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2015 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament: Semifinals Win, Good Times Probabilities

Turning on the lacrosse computing machine to set the stage for this coming weekend's Final Four.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Championship Weekend field is complete: One side of the bracket features Denver and Notre Dame throwing hands in a epic struggle of western -- at least in the context of the lacrosse universe -- might while the other side of the bracket will pit Maryland and Johns Hopkins in a renewal of one of college lacrosse's fiercest rivalries. Regardless of one's particular perception of these teams, the NCAA Tournament has ultimately created a semifinal round of ridiculously balanced games, the opener and finale of Semifinal Saturday each offering competitively equitable terms. These are the good times, people.

Here's how computing machines see things shaking out.

The Computing Machine Favors . . .

I, once again, assembled different sets of probabilities: Brian Coughlin's probabilities for Inside Lacrosse, these probabilities based on an efficiency model; the Massey Ratings' probabilities based on the site's prediction model; a probability determined by running the Massey Ratings' power ratings through a Bradley-Terry model; and the Massey Ratings' matchup probability. Here's the scary thing: Every single method produced results consistent with toss-up games in the semifinal round:

WIN PROBABILITIES: 2015 NCAA TOURNAMENT SEMIFINALS
GAME COUGHLIN MASSEY (POWER) MASSEY (MATCHUP) MASSEY (PREDICTION)
(4) Denver // (1) Notre Dame 51.5% // 48.5% 50.5% // 49.5% 52% // 48% (11.80-11.58) 49% // 51% (10-11)
Johns Hopkins // (6) Maryland 47.8% // 52.2% 50.8% // 49.2% 53% // 47% (10.43-10.15) 51% // 49% (10-9)

Some brief notes:

  • In terms of winning the national championship, the following probabilities were assigned under three of the four models (the Massey Ratings' prediction model isn't available for this analysis):
    WIN PROBABILITIES: 2015 NCAA TOURNAMENT TITLE
    TEAM COUGHLIN MASSEY (POWER) MASSEY (MATCHUP)
    (1) Notre Dame 27.3% 25.5% 26.1%
    (4) Denver 29.7% 26.2% 29.3%
    (6) Maryland 22.8% 23.6% 20.2%
    Johns Hopkins 20.1% 24.7% 24.4%
    Assigning odds against to these probabilities, Notre Dame is slightly better than 3:1, Denver is around 7:3; Maryland is a bit stronger than 4:1, and Johns Hopkins is somewhere between 3:1 and 4:1. There just isn't a heavy favorite in this thing, the championship game permutations almost as tight as the actual games that will go off in the semifinals (although, the top half of the bracket is favored -- if that's even a fair way to assess the odds and probabilities -- against the bottom half of the bracket). What Championship Weekend lacks pace across the board it makes up for in highly anticipated and equivalent matchups.
  • If you feel good about your team's chances this weekend, you're not an insane person. Don't take any shit from anybody regarding your feelings about your team's prospects for taking a victory lap on Memorial Monday -- the math is the only ammunition you need, kemosabe.

The Computing Machine Likes . . .

There are only two reasons for not involving lacrosse in your weekend plans:

  • The robot apocalypse has started, rendering lacrosse meaningless as we attempt to beat back the uprising from our pissed off kitchen appliances; or
  • You're busy planning the robot apocalypse in order to get revenge on your high school crush that wouldn't give you the time of day 15 years ago ("How do you like me now, Donna?!").
Of the two semifinal games, though, Denver-Notre Dame has more potential to make rainbows shoot out of your eyes than Johns Hopkins-Maryland:

FUN FACTOR: 2015 NCAA LACROSSE TOURNAMENT SEMIFINALS
RANK GAME FUN FACTOR RANK GAME FUN FACTOR
1. (4) Denver v. (1) Notre Dame 6.43 2. Johns Hopkins v. (6) Maryland 4.19

Some brief notes:

  • Watch both of these games, jerk.
  • The Fun Factor ratings are eerily similar to the ratings assigned in 2014. In the opening game of last spring's Final Four, Denver-Duke registered a 6.57 and Maryland-Notre Dame pulled a 4.26. There are consistencies in the scores: A strong Denver team will once again face an elite pace-positive opponent with both teams featuring explosive offenses; a solid Maryland team will square off against a notable pace-neutral team with the Terps' overall style impacting the fashionableness of the game. There's more heat on Pioneers-Notre Dame than Jays-Terps, even if the qualitative aspects of each game are comparable.
  • For what it's worth, Johns Hopkins-Notre Dame would provide the most enjoyable championship game according to the Fun Factor. Johns Hopkins-Denver would slot in behind Jays-Irish and Maryland-Notre Dame and Maryland-Denver would bring up the rear (in that order). The storylines attendant in the trials are similar regardless of the finals matchups -- East versus West! No titles versus Titles! -- but television -- that stupid thing that dominates our lives and controls, to a degree, our consumption of the highest level of college lacrosse -- would probably like to see a Johns Hopkins-Notre Dame final given the relative entertainment it would provide compared to other potential clashes.