Tuesday, May 7, 2013

On Top Five Wins

Before the NCAA men's lacrosse pairings were announced, TigerBlog's pick for the national championship game would have been Denver and North Carolina.

Now that the field of 16 is out there, those two would meet in the quarterfinals next weekend in Indianapolis should they get out of the first round, something that is not a given for either, especially Denver, who has to play high-flying Albany and the amazing Thompsons. Carolina, TB's pick to win it all, has to get through Lehigh in Round .

Don't be shocked to see close to 40 goals in the game between Denver and Albany and then again a week later if the winner plays North Carolina.


The Tigers aren't playing anyway in 2013, which is a shame, because there's not a team in the country that Princeton cannot beat, only there won't be the opportunity to prove it. Still, now that the season is over, the Tigers can't really blame anyone but themselves, which doesn't make it any easier.

The Tigers played for an automatic bid Sunday and fell to Yale. Princeton lost six games in 2013, of which four were by one goal.  The Tigers had fourth quarter leads in all four, including a lead and the ball at North Carolina with just over a minute to go, before losing 16-15.

If Princeton had to pick the one game to win that it lost, TB would suggest that Carolina game, which would have given the team a Top 5 win to go along with its two Top 10 wins (Yale and Cornell) and quite possibly would have made all the difference.

 TigerBlog understands why Princeton is not in the NCAA tournament. It's how it is with the current selection criteria.

That's where TB finds fault, and this is not at sour grapes because Princeton didn't get in.

The last at-large bid went to Loyola. Why? Because Loyola had a top five RPI win.

Who was it against? Ohio State. On March 30.

The loss dropped Ohio State to 1-2 in the league at the time. The Buckeyes were ranked 16th that week (not in RPI but in the polls).

So how is that a top five win? Because Ohio State went on to win the ECAC tournament, beating Denver in the final. The Buckeyes moved all the way up to the third seed in the NCAA tournament, as a matter of fact.

And so Loyola has a top five win, which equated to an NCAA tournament at-large bid. By virtue of beating the No. 16 team in the country. In March.

Oh, and that's the same Ohio State that just beat Loyola 18-11 last Thursday in the ECAC semifinals. Does that matter? Nope.

TB doesn't really understand how all the math works, but it's possible that had Loyola beaten Ohio State and then lost in the final to Denver, then the Buckeyes wouldn't have been in the top five and Loyola wouldn't have had a top five win. In other words, losing to Ohio State last Thursday might have been the best thing Loyola could have done.

The criteria differentiates between wins over 1-5, 6-10 and 11-20. The difference between beating the fifth team and sixth team in the country is enormous, as is beating 10 rather than 11. It also doesn't matter if it's by one goal or 100 goals. A win is a win. A loss is a loss. Doesn't matter when, where or by how much. Or in what conditions. Or who might or might not have played.

And it wouldn't have been Princeton who got in the tournament had Loyola not made it. No, that would have been Bucknell. How did the Bison not get in?

Well, their big win was over Cornell, whose RPI last week was in the top five, before Princeton beat Cornell last week in the Ivy tournament, knocking Cornell's RPI down to the 6-10 range and knocking Bucknell out.

Cornell was ranked second when it played Bucknell, as opposed to 16th.

Of course, because teams don't play the same number of games as teams do in hockey and basketball, the sample size is much smaller.

There's also the little problem of deciding which team to play year to year. Last year, Colgate and Lehigh were top 10 teams. This year it's Ohio State and Penn State.

Should Princeton have dropped Hopkins and Hofstra to play Ohio State and Penn State? What if the Tigers do that for next year? Where's the guarantee that those games will be as significant?

TB understands the selection criteria. He doesn't like it.

The members of the committee should pick the teams that they think are best, not rely solely on numbers. They should have the courage to stand up and say "we as a committee think Loyola is better than Bucknell," not "Loyola has a top five win" when Loyola's top five win was against the No. 16 team in the country.

If not, why have a committee?

As for Princeton, the Tigers are loaded for 2014, and the disappointing end to this year would figure to drive the team in the off-season and into next year.

Also, Princeton does have the memory of Friday's 14-13 overtime win against Cornell, in what was one of the all-time great lacrosse games TB has ever seen and which featured what might have been the single greatest fourth quarter and overtime ever played.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, that was the highlight of the year. The NCAA tournament goes on without them.

TigerBlog is rooting for Denver to win it all, but he has to stick with North Carolina, the team he's said all year is the best one he's seen, though Syracuse is playing really well now.

How about a Final Four of North Carolina, Syracuse, Cornell and Duke.

Yeah, TB will go with them. And Carolina over Duke in the final.

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