Conference Realignment: Which League is Winning?

Evan Habeeb-US PRESSWIRE

A balance sheet game is a kind of game, right?

I was screwing around on the ol' Twitter machine this morning -- Do you follow College Crosse on Twitter? If not, do it now, college boy! -- and came across this tweet from Inside Lacrosse's Terry Foy:

That's . . . that's bonkers. The Patriot League officially announced that Loyola accepted its invitation to join the conference on August 29, 2012. In under a year -- !!!!!!!! -- 17 other schools switched lacrosse affiliations (not including the petting zoo and balloon animal party that the Big East put together). That isn't refurbishing the face of Division I lacrosse; that's going in a totally new direction because the ED-209 isn't working out. I'm sure there are a lot of good reasons for this -- sacks of cash with green dollar signs written on them comes to mind most prominently -- but that's an incredible volume of movement in less than a year. This begs the question: With all of this movement, are schools and leagues getting what they want out of the rampant conference realignment? The easiest way to answer that question is treating this as a game: Which conferences are winning and losing (based on the former and potential future strength of the leagues) in all of this?

To address that, I turned on the lacrosse computing machine to try and find answers. I computed "old" Pythagorean win expectations for conferences using the last four years of efficiency information. I did, however, operate under one fiction: That the league's 2013 membership was the same membership it had from 2010 through 2013. This isn't much of a problem for me as it illustrates the concept of "If there wasn't realignment happening in 2014, 2015, and beyond, this is how the league stacks up." For "new" Pythagorean win expectations, the conference makeups are accurate as to what is now known but ignores the impact of new programs that have yet to play a game.

Here's how everything stacks up:

CONFERENCE REALIGNMENT: WINNERS AND LOSERS AND WHATEVER
NEW RK. CONFERENCE NEW WIN% OLD WIN% OLD RK. DIFF.
1. ACC 71.08 71.01 1.
2. Ivy 57.83 57.83 2.
3. Big Ten 55.38 N/A N/A N/A
4. Patriot 51.75 49.84 6. +2
5. Colonial 50.00 50.03 5.
6. Big East 49.92 50.35 4. -2
7. America East 42.52 42.52 7.
8. ECAC 41.95 52.16 3. -5
9. Northeast 38.89 38.90 8. -1
10. MAAC 37.39 34.66 9. -1
11. Atlantic Sun 24.65 N/A N/A N/A

Some brief thoughts:

  • The addition of Loyola was a boon for the Patriot League, at least lacrosse-wise, and it shows relative to how other conferences have acted since things started to go sideways with the ACC's moves. Boston University entering the fray in 2014 will likely take a little shine off the diamond (at least at the outset), but the Patriot League remains the biggest rank gainer in the nation throughout of all this nonsense.
  • The ECAC has been gutted. You knew this, but the table confirms that your feelings and emotions aren't that of the mentally instable. This is good. You are, once again, able to use proper silverware and make your own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I really don't see a way that the ECAC saves itself and gets itself in the area it was prior to the departures of Loyola, Denver, Ohio State, Michigan, and Fairfield.
  • The Big East drops two ranking spots, but it could have been much worse considering the departures -- Notre Dame and Syracuse -- that the league suffered. Pulling in Denver saved the league's neck from spitting blood all over the place and making nurses faint.
  • I noted yesterday in the piece about Fairfield joining THUNDERDOME! that the Stags' addition to the league could be a zero sum swap given Penn State's future departure from the conference. This calculation appears to indicate that the trade works out that way, but the ultimate determination will come three or four years from now (not unlike the determination for every other league considered in the table).
  • Only two leagues have failed to fill out transfer papers -- the Ivy League and America East. The former isn't likely to change, like, ever, but the latter has some interesting things to think about down the road with Massachusetts-Lowell joining the conference and Stony Brook and Albany having big football dreams.
  • Outside of the ECAC falling to pieces, there aren't many leagues here that have significantly changed its strength based on the data utilized. The MAAC was the biggest percentage gainer, but that is arguably more attributable to shedding VMI and Jacksonville than adding Quinnipiac. Monmouth, not unlike Boston University's impact to the Patriot League, may drag the MAAC back a little bit until the Hawks can get a recruiting class or two under their belts, but the MAAC is still coming out a little ahead of the game despite its ranking drop (thanks to the Big Ten coming into existence). If Fairfield had decided to make the MAAC its lacrosse home this may have been a much different story for the league, but as for now the conference is existing a little better today than it did a year or two ago.
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