The weather outside may belie the recent arrival of spring, but the Yale men’s and women’s lacrosse teams have already competed in games with important implications for the coming Ivy League playoffs. So we at the Yale Undergraduate Sports Analytics Group have brought back the YUSAG Lacrosse Model in order to properly quantify Yale’s odds of Ivy League success.
The men’s team has again started the season strong, with two impressive wins against Cornell and Princeton. Yale currently sits tied atop the league with Harvard, which has gotten away with two close wins over the relatively weak Brown and Dartmouth.
In order to quantify the actual strength of Ivy League teams, we are using a model similar to the YUSAG model we have developed for basketball. The YUSAG lacrosse model estimates the strength of a given team by attempting to explain a team’s past scores given the strength of the opponents and home-field advantage. The weighted least-squares model produces a YUSAG coefficient for each team, which is essentially the number of points by which a team is expected to beat the average Division I lacrosse team on a neutral field. The expected score differential between two teams is then just the difference in YUSAG coefficients with an added location factor of 0.5 goals for the home team. In this case, we are also using the last five years of lacrosse data for the model, since there are too few games in a single season to produce meaningful results. However, more recent seasons are weighted more heavily.
As we see in simulations of the rest of the season, we have the Yale men’s lacrosse team ranked as the fifth best team in the nation and the favorite to win the Ivy League Tournament. Interestingly, we give Harvard, currently undefeated in conference play, only a 72 percent chance of making the end-of-season tournament. And even though Yale is almost guaranteed a trip to the Ivy Tournament, there is around a 60 percent chance that another team captures the title.
Although the road to the Ivy League title is long, Yale can further cement its regular season dominance with a win over a strong Penn team this weekend. We currently have the Bulldogs as three-goal favorites and give them a 69 percent chance of winning.
On the women’s side, Yale has gotten off to a strong start, beating both Brown and Harvard while losing to a strong Cornell team. Penn, which we have ranked eighth in the nation, remains the heavy favorite to win the Ivy League title. Yale, which has only beaten two of the worst teams in the league, will have to prove its strength against the tough teams it’s slated to play in its remaining schedule, including Penn, Princeton and Dartmouth.
Nevertheless, we give the Yale women a 36 percent chance of reaching the Ivy League Tournament — a feat they have not accomplished since the tournament’s founding in 2013. After a tough 13–8 loss to Cornell last weekend, the team has already started rebuilding, with a stunning 13–12 win over Marist on Tuesday. However, a tougher test will come this weekend, when Yale faces a strong Towson team. We have Yale as five-goal underdogs, with a roughly 20 percent chance of pulling off the upset.
Matt Robinson | firstname.lastname@example.org