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The Stakes: The NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Tournament Quarterfinals

It’s going to be a hell of a weekend, pals and gal pals.

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images


Using the incredible power of a lacrosse computer to analyze hundreds of college lacrosse games played in 2017, the machine that will eventually overthrow the human race in a bloody and dispassionate uprising has determined the likelihood of how the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals will shake out. An SRS model was used to form the forecast. These predictions are guaranteed to be right, unless they turn out to be smoldering garbage.


The lacrosse computing machine had a pretty solid weekend: Overall, the SRS predictions went 7-1, missing on Towson-Penn State. Forecasting a two-goal victory for the Nittany Lions (getting about a one-goal bump for home field advantage), the Tigers authored an impressive performance that yielded a four-goal final margin. Otherwise, the model — a pretty straightforward one — overachieved, hitting at 87.5% when it was only anticipated that it would go about 5-3 based on the calculated win probabilities for the first round (there were a handful of games anticipated to be in toss-up territory, which kept the expected record somewhat modest).

With respect to margin projections (spreads), the future human overlord crushed faces in an especially fortuitous avalanche of luck in tight projections: 4-0 in games expected to have a three-goal margin or greater, 3-1 in games with less than a three-goal expected margin (3-0 for games with an expected spread of less than two goals). The SRS machine — in an effort to make people mad online that a model can’t forecast human sports because reasons — had 25% of its spread projections within one goal, 62.5% within two goals, 75% within three goals, and 25% over five goals (the Hopkins brain-beating and Towson result were each on the far end of the expectation-shattering spectrum).

That’s pretty not awful (it outperformed the regular season, even with a handful of identified clunkers before the games began) and was close enough to the pin to feel like a drunken victory.


The lacrosse computing machine spit out its predictions for the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals and it’s a beautiful nightmare: Three of the four games are forecasted to have a one-goal margin or less with the most lopsided game (Duke-Ohio State) standing at just one-and-a-half buckets. To a table of information!

That’s basically three toss-up games — all of the Sunday games are within the zone of pain while Saturday’s second game should make Long Island roar — out of the quarterfinals matchups, with the most imbalanced game just outside the toss-up sweet spot. There is going to be blood this week — sweet, drenching blood — with the stakes being massive: A trip to Foxborough as a combatant or as an onlooker.

This, again, focuses on the inherent stupidity of seeding Albany as an eight-seed despite having the relative strength of a team squarely positioned among the nation’s top four teams. It’s unfair to Albany, it’s unfair to Maryland, and it offers an elevated progression probability to the national title for the rest of the bracket as one of Albany and Maryland will depart the field at the close of the weekend.

Thinking about what Championship Weekend could look like, the 16 potential groupings show that an Albany-Denver-Duke-Syracuse quartet is the most likely, registering at just over a 10% probability. Albany-Denver-Duke-Towson is the second most likely outcome, with Albany-Notre Dame-Duke-Syracuse rounding out the top three potential payoffs. The most unlikely? Maryland-Notre Dame-Ohio State-Towson, which is probably bad news for Big Ten enthusiasts that are rubbing their thighs together for “easy” semifinal games that offer an all-B1G final.