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NCAA Lacrosse Tournament: Fun Factor Analysis of Participants and Games

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If you can't watch every team and every game, this will help you pick out the sweet spots.

Winslow Townson

The NCAA Tournament field is officially set. While many are still smashing their fist into things over how the Selection Committee constituted and seeded the field, I'm more interested in two things: (1) Whether the NCAA maximized the amount of fun in the bracket (this isn't a primary criterion for field selection, but it damn well should be); and (2) What games look like the most fun in the first round. Now, everyone has a different taste in what they like to see in a lacrosse team and a lacrosse game, but for me, I like to see three things:

  • Competitiveness: It's fun to watch good teams that win lots of games. Sure, following the competitors in Reverse Survivor is exciting, but if you want to see lacrosse played at its apex, nothing beats watching competitive teams. (Unless, of course, we're talking about robot-on-robot lacrosse action, which is just creepy but probably crisper than what human lacrosse teams can do.)
  • Pace: It's not absolutely necessary that a team plays at a thousand miles per hour or that a game occurs in a blur, but I prefer watching teams get up and down the field a little bit. It's not a primary concern, but it's definitely something that I want etched into my headstone.
  • Offensive Capability: I'm not ashamed to admit that I like goalie embarrassment. Teams that can really can the bean are a sight to behold, so they hold a special place in my much larger internal special place.

To find out which teams fit that mold, I came up with a cockamamie formula called the "Fun Factor." It's far from scientific and it has some known blind spots, but it does a decent job at identifying which teams will earn my eyeball-time and which ones will be accepted only in doses certified by the Surgeon General. When applied to matchups, it does a fairly acceptable job at highlighting "must watch" and "must watch the lawn grow" games.

Here's how the NCAA Tournament field shakes out in the "Fun Factor" scale:

FUN FACTOR: NCAA LACROSSE TOURNAMENT PARTICIPANTS
RANK TEAM FUN FACTOR OVERALL RANK RANK TEAM FUN FACTOR OVERALL RANK
1. Albany 6.3728 1. 9. Ohio State 4.5331 10.
2. North Carolina 5.9176 2. 10. Loyola 4.4119 11.
3. Cornell 5.8111 3. 11. Penn State 4.0181 14.
4. Maryland 5.4866 4. 12. Notre Dame 3.2125 19.
5. Duke 5.1170 5. 13. Yale 2.9085 25.
6. Syracuse 4.8691 6. 14. Towson 2.3742 34.
7. Lehigh 4.5853 7. 15. Detroit 1.8987 44.
8. Denver 4.5771 8. 16. Bryant 1.7721 46.

The only way that the Selection Committee could have constituted the field with a bonkers level of excitement would have been if Stony Brook (nine), St. John's (12), Princeton (13), Robert Morris (15), and Johns Hopkins (16) had replaced Bryant, Yale, Towson, Notre Dame, and Detroit. This, however, was not going to happen, mostly because the NCAA does not have a sense of humor and Yale, Towson, Bryant, and Detroit would have thrown hissy fits to end all hissy fits if they had been excluded from the field despite winning their conference tournaments. On the balance, though, getting 10 of the 11 most fun teams in the country in the field isn't too bad; 12 out of the top 19 is even more evidence of potential nonstop pants-wetting this May.

As for first round matchups, this is how the games shake out:

FUN FACTOR: NCAA LACROSSE TOURNAMENT FIRST ROUND GAMES
RANK SEEDED TEAM UNSEEDED TEAM FUN FACTOR RANK SEEDED TEAM UNSEEDED TEAM FUN FACTOR
1. Maryland Cornell 5.6488 5. Penn State Yale 3.4633
2. Denver Albany 5.4750 6. Ohio State Towson 3.4537
3. North Carolina Lehigh 5.2514 7. Syracuse Bryant 3.3206
4. Duke Loyola 4.7644 8. Notre Dame Detroit 2.5556

Look at those top four games: Cornell-Maryland, Albany-Denver, Lehigh-North Carolina, and Loyola-Duke are all Championship Weekend-caliber games. The Great Danes-Pioneers game is probably the most explosive of that quartet -- set your face to "Melt" -- but the other three games are all relatively competitive and have an atmosphere of detonated lacrosse experiences. In fact, the top three games in the "Fun Factor" scale for this weekend rank in the top 10 games played all season (notably, Cornell-Maryland ranks second this year).

So that's what the "Fun Factor" scale thinks about the field and this weekend's games. What are your very emotional feelings? The comments are yours for a functional therapy session.