When adults rank the efforts and achievements of young people, it can be distasteful, especially if the effort is overtly commercial or scientifically flawed. The ranking of division 1 college lacrosse teams 1 by 1 to 20 or 25, correctly, by very busy coaches and membes of the press is simply not feasible. Most of the games will not be seen on TV or tape by most of the judges in each poll and therefore, lots of guessing is done. Many who vote in these polls have told me in the past that the bottom 5 isn't all that important and it's too hard to get right. I used to vote in the media poll and got out after receiving far too many personal complaints from parents and coaches of the ranked-20 somethings each year.
The E-Lacrosse Four R's Ranking system takes the guesswork out of the process, grouping teams in a "range" with similar quality teams - too similar, in fact, to make any further distinction responsibly. The ranges in the our Rankings are different each week but are not random. They are determined by mathematical "breaks" or distinctive "fall off" points in quality like those on a grading curve in school. For example, in this week's rankings a range was set of 1-3 and the teams were Maryland, Johns Hopkins and Duke. We feel that there is no way to really determine, at this point, which of these teams is the best in the nation but we have a great certainty that one of them is.
The order within a range is indicative of the way we are leaning and which direction from the range we feel a team may be heading, but only the ranges count, officially. Using this week's ranking as an example again, we are leaning toward Maryland as the number one team and Hopkins as the number two and Duke would be, in our leanings, most likely to dip out of the range, just as we lean toward Cornell as the most likely team to move up from the 4-8 group.
The RRRRankings are accessible to deserving teams scrambling to prove themselves before they get "marked" as a bad team, getting no votes at all, even in the "also got votes" area below the polls. That describes two thirds of the Division 1 teams, though, half of which legitimately deserve to be considered for the top 25 at some point in every season.
Pre-Season Polls are as corrupting as they are absurd. Before any whistle is blown, journalists state, in public, who they think is the best and the worst and their "picks" become a natural personal barometer of their lacrosse acumen biasing their voting and even reporting all season long. These Pre-Season Polls establish a prejudice which is universally applied throughout the year while voting. Worse yet, polls tacked to those early and uninformed opinions of the general press and voting coaches usually end up being the basis for entry to the NCAA, especially for the "bubble teams" and a few each year that never even reach "bubble" status.
Under the current regime, after only a week of the season, even before the season began, some teams were ranked out of any post season contention. If you looked at the Pre-Season Polls from each year and the teams that made it in, especially along that "bubble" they tend to predict the entrants to the tournament. Some would say that means the press keeps getting it right. But these self-fulfilling prophecies keep the game small and are the source of never ending frustration for followers of teams ranked in our 20-25 range.
You will notice that the range ending in the number 25, in this case 20-25, has way too many teams to fit. That's because, at any given time, the last 5 spots in a top 25 could be filled with as many as 15 teams. Wildly guessing or just going with the names you better recognize is wrong, but it is done all the time. Most voters in the polls have never seen one of the teams in this range play before they vote. How reliable is that?
People will want to say that we are ranking Maryland number one, but they simply "lead the range" in our new terminology. If you need to get all linear on us you can say that the Terps are tied with Hopkins and Duke for the number 1 slot and five teams are tied for 4th. Inside the ranges, the order of appearance is just a notion, while the hard breaks between ranges we feel strongly about. This week, we obviously felt that there was enough of a difference in quality between Duke, or any team in the 1st range, and Cornell, or any team in the 2nd range to put the break between them.
In the media poll, participants are forced to draw distinctions between teams that we would put in a logical range. Voters end up guessing when there is not specific comparative data. I remember what it's like to vote in those things. It feels good to make no significant changes to last week's submissions as a voter. It's vindicating, even affirming. We've had very few #1 teams over the last 20 years in lacrosse. Affirmation abounds.
It's just human nature to feel loyal to your first instinct. That's why we only utilize instinct and biases in the second part of the RRRRanking process, ordering the teams within the range. The ranges are typically apparent to anyone mathematically inclined. We're only using relative data and the opinions which the data evoke. And we don't consider a team's previous poll position to be pertinent data. Duh.
It may be harder to sell "ranges" to sponsors. We'll see. Our goal is a bit loftier as we aspire to be a ranking authority that is more accurate and less arrogant. Our methods are more inclusive and less invasive. Hopefully our results will be more equitable and less self-serving.
We hope you enjoy the RRRRankings. Let us know what you think!
Air Force 0-0, next Providence, @ Army, Penn, Brown, @ Maryland, Notre Dame, Presbyterian, @ Ohio State, Bellarmine, Quinnipiac, @ Yale, Denver GWLL
Vermont 0-1, loss to Duke 7-19, next @ Virginia, @ Sienna, @ Dartmouth, @ Colgate, @ Penn State, Bellarmine, @ Brown, @ Hartford, Fairfield, @ Stony Brook, @ Marist, Binghampton, @ Albany, @ Holy Cross, UMBC, AEC
Bellarmine 1-1, VMI 8-5, loss to UNC 2-15, next Rbt Morris, St. Joe's, Manhattan, @ Presbyterian, Wagner, @ Vermont, Notre Dame, @ Ohio St., @ Air Force, @ Denver, @ Lafayette, @ Quinnipiac
Marist 0-1, loss to Delaware 6-12, next Binghampton, Quinnipiac, @ VMI, @ UNC, St. Joe's, Stony Brook, @ Manhattan, Lafayette, @ Canisius, Vermont, Holy Cross, Providence, Mt St Mary's, @ Siena, Wagner, MAAC
Robert Morris 2-2, Seton Hill 16-2, Wagner 10-2, losses to Penn State 2-18, Manhattan 9-10, next @ Bellarmine, Presbyterian, VMI, Ohio State, @ Sacred Heart, Towson, @ Drexel, Canisius, Villanova, @ Delaware, Hofstra
St. John's 0-1, loss to Holy Cross 5-7, next @ Quinnipiac, @ Georgetown, @ Drexel, Loyola, @ Lehigh, Siena, @ Rutgers, UMass, Penn State, @ Hobart, Fairfield, @ Duke
Canisius 0-1, loss to Princeton 6-13, next Colgate, @ Cornell, @ Mt. St. Mary's, Manhattan, @ St. Joes, Marist, @ Rbt Morris, @ Wagner, Siena, @ VMI, Hobart, Providence, MAAC
Manhattan 1-0, Robt Morris 10-9, next Quinnipiac, @ Sacred Heart, @ Bellarmine, @ Providence, @ Canisius, Marist, Rutgers, Villanova, Mt. St. Mary's, Wagner, @ Siena, St. Joes, VMI, MAAC
Virginia Military Institute 0-3, losses to Navy 2-10, Army 3-16, Bellarmine 5-8, next Presbyterian, @ UVa, @ Rbt Morris, Marist, @ Providence, Wagner, St. Joe's, @ Siena, Canisius, Mt. St. Mary's, Manhattan
Presbyterian 0-3, losses to Limestone 5-12, Mars Hill 13-15, Siena 3-19, next @ Sacred Heart, @ VMI, @ Rbt Morris, @ Duke, @ Bellarmine, Dartmouth, @ Hobart, @ Denver, @ Air Force