Friday, September 23, 2011

WSL ranks Top Club Teams in the West - II

"You're entitled to your own opinions, but you aren't entitled to your own facts."

A week or so ago, I commented on the WestSideLax rankings of the top Club Teams in the Western United States. At that time, they had counted down the teams from #10 to #4. While, in my opinion, they ranked the Golden State Titans too low, they're entitled to their own opinions.

They continued their countdown over the next week, ranking the Orange County Kings #3, the Alcatraz Outlaws #2, and the San DIego Lax Dawgs #1. You can see their complete rankings here. All I can say is, they're entitled to their own opinions, but they aren't entitled to their own facts.

West SideLax specifies the criteria they use in their rankings. Here they are:

• Summer 2011 wins
• Coaches feedback
• Strength of schedule
• College commitments
• Observed performance

Let's examine each of these metrics:

Summer Wins reads to me as, "Who did you defeat," rather than "How many wins did you have." By that definition, wins in strong tournaments matter. So, which tournaments are strong? On the National circuit, top college coaches rank them as follows: Brine Shootout, Champ Camp, Tri-State, King of the Hill, Gait Cup, and Hotbeds. Teams that vie for victories in these tournaments are testing themselves against a very strong pool of nationally ranked Club teams. Only two of the WestSideLax contenders elected to compete in the top National Circuit tourneys. They were the Golden State Titans and the Alcatraz Outlaws.

Coaches Feedback could mean High School Coaches, College Coaches, or a mix of the two. Heck, it could even mean Youth Lacrosse coaches, since they aren't specific. I'll assume that they mean College Coaches, since if they meant anything else, there is no way that Western teams who competed only on the East Coast could be evaluated. If this is true, the best measure of feedback from college coaches is who they recruit.

Strength of Schedule is just that. If your club team didn't compete in the top East Coast tourneys, your team did not have a strong schedule. Period.

College Commitments are redundant with any reasonable definition of Coaches feedback. One or the other needs to be dumped.

Observed performance is another ill-defined metric. Who's doing the observing? WSL? HS coaches, or College Coaches? It matters. Here's why: If the Alcatraz Outlaws - who played only on the East Coast - were not seen by WSL's "observers," why were they ranked at all?

Enough! WSL's metrics are fatally flawed, but I admire their effort. WSL adds value to the Western Lacrosse community, they're innovative and they're a terrific source of game write-ups and other lax news throughout the West. I check their website every day.

So, who are the best Club teams in the geographic area staked out by WSL? Here's my cut, using the following metrics:
College Commitments - College coaches vote with their offers. They guys they recruit are the best players. Coaches now recruit nationally. They see ALL the candidates. They travel the East Coast, the West Coast and most places in between. In addition, when they watch their candidates, they can answer  the question: Who are the top Club teams?
Performance in strong tournaments - Being in the Sweet Sixteen in a top East Coast tournament means more than winning a tournament consisting of competition from local Club teams.

Best in the West (I have seen every one of these teams play within the last 15 months)
10 Minnesota Elite - MN sent 10 of its 2011 Seniors to play NCAA DI. Fourth highest total in the West. Most all of MN's top players play for the Elite.
9 Denver Elite - Colorado sent 13 players from the Class of 2011 to NCAA DI schools - third highest total in the West. Not all of them played for the Elite, but they defeated a mid-tier LI Express team at the Brine Shootout. This is a solid team.
8 Golden State Titans - This NorCal team is quite young, but VERY good. Several early DI commits. They took 5th place at the Hotbeds tourney. I might have this team ranked too low.
7 OC Kings - A nice team from California's Central Coast section. Some of these players also play on Team America, about which more later.
6 Arizona Burn - Arizona is an up-and-comer in the Lacrosse world. Charlie Hushek and Brock Ghelfi lead this team. They suffer from not having many lax teams in the state, but the Burn gets almost all the good players.
5 Brady's Bunch - An eclectic team from a number of States but - make no mistake - they are VERY good. Lots and lots of NCAA players.
4 San Diego Lax Dawgs - I have enjoyed watching the LaxDawgs over several years! They're big, athletic, and well coached. In my mind, the best of the teams that didn't go East this past summer.
3 Team America - An Orange County team that made the Sweet Sixteen at Champ Camp. They're well coordinated and well coached.
2 Dallas Select - Texas sent 16 Seniors to NCAA DI schools in 2011 - second most in the West. A bunch of them played for Dallas Select. Of their four tourney appearances, three were in the East, the other at the Denver Team Camp. They made the semi-finals at three of the four, though they did not make the semis at their toughest camp - King of the Hill.
1 Alcatraz Outlaws - Twenty-two Outlaws have committed to NCAA DI schools in the last three years. No other Club team in the Western United States comes close to that total. Attended two tourneys this year - King of the Hill and Gait Cup - and made the finals at both. Both King of the Hill and Gait Cup  are top 5 tourneys and in both instances, the Outlaws lost to the consensus #1 Club team in the nation - Laxachusetts. Western Club Lacrosse gets no better than this.

There you have it! You can disagree with my rankings and the metrics I've chosen, but my facts speak for themselves.   


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