Data and analytics provide insights beyond film study. Lacrosse Reference is one of the best resources in lacrosse. Created in 2016 with the goal of bringing the analytical methods used in other sports to college lacrosse, the site focuses on finding innovative ways to compare teams and players beyond the traditional metrics of points or goals/per game.
This season we’ll partner with Lacrosse Reference to use its data to help tell stories and analyze the 2023 Division 1 Lacrosse season. Last week, we previewed the 2023 Michigan Wolverines using data from the Lacrosse Reference site. This week we’ll break down the 2023 college lacrosse strength of schedule (SOS) metric.
SOS is a metric used to determine whether or not teams make the NCAA Tournament and where they will be seeded. The NCAA calculates SOS based on the current year’s RPI. We will use this article to evaluate which teams and conferences have the most challenging college lacrosse strength of schedules and who cannot afford a bad loss during the year. As we saw in the 2022 selection process, good wins and bad losses matter. Committee chair Donna Woodruff said as much when asked about both Duke and Notre Dame being left at home.
Just talked with committee chair Donna Woodruff about how the final at-large teams were selected.
Long story short: Duke’s losses to teams outside the top 20 (Jacksonville, Loyola, Syracuse) knocked them out, and Duke getting discounted damaged Notre Dame.
Her explanation: pic.twitter.com/vBo4PBcYFe
— Patrick Stevens (@D1scourse) May 9, 2022
We can and will save the debate for the criteria that the NCAA selection committee should use for analysis in April and May. Let’s get started by looking at the 2023 season.
Top 10 Toughest Schedules
|1. Johns Hopkins||6. Maryland|
|2. Notre Dame||7. Syracuse|
|3. Penn||8. Virginia|
|4. Princeton||9. Ohio State|
|5. Duke||10. Penn State|
The Big Ten and ACC are tied with four teams apiece ranked in the top ten SOS. The Jays are 2-1 this season with strong wins over Jacksonville and Georgetown. This season the Jays face Virginia (8) and Delaware (14) at home along with Syracuse (7) and Loyola (15) on the road in their non-conference slate.
The Irish will kick off their season this week against Marquette. Irish Head Coach Kevin Corrigan will play 13 games this season instead of their usual 12. The extra game provides an additional data point for the committee in their considerations. The Irish will face Maryland (6), Michigan (12), and Georgetown (19) on the road and Ohio State (9) at home in their non-conference schedule.
Penn and the rest of the Ivy League get started this weekend. The Quakers welcome back Sam Handley and Dylan Gergar to build off last year’s quarterfinal run. Penn opens the season this weekend at Georgetown (19) and then hosts Duke (5) the following weekend.
Thin Margin for Error
Eighteen teams will compete in May to win the national championship. Nine conference tournament winners will automatically qualify (AQ) to compete in the tournament. The ACC is the only non-AQ D1 conference because they do not have a minimum of six teams in their league.
Last year there were ten AQ conferences and eight large bids. The Ivy League took five of the at-large spots, followed by the Big Ten with two, and the ACC with one. Duke had the lowest SOS of a team left out of the tournament at 14. Rutgers had the highest SOS rating of a team that made the tournament at 21. Sorry, Anish, Notre Dame’s SOS was 23.
Leaving @NDlacrosse out of the tournament is an absolute joke. Complete joke. One of the worst decisions the selection committee has made.
Clearly – watching games is not necessary to be on the committee.
— Anish Shroff (@AnishESPN) May 9, 2022
Looking ahead to 2023, here are the teams with schedules ranked 13 or higher that could find themselves on the outside looking in if they do not win their conference tournament, lack quality wins, or have multiple bad losses.
|Team||Conference||2023 SOS Ranking|
|St. Joseph’s||Atlantic 10||36|
The Ivy League is clustered in the 13-18 range again. The league benefited from the best non-conference record in the nation in 2022 to earn its six spots. They will move from the hunter to the hunted in 2023 and a similar mark should get at least four or five schools in the tournament again. The conference schedule will be a weekly challenge, heightening the importance of a strong non-conference record and no bad losses. The top three teams in 2022 had 4-2 records and teams four through six had 3-3 records. No doubt that 2023 will be no less intense.
Georgetown and Rutgers are in similar spots. They both have talented rosters and may be left in a similar position to Duke or Notre Dame last year if they falter in their respective conference tournaments or suffer bad losses. Rutgers has struggled to compete with Maryland. Ohio State, Michigan, and Johns Hopkins all appear formidable and stand in the Scarlet Knight’s way. Georgetown was upset in Week 1 at Homewood Field. The team is seemingly too talented to have 3+ goal leads slip away multiple times, especially with Denver and Villanova lurking in the conference.
At-large spots do not seem likely to come outside of the Ivy League, Big Ten, or Big East. Boston, Vermont, and St. Joseph’s all rode strong 2022 seasons into securing tournament bids. They will have to continue to be just as strong in 2023, with no team really even cracking the Top 25 in SOS. Vermont and BU squared off this weekend in a closely contested game that saw the Catamounts down the Terriers. It serves as an important lesson in 2023 as the season kicks into high gear. You can leave nothing to chance in college lacrosse and need to win so strength of schedule doesn’t even matter in the end.