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NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Tournament Final Four Preview: (2) Duke vs (3) Maryland

An old, bitter rivalry is renewed as the two top programs of the last decade battle for a spot in familiar territory: Memorial Day

NCAA LACROSSE: MAY 15 Men’s Tournament - Vermont at Maryland

The 10,000 Foot View

Date and Time: 2:30 PM ET

Location: Rentschler Field, East Hartford, Connecticut

Network: ESPN2

LaxRef Win Probability: 53.9% Maryland

Your Anticipation Level: THROUGH THE ROOF

The Nitty Gritty Numbers

Duke vs Maryland

THE STATS Duke Maryland
THE STATS Duke Maryland
Adjusted Offensive Eff. 36.3% (6th) 38.4% (2nd)
Adjusted Defensive Eff. 23.2% (6th) 23.0% (5th)
Adjusted FO% 63.0% (8th) 51.2% (29th)
Clearing Percentage 85.1% (35th) 86.5% (25th)
Ground Balls Per Game 32.06 (26th) 32.50 (22nd)

The Key Match-Ups

  • How does Duke defend Jared Bernhardt?
  • It’s the million dollar question. No one has been able to stop Bernhardt this year. Jack Kielty, the ACC Player of the Year, got torched three times on dodges by Bernhardt, who racked up five goals in Maryland’s win over Notre Dame. After his fifth goal, Notre Dame started sliding immediately to Bernhardt and double teaming him and forcing him to give up the ball. It led to him not scoring any more for the rest of the game; but it also led to the Irish defense tiring out by the end of the game and having Maryland midfielders run by them for either skip passes (DeMaio to Wisnauskas for Maryland’s 10th goal) or for goals (Long past the Irish defense on an S dodge for their 11th goal.) The same thing happened when Hopkins slid and doubled Bernhardt as soon as he touched the ball. It worked for a time and slowed Bernhardt down, but by the end the Hopkins defenders had tired out and Maryland made the plays late to come away with the victory. So does Duke go with that strategy, especially when you consider the Blue Devils do not carry a deep short stick defensive midfield unit and sub off their offensive midfielders for defenders on defense routinely? Or do they leave a defender on an island with him? Kenny Brower has been Duke’s #1 cover man, taking assignments against Chris Gray and Pat Kavanagh and Connor Shellenberger of Virginia. The results have been mixed. Shellenberger had a goal and an assist, below his usual output. Kavanagh was held to a goal and an assist in the first matchup against the Irish but had 7 points in the second and ran by defenders on several occasions. Gray had three goals and three assists in the last matchup Duke had against him. However JT Giles-Harris is the better athlete and thus feels like the better fit to go with Bernhardt. Does Giles-Harris’ athleticism give him an edge others have not had? If it does it could be a boon to the Blue Devils. But he again hasn’t been accustomed this year to defending opponents best attackmen. And even the best of the best haven’t stopped Bernhardt (see: Kielty.) However Duke does it, they either have to minimize his impact to however they can, or they need to be able to buckle in late and defend the Terps in the 4th Quarter when those midfielders smell blood.
  • The Faceoff Game
  • This nearly did decide the game for Notre Dame against Maryland. The Irish won 67% of the draws against the Terps for the game. However through three quarters that number was at 77% and the Irish possessed a +7 possession advantage. They won the first faceoff of the 4th Quarter as well and went up 12-9. From there, Maryland won five of the seven remaining faceoffs, were a +3 in possessions the rest of the way, and outscored Notre Dame 4-1. The Irish’s dominant 2nd Quarter where they outscored Maryland 6-2, was fueled by going eight-of-nine on faceoffs and doubling up the Terps in possessions. When Maryland was on level ground with possessions or held an advantage, Notre Dame had no answers for their offense. So what does Jake Naso have up his sleeve for Saturday? Duke is an elite faceoff team, at 63% in Adjusted FO Percentage. Naso is at 64% for the year and had the edge on every ACC FOGO except for Petey Lasalla of Virginia. Can he get to 70% for the game or even near 80 like ND was at for three quarters? If he does, with the pieces Duke has on offense and Mike Adler doing what Liam Entenmann did last week against Maryland, that would be very tough for Maryland to come back from. However 67% wasn’t enough. And Maryland has generally been able to stabilize things well at the dot this year; the ND game was their first game below 50% at the dot since four games ago against Hopkins, and one of their three worst on the season. They’ve generally hovered between 45-55% and been dominant from there. The presence of Kyle Gallagher and Charles Leonard was a factor; Justin Shockey nor Luke Wierman had an answer as Notre Dame changed it up to equal effect. Naso will take all the draws for Duke. He’ll have the edge; but can he have the same edge when Maryland does change it up? That’ll be a question that will go a long way to deciding the outcome.