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2015 College Lacrosse Preview: The New Programs

Meet your new best friends!

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Two new programs -- New Jersey Institute of Technology and Massachusetts-Lowell -- will get Division I uniforms and everything this year. While the new car smell of each of these schools provides for the appearance of endless possibilities, new programs -- since Mercer's introduction to the highest level of college lacrosse in 2011 -- haven't had a petting zoo level of fun in their first campaigns:

  • The average LaxPower ranking of new programs since 2011 is 59th. (For context, there were 61 teams that played at the Division I level in 2011 and 2012, 63 teams threw hands in 2013, and 2014 witness 67 teams attempting to murder each other.) Both Richmond and Marquette attained final rankings 11 positions higher than the nation's floor in 2014 and 2013, respectively. These are the highest positions attained for a new program in the last four seasons.
  • The average adjusted Pythagorean win expectation value for new programs since 2011 is just 19.40 percent. The high watermark among new programs in this metric is 35.69 percent, the value that Richmond achieved last season. The average adjusted Pythagorean win expectation value ranking for new programs since 2011 is 59th.
  • The average record for new programs since 2011 is 2-12. That's in the vicinity of these teams' average adjusted Pythagorean win expectation value based on a 14-game schedule (the average record underachieves by about one win). Marquette's 5-8 record in 2013 marks the highest winning percentage for a new program in the last four seasons and Richmond's six victories were the most wins for a new program in the same period.

That reality looks like how Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music sounds. Division I lacrosse is hard -- arguably harder than it has ever been -- and transitioning to that level of play carries with it growing pains and hard lessons about program development and what it takes to succeed. Here's an outlook on the two new programs that will attempt to achieve great things when the forecast calls for blood falling from the sky.

MASSACHUSETTS-LOWELL

Head Coach: Ed Stephenson
Nickname: River Hawks
Conference: America East
Best Chance(s) for Victory: Wagner (February 28); at NJIT (March 7); v. VMI (April 25)
Crime Scene Investigation(s): at Yale (February 14); Fairfield (March 17); at Albany (March 28)
Two Unrelated Notes:

  • The River Hawks are young. Of the 36 players currently listed on the team's 2015 roster, 29 are noted as freshman, six are listed as sophomores, and one -- the old man in the group that likely owns one of those chair lift things that absolves the need to walk up stairs -- holds a junior classification. Here's how Massachusetts-Lowell's roster constitution compares to the four programs that entered Division I lacrosse last season:

    ROSTER BREAKDOWN: UMASS-LOWELL v. FURMAN/RICHMOND/BOSTON U./MONMOUTH
    CLASS UMASS-LOWELL % FURMAN % RICHMOND % BOSTON U. % MONMOUTH %
    Freshman 29 81% 42 84% 22 61% 30 75% 32 78%
    Sophomore 6 17% 4 8% 9 25% 5 13% 1 2%
    Junior 1 3% 4 8% 5 14% 2 5% 6 15%
    Senior 0 0% 0 0% 0 0% 3 8% 2 5%
    TOTAL 36 100% 50 100% 36 100% 40 100% 41 100%
    The concentration of underclass players that the River Hawks will roll with this coming spring isn't unique, but it also reflects a different kind of way to approach college lacrosse's highest level of play: Only Furman had over 90 percent of its roster constituted with freshman last season (92 percent), but even the Paladins didn't reach the concentration that Massachusetts-Lowell will exhibit in 2015 (97 percent). The River Hawks will have a steep learning curve this season not only due to the fact that Massachusetts-Lowell will run in a league littered with land mines but also because the River Hawks will need to teach the vast majority of its roster how to get on and off the bus like a Division I team.
  • With the addition of the River Hawks to college lacrosse's highest level of play, five of Division I's 69 teams have a Massachusetts mailing address. Looking at New England states with more than one program, The Bay State ranks third behind Connecticut (50.27 percent) and Rhode Island (47.26 percent) in combined state winning percentage over the past five seasons with a 46.38 percent mark. The ego of an entire state -- and Massachusetts isn't short on vanity -- is on the line with Massachusetts-Lowell's foray into Division I lacrosse: Holding bragging rights over the vast nothingness that is Connecticut and Rhode Island is part of the deal when joining New England's lacrosse concern.

NJIT

Head Coach: Travis Johnson
Nickname: Highlanders
Conference: None
Best Chance(s) for Victory: Massachusetts-Lowell (March 7); Monmouth (March 17); March 28 (Wagner)
Crime Scene Investigation(s): at Rutgers (March 20)
Two Unrelated Notes:

  • The Highlanders -- there can be only one! -- will play the fewest number of games against Division I competition for a first year program since 2011 when Mercer went winless against 11 opponents residing at the highest level of college lacrosse. Despite a low volume of games for NJIT, the Highlanders will have the opportunity to play over half of its games at Mal Simon Stadium in Newark, including visits from three opponents that offer the Highlanders a reasonable chance of victory. NJIT's quick foray into Division I lacrosse has augmented what a first-year schedule generally looks like, but in the overall, the Highlanders' slate is reasonable and fair given the short timeline that the program had to create its existence.
  • NJIT will play three first- or second-year programs in 2015. Looking at the six schools that entered Division I in the last two seasons, there isn't a ton of frequency in first-year programs playing first- or second-year programs: Since 2013, only eight games between first- and second-year programs have occurred, with Boston University and Monmouth not playing a first- or second-year program in their first season of Division I play. Only one team -- Richmond -- has played more than two first- or second-year teams in their first season, playing three opponents in 2014 that were emerging from the primordial ooze. Here's the breakdown of those meetings:

    FIRST-YEAR PROGRAMS v. FIRST- AND SECOND-YEAR PROGRAMS: 2013-2014
    TEAM RECORD WIN % SCORING AGG. SCORING AVG.
    Furman (2014) 0-2 0.00% 17-28 8.5-14.0
    High Point (2013) 1-1 50.00% 19-24 9.5-12.0
    Marquette (2013) 1-0 100.00% 14-6 14.0-6.0
    Richmond (2014) 2-1 66.67% 28-28 9.3-9.3
    It'll be interesting to see how the Highlanders fit into this table after facing Massachusetts-Lowell, Monmouth, and Richmond in 2015.