I’m not sure that most people realize what a golden age we are living in. In the 8 days spanning last Saturday (3/10) through this coming Saturday (3/17), we will have been treated to 2 of the greatest college lacrosse games in recent memory. The odds of two such games happening so close together is a bit mind-boggling.
A 1-in-146 occurrence
Whether you are an avid or casual college lacrosse fan, you may have heard that Vermont and Albany will be getting together this weekend. Early season America East game? Sure. Great Danes are favored? Yes. I will be glad I’m not sitting outside watching it? Check.
On the surface, this looks like many other Vermont/Albany clashes. But it’s not. This one is special.
Since 2013, there have only been 19 games that happened after February and featured two teams with undefeated records. That is a miniscule .683% of all games played. (Put another way, that is one out of every 146 games).
In fact, last Saturday’s Albany/Maryland game was the latest occuring game between two undefeated teams in the last 6 seasons. But this Vermont/Albany matchup is not just one of (soon to be) 20 matchups of undefeated teams; it’s arguably the greatest such match up of all time.
In terms of combined team ELO ratings, only last week’s Terps/Great Danes game eclipses it. In terms of combined wins between the undefeated teams, no other game is more impressive. And as we mentioned, it’s the latest such game that we could find in our data. So as you take in another college lacrosse Saturday, take a minute to savor the oddity that is Vermont vs Albany.
(If any statisticians (which I am certainly not) want to calculate the odds of 2 such games occurring within 8 days of each other, I’d love to update this post with your explanations.)
You thought we were done
Ok, now that we’ve waxed poetic, let’s dig into these 19 games a bit more. There are several things that have to happen for one of these games to materialize. Namely, you need to be good and you need an opponent that is scheduled later in the season to be good as well. So it’s not as if teams that haven’t played in these games are at fault or anything; it’s just that the right circumstances never came together.
Still, it seems that the bluer a program’s blood is, the greater the chance that they’ll have been a part of one.
Maryland leads the way with 4 instances (two of them this year), Notre Dame is alone in second with 3. There are 6 teams that have appeared in two undefeated games and another 19 that have done it once.
This year could be special
Saturday will be the 5th undefeated game we’ve seen this season already. That makes it the most prestigious season since at least 2013. Granted, every single undefeated game we’ve ever seen occurred prior to April, so it’s not as if you should extrapolate 2018’s pace out to a full season. But still, this is shaping up to be an all-time season for top matchups.
|Year||# of Undefeated Games|
Additionally, this year is on track to not only lead in number of undefeated games, but the quality of the teams involved is also poised to set a new high. Excluding the upcoming Vermont/Albany game (which will push up the average), the combined ELO rating of the teams involved in this year’s 4 undefeated games was 3,384, just barely eclipsing the 2017 mark.
|Year||Avg Combined ELO Rating|
But if you look further down the chart, you can see that these two years are head and shoulders above the others. It is worth noting that this is partly because of the relatively infancy of our ELO ratings. We started every team at 1500 (the average rating) in 2013, which means that the consistently good programs started with a lower ELO that year than they would have if we had 20 years of games to calculate ELO ratings from. So take this one with a grain of salt.