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2015 College Lacrosse Preview: Reversing Negative Momentum

Who's looking at 2015 as a chance to kick some bad feelings to the curb?

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Every season is a new opportunity. What's past is prologue, but it isn't necessarily definitive proof of future returns. Teams that have experienced a decline in performance over recent years aren't purposefully destined for further depression and Spam lunches. Yet, teams that have gone through prolonged decreases in development -- or, for some, an inability to maintain levels of function -- hold questions as to their potential for reversing course and creating positive momentum.

To determine which teams have created the most negative momentum going into 2015, I looked at adjusted Pythagorean win expectation changes from 2013 to 2015. (Adjusted Pythagorean win expectation measures a team's expected win percentage -- not actual win percentage -- based on a team's adjusted offensive and defensive efficiencies.) I charted movement in various metrics and highlighted eight teams that have experienced the most dramatic decline in average adjusted Pythagorean win expectation change over the three periods (in both rank and value). Here are the results (the table is ordered alphabetically):

PROGRAM MOMENTUM: EIGHT TEAMS THAT HAVE MOVED IN THE WRONG DIRECTION (2012-2014)
TEAM '14 APYTH. (RNK) '13 APYTH. (RNK) '12 APYTH. (RNK) APYTH. CHANGE: '12-'14 (RNK) RNK CHANGE: '12-'14 (RNK) AVG. APYTH. CHANGE: '12-'14 (RNK) AVG. APYTH. RNK CHANGE: '12-'14 (RNK)
Bucknell 51.96% (29) 70.17% (14) 68.25% (15) -16.29% (56) -14 (54) -8.15% (56) -7.00 (54)
Colgate 47.30% (34) 45.22% (36) 73.23% (10) -25.93% (59) -24 (59) -12.96% (59) -12.00 (59)
Georgetown 31.60% (53) 41.15% (39) 50.11% (34) -18.51% (57) -19 (57) -9.25% (57) -9.50 (57)
Massachusetts 51.27% (30) 56.15% (26) 84.88% (1) -33.61% (61) -29 (61) -16.80% (61) -14.50 (61)
Mount St. Mary's 10.24% (61) 36.69% (49) 41.17% (40) -30.94% (60) -21 (58) -15.47% (60) -10.50 (58)
Princeton 63.48% (21) 70.87% (13) 79.54% (3) -16.06% (54) -18 (56) -8.03% (54) -9.00 (56)
Robert Morris 35.01% (52) 53.75% (29) 54.95% (26) -19.94% (58) -26 (60) -9.97% (58) -13.00 (60)
Siena 49.74% (32) 48.59% (34) 62.61% (18) -12.87% (52) -14 (54) -6.43% (52) -7.00 (54)

Here are some thoughts on selected teams:

  • Robert Morris: The Colonials picked a poor time to experience a slide. With the addition of Hobart to the league, St. Joseph's climb under Taylor Wray, and the continued existence of Bryant as a viable lacrosse entity, Bobby Mo is now in a tough spot in a league that is starting to look more and more like something that can provide pop -- from at least one angle -- on a year-to-year basis. It's tough to find space on the national landscape even with combustion, and trying to define a place in the meaty middle of the national hierarchy becomes even more difficult when things spiral in reverse. Potential remains in Robert Morris given what the program has been able to accomplish in Western Pennsylvania, and charting a course for its former port will ultimately dictate whether the Colonials can find their sweet spot again.
  • Massachusetts/Colgate: The regressions here are notable, but the slides are also distortive: Colgate and Massachusetts both climbed to the top of the nation and moving back toward the top half/top third of the nation is pretty damn reasonable for programs that haven't consistently resided among the nation's hyper elite for an extended period of time. This is indicia of the universe breathing and stretching, rolling Massachusetts and Colgate down a few pegs. The Minutemen and Raiders haven't disappeared; rather, they've merely had their volition recalibrated.
  • Siena: Like Massachusetts and Colgate, this isn't necessarily a red flag for the Saints. Holding a position in the fat middle of the nation is a strong spot for the MAAC's most accomplished program. Coming back to reality a shade -- and holding that line -- speaks not to the weaknesses of Siena's program but rather its strengths. In a tightening market of non-high major programs with capacity to crush some skulls, though, the Saints have lost some ground. This is somewhat troubling for Division I lacrosse when considering that the viability of college lacrosse's highest level of play turns, at least in part, on traditionally afterthought programs rising and sustaining a sense of character.
  • Georgetown: This is a big season for Kevin Warne on The Hilltop, not only because it's Warne's third season as the Hoyas' head coach, but also because the Big East desperately needs Georgetown to find the verve it had in the not-too-distant past. A Big East with Denver as its only true NCAA Tournament threat creates an opacity to the league; a Big East with a strong Denver, consistent threats in Villanova, Georgetown, and St. John's, and pops from Marquette (as the program continues to grow) and Providence provide a depth in competition that will serve the conference well in forward periods. But with the Hoyas languishing in rebuilding mode, the league is still searching for something greater to support the Pioneers in the conference. A Hoyas program that hangs around the bottom third of the nation denies the Big East what it desires to push its concern toward the forefront of the nation's consciousness. A turnaround for Georgetown not only emboldens the Hoyas but also the flag it plays under.