Midseason Check-Up: The New Programs

Jamie Squire

How are Division I's newest programs doing with the season half complete?

We're just past the halfway point of the season. Here's some stuff about stuff.

New programs have traditionally struggled in their first efforts in Division I play. Since Mercer's introduction to the highest level of college lacrosse in 2011, new programs have kind of had their teeth kicked in through the back of their head:

  • The average LaxPower ranking of new programs since 2011 is 57.75. (For context, there were 61 teams that played at the Division I level in 2011 and 2012; 2013 saw 63 participating teams.)
  • The average Pythagorean win expectation for new programs since 2011 was just 19.19 percent. The high watermark among new programs in this metric is 27.69 percent, the value that Marquette achieved last year.
  • The average record for new programs since 2011 was 3-11. That's in lockstep with these teams' Pythagorean win expectation based on a 14-game schedule (which means that new programs were neither overachieving or underachieving).

That history didn't bode well for the four new programs -- Boston University, Furman, Monmouth, and Richmond -- that were entering Division I in 2014. With around half of the season complete, these programs have, for the most part, performed consistent to their predecessors over the last three seasons. One, however, has bucked the trend and established itself as an outlier. Here's how Division I's four freshest faces stack up at this point of the season:

NEW PROGRAMS: HOW THEY STACK UP
METRIC BOSTON UNIVERSITY FURMAN MONMOUTH RICHMOND
Adj. Offensive Efficiency 23.87 (59) 21.82 (64) 20.80 (65) 28.67 (45)
Adj. Defensive Efficiency 36.88 (62) 40.95 (65) 30.31 (31) 31.73 (38)
Pythagorean Win Expectation 20.61% (63) 12.44% (67) 23.74% (60) 42.20% (43)
Actual Winning Percentage 12.50% (1-7) (62) 0.00% (0-8) (65) 0.00% (0-8) (65) 22.22% (2-7) (56)
Strength of Schedule.: Average Opponent Pythagorean Win Expectation 43.37% (54) 58.34% (11) 43.37% (54) 43.58% (53)
LaxPower Ranking 61 65 59 58

Not only does Richmond hold the strongest actual winning percentage among its peers, the Spiders: (1) are expected, based on their performance so far this year, to go around 6-8 in its regular season; (2) are competently balanced between their offensive and defensive efforts; and (3) are actually -- based on actual and expected win percentages -- underachieving by about two wins this seasons. Richmond is dangerous, and the only thing holding the Spiders back at the moment is likely the fact that this is the team's neophyte run through college lacrosse. The team is just 1-2 in true toss-up games this season (falling to Hartford (by eight goals) and St. Joseph's (by three goals) while beating Vermont (a one-goal win)), and that may change in the future as Richmond's culture continues to develop.

As for Division I's three other new programs, they're right where they should be (save for Furman which is lagging a bit). There's no shame in struggling, as long as that struggle is in-line with those that have come before. These three programs have defined areas of improvement, but all are still learning how to get on and off the bus like a Division I team. Here are some very brief thoughts on each of these teams:

  • Boston University: Boston University's defeat of Lafayette looks like an upset, but the nitty gritty disagrees: Terriers-Leopards was essentially a toss-up type of game; the only thing that was surprising about the win was that Boston University took it right at Lafayette and scrubbed them to the tune of a four-goal victory. It was how the Terriers beat the Leopards that's interesting, not necessarily that the Terriers beat the Leopards. The team has come a long way from a season-opening shellacking at the hands of Mercer. It's going to take time for Ryan Polley, but not only has he not lost his team, but the team is improving as the season unfolds.
  • Furman: The team's aggressive scheduling limited early opportunities to generate a win or two and the Paladins' record is appropriate: Furman's highest chances for victory (in a log5 environment) came against Michigan and Georgetown (right around 20 percent). The team's remaining schedule -- all against Atlantic Sun competition -- is much more conducive to wins: VMI is a toss-up and the games against High Point, Mercer, Richmond, and Jacksonville are hovering around 20 percent chances of victory for Furman.
  • Monmouth: The Hawks need a face-off cat like you wouldn't believe. Monmouth ranks dead last in face-off percentage (23.31 percent) and are last nationally in percentage of face-off opportunities earned through face-off wins (16.59 percent). This has created issues for the Hawks as their offense relies heavily on volume to generate tallies. In the team's two one-goal losses this season, Monmouth played at a possession deficit (minus-one against Canisius; minus-10 against Wagner) despite having an offensive output consistent with their opponent (Canisius was three goals per 100 opportunities stronger than Monmouth; Monmouth was two goals per 100 offensive opportunities stronger than Wagner). Tough stuff.
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