As promised last week, here's a link to where I'll be freelancing some lacrosse bracket projections for the next few weeks. It's over at Lacrosse Magazine, where this week's version was posted yesterday morning.
(Also over there is a look at Saturday's Hopkins-Maryland game, in case you're interested).
One of the things that wasn't delved into there --- but is worth mentioning --- is the perception of how this is a wild, unpredictable year in college lacrosse. And frankly, that's overstating things a bit.
There is something different this year, and that's the complete absence of a dominant team. Everybody in Division I has at least two losses, and all but six teams (Cornell, Denver, Marist, Maryland, Notre Dame and Syracuse) have at least three.
There are good teams, for sure, but even the likes of Denver (great offense, vulnerable defense) and Notre Dame (stellar defense with a history of ill-timed quiet offensive days over the years) are from from invincible.
But guess what isn't wacky? The record of contenders against everybody else.
The top 20 teams in the RPI are 114-10 against teams outside the top 20, a winning percentage of .919.
The top 20 teams in the RPI are 93-5 against teams outside the top 25, a winning percentage of .945.
Just for fun, here are the five losses for top-20 RPI teams against opponents outside the top 25, with score and date included:
(33) @Dartmouth def. (18) Princeton, 10-9 (April 13)
(34) Air Force def. (17) Lehigh, 15-10 (Feb. 24)
(36) Georgetown def. (19) @St. John's, 14-13, OT (April 6)
(44) Stony Brook def. (19) @St. John's, 11-7 (Feb. 26)
(49) @Mount St. Mary's def. (13) Bucknell, 12-11 (Feb. 17)
So since the start of March, top-20 teams have lost twice to teams outside the top 25, both by a goal. Doesn't seem so wild, does it?
What the last two months and change have demonstrated is there isn't a massive gap between No. 1 and about No. 20. Accepting what seems to be rather obvious --- or some variation on that; say, the divide between first and 15th rather than the separation between first and 20th --- makes it a whole lot easier to put everything into context.
The parity that's been discussed for many years now has settled in this year, in part because the teams in the 15th-to-20th neighborhood continue to get better but largely because the top two or three just aren't as imposing as many years. But without mediocre (and worse) teams springing many surprises, it's hard to justify calling this spring nearly as chaotic as a lot of folks seems to think.
--- Patrick Stevens