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Another Round of Realignment, Another Round of Picking Winners

What does Microsoft Excel have to say about the newest iteration of conference realignment?

Winslow Townson

When Notre Dame announced that the Irish would be playing -- at some point -- in the ACC, I turned on the computing machine and tried to figure out which conferences would be making out the best (and worst) in all this shuffling. The foundation of the analysis was built on Pythagorean expectations based on adjusted team efficiency on a conference-wide basis. Rather than making you point your Internet machine at that essay, I'll crib the important piece of the methodology:

I'm using four years worth of efficiency data as the foundation for the analysis. Any kind of "new" expectation values rest on Loyola departing the ECAC for the Patriot League and Syracuse and Notre Dame departing the Big East for the ACC. All old moves -- teams departing the ECAC for wherever, teams leaving the MAAC for wherever, etc. -- are embedded within the "old" expectations. In other words, the "new" expectations are everything that is known about conference membership in the future; everything "old" is how things were for a particular season from 2009-2012. Also: (1) I ignored the Great Western Lacrosse League because, well, it only existed for one season in this data set and I'm not dealing with that noise; and (2) I'm not considering Boston University or Marquette University in any of this.

In the end, the ACC came out as the big winner in all the movement with the Patriot League -- due to the addition of Loyola -- serving as the biggest overall rank gainer. The Big East, with the losses of Syracuse and Notre Dame, was the biggest rank loser, dropping two ranking spots from fifth to seventh. So, with Maryland and Rutgers off to the Big Ten Conference, and lacrosse pursuits unknown, where does everything stand now?

I dusted off my computing machine and re-ran the analysis. This is how things turned out:

1. ACC 72.91 71.82 1.
2. Ivy 56.38 56.38 2.
3. Patriot 50.87 49.15 6. +3
4. Colonial 50.23 50.82 3. -1
5. ECAC 47.11 50.17 4. -1
6. Big East 43.07 49.96 5. -1
7. America East 42.69 42.69 7.
8. Northeast 37.47 38.91 8.
9. MAAC 34.02 33.10 9.

Some quick notes:

  • With Maryland and Rutgers potentially headed nowhere for lacrosse purposes in this round of conference realignment, only the ACC and Big East were impacted in this analysis. Should Maryland and/or Rutgers end up in another lacrosse league, or should the Big Ten sponsor a men's lacrosse conference, this will all obviously change.
  • Shedding Rutgers actually helped the Big East in this analysis. The Scarlet Knights haven't exactly been a hammer over the last few years, going only 22-37 since 2009. In function, the league trimmed some of its fat, although I'm sure zero people involved in Big East lacrosse care much about that considering the fact that the league may be dead.
  • The ACC, without Maryland, is essentially as competitive as it was with the Terps. Now, anyone with an operating head can tell you that an ACC with Maryland lacrosse is deeper than a league without Maryland lacrosse (no doink) but in terms of expected winning percentage, the conference is comparable. As before, the ACC is so far ahead of its closest competitor -- the Ivy League -- that it's laughable.
  • Is the "new, new" Big East basically the America East? I don't think that's a fair assessment, but it does highlight where the remaining programs in the Big East have been and how important Syracuse and Notre Dame are/were to the league. With Marquette -- a new program that is going to take some lumps -- officially joining the league next year (if the Big East still exists), the conference will still be relatively weak compared to its peers and will need to have someone -- Villanova? Georgetown? -- start to move toward the national elite if it hopes to have the kind of perception that the Ivy League and ACC own.
  • Do you now see why it's so important that the remaining Big East schools, should the conference fold its lacrosse offering, avoid the MAAC and try to find a landing spot in the ECAC or THUNDERDOME!? A Big Ten lacrosse league would create two ECAC openings, due to the departures of Ohio State and Michigan, and a spot in THUNDERDOME! could open due to Penn State's decision to join the Midwest fun, but that's only three openings for five schools. Let's say that the ECAC or THUNDERDOME! -- in their own capacity, for whatever reason you could possibly consider -- assumes the entirety of the remaining Big East. That would create a membership roll of 11 competing schools -- in an apocalypse scenario -- for either conference. Even if these leagues split the load of the remaining Big East, there remains the potential that either conference could get even closer double-digit membership without significantly increasing the overall strength of the league (based on how these teams have played over the last four seasons). I don't know if either league would want that kind of situation -- due in part to the severe impact it has on non-conference scheduling (a very important thing on a go-forward basis as a result of the tight at-large pool for NCAA Tournament invitations) -- but it is an interesting storyline to consider.