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2011 NCAA Tournament Breakdown: Duke vs Notre Dame

Coach Kevin Corrigan and the ND Irish are coming off a 13-6 victory over PENN
Coach Kevin Corrigan and the ND Irish are coming off a 13-6 victory over PENN

Duke Blue Devils: Found themselves in a round one shootout with the Blue Hens of Delaware last Saturday but were able to pull out a 15-14 win behind a combined 10 points from attackmen Zach Howell and Jordan Wolf

Round One Top Performers: A Zach Howell (4 goals, 1 assist), A Jordan Wolf (3 g, 2 a,), LSM CJ Costabile (1 g, 10 ground balls, 6-12 face-off)

Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Got off to a 4-0 start against PENN on Saturday before going to halftime with an 8-5 lead. Outsocred the Quakers 5-1 in the second half en route to a 13-6 round one win.

Round One Top Performers: M Zach Brenneman (2 g, 1 a), A Colin Igoe (3 g, 1 a), F.O.Jake Marmul (16-20 face-off, 6 gb's), G John Kemp (9 saves, 6 goals against)

There are a few questions the have been going through my head all week when trying to predict the outcome of this game. Spoiler alert, I've seen both teams play live and each game was against Syracuse so bear with me. I'll just break them down for you.

1) Which Duke offense shows up this weekend? The first half against the Orange at the Big City Classic or the second half? If the second half, could be enough to out weigh their defensive woes.

2) Is the Orange a better offense than the Blue Devils? If you say yes, then the Irish should hold Duke to about the seven to nine goal range. If you think the Blue Devil offense, when clicking, is better than the Orange offense, can Duke put up 10, 11 or even 12 goals against the Irish? Which leads me to my final question...

3) Without starting goalie Dan Wigrizer, can this Blue Devil defense play a lick of defense Sunday to keep them in the game?

Duke was playing without starting goalie Dan Wigrizer last Saturday, and his status is still up in the air for Sunday's match up against the Irish. Delaware isn't a bad offense, but they also aren't a 14 goal producing offense, especially against a top 10 ranked team like the Blue Devils.

If the Blue Devils give up even 10 goals to the Irish, you have to believe Kevin Corrigan's defense will be able to hold on to that kind of lead, right?

I think it is safe to say we can throw out the Irish's 12-7 February victory over Duke, as both teams have come a long way since then. Duke was fighting to find an identity back then and freshman Jordan Wolf still had no clue he would form a nice 1-2 punch with Zach Howell on the attack.

One thing can be said about Notre Dame. They are a well oiled machine and execute Coach Corrigan's game plan to the dot. When they are clicking, they are the best team in the country. The WHEN is the key word.

Plain and simple, look at what they do right. They average 9.8 goals per game and give up 6.5 a game. A 10-7 win is as legit a win as I can remember.

Now we can look to the losses and point out that in the Carrier Dome, the Irish were outplayed. No way around that. Home field advantage played a major role in that one and you could tell the Irish were a bit shell shocked walking into a place filled with 15,000 screaming lacrosse die hard's.

The North Carolina loss is a little puzzling only because we saw how bad the Tar Heels played last week, but that being said, the Irish took it to overtime and still put up eight goals and gave up 9.

On Sunday, there will be about 15,000 at Gillette Stadium. Both teams have played in big venues and it shouldn't be as much of a shock to these younger guys any more. I don't believe in the pressure situation at this point only because these two teams have been in the limelight all season. With numerous nationally televised games and trips to The New Meadowlands and the Carrier Dome behind them, these kids are ready for the prime time.

The Duke offense does scare me when they are on. With Howell leading the pack, they are scary. There is no doubt they can score. Like every other ACC team, its offense first and sort of a "hold on for the ride" type of game they play. For the Blue Devils, they simply cant play catchup against a team like Notre Dame. Behind John Kemp, the Irish defense shut the door when they get a lead and are comfortable in the game.

The one area that will hurt the Blue Devils is in goal. Walk on Mike Rock did make 12 saves last week, but he also gave up 14 goals. That type of play on Sunday and we could see a 12-7 type Irish victory. Rock needs help in front of him and the play of C.J. Costabile will be huge as the Irish come at you from the midfield.

Midfield play is where the Irish make a living. Led by seniors David Earl and Zach Brenneman, the first line midfield for Coach Corrigan is as complete as any in the country. They must keep their hot play going in this one. The Blue Devils cant lost focus of the Irish attackmen, as the combination of Sean Rogers, Colin Igoe and Westy Hopkins are pure finishers. The presence up top of that midfield should open up space for the attackmen to work.

My final take is a 10-9 Irish victory as the veteran play of the Irish will come into play. The game will never be out of hand for either team and we will be looking at a very close and exciting fourth quarter and even more exciting finish.