2014 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament: Quarterfinals Stategories

USA TODAY Sports

Turning on various computing machines to set the stage for this coming weekend's NCAA Tournament games.

This past weekend was big: 16 teams threw hands and eight managed to not droop their head and head back to parts unknown. This weekend is even bigger: Those that remain will chart a course for either Shuart Stadium or Delaware Stadium to try and pillage the place for an invitation to Championship Weekend at M&T Bank Stadium.

To get your face ready for hot, barely legal lacrosse action (Goals! Goals! Goals!), I turned on various genius machines to set the scene for the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals. Here's how things shake out in various ways.

The log5 Machine Says . . .

log5 is a straightforward way of determining a team's probability for success against another team. The calculation -- for this exercise -- is based off a team's adjusted Pythagorean win expectation. It's fair to assume that anything between 55-45 is a toss-up game while probabilities outside of that spread feature a favorite and an underdog. This is how things look for the quarterfinals:

log5 PROBABILITIES: NCAA LACROSSE TOURNAMENT QUARTERFINALS GAMES
GAME FAVORITE UNDERDOG GAME FAVORITE UNDERDOG
Bryant // (7) Maryland Maryland // 66.60% Bryant // 33.40% Albany // (6) Notre Dame Albany // 50.74% Notre Dame // 49.26%
Johns Hopkins // (1) Duke Duke // 52.20% Johns Hopkins // 47.80% Drexel // (5) Denver Denver // 74.24% Drexel // 25.76%

Some brief notes:

  • After a weekend of games that turned into blowouts (save the final push in Cornell-Maryland and the insanity that was Bryant-Syracuse), half of the games in the quarterfinals -- at least on paper -- look like toss-up scenarios. Johns Hopkins-Duke leads Sunday while Albany-Notre Dame closes Saturday, and both games could turn into rock 'em-sock 'em royales. The log5 machine isn't loving the other two games, but the NCAA Tournament this season has already dropped the second, third, and fourth seeds, so anything is possible.
  • Bryant had much stronger odds last week against Syracuse than they'll face this coming weekend on Long Island against Maryland. The Terps are a matchup nightmare for the Bulldogs, partly because Maryland is good and partly because the Terrapins are a possession-generating machine with a brutish defense. The Bulldogs are going to need some serious circumstances to fall in their favor to advance to Championship Weekend.
  • This is the first time since 2010 that the Blue Devils will face Johns Hopkins and the result may not mirror the outcome from the teams' last meeting (an 18-5 win for Duke). This is an incredibly close matchup, one that doesn't seem congruent to the unseeded-top seeded nature of the contest. There is a lot of "If this happens . . ." and "But if this happens . . ." that is inherent in attempting to project a winner.
  • The log5 machine isn't in love with the Dragons: The team's underlying metrics building into the calculation are creating a situation where Drexel's defense may not have enough strength to combat the Pios' ridiculously efficient offense. The Dragons are streaming at the moment, though, the winner of nine straight games and riding high after pummeling Pennsylvania last weekend. The broadest margin on the board may not be as wide as the log5 machine thinks, but Denver is still a strong favorite against one of the best stories of May.
  • It was surprising that Albany beat Loyola the way the Great Danes did. The Greyhounds are one of the best three teams in the nation based on their overall profile, but Albany decimated Loyola in virtually all facets of play. There shouldn't be surprise if the Danes move past the Irish this weekend: Albany is on par with Notre Dame, even if the Irish have the smell of a team with eyes on a victory lap on Memorial Monday.

The Fun Factor Machine Says . . .

If you have plans this weekend that don't involve lacrosse (I'm not sure what other plans you'd make that would trump watching these games, other than attending your own funeral), here are the games ranked by something called the "Fun Factor" -- a simple determination that considers the competitiveness between the two teams, the projected pace of the game, and the offensive capabilities of each team:

FUN FACTOR: NCAA LACROSSE TOURNAMENT QUARTERFINALS GAMES
RANK GAME FUN FACTOR RANK GAME FUN FACTOR
1. Albany v. Notre Dame 6.72 3. Drexel v. Denver 4.71
2. Johns Hopkins v. Duke 5.56 4. Bryant v. Maryland 3.14

Some brief notes:

  • Watch all of these games, jerk.
  • Bryant-Maryland is at the bottom of the table not only because the Terps look like a notable favorite but also because the game could be played at a brutally slow pace.
  • Anything involving Albany is a "Must Watch!" game given the Great Danes' style, but Albany's effort against the Irish this weekend holds "Game of the Week of the Century on Earth" status. You need to watch that game on Saturday afternoon.
  • Hopkins-Duke doesn't trail Albany-Notre Dame by all that much. It's a solid launch pad for Sunday, one that should draw eyeballs outside of the fact that these two teams carry heavy name recognition.

The Efficiency Machine Says . . .

TEAM RANKINGS: ADJUSTED OFFENSIVE EFFICIENCY, ADJUSTED DEFENSIVE EFFICIENCY, AND ADJUSTED PYTHAGOREAN WIN EXPECTATION
RANK TEAM ADJ. OFF. EFF. NT'L RANK RANK TEAM ADJ. DEF. EFF. NT'L RANK RANK TEAM ADJ. PYTH. WIN EXP. % NT'L RANK
1. Denver 45.11 1. 1. Johns Hopkins 23.92 2. 1. Denver 83.01% 3.
2. Albany 40.77 2. 2. Maryland 26.35 9. 2. Duke 81.07% 4.
3. Duke 38.56 6. 3. Notre Dame 26.35 10. 3. Maryland 80.01% 5.
4. Notre Dame 37.80 8. 4. Albany 27.34 12. 4. Johns Hopkins 79.69% 6.
5. Maryland 35.29 15. 5. Duke 27.45 13. 5. Albany 76.83% 7.
6. Johns Hopkins 35.03 16. 6. Bryant 27.68 15. 6. Notre Dame 76.30% 8.
7. Drexel 34.40 18. 7. Denver 27.82 16. 7. Bryant 66.74% 16.
8. Bryant 30.58 37. 8. Drexel 31.77 36. 8. Drexel 62.89% 22.

Some brief notes:

  • On Albany's defensive rating: The Great Danes rank 48th nationally in goals allowed per game, but that ranking is inherently flawed -- it does not consider competition faced nor does it consider the fact that no team in the nation plays more possessions per 60 minutes of play than Albany (the Danes rank 64 in defensive opportunities per 60 minutes at 38.02). When you remove pace from Albany's defensive profile and consider what the Great Danes do on a per possession basis (and adjust for competition faced (the Danes have played a schedule ranked 10th nationally in opposing offenses faced)), Albany looks significantly stronger on the defensive end of the field. The team's defense still has flaws, but Albany isn't one of the 20-worst defensive teams in the nation.
  • The key for Bryant and Drexel this weekend is whether each team can mitigate or otherwise mask their flaws. Every other team remaining in the field ranks in the top 20 in both adjusted offensive and adjusted defensive efficiency. Will it take dominating possession margin? Will it take stepping up to the challenge and finding strength where it hasn't consistently existed this season? Will it take an exceptional schematic gameplan? Teams don't change much at this stage of the season and Championship Weekend rarely features teams with imbalance between offensive and defensive efforts. The Dragons and Bulldogs need to bend reality in their favor to hurdle what's in their paths.
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