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Duke Blue Devils: Three-Seed
Here are three pieces of incredibly important information about Duke from my brain to your eyes via your Internet computing machine:
- Not to get too redundant, but I'll reiterate because it's important: There aren't too many teams that play in man-down more than the Devils this season. What's especially important about this is that in those situations Duke has been abysmal: Opponents are converting on nearly 45 percent of those opportunities. Even though Dan Wigrizer is coming along nicely in net for the Blue Devils, putting a somewhat shaky ball stopper in a position to turn away shots in preferential offensive situations is a difficult task. Against a Maryland offense that shoots the ball well -- the Terps are shooting about 33 percent on the year as a team -- and can really exploit man-up situations (Maryland holds a 41.86 percent extra-man conversion rate), Duke can get itself in trouble if it takes a bunch of boneheaded penalties at Gillette Stadium on Saturday. This hasn't bit the Blue Devils too much through May, but, as context, Denver hadn't taken too many penalties throughout the season until its date with Loyola in Annapolis; that performance sent the Pioneers packing. May isn't a time for loose play and Duke needs to take care to ensure that it doesn't give Maryland opportunities to build a scoring margin.
- On the flip side, Maryland hasn't done the best job this season at keeping out of man-down situations. In fact, the Terrapins actually play in a personnel imbalance disadvantage more than Duke (if you can believe that). The Blue Devils should have opportunities to attack Niko Amato and that relatively green Terps defense with an extra attacker, but I'm not sure how much the Devils are going to get out of it: Only five teams convert extra-man opportunities at a lower rate than Duke. The Blue Devils don't necessarily need extra man opportunities to make the scoreboard blink -- only six teams rely on such scenarios to score less than Duke -- but the Blue Devils' ability to score in these chances on Saturday may be the difference between Duke building out a lead, forcing Maryland to abandon its offensive patience to make up ground, and getting caught in a street fight. Plus, the ability to rattle Niko Amata between the pipes through preferential scoring opportunities that are attendant in extra-man situations is a factor that isn't without merit.
- Maryland has done a decent job at limiting assisted scoring opportunities in the defensive end this season, but I don't think that's going to impact a lot of what Duke is going to try and get tomorrow. While the Blue Devils have slowly but surely begun sharing the bean more in the offensive end, this is a team that still gets a lot of goals through unassisted, one-on-one situations. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially considering the number of guys that Duke has that can straight beat their man and attack the goal. Against a young but talented Maryland defense, the Blue Devils have an opportunity to exploit their matchups, especially if they can attack away from Jesse Bernhardt, Goran Murray, and Michael Ehrhardt. The more action that Duke can get from their midfield -- especially Dave Lawson, Rob Rotanz, and Justin Turri -- and quick play from Jordan Wolf, the better off the Blue Devils will be against an undervalued Terrapins defense.
For more on Duke's opponent -- Maryland -- check out the Blue Devils' profile here.