This year's edition of Championship Weekend has the potential to destroy souls. The national semifinals, from an "on paper" or "I have feelings and these are those feelings" perspective, are balanced on both sides of the bracket, pitting teams of relatively equal caliber against in each other in death matches of epic human combat. This is what makes the apex of the college lacrosse season fun: Four teams thrown together in a pit where survival is potentially determined by the slimmest of margins.
Yet, the prospective champion is, according to lacrosse computing machines, likely to come out of the second semifinal game: Brown and Maryland, the highest seeded teams remaining in the tournament, have a combined 68% blended probability of capturing the gold medal. That's a pretty drastic figure, dwarfing the independent probabilities of both Loyola and North Carolina (even considering the runs that the 'Hounds and 'Heels have made in the last few weeks). Lacrosse computing machines aren't always right, but they do provide solid insight and context: Whichever team emerges out of the first semifinal is going to have to overcome an expected underdog role, even with the benefit of getting a few extra hours of leg rest prior to the Monday finale.
USEFUL LACROSSE TABLE THING
Here is a useful lacrosse computing machine table thing that reflects blended projected goal spreads for the semifinal matches, championship win probabilities and odds, and a short illustration of recent output based on the last five games played. The table thing utilizes information from LaxPower, Massey Ratings, and College Crosse's Simple Ranking System:
Click the image to embiggen.
BRIEF THOUGHTS ON THE USEFUL TABLE THING
- None of this directly considers Dylan Molloy's flat tire, and that, obviously, is something that hangs over both the blended goal spread projection for Bruno-Maryland and the Bears' overall title probabilities. Brown is still a machine without Molloy's cannon, but removing a Tewaaraton candidate from the lineup against the Terps' light-emitting defense is going to have an impact. Is Molloy worth a goal or a goal-and-a-half in a projected spread against Maryland on a neutral field? I wouldn't say that it's out of the question. These are the top two teams in the nation according to the three models examined, and operating at full capacity -- or close to it -- is pretty important (like not-admitting-creepy-habits-on-a-first-date important) when the opportunity to move closer to a national championship is on the line. This is, to me, a "Pick 'Em" with Maryland as potentially a half-goal favorite.
- There are all kinds of reasons to get excited for North Carolina-Loyola, not the least of which is that these teams are poised to set explosions all over the field with the eventual winner still claiming a small portion of United States real estate that has not been rendered uninhabitable. Saturday's opener is as good -- or better! -- than the headliner, offering a Loyola team that has been bludgeoning fools against a Carolina team that has withstood hell in its most recent contests. Neither team has particularly great odds to hoist hardware as compared to Maryland and Brown, but once you get to Memorial Monday anything can happen. The first step toward ruining the hopes of a favorite on Monday starts with eking out a victory on Semifinal Saturday against a similarly situated knucklehead.
- Maryland and Loyola are both super hot entering Championship Weekend: The Terps have outperformed their expected output to the tune of 14 goals over their last five games, finding the kind of volition that often portends a national title; Loyola, meanwhile, has also poured gasoline on a raging inferno, pounding a solid slate of opponents into the dirt when lacrosse computing machines were expecting more modest outputs. This bodes well for both teams, at least compared to North Carolina and Brown, and may be all the indicia necessary to predict an all-Maryland final at Lincoln Financial Field.
- If you care, and you shouldn't because the RPI has been proven over and over to be a poor model to predict future success compared to other systems, Maryland-Brown-Loyola is the updated 1-2-3 in the RPI with North Carolina slotted 12th. The gap between Maryland and Brown is a little bigger than the difference between Loyola and North Carolina.
- This isn't included in the table above, but for title round purposes, Maryland would be about a 1.5-goal favorite against either Loyola or Carolina. Brown would be a 3.5-goal favorite against the 'Heels and a 3-goal favorite against the 'Hounds. Again: This doesn't consider Dylan Molloy's situation.