Finally, everyone has announced their schedules. And thankfully, IL has uploaded them to their team pages. Now we can get back to the fun stuff. And of course, if you’ve read any of Lacrosse Reference, you know that fun stuff means: using our Lax-ELO ratings to evaluate the strength of schedule for each D1 lacrosse team.
Starting off with the basics
The premise/process here, was very simple. I grabbed all the games that were listed on the IL site for each team. I then looked up our final ELO ratings for the 2017 season. From there, we averaged the ELO ratings for the entire schedule. That gives us a list of all the (full) D1 teams, along with the average ELO rating of their 2018 opponents. Below is a table that shows the top 10 schedules (the full table is below in the appendix).
|Team||Avg. Opp ELO|
Who is up for a challenge?
It’s one thing for a team to have a schedule full of world-beaters. It’s quite another when the team itself is not in that same echelon. Certainly, a not-insignificant chunk of a teams games are determined by conference affiliations. But teams aren’t restricted in their non-conference schedule like they are in say football where two thirds of a team’s games are pre-determined.
|Mount St Marys||-217|
That means that a coaching staff has some discretion in the difficulty of their schedule. You like to see a team like St. Johns, who will play several above average teams in their non-conference slate (Rutgers, UNC, Hofstra, Stony Brook). As a result, the gap between their own ELO rating and their opponents is the largest in all of D1. If you believe that improvement comes from going up against better competition, then you have to like how the St. Johns’ coaching staff is thinking.
Sticking to the Bunny Hill
The flip side of this equation is when a team’s schedule doesn’t seem to represent much of a challenge. Again, part of this comes down to conference affiliation. Some teams are going to have a more lackluster-looking schedule because of who they have to play. And of course, a high positive gap can also come from a team’s high ELO rating (see Maryland and Albany).
We will have to see how the season unfolds, but it will be interesting to see if there are any rumblings about the softness of these teams’ schedules when it comes time to seed everyone in May.
Looking at Schedule Skew
One last interesting way to look at a team’s schedule is the degree to which it is skewed in one direction or another. Statistically, skew is measured by evaluating the shape of a distribution. In our case, we can apply that to look at the number of teams on a given schedule the fall into each range of ELO ratings.
A schedule with more teams in the higher ELO ranges would be skewed to the top end. This would mean that the stronger teams on the schedule are better than the weaker teams are bad. Put it all together and a schedule that skews toward the top end would be considered more challenging.
In the table above, we can see that Towson has the most top-heavy schedule this year. And looking at their schedule, it makes sense, with games against Duke, Denver, Ohio State and Loyola.
Perhaps Shawn Nadelen is setting us up again for a somewhat underrated Tigers team that unleashes on the tournament field come May. They could come out of this gauntlet with 4 losses and be among the best teams in the country.
The other end of the spectrum is UVA. They will get some tough games from conference play (Duke & Syracuse) as well as a stiff test against an in-state rival (Richmond). But their schedule skews to the bottom end because of games against Manhattan (ELO: 1031), VMI (ELO: 1052), Dartmouth (ELO: 1114), and Bellarmine (ELO: 1222). Every one of those 4 teams is rated lower than the worst team on Towson’s schedule (Mount St Mary’s).
If the Cavalier’s woes have come from a lack of confidence, this may be the kind of schedule they need to get off to a strong start. On the other hand, trial-by-fire enthusiasts won’t be too happy with the schedule that the team has laid out for themselves.
Here is the strength of schedule for every D1 Men’s team, as measured by the average ELO rating of their opponents at the beginning of the season.
Here is the “easy-factor” for every D1 Men’s team, as measured by the team’s own ELO rating minus the average ELO rating of their opponents at the beginning of the season.
|Hobart and William||3|
|Mount St Marys||-217|