With Oregon beating Chapman then losing to Stanford, there was bound to be some movement in the weekly Nike/Inside Lacrosse MCLA coaches’ poll, and there was. Stanford moved way up; Chapman moved way down; and Oregon … well, Oregon dropped a spot to a team that didn’t play this weekend.
Stanford, with wins over Oregon State and Oregon at the Pac-12 Shootout, jumped seven spots to No. 4. Chapman, which lost to Oregon 9-8 on Saturday, fell from No. 4 to No. 9. Oregon, with the win over Chapman and the loss to Stanford, dropped from No. 7 to No. 8, with idle UC Santa Barbara moving up from 8 to 7.
All of those might be perfectly legit, but it also underscores how much of a guessing game rankings are this early in the season. Take No. 1 Colorado State, for example. The defending-champion Rams haven’t played an official game yet (two scrimmages) but were a unanimous No. 1 last week and the week before. This week, though, two voters have Arizona State first. That’s cool — the Sun Devils beat Cal and San Diego State this weekend, so maybe they deserve the votes. But did any voter really see enough to flip-flop ASU and CSU? Or are they guessing?
Rankings are fun, but they’re also kind of random, at least until teams have played more than a couple games and until good teams have played other good teams — neither of which has happened yet for a couple of teams currently in the Top 5.
But it is true for Chapman, which was No. 3 or 4 for three weeks before playing its first game. That opener came Friday night and produced a 17-2 blowout of San Diego and seemed to validate the Panthers’ ranking. Then came Saturday, when Chapman started well against Oregon, leading 2-1 early, but eventually fell behind 6-3 before pulling itself together. A 5-0 third-quarter run made it 8-6 Chapman heading into the fourth, but Oregon turned things around and won 9-8.
So what do we make of Chapman? Well, one view says the Panthers might have taken Oregon lightly after handling San Diego with ease the night before. Another view might say Chapman simply was overrated — the Panthers lost a lot from last year’s team and had only a scrimmage with Concordia to go on this year. Their No. 4 ranking was a best guess, based on reputation.
A couple of things coach Dallas Hartley said after the game gave me the sense he might agree at least somewhat with both views. A big win on a Friday night to open the season makes it hard to convince guys they still have work to do, especially with a tough opponent the next day and no practice or film time to make corrections. If the Panthers needed to hear that, the loss to the Ducks should have been loud and clear.
We’ll get a better sense of Chapman’s quality in the next 10 days. The now-No. 9 Panthers play No. 3 BYU in Las Vegas on Friday, followed by an SLC game with UNLV on Sunday. Then on March 1, the Panthers are at No. 2 Arizona State.
When the Week 6 poll comes out March 5, we can take it as more than a best guess:
- No. 1 Colorado State (0-0) will have played four games, including No. 7 UC Santa Barbara.
- No. 2 Arizona State (2-0) will have played both No. 15 Cal Poly and No. 9 Chapman.
- No. 3 BYU (1-0) will have played four more games, including No. 9 Chapman
- No. 4 Stanford (3-0) will have played three more games — all winnable, by my estimation.
- No. 5 Colorado (0-0) will have played four games, including one against No. 8 Oregon.
At that point, there might be enough information to make poll votes somewhat meaningful. Right now? They give us something to talk (and write) about, but they’re hardly a reflection of on-field quality.