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MLAX: Duke Preview

April 8, 2017

Written by Mike Camarda

Who, When, and Where

#10 Duke (8-3); April 8th @ 12 PM EST; Durham, NC. Game broadcast on ESPNU.

The Skinny
Games against Duke are usually a coin flip. In Corrigan’s career, he is an almost-even 7-8 versus Duke dating all the way back to when Notre Dame was in the Great Western Lacrosse League, and Duke was one of the few traditional east coast powers willing to schedule them.

 The Blue Devils are once again a balanced and talented squad ranking 8th in offense and 11th in defense by advanced metrics. What makes them scary is that they defend individual matchups very well and tend to only have issues against teams that play at a snail’s pace emphasizing passing and cutters. Their faceoff game is elite, and they score a lot of assisted goals.

Duke is coming off a victory over rival North Carolina where they closed the game on an 11-2 run to secure a comfortable victory. They have season-opening fluke loss to Air Force in typical Duke early season fashion. This is the point of the year where they usually start peaking, and they’ve won six of their last seven with their lone setback coming at Syracuse in overtime.

What to Watch
When Duke has the ball, they have two do-it-all attack players in Justin Guterding and Jack Bruckner. Both are very good on and off ball and are being asked to carry the load this year. Guterding is especially dangerous as a passer and quarterbacks most of their offense. Look for him to try to draw slides from Notre Dame and feed teammates for set shots. Over half of Jack Bruckner’s goals are assisted by Guterding.

When Notre Dame has the ball, they face an athletic and technically sound Duke defense. It’d be great to point out strengths/weaknesses and stars/bums, but Duke’s unit isn’t constructed that way. No one sucks, they don’t make a lot of mistakes, and their goal tending is hot-and-cold.

They showed cracks against the two top 5 offenses they’ve faced (Denver and Syracuse) while shutting down everyone who doesn’t have elite talent.

The most comparable unit to Notre Dame is Loyola who Duke held to a mere seven goals in a blowout. Duke’s goalie Danny Fowler had 14 saves in that contest while the defense only caused two turnovers in the entire course of play, so it’s possible that performance was more of an aberration than what to expect.

Against UNC, they yielded six goals in the first 20 minutes before flipping the script. The one constant is that if you play vanilla against Duke, it doesn’t work… you need to throw formations at them they aren’t prepared for or use motion that confuses them. You can get unassisted goals by confusing their slides, but you’ll struggle to score if you stand around off ball.

Duke, like everyone else in college lacrosse, is playing slower this year trying to mimic the Denver model of possession-heavy lacrosse. This is doubly problematic for Notre Dame as that’s the kind of team they struggle against and Kyle Rowe for Duke is immeasurably better at faceoffs than whoever Notre Dame runs out there.

On paper, this looks like another one-goal game. Notre Dame has the better defense and slightly worse offense but is on the road. Given Notre Dame played their worst game of the season against Syracuse and still almost won, so I’ll take the Irish winning a tense thriller… 10-9 in OT.

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