2014 College Lacrosse Preview: Reverse Survivor

Mitchell Layton

The race is about to begin for the last Division I team to win a game against another Division I opponent.

Focus: Reverse Survivor doesn't knock the effort; every team out there tries to maximum ability, and all teams should be commended for that. (In fact, there isn't a team in Division I lacrosse that would have ever taken my scrubby lacrosse talents, which means that every single person in the cohort is a thousand times the player I was or will ever become (as a 30+ year-old).) As such, Reverse Survivor is merely an incarnation of the agony of defeat, highlighting the fact that losing is a miserable circumstance despite continued effort. You can't describe the sweet until you understand the sour.

To win Reverse Survivor -- a challenge that crowns the last Division I team to win a game against another Division I opponent (if a team wins one at all) -- a series of circumstances need to come together: The team needs to have a bad start to the season (duh), but that team must also have low prospects for winning any games as the season progresses. Thus, a history of struggling combined with (1) low variance in that struggle, and (2) a schedule that isn't particularly conducive to many wins to start the year generally provides the necessary circumstances to compete for the Reverse Survivor championship.

This confluence of circumstances eliminates many teams from preseason consideration. For example, Michigan, while winning the 2013 Reverse Survivor championship, has a shot at Mercer in mid-February and faces High Point and Furman in early March. And Vermont has a five-game stretch at the beginning of March that features Boston University, VMI, Richmond, Wagner, and Sacred Heart, all legitimate possibilities for wins before Reverse Survivor reaches its apex. Again, it's not just about struggling; it's about struggling in difficult circumstances.

PRIMARY CONTENDERS

2014 REVERSE SURVIVOR PRIMARY CONTENDERS*
TEAM '10-'13 AVG. PYTH. WIN EXP. NT'L RANK '10-'13 AVG. PYTH. WIN EXP. VAR. NT'L RANK
Manhattan 28.56% 54 0.0034 22
Sacred Heart 32.62% 51 0.0004 1
VMI 13.00% 58 0.0010 5
Wagner 11.68% 59 0.0012 6

* First-year programs are not eligible for Reverse Survivor.

Manhattan: The schedule just doesn't set up well for the Jaspers. The team will face Rutgers, North Carolina, Fairfield, and Princeton before seeing Hartford and Mount St. Mary's on its schedule. If Manhattan can't get a win in that stretch -- and the Jaspers will likely need to play some sharp ball to drop one of those teams -- it becomes very difficult for Manhattan to find a win before late-March: Canisius is a possibility on April 5th, Lafayette could stand as a victory on April 8th, and Monmouth looks like a last-gasp effort on April 12th. It's the lateness of these potential wins that makes Manhattan a strong Reverse Survivor contender.

Sacred Heart: There are two early opportunities for wins in Jon Basti's first season with the Pioneers -- home for High Point and a neutral site date against Dartmouth in Dallas -- but after that it gets tough for a program that has consistently struggled to win games in the examined periods. The next-possible date for a win is March 22nd against Vermont, a nonconference game that could ultimately dictate whether Sacred Heart replicates its horrendous start to the 2013 season (the Pioneers lost eight consecutive games to start its campaign last year). If Sacred Heart can't win on or before its game with the Catamounts, the team may need to wait until a mid-April date with Wagner on Staten Island to experience a Gatorade bath.

VMI: The Keydets avoided winning Reverse Survivor by a mere 25 minutes last season, defeating Manhattan on April 20th (the team's penultimate game in 2013) on the same date that Michigan beat St. Joseph's. VMI looks like arguably the strongest contender for the crown this season, even though the Keydets will face Vermont, High Point, Mercer, and Wagner in consecutive games starting on March 8th. Salvation may lie in VMI's late-year Atlantic Sun games against Furman and Richmond, but it may be too late for the Keydets at that point.

Wagner: Opportunities for early-season victories exist for the Seahawks (Wagner opens with Lafayette and sees Monmouth before the calendar turns to March), but you can't count out a two-time Reverse Survivor champion (2011 and 2012).

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