Big City Classic Participant Profile: Duke

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 28: Zach Howell #21 of the Duke Blue Devils leads the team off the field after losing to the Maryland Terrapins 9-4 at M&T Bank Stadium on May 28, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. Maryland defeated Duke 9-4. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

UPDATED: March 29, 2012, at 10:45 A.M. I made a huge boo-boo with regard to the rate at which Duke plays in man-down situations and their opponents' reliance on the personnel imbalance to score. Edits are made as necessary.

The Big City Classic is ready to almost / kind of / probably not take over New York City this Sunday as six schools descend upon MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, for a massive tripleheader starting at 1:00 P.M. ESPN3 will have the broadcast of the opener and ESPNU will have the last two games of the day. As I need the pageviews and you need the skinny on the participants, College Crosse is going to profile each of this weekend's combatants.

I've stopped trying to figure out Duke this season. Once I realized that thinking too hard about the Blue Devils would make your brain leak out of your ears while you slept, I just decided to accept the fact that Jordan Wolf, Josh Dionne, Rob Rotanz, and Christian Walsh are offensive threats sent from the future to embarrass goaltenders and sometimes make their mission look like an aborted sortie. It's just the nature of time travel, I suppose, that creates this kind of compartmentalized jet lag resulting in some odd outings.

Anyway, here's the heat on Duke.

DUKE BLUE DEVILS (ACC)

In any other season, Duke-Syracuse would be one of the most anticipated freak shows of athleticism put on the lacrosse field. Sunday may provide a similar display of functioning wind sprints, but what makes this year's meeting a little different from those that may or may not have occurred in previous seasons is that the Blue Devils have been playing stronger lacrosse as of late than the Orange. (This is despite the struggles that Duke experienced against Brown on Monday.) The result may be a somewhat competitively imbalanced game that merely exists as a blur in front of your eyes. Or, of course, Syracuse could start playing lights-out lacrosse, which would put this game in the red area of the sexiness meter.

Here's an abbreviated chart of Duke's production this season. For a more complete, mind-bending picture, here's a .pdf of the complete report.

DUKE BLUE DEVILS
BIG STATS PACE STATS
Record 8-3 (1-1) Clear % 80.93% (45)
Adj. Off. Efficiency 35.15 (8) Opp. Clear % 86.64% (50)
Adj. Def. Efficiency 27.62 (24) Faceoff % 58.85% (7)
Poss. Percentage 51.02% (21) Pace 67.00 (28)
Off. Poss./60 min. 34.18 (22)
DEFENSIVE STATS Def. Poss./60 min. 32.82 (32)
Save Percentage 51.5%
Saves/Def. Poss. 0.29 (36) OFFENSIVE STATS
Opp. Sht. %. 27.47% (18) Goal Differential +28
Opp. Effective Sht. % 28.67% (23) Shooting % 31.60% (17)
Def. Assist Rate 15.51 (22) Effective Sht. % 32.34% (17)
Man-Down/Def. Poss. 0.14 (54) Assist Rate 16.49 (33)
Man-Down Conversion % 52.00% (59) EMO per Off. Poss. 0.11 (22)
Man-Down Reliance 0.26 (61) EMO Conversion % 19.05% (57)
C/T per Def. Poss. 0.24 (40) EMO Reliance 0.06 (57)
Turnovers/Off. Poss. 0.49 (39)
Opp. Saves/Off. Poss. 0.34 (43)

Three pieces of incredibly important information from my brain to your eyes via your Internet computing machine:

  • "OH, MY GOD! LOOK AT DUKE'S MAN-DOWN CONVERSION RATE! THEY'RE SCREWED 'TIL TUESDAY!" Cool your jets, slice. Sure, the number isn't pretty, but it hasn't significantly impacted Duke this season: Only four teams have been in man-down situations less than the Blue Devils this season and no team has seen their opponents rely less on the personnel imbalance to score. So, while the conversion rate is high, the rate at which opponents actually get an opportunity to score against the Devils in those situations is incredibly low. In other wrods, if teams are scoring against Duke, it's in even situations. EDIT: That was way, way wrong. Only four teams play man-down more than Duke. In fact, opponents are relying heavily on the personnel imbalance to score against the Devils this season. When Duke is yielding goals, its during the personnel imbalance, although the reliance rate ranking is only in the bottom third of the country and not at the very bottom. This is an issue for Duke, but not one that sinks the Devils. This could be an issue for Duke on Sunday, save for the statement that follows the bolded text. (Note to self: Stop writing pieces at 2:00 A.M. with brain functions operating at minimal levels.) Also: Syracuse's extra-man unit is, at best, a bit of a dumpster fire right now and it shouldn't be an area of concern for the Blue Devils on Sunday.
  • When you talk Duke, you need to talk about the offense. It's the law or something. This year's edition of the offensive unit is, once again, a deathray of bean slingin'. The Devils can get you in transition (Do you want to see C.J. Costabile charging toward you after a ground ball scoop and acceleration past midfield? I didn't think so, tough guy.), and they can murder you in the six-on-six in the box. (They haven't been sharp with the extra attacker, although the Devils haven't really relied on the personnel imbalance to get tallies anyway, so no big deal, right?) What's really dangerous about this offensive group is that they are firecrackers independently: Duke's offensive assist rate is pretty mediocre, yet this is still one of the most efficient offenses in the land. A guy like Jordan Wolf is a one-on-one nightmare and doesn't necessarily require sharing to make scoreboard light up. This team can finish as well as anyone in the country and they can do it in a myriad of ways.
  • The Devils are seventh nationally in face-off win percentage, due in no small part to Costabiles' and Brendan Fowlers' work at the dot. The Orange seemingly haven't won a face-off since February, which should really tilt the possession margin (offensive possessions played against defensive possessions played) in Duke's favor. With greater opportunity to give the bean to that nasty Blue Devils offense and pepper a goalie -- or goalies -- with shakiness, Duke could put this game into their pocket relatively early. The Devils have done a good job dominating possession on the season already, and that control could be elevated even more against Syracuse at MetLife Stadium.

For more on Duke's opponent -- Syracuse -- check out the Orange's profile here.

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