Eulogizing the 2012 College Lacrosse Season: (8) Duke

May 20, 2012; Chester, PA USA; Duke Blue Devils attack Jordan Wolf (31) celebrates his goal during the first half of the NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Quarterfinals against the Colgate Raiders at PPL Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

You spent the better part of four months meticulously dissecting the 2012 college lacrosse season. You shouldn't stop now because cold turkey is a bad way to go through life, man. College Crosse is providing decompression snapshots of all 61 teams and their 2012 campaigns, mostly because everything needs a proper burial.

I. VITAL SIGNS

Team: Duke Blue Devils

2012 Record: 15-5 (2-1, ACC)

2012 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): 2.96 (4)

2011 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): 6.27 (1)

Winning Percentage Change from 2011: +5.00%

2012 Efficiency Margin: 8.83 (8)

Efficiency Margin Change from 2011: -5.48

II. "ATTA BOY!" FACT

  • John Danowski is, basically, a magician that uses a whistle instead of a wand and prefers polo shirts to whatever cockamamie thing that magicians wear. Since 2009, Danowski has kind of rolled out the balls early in the year, watched his team struggle, and pulled it all together as the season progressed. Don't believe me? Check this out:
    • 2009: Started the year 2-2. Finished the year 15-4.
    • 2010: Started the year 2-3. Finished the year 16-4 and won the national title.
    • 2011: Started the year 1-2. Finished the year 14-6.
    • 2012: Started the year 3-3. Finished the year 15-5.
    It's really hard to explain why and how Duke seems to get it done, unless, of course, the answer is that Danowski gives his team magic potions that turn them into destruction machines after the first three or four games of the year. (There may be something here in the fall-spring approach that Danowski holds, but I'm going to ignore that because it erodes my "magic powers, dude" position.) It's one of Division I's odder trends over the last few years or so, and it always seems to come into focus right when you expect it to. It's both a testament to Danowski (and his staff's) ability to react to the season, to address issues week-in and week-out, and to continually improve over the course of a year. When you also view this in the light of the strength of schedule that Duke has played over the above-referenced period, Danowski's ability to get the best out of his players in the middle of a land war is super impressive.

III. "YOU'RE GROUNDED UNTIL YOU QUALIFY FOR THE AARP!" FACT

  • With all the talent that Duke has, it almost makes your face melt that the Devils were so inconsequential in personnel imbalance scenarios last season. Duke's man-up performance aside (it was bad; impressively bad, in fact), the Blue Devils' proclivity for playing in man-down situations -- only 17 teams played in a personnel disadvantage more than Duke in 2012 (about 12 percent of the team's defensive possessions were man-down scenarios) -- was really bad news for Duke's overall effort: Opponents clicked on 44.74 percent of their extra-man opportunities against the Devils, scoring about 18 percent of their goals against Duke with the man advantage (that's the 54th worst mark in the country). The combination of taking too many penalties (only 11 teams took more penalties than Duke last season) and putting an uneven ball-stopper in a position to have to turn away preferential shots in disadvantageous positions is just pure disaster (even if the Devils were able to weather this for most of the year). Duke, with the talent that it has, needed to perform both better in those situations and in not creating those situations.

IV. MR. FIX-IT HAS A ONE-FIX ENGAGEMENT, AND IT'S . . .

  • Some more consistency out of Dan Wigrizer would be huge for Duke going into 2013. With the talent that the Devils have on defense next season -- Chris Hipps, Henry Lobb, Dan DiMaria, Casey Carroll (maybe) -- Wigrizer standing tall in the cage on a game-to-game (or even possession-to-possession) basis would really cement Duke as a national title contender. Kyle Turri is nipping at Wigrizer's heels, and if the senior can't find the magic next year (his mentor, John Galloway, is off to Providence to assist former Blue Devils assistant, Chris Gabrielli), Turri -- a sophomore -- may be thrown into the fire (again).

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