, but there is one important factor here that is going to help dictate the outcome: The Blue Devils are plus-six in possession margin on the season (third nationally); Syracuse is about minus-one in possession margin on the year (38th in the country). While the Orange is the more efficient overall team, Duke's ability to dominate possession margin erases some of the team's efficiency issues (notably on the defensive end). This puts pressure on Syracuse's defense to maintain its focus and performance and requires Syracuse's offense -- when it gets the ball -- to end its offensive opportunities with goals.

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