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Conference Realignment: Hobart's Impact on the Northeast Conference

Do the Statesmen significantly change the strength of the NEC?

Look: The ECAC isn't a fun place to be right now -- things are on fire, people are running in the streets claiming the coming of the apocalypse, bears have been freed from the local zoo to add to the chaos, and crazy people are in their garage oiling up their shotguns and homemade tanks as their doomsday prepping finally inured a benefit. It's all but over for the once-indestructible league, a conference that was on a strong trajectory with the growth of and contributions from schools like Denver, Loyola, Fairfield, and select others. Now? Now the league counts on its future membership roll just two teams (Bellarmine and Air Force), and both of those schools are packing survival gear for an imminent departure.

Hobart, the latest refugee from the ECAC, has found quarter in the Northeast Conference, a league that, itself, was in an unstable situation after the departures of Quinnipiac and Monmouth. The Statesmen's decision to join the NEC helps steady the conference while also ensuring that Hobart has a route to an automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament. The question, though, is how much the NEC will benefit from Hobart's inclusion in the league as a lacrosse-only affiliate. I ran the numbers again -- based on the future alignment of the conferences, utilizing the last four season's of Pythagorean win expectation values as the foundation for the analysis -- and the results are somewhat tepid:

1. ACC 71.08 71.01 1.
2. Ivy 57.83 57.83 2.
3. Big Ten 55.38 N/A N/A N/A
4. Patriot 51.75 49.84 6. +2
5. Colonial 50.00 50.03 5.
6. Big East 46.91 50.35 4. -2
7. ECAC 44.86 52.16 3. -4
8. America East 42.52 42.52 7. -1
9. Northeast 38.43 38.90 8. -1
10. MAAC 37.39 34.66 9. -1
11. Atlantic Sun 24.65 N/A N/A N/A

Some brief thoughts:

  • You can pretty much ignore the ECAC value. That league isn't likely to exist past 2014 (if it can even get through 2014 as a viable conference). The value for the conference merely addresses Bellarmine and Air Force, and that's fairly misleading (the remaining two ECAC members that haven't yet found a future league home).
  • Prior to running this analysis with Hobart as part of the NEC, the conference ranked 9th with an average new Pythagorean win expectation value of 38.89; the number dipped slightly with Hobart as part of the conference. That doesn't mean that the NEC weakened itself with the addition of the Statesmen; rather, it indicates that the analysis recognizes the tough seasons that Hobart put together in 2010 and 2011. From 2010 through 2013, LaxPower ranked Hobart 42nd, 43rd, 37th, and 38th, respectively; over the same period, the Statesmen ranked 50th, 52nd, 43rd, and 37th in Pythagorean win expectation, respectively. Hobart was going in the right direction under T.W. Johnson, and if the Statesmen are able to continue their momentum, the value of Hobart to the conference is much greater than the trailing history of the league -- with Hobart as part of the analysis -- currently indicates.
  • This is interesting:

    St. Joseph's has had tough go in THUNDERDOME! after leaving the MAAC for the league in 2011 (even though Taylor Wray has changed the fortunes of St. Joseph's a shade since taking over in 2012). The NEC is more competitively-accurate for the Hawks, but adding St. Joseph's to the league's roster doesn't increase the conference's strength based on the foundational data that we're working with. This is something to keep an eye on.