Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How Rankings Mean Nothing, Unless We're In Them

A year ago, when Princeton had nine of the top 100 incoming freshman in the Inside Lacrosse "Power 100," TigerBlog viewed the list as a shrewd analysis of young talent. This year, when Princeton is not ranked in the Top 10 for recruiting classes by Inside Lacrosse, TigerBlog sees the list for it is, a hit-or-miss look at unknown commodities who won't be able to be judged for two or three years, or maybe even four.

In other words, what you think of any rankings like these depends on where you are in the rankings.

Princeton's freshman class of a year ago produced two All-Americas (G Tyler Fiorito and D Chad Wiedmaier) and a third player, longstick midfielder John Cunningham, who would have been an All-America had it not been for 1) an injury that cost him half the year, 2) the presence of an All-America in front of him and 3) his position, which doesn't lend itself to All-America recognition.

The other six players in the top 100 of the rankings (eight of the nine were ranked in the top 47 of the list) saw limited playing time, either due to injuries of their own or experienced players already ahead of them. Most of those players will get the first real shot at making an impact this season.

As for the current incoming class, it includes three of the top 58 (No. 14, No. 50 and No. 58), yet former coach Bill Tierney was happy with the players coming in as the class was put together. Also, it's impossible to judge this year's class without factoring in Mike Chanenchuk, who deferred last year after suffering a back injury. Chanenchuk, who will be a freshman this fall, was No. 19 on last year's top 100.

For that matter, you have to factor in the mix of incoming players with sophomores who will be looking to make an impact when you consider Princeton's young talent. Then you have to figure out who is back and who graduated and how the team will mix.

Then you have to factor in every other team and all of the same factors they're dealing with before considering the impact that a freshman class will have this year and beyond.

As an aside, TigerBlog read with interest the lists of the Top 50 high school seniors and high school juniors and wonders have many of those will turn out in five or six or even seven years to be dominant players. In many ways, it's like the NFL draft, where everybody looks great on the board, but how many will develop? It's actually tougher to predict for juniors down, because so many factors come into play (Did they peak early? Do they have the mental toughness necessary for Division I?).

Anyway, one of the more interesting parts of the list were the hometowns. IL ranked the top incoming freshmen by positions (goalie, defense, midfield, attack), and TB didn't have to look any further to see how far the game is spreading.

The top 10 goalies included one from Arizona and one from Florida. The top 10 defensemen included one from Ohio and one from Texas. The No. 10 midfielder is from Washington (state, not D.C.); the No. 11 middie is from Colorado. The attack list features two from California and one from Ohio.

John Cornell, TigerBlog HQ emeritus (TB wishes him luck in his new position as Director of Marketing at the College of Coastal Georgia), used to say that everyone who wants to see lacrosse spread isn't going to be wishing they had when the Final Four is UCLA, Texas, Florida State and LSU.

While Division I lacrosse hasn't yet expanded throughout the country, largely due to money and Title IX issues, women's lacrosse has started to progress slowly. Northwestern, a program that didn't exist that long ago, has won five straight NCAA titles.

Into that mix steps Florida, which starts its first Division I season this spring. Florida happened to grab nine of the top 60 spots in the women's rankings.

Again, these rankings are great for conversation, and they do show some interesting ideas about where the game is headed.

As far as predicting future success, TigerBlog feels last year's rankings were much better.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A wise Princeton alumnus often says, "The only poll rankings that matter are the ones that are issued at the end of the season, AFTER the championship games have been played." (Same person doesn't give a damn about football or BCS games)

Pre-season polls are simply the province of armchair speculators. Much better to be ranked highly at the conclusion of the season, by proving you can win.