2014 College Lacrosse Preview: Reversing Negative Momentum

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Which teams are looking to erase some history in 2014?

Every season is a new opportunity. What's past is prologue, but it isn't necessarily definitive proof of future returns. Teams that have experienced a decline in performance over recent years aren't purposefully destined for further depression and Spam lunches. Yet, teams that have gone through prolonged decreases in development -- or, for some, an inability to maintain levels of function -- hold questions as to their potential for reversing course and creating positive momentum.

To determine which teams have encountered the most negative momentum going into 2014, I looked at Pythagorean win expectation changes from 2010 to 2013. (Pythagorean win expectation measures a team's expected win percentage -- not actual win percentage -- based on a team's adjusted offensive and defensive efficiencies.) I then averaged the changes over the three periods -- 2010 to 2011, 2011 to 2012, and 2012 to 2013 -- to determine which 10 teams have worsened -- on average -- the most over the periods. The results:

PROGRAM MOMENTUM: BOTTOM 10 IN AVERAGE PYTHAGOREAN WIN EXPECTATION DECLINE SINCE 2010
TEAM AVERAGE PYTH. WIN EXP. CHANGE RANK
Mount St. Mary's -5.48% 50
Jacksonville -5.57% 51
Rutgers -5.73% 52
Siena -5.90% 53
Virginia -6.17% 54
Bryant -6.40% 55
Delaware -6.86% 56
Georgetown -8.09% 57
Navy -8.17% 58
Lafayette -9.69% 59

These are all teams to watch in 2014 to see if they can try and create an environment of good feelings and balloon animals, but a few stand out as especially notable entering the coming season:

  • Virginia: The Cavaliers' consistent drop in expected performance was the most surprising aspect of this analysis: Virginia has experienced a six percent drop in Pythagorean win expectation every season since 2010. That's . . . I don't even know how to explain that. This is a program that finished 2010 ranked second in Pythagorean win expectation (80.17 percent) and closed 2013 ranked 17th in the same measure (61.58 percent). Now, the Cavs haven't fallen off the map, but Virginia has slowly and surely moved from the hyper-elite to the back end of the nation's top 20. Expectations are high in Charlottesville in 2014 with a talented roster, but the Cavaliers needs to buck some ugly recent history to reassert its position in the national hierarchy.
  • Lafayette and Georgetown: Lafayette and Georgetown each hired new coaches for the 2013 season, and the fact that the Leopards and Hoyas have been in decline since the end of the 2010 season isn't all that surprising. Georgetown experienced double-digit Pythagorean win expectation decreases from 2011 to 2012 and 2012 to 2013 (11.48 percent and 12.02 percent, respectively), but the Hoyas had a notably different feel at the end of 2013 and the program appears poised -- at least from the eye-ball test -- to move in a positive direction in 2014. As for Lafayette, the Leopards don't have an especially distinguished history, and it's going to take time for Jim Rogalski to change Lafayette's fortunes. With a season under his belt in Easton, 2014 presents an unlimited number of opportunities for the second-year head coach to fully establish his culture and drive the Leopards toward a reality featuring a higher level of development.
  • Rutgers and Siena: These are programs with third-year head coaches -- Brian Brecht at Rutgers and John Svec at Siena -- that are entering important turning point seasons. For the Scarlet Knights, Brecht was able to strongly improve Rutgers in 2013 over 2012, seeing about a four percent increase in Pythagorean win expectation. This could be a valuable and notable coming season for the Scarlet Knights as they play a lame duck year in the Big East. With respect to Siena, Svec needs a strong showing from the Saints to prove that the team's 20 percent -- !!! -- decrease in Pythagorean win expectation from 2012 to 2013 was an isolated incident. These are programs with resources that are greater than their performances over the examined periods. 2014 needs to signal a move away from protracted decline.
  • Navy: The Midshipmen dumped Richie Meade for Rick Sowell, but Sowell has had an uneven tenure in Annapolis: After engineering one of the nation's most notable positive changes from 2011 to 2012, Navy went through the nation's most notable declines from 2012 to 2013. There's a lot of distortion in the Mids' fidelity, and Navy -- and Sowell -- need a positive showing in 2014 to prove that the once-proud Midshipmen program isn't hopelessly adrift.
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