2014 College Lacrosse Preview: Looking for Fun

USA TODAY Sports

Which teams are established as the most watchable in the nation?

The Division I lacrosse season runs from February to the end of May, but it's virtually impossible to watch every single game: There were 477 games in 2013, and unless you were able to bend time in your favor, you were able to watch only a portion of those games. This creates a problem: As time isn't liquid (yet), how to you ration your lacrosse viewing hours to maximize your lacrosse viewing pleasure?

To assist in that determination I came up with something called the "Fun Factor." The Fun Factor considers various items -- a team's competitiveness, a team's willingness to create and play lots of possessions in 60 minutes of play, and a team's ability to embarrass opposing goaltenders -- to quantify which teams are the easiest on the eyes. The Fun Factor isn't perfect -- it's necessarily tuned to rank teams by areas of play that I think are most interesting -- but it does a decent job at identifying teams that generate excitement.

So, which teams are best positioned to have a halo of fun over them in 2014? To discover the answer to that question I looked at Fun Factor ratings over the last four seasons, averaged the Fun Factor values of each team that participated at the Division I level since 2010, and made my lacrosse calculator do some work. Here's how the top 10 shook out:

2010-2013: TOP 10 IN THE FUN FACTOR
TEAM '10-'13 AVG. FUN FACTOR NT'L RANK '10-'13 AVG. FUN FACTOR RANK VAR NT'L RANK '10-'13 AVG. FUN FACTOR RANK STDEV NT'L RANK
Duke 6.35 1 12.92 8 3.59 8
Stony Brook 5.55 2 33.67 17 5.80 17
Cornell 5.55 3 56.92 28 7.54 28
Denver 5.55 4 4.67 4 2.16 4
Robert Morris 5.51 5 22.00 12 4.69 12
Virginia 5.50 6 66.00 31 8.12 31
Syracuse 5.18 7 48.25 24 6.95 24
Maryland 5.15 8 9.58 5 3.10 5
Johns Hopkins 5.05 9 16.67 10 4.08 10
North Carolina 4.92 10 56.33 27 7.51 27

Some brief notes on the table:

  • Denver: Duke holds the highest average Fun Factor value over the last four years but it’s the Pioneers -- a historically television-neutral program due to its past membership in the ECAC -- that has been arguably the most consistently fun team since 2010. Denver's average Fun Factor value is in-line with Cornell but the Pios have held Fun Factor rating ranking that is more static than the Devils or Big Red. If you want your day brightened, looking west toward Bill Tierney and Matt Brown is your cure for the lacrosse blues.
  • Virginia: The Cavaliers' average ranking is strong, but Virginia has been going in the wrong direction, in terms of watchability, over the last four years: 2010 -- 7.26 (fourth); 2011 -- 7.31 (first); 2012 -- 4.27 (12th); and 2013 -- 3.13 (19th). The 'Hoos have been a fixture on television since 2010, but the program hasn't exuded excitement and "Virginia is a lacrosse cyborg!" statements as much as in the not-too-distant-past.
  • Robert Morris: You need to start watching Bobby Mo. I'm serious. Drew McMinn is guiding one of the most exciting programs in the nation and is doing so violently under the radar. All of the Colonials home games should be available on the web through the Northeast Conference's video portal in 2014, and that is your official invitation to start experiencing what too many fans have missed over the last four years. Robert Morris is competitive enough to deserve eyeballs, but it's the team's style of play that is the true draw: Bobby Mo has finished ninth, fourth, 13th, and second in pace -- total possessions per 60 minutes of play -- in the last four seasons. There just aren't a lot of teams that play the brand of lacrosse that the Colonials support.
  • The ACC: There's a reason that the ACC dominates television, and it's more than the simple fact that ESPN is flush with ACC inventory. Five of the league's six programs have been one of the 10 most watchable teams in the nation over the last four seasons, and the sixth -- Notre Dame -- finished 18th in the averaged Fun Factor ratings. Everything is in the ACC's orbit, and there's little proof that things will change to that end.
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