#LMranks: No. 3 Duke Blue Devils (Men)
|"They don't work any harder than
Henry," Duke coach John Danowski said of defenseman Henry
© Kevin P. Tucker
Lacrosse Magazine's preseason NCAA Division I Top 20 countdown continues today and concludes Thursday with profiles of the second- and first-ranked teams in D-I men and women.
* Out of 5
A Jordan Wolf (Jr.)
Wolf, a second-team All-American with 32 goals and 33 assists in 2012, is the most multifaceted player on offense for the Blue Devils. A threat as a dodger, shooter and feeder, Wolf needs to have his best season yet to help the Blue Devils to avoid the inconsistency that marked their downfall a year ago. Duke coach John Danowski wants to see more big plays in crunch time.
The Midfield Rotation
With the exception of the graduated Robert Rotanz, who was a pure finisher with a team-high 40 goals, Duke's first two lines were pretty nondescript a year ago. The Blue Devils, who have a good group of midfielders including Jake Tripucka, Will Haus and David Lawson, didn't break down enough opposing defenses effectively. "There was a disparity in production [from the midfield]," Danowski said. "Now they have a chance to do something about that."
Freshman attackman Case Matheis brings much excitement, after finishing his career at Darien (Conn.) High School with a 122-point season. Don't be surprised if he's starting sooner than later. "He's got great stick skills, he loves the game, and he can see through a defense," Danowski said. "You have allegiance to your [veteran] guys, but in the end, the best players have to play."
Promise at the X. With the remarkable C.J. Costabile gone after a terrific career as a long-stick midfield and faceoff force, junior Brendan Fowler steps into the role of primary faceoff specialist. Fowler is not the playmaker Costabile was. But he showed what he could do in 17 games by winning 90 of 149 draws (.604). Duke should reap the rewards of the extra possessions Fowler figures to provide.
#LMranks MD1 Preseason Countdown
No. 20 Bryant
Record: 15-5 (2-1 ACC)
In a Nutshell: Duke started poorly by losing three of its first six games, including a 13-8 embarrassment at Loyola. The Blue Devils then got on a roll by winning 10 consecutive games, topped off by a week in which it beat all three ACC opponents, including Maryland and North Carolina to win the conference tournament. The Blue Devils then finished poorly with a blowout loss at Denver and another rout against Maryland at the final four.
High Point: In late April, Duke came north to Charlottesville on Senior Night, and continued its mastery of the Cavaliers with a 13-5, knockout. The game was so lopsided that Virginia head coach Dom Starsia called out his team for quitting in the second half.
Low Point: It wasn't just that Maryland had its way on May 26 in Gillette Stadium, where the Terps ended Duke's season in the NCAA tournament semifinals with a 16-10 thumping. What galled Danowski was how Duke lost its composure so early, how Duke repeatedly allowed the Terps to pick and roll their way to the crease for so many easy scores.
Best Case: Duke continues its Syracuse-like postseason run by making its seventh straight trip to the final four and the school's eighth dating to 2005. Case Matheis is as good as advertised, and the offense is too well-rounded to stop on Memorial Day, as the Blue Devils take home their second NCAA crown.
Worst Case: The junior attack fails to take the next step in its development. The midfield depth doesn't improve that much. And the play in goal remains unsettled. It adds up to an early NCAA tournament exit.
Duke coach John Danowski's comments on...
A Christian Walsh (Jr.)
"His range really improved by the end of last year. His anticipation, knowing when to push it and when to hold it...he's really starting to understand what it takes to succeed at this level."
D Henry Lobb (Jr.)
"On-ball defense is his strength. He needs to play. They don't work any harder than Henry."
G Dan Wigrizer (Sr.)
"He's played a lot and he's won a lot of lacrosse games. Yet, we're looking for a little more consistency from him. If anybody should have a swagger, there's the guy."
Rival Coaches Say
"Six straight final fours. They find a way to get it done. It will be interesting to see how they piece things together offensively... Losing [Mike] Manley hurts defensively but still have some very good players, but a new defensive coordinator. Again Wigrizer improved last year but is he still good enough to lead this team to the promised land?... They bring back a ton at attack and are battle tested. They should have a bad taste in their mouth after the way they played vs. Maryland in the NCAA tournament...
"Return one of the best attack units in the country. Will need to find replacements for Justin Turri and Rob Rotanz in the midfield. With the addition of Dan DiMaria and Casey Carroll on the defensive end they add a level of leadership and explosion. Coach Danowski always has the guys in the hunt late in May... John Danowski is the Phil Jackson of college lacrosse — the master psychologist who gets deep inside the heads and hearts of his men and is able to pull from them more than they ever thought they could contribute."