The NCAA revealed the 2018 Division I men’s lacrosse championship bracket on Sunday night and 17 teams will fight their way toward Gillette Stadium for an opportunity to take a victory lap on Memorial Monday. Maryland headlines the field as the top overall seed with traditional powers dotting the eight seeded positions. There are a number of interesting matchups and possibilities throughout the bracket, but the big question, at least before the tournament fires itself off the launchpad, is which teams have the greatest chance to earn gold at the end of this 16-game fist fight.
To provide some insight into the potential energy within the bracket, I ran two simulations, each 20,000 times, using the Massey Ratings and a Simple Ratings System model to determine progression and title probabilities. (Note: These aren’t the only two models worth examining as part of a bracket analysis. Inside Lacrosse will likely publish, in some form, a probability analysis adopting efficiency models. In order to provide some color to the mountain of knowledge that is to ooze from every internet destination over the next few days, I tried not to duplicate what you may see elsewhere.) Each simulation includes a home field advantage criterion for the play-in games and first round pairings (semi-home field advantages were not applied for the quarterfinals or thereafter). After running the simulations and determining round-by-round progression likelihoods, odds against for capturing the title were assessed (with some light rounding).
Here are the results of the model simulations:
(Click here for better resolution. Important notes are included in the image.)
Some brief takeaways:
- Blending the models, the champion is likely to come out of a pool of six teams: Albany, Yale, Duke, Loyola, Cornell, and Maryland. (There’s about a 76% chance that the winner is in that six-pack of teams.) There is tiering within that pool, though, with Albany, Yale, Duke, and Loyola having very similar odds — at least on a blended basis — and Maryland and Cornell looking a cut below. Regardless, this is a pretty open bracket, at least in terms of the number of teams with a reasonable expectation for a championship celebration, and that should allow for an exciting three weeks.
- Progression in the tournament isn’t built exclusively on the relative strength of a team. Rather, the likelihood of progression is often influenced in important ways by the path a team must cross to approach the title. It’s also important to remember that the seeding approach that the NCAA adopts has very little to do with assessing relative strength, which is why underseeded teams in these models — which are based on assessing relative strength — show stronger in title odds than their peers positioned more prominently in the bracket.
- Syracuse will enter its date with Cornell as an underdog with somewhere around a 37% win probability against the Red. That’s far and away the worst mark among seeded teams (the next closest value is Notre Dame at around 54%, stuck in a toss-up game against Denver). Due to Syracuse’s relative strength and the road in front of the Orange, 11 teams have better odds than Syracuse to advance to the Final Four. The Orange can thank the NCAA for the first round home game, but it may not mean much to Syracuse in a macro sense.
- The most likely constitution of Championship Weekend: (1) Maryland, (2) Albany, (3) Yale, and (4) Duke. That’s chalky, but there are threats: (6) Loyola is tight to Yale and stands in a good position to displace the Elis; (U) Cornell has essentially the same odds as the Terps; and (7) Johns Hopkins is close enough to Duke to make the Devils sweat (especially with a potential meeting in Annapolis). Only Albany looks fairly firm based on the Danes’ path, but Albany is obviously dealing with an odd Connor Fields situation, so who knows? There’s only about a 5% chance that the Final Four is populated with the top four seeds, so chaos — or at least relative chaos — is possible.
- Robert Morris is no joke. Bobby Mo doesn’t have the depth of strength to legitimately contest for a beserk run, but pushing Canisius out of the building and giving Maryland a scare isn’t out of the question.
What do you guys think? How does this deal unfold? Anything you’re especially excited to see or not see?