Every member of Division I lacrosse has played at least one game this season. Of those 67 teams, 20 have yet to win a game. Of those 20 teams, 16 programs form the participant pool for Reverse Survivor, a competition that honors the last team to win a game -- if they win a game at all -- against a Division I opponent.1 It's the antithesis of tracking unbeatens, and it's actually more interesting than following teams pursuing an unblemished record: Backwards perfection is almost harder than an undefeated mark.
Last season, Michigan -- due to a brutal schedule -- took home top Reverse Survivor honors, edging out VMI for the title by just 25 minutes. That's the closest race in Reverse Survivor history (not counting years in which more than one team finished the year with a winless record). 2014, with a crop of new programs and historic contenders for Reverse Survivor honors, could create a hectic race for Division I's oddest achievement.
While the 16-team field for Reverse Survivor is defined, not all of the contenders are playing with even circumstances. The number of winless teams is likely to rapidly dwindle over the next few weeks, leaving only a handful of team with a legitimate shot at winning Reverse Survivor's highest recognition. This is due to a number of factors: (1) A bunch of currently winless teams can really play and they're going to find victories relatively soon; (2) Teams win even when they shouldn't, ruining my gigantic brain; and (3) Reverse Survivor tends to figure itself out by late-March and early-April, leaving only a team or two with a dastardly null set when asked, "Hey, how are things going?"
Accordingly, of the 16 teams without a win year in 2014, four look like genuine contenders in the Reverse Survivor race -- Manhattan, Mount St. Mary's, VMI, and Wagner -- while another batch of teams -- Sacred Heart, Vermont, etc. -- are stalking this group in a subordinated capacity (at least for now). Let's break down the four likely favorites for Reverse Survivor.
Next Opponent: Princeton -- February 25th
Chance of Victory: Can you have negative odds? Like, there's a better chance that Princeton catches the flu and has to forfeit due to the entire team grasping the toilet bowl?
Next Reasonable Chance of Victory: Mount St. Mary's -- March 8th. This is the problem for the Jaspers this season: Manhattan may have scheduled over their heads. If the Jaspers can't beat the Mountaineers, the team may need to wait until April for another somewhat even shot at a win.
Mount St. Mary's (0-3)
Next Opponent: Virginia -- February 25th
Chance of Victory: Richmond made Virginia question whether the Cavaliers had a soul, but the Mountaineers have really struggled to score the ball -- and defend against it -- for 60 minute stretches this season. Let's call it "Probably Unlikely" bending toward "No way."
Next Reasonable Chance of Victory: Manhattan -- March 8th. Mount St. Mary's schedule, not unlike that for Manhattan, is somewhat unrelenting. The NEC throws a few possible wins in the Mountaineers' direction, but the early-March date against the Jaspers is critical for The Mount.
Next Opponent: Detroit -- March 1st
Chance of Victory: Slim, but Mercer did freak the Titans out. The Keydets' 6-14 loss to St. Joseph's, though, isn't the best sign that VMI is going to do something completely bonkers against Detroit.
Next Reasonable Chance of Victory: Vermont -- March 5th. The date against the Catamounts starts a four-game stretch where the Keydets will either take themselves out of Reverse Survivor contention or establish themselves as the prohibitive favorite. None of those games are guaranteed wins, but they also aren't oppressively difficult contests.
Next Opponent: Monmouth -- February 26th
Chance of Victory: Before Monmouth made UMBC hyperventilate? High. After Monmouth sent UMBC to counseling? I have no idea.
Next Reasonable Chance of Victory: Monmouth -- February 26th. Rutgers smoked the Seahawks in Wagner's opener, but the Hawks aren't on the same plane as the Scarlet Knights. If the Seahawks can't drop Monmouth, things get a little dicey for Wagner until mid-March.
1 New programs aren't eligible for Reverse Survivor. To include new programs in this competition misses the point as they're still learning how to get on and off the bus.