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2015 College Lacrosse Preview: Cornell's "Self-Sustaining" Program

Maybe the only thing that's surprising about Cornell is that some people still think the Red are a surprising team.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Lacrosse Magazine interviewed a host of opposing coaches to get their feel on the nation's best teams. Using a quote from those coaches, we're building out context to a specific thought.

Two quotes:

"May be the surprise team of the year. They could be terrific."

* * * * *

"A culture has been built at Cornell and with all last year's turmoil this team still responded and continued to win lacrosse games. This is as self-sustaining a program as there is out there and giving Matt Kerwick the job full-time may pay dividends as he will not change the culture like a different coach may have."

Did you know that only two teams -- Johns Hopkins and Maryland -- hold a average adjusted Pythagorean win expectation ranking over the last four seasons that is stronger than Cornell's mark? It's true! While the Red have experienced a greater degree of deviation from their year-to-year adjusted Pythagorean win expectation ranking compared to the Terps and Jays, Cornell has been as powerful on a blended basis as any team in the nation since 2011:

AVERAGE TEAM ADJUSTED PYTHAGOREAN WIN EXPECTATION  RANKING: 2011-2014
TEAM AVG. APYTH. RANKING APYTH RANK STDV.
Maryland 5.00 1.63
Johns Hopkins 5.00 2.58
Cornell 6.25 5.56
Denver 7.00 3.37
Duke 7.00 3.16
Notre Dame 8.00 5.60
Loyola 9.00 12.19
North Carolina 9.25 7.37
Syracuse 9.50 7.55
Virginia 11.00 5.48

In a recent LaxPower study, only Duke and Virginia have a stronger blended 10-year power rating over the Red's mark and on a three-year basis only Duke, Loyola, Maryland, and Denver stand ahead of Cornell. This is a power program; if the Big Red were assessed in a blind analysis, the discussion around what Cornell is and isn't would likely take a different tone. The dissonance between the two quotes above is reflective of the Red's odd position in what may perceive to be the national hierarchy (historic or contemporary). And this is the kicker about Cornell entering 2015 -- the program was among the 10 best in the country in 2014 and is returning a ton of assets that could propel the team higher this season.

Around 80 percent of Cornell's starts from last spring are still kicking around Ithaca, including its top five point producers from 2014 (all of which started 16 games last year). This thought still rings true about the Big Red as the team begins its 2015 campaign:

The Red aren't getting a lot of heat as a top five team in the preseason -- the USILA coaches poll slotted Cornell 10th; Face-Off Yearbook has the Red eighth; Lacrosse Magazine has Cornell 10th -- but the Big Red may have that kind of capacity in 2015: The team ranked ninth in adjusted offensive efficiency last spring, 18th in adjusted defensive efficiency, and were -- in the overall -- 10th in adjusted Pythagorean win expectation. There isn't a feel that Cornell is positioned for a static campaign following last year, and that's mostly attributable to the fact that six of the team's big returning contributors -- Matt Donovan, Dan Lintner, Connor Buczek (a legitimate Tewaaraton candidate), John Hogan, John Edmonds, Jordan Stevens, etc. -- are all upperclassmen, providing leadership and experience for a program that seemingly has a core of established contributors each and every season (the Red have 14 seniors listed on their roster). Cornell has been among the strongest programs in the nation over the last four years and is platformed to deliver serious damage to its opposition this season.