Squash Analytics: Men’s College Rankings Update and Weekend Preview
by David Keating

November 21, 2019

After my previous article on my computer model’s rankings of college men’s teams, an alert reader tipped me off that Trinity lists some players on its roster that have no US Squash skill ratings. Silly me, I should have known better to look for that sort of thing given Coach Paul Assaiante’s well-known recruiting prowess at finding some of the best players from around the world.

So I went back and checked the rosters of all the other top 10 teams to be sure I didn’t miss any others. I didn’t.

I remind readers that the collegiate skill ratings, especially for freshmen, can be too high or low due to the paucity of data and other factors. I reviewed some of those issues in the first article on my computer rankings of the teams.

So now, on to the Trinity players without the skill ratings. They don’t have skill ratings because too few or none of their prior matches are in the US Squash database. Some of the lower rated players aren’t likely to start key matches. But I found two that could make an impact.

The strongest is Miko Äijänen, a 22-year old freshman from Finland who won five PSA tournaments this year and reached a PSA ranking of 98 this summer. Obviously, he’s a super player. My guess is that he will play in the top three at Trinity.

The other freshman likely to make an impact is Ali El Toukhy from Egypt. He reached the round of 16 at the British Junior Open earlier this year and just missed the quarterfinals.  In an earlier round, he beat Ayush Menon, an American who is a freshman at Harvard and has a skill rating of 5.93. I’m guessing he might wind up between 6 and 9 on Trinity’s ladder.

I’m guessing that Miko Äijänen would get a skill rating of about 6.1, which may be too low. Since Ali El Toukhy beat Menon in five games, I’ll assign him a skill rating of 5.94.

If I rerun my computer model with these two additions to Trinity’s ladder, the Bantams rise to #2 and Penn goes back to #3, exactly where the CSA had them. So the college coaches undoubtedly knew all this, and alas I did not. That means the computer model and the CSA preseason rankings have just one difference, the swap of UVA and Columbia at #7 and #9.

You’re probably wondering if this now means Trinity is strong enough to beat Harvard. Right now, the model says no, that’s still unlikely. If both teams have their complete line up, it still predicts a 6-3 Crimson win.

This year, the Harvard match is at Trinity in February. Trinity has from time to time had recruits arrive in January, so that could give the Bantams a boost if it happens again this season. Even without any new players, and with the home court advantage, which is especially strong there, that match promises to be a key test for both teams.

University of Virginia (UVA) beat George Washington 7-2 last Friday night. Readers should not conclude the computer model predicted that and the CSA ranking didn’t. GWU didn’t have its #1 for that match, so everyone played up a spot. Three of GWU’s losses were in five games and one of GWU’s four game losses was (11), 6, (9), (10). If both teams had their full ladder, clearly that match outcome would have been totally unpredictable.

This weekend we’ll see a number of top 10 teams in key matches. George Washington has perhaps the most at stake with two important tests this weekend. The team plays Penn at home Saturday, and if their #1 is available an upset is possible. The Colonials then head to New York for a Sunday match with Columbia. That showdown is a tossup under the computer model. The winner might well make the top division at the CSA team nationals at the end of the season as a result of this match.

Before the Lions take on GW, they’ll travel to Philadelphia to face Drexel’s Dragons, currently ranked #11 by the CSA. Drexel won a convincing 9-0 win over a solid Franklin & Marshall team earlier this month, so this match could be very interesting. (My computer model only examined the top 10.) Drexel then travels to battle at #4 Princeton on Sunday.

UVA, ranked #7 by the computer model and #8 by the CSA, takes on #5 Yale Saturday, another match with important top division implications. My computer model indicates a 5-4 win for Yale, not accounting for the home court edge for the Bulldogs. UVA then heads to Hartford for a Sunday test against Trinity, which is the clear favorite.

Harvard travels to Hanover for an Ivy League match against Dartmouth. While the #10 Big Green team is strong, it is no match for the #1 Crimson.

If you haven’t seen a CSA match lately, you should go watch one of these match ups if you can. I think you’ll be amazed at the level of play. It keeps getting better every year.

The views expressed by the author are his alone, based on his experiences and observations. They do not represent the views or positions of any organizations with which he is affiliated. All information used for the article is available to the general public.