February 7, 2014

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#LMRanks: No. 1 Duke Blue Devils (MD1)

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | McLaughlin Archive | College Preview 2014

Duke attackman Jordan Wolf ranks fourth all-time in program history with 201 points entering his senior season. (Kevin P. Tucker)

Previous: No. 2 Syracuse Orange

Vitals

2013 Record: 16-5 (2-1 ACC)
Coach: John Danowski (8th season)
Record at Duke: 111-29

Power Ratings (scale of 1-5)

Offense: 5
Defense: 5
Goalkeeping: 4
Faceoff: 5 

Top Returner

A Jordan Wolf (Sr.)
Wolf led Duke in goals (58), assists (28) and points (85) and was voted to the NCAA and ACC All-Tournament teams last season. He was a second-team All-American for the second straight season, and can cement his legacy in the pantheon of all-time great attackmen this year. His 201 career points currently ranks fourth all-time at Duke.

X-Factor

M Myles Jones (So.)
Jones has been an X-factor since high school, when the now 6-foot-4, 240-pounder also played on the Walt Whitman (N.Y.) basketball and football teams. If he can continue to polish his game, watch out. 

Tournament Trend

2009 Semifinals
2010 Champion
2011 Semifinals
2012 Semifinals
2013 Champion

What's New?

A six-team ACC super-conference schedule. As if the nation's best conference wasn't strong enough, Syracuse and Notre Dame join the league this season and Maryland doesn't leave for the Big Ten until next year. The Duke coaching staff also has a new member: former Cornell head coach Ben DeLuca, who will serve as a volunteer assistant coach for the Blue Devils this season, replacing Joe Cinosky, who left to take a full-time assistant job at Mount St. Mary's. DeLuca will work with the defense.

Telling Number

7
Consecutive final four appearances by Duke in Danowski's seven years as coach. The Blue Devils won NCAA titles in 2010 and 2013.

Behind Enemy Lines

"Elite faceoff man in Fowler. Entire attack returns. Expect the Blue Devils to outscore opponents... I really liked their midfielders that graduated but I think that by the end of this year, the 2014 first-line will be one of the top units in the country. I thought Duke and Carolina were the two best teams the second half of the year, and I expect that to continue into 2014. Goalie play will have to be better."

"Needs middies to step up... Great returning attack, masterful at peaking at the right time... Replace a ton of high impact seniors. Veteran attack needs to lead them early in the season. Young middies need to score early."

"Lawson, Tripucka, and Offit are big losses but still plenty of offensive firepower coming back including Jordan Wolf who from time to time it seems still flies under the radar. He is one of a handful of guys over the past couple seasons who has the ability to break somebody down from X and create great scoring opportunities."

"I really liked their midfielders that graduated but I think that by the end of this year, the 2014 first-line will be one of the top units in the country."

— One rival coach

"Dionne is a tremendous player for them as he seems to handle everything and always puts the ball in the back of the net. Will be interested to see how players like Myles Jones and Deemer Class, and Case Matheis respond now as all the attention that Lawson, Tripucka, and Offit got from opposing defenses will now shift to them."

"Fowler is the great equalizer as he wins much more than he loses and he keeps the ball away from the defensive end and keeps giving it to the highly-touted offensive personnel. He was obviously instrumental in the playoff run last year and will be again if this team wants to get back to the championship game."

"Still have to question the defense who at times seem to play out of control and undisciplined along with a goalie in Turri who seems eerily similar to Wigrizer from a couple years ago (wins some games when it counts but throughout a whole season is not exactly lighting up the stat sheet)."

"Jordan Wolf (57 goals, 28 assists), Josh Dionne (45 goals) and Case Matheis (28 goals, 24 assists) define the arsenal that is the Duke offense. They will have to shoulder a heavier load though this year, as the Blue Devils lost the beefiest and manliest of midfielders with the graduation of Dave Lawson and Jake Tripucka, along with Josh Offit. Is Myles Jones ready to take the reins? Duke sure hopes he can to continue the legacy of monsters at midfield there."

"Goalkeeper Kyle Turri was big in big games. The Duke coaching staff wants him to be more consistent, but if he continues to play well on the biggest of stages, then who cares what his stats are. Is there anyone better than Brendan Fowler at changing the game? Syracuse sure found out what can happen when Clark Kent takes off his glasses and three-piece suit. Luke Duprey can put big-time pressure on the ball carrier. At the end of the day, it really comes down to the Phil Jackson of our sport — John Danowski — who will once again bring together a team like no one else can in this business and ensure that while they may not be ready in February, the Blue Devils will be ready in May and will once again be fighting for the national championship."

"They return three of their top four point scorers from last season. Jordan Wolf is a legitimate candidate for player of the year. Defense will again be strong. Conners will be tough to replace. Look for Turri to improve in the cage."

"Obviously they've got a terrific program. They're loaded at attack – they didn't lose anybody down low with Wolf, Matheis, Walsh and Dionne, so they're going to be all set. They did graduate some midfield, so seeing how they fit together is going to determine their early success. Nobody worries about them having late success, since Coach Danowski does such a great job of having those guys stay the course."

"The goalie situation will be interesting. That attack is a wily group, and [All-American faceoff man Brendan] Fowler has been incredible for them. You've got to take advantage of your scoring opportunities against them. They make you think you have to score every time you have the ball. [Coach John] Danowski has done a masterful job of preparing them to be great late in the year."

"It's a team that we know very well. We've now played Duke twice a year for how many years. It's certainly a team we've had some great games with and we compete pretty much on every level. We compete in recruiting, we compete on the field. They're an excellent team and it's proven that they're one of the teams to beat if you want to get to the championship."

2013 Recap

Myles Jones (above) and Deemer Class step up to Duke's first-line midfield this season. It's an identical situation to what the Blue Devils had a season ago, replacing two starting offensive midfielders. (Kevin P. Tucker)

In a Nutshell: Duke claimed its second national championship in typical Blue Devils fashion since John Danowski took over as coach. Start slow, and finish strong. Duke's attack was in Danowski's words, lacking "synergy" during a 2-3 start that precipitated inserting freshman Case Matheis to the unit and shifting Christian Walsh to midfield. Jordan Wolf finished with 58 goals and Josh Dionne had 45 on attack. Meanwhile, midfielders David Lawson and Jake Tripucka found a comfort with Walsh, and were bonafide threats come tournament time. The goalie position had a similar remodeling with Kyle Turri replacing Dan Wigrizer, who ended his career because of concussions. Turri finished 14-1 as a starter. All the while, faceoff man Brendan Fowler was consistent, swinging momentum in Duke's favor. Fowler set the Division I record for faceoffs won in a season (339), and obliterated the record for faceoffs taken in a season (526). Duke beat Syracuse for the title in Philadelphia. The championship was the Blue Devils' second in four years after never having won one previously.

High Point: Is there any point higher than winning a national title? Duke is the only team in our preseason lookaheads to know that feeling a year ago.

Low Point: It had to have been a 16-7 loss to then-No. 1 Maryland on March 2 in Durham, N.C. Duke, particularly its defense, looked lost in the blowout that dropped the Blue Devils to a 2-4 record. Fortunately for them, it didn't get any lower. Duke beat defending national champion Loyola a week later to start a 14-1 run that ended with hoisting the NCAA championship trophy.

2014 Preview

Best Case: Duke's first midfield line, Walsh with first-year starters Deemer Class and Myles Jones, develops chemistry by midseason. The attack of Jordan Wolf, Josh Dionne and Case Matheis hums along like a well-oiled machine as does a veteran defense. It's hard to imagine Brendan Fowler replicating his record-breaking 2013, so even if he gets close that's a good thing. It's hard to image this team starting slow, but even if they do, they should overcome it. Duke may drop an ACC game or two in conference play, but has a high tournament seed and makes an eight straight final four. A bonus: Former U.S. Army Ranger Casey Carroll, coming back from a torn ACL and looking to play for the first time since 2007, starts on defense for the entire season. He's expected to start Saturday in Duke's season-opener against Jacksonville.

Worst Case: Duke finishes under .500 in the ACC, not because they've lost much of a step but because the conference is just so good. A typical Blue Devils slow start dooms them come tournament selection time. They'll still make it in, but face a high seed and fail to reach the semifinals for the first time in John Danowski's tenure.

Self-Examination: John Danowski on...

A Jordan Wolf (Sr.)
"Everyone realizes he's a phenomenal athlete, tremendous first-step, extremely quick, but very strong. He's pound-for-pound our No. 1 guy in the weight room. He's an extremely hard worker in the weight room. In the fall, sometimes it's hard to improve as senior because you've been doing it for four years, maybe you're not as motivated. He's extremely motivated. He had personal bests this fall in the bench press, cleans and squats."

FO Brendan Fowler (Sr.)
"There's no guarantee. You've seen guys become flash in the pans, that can come out dominate one year and then next year other people catch up. They figure you out, or that guy gets a little bit full of himself and doesn't prepare as well. But I think the thing about Brendan is that he is a worker. I don't think he'll let any of the past success go to his head. I believe that he'll try to build on it, but we're certainly no counting on him to duplicate anything. The hope is he will, but it's a team game and we're still going to approach it like we always have. It's going to be about the draw man, wing play, what we do in the offensive and defensive box off the faceoff, and the thing that you do like about him is he has improved every year. We just hope that he can handle some of this notoriety that goes along with it."

G Kyle Turri (Jr.)
"Last year, his numbers were not impressive. He's at 49 percent save percentage, but what was impressive was his won-loss record: 14-1. He's terrific with the ball, he can outlet the ball, and is poised with the ball. He can also get out of the cage, get a ground ball and pick off a pass. He gives you that dimension in the goal. And the third piece is making saves. The hope is that he'll get better. He looked much more relaxed in the fall than he did in last spring. He looked comfortable and confident. But I'll say this, Luke Aaron looked more comfortable and confident as well, and Danny Fowler [Brendan's brother] was impressive. We were very happy with all three goalies, but until you're in a game, you certainly don't know what you're working with."

Lacrosse Magazine will continue its 2014 college lacrosse preview throughout January and into February, with team-by-team breakdowns of the top teams in NCAA Division I, II and III men's and women's lacrosse. Follow the countdown at LaxMagazine.com/LMRanks and on twitter at #LMRanks.


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