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Duke Rebound, Ivy Showdown, and Spiders statement. Three favorites in college lacrosse

Conference play has arrived. And yet, only one of my three favorite games is a conference matchup. Duke needs to get right after the Wednesday stifling. Richmond can make a big non-con statement and beef up the tournament resume. And Cornell and Yale battle for the inside track on hosting the Ivy Tournament. Three favorites for the week.



12 CORNELL VS 8 YALE


According to Lax Reference, Yale is 4th in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency. Cornell is 8th. Yale is 52nd in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency. Cornell is 16th. They are both top ten in adjusted shooting percentage. Why tell you all this? I bet you can guess. This is the favorite to be the highest scoring game of the weekend. Both defenses have struggled as of late. Cornell gave up 20 to Penn State, and gave up big runs to Princeton as they struggled to protect an early lead. Denver put up 16 on them. Yale gave up 15 last week to Harvard, and gave up a giant run to Penn State as they couldn’t protect a big lead. Denver put up 13 on them, and the Pios hit about 10 pipes in that game.


The shootout isn’t the only reason I’m interested in this game though. This year, the Ivy Tournament is being hosted by the regular season conference champion. Both of these teams could feasibly win the conference. This is a game to see who might have the inside track. Cornell winning the Ivy means the other three teams have to travel all the way to Ithaca to play, presumably a sizable advantage for the Big Red. Yale would much rather stay in New Haven and the cozy confines of Reese Stadium and Joe Tsai Field House. The Ivy is, as always, hyper competitive, but this one has the feel of a game that could decide where the tournament gets held. All the better that both teams play like they want to win in 18-16. 


9 DUKE VS 4 DENVER


Duke has won the last six games between these two programs. But it’s not been as one sided as you think, five of those were decided by three or fewer goals. Last year, Duke needed an OT goal from Brennan O’Neill to win it. And five of those six games were in Durham. This one is being played at Archbishop Spalding HS in Maryland.  Can a neutral site help the Pios?


In Denver’s only loss, there were two major deficiencies. The Pios got beat badly at the faceoff spot, and they got badly out groundballed. And that’s outside of the faceoff ground balls. In the loss to Yale, the 50/50 balls went the way of the Bulldogs. Alec Stathatkis bounced back with a good performance against a tough unit at Ohio State. His performance against Jake Naso this week could go a long way to determining the outcome in this one. This is an opportunity for Denver to validate themselves, as there are still Pio doubters out there. Their best win is still the Hopkins OT victory from week one. A win in this one would announce they really do deserve to be in the #1 in the national conversation.


The scout for Duke starts with Brennan O’Neill. Unchecked he can win Duke the game on his own. But it doesn't end with O’Neill. Josh Zawada is just a point behind him in scoring, and Zawada is the team assist leader. The attack group is the key, the trio accounts for more than half of Duke’s total points this year. This is a game on short rest for Duke, as they played Syracuse on Wednesday. They got roughed up in that one, the offense couldn’t figure anything out against a Cuse defense that was very much on its game. Cuse was able to shut down the Duke attack, and the Blue Devils couldn’t come up with answers. That said, the last time Duke suffered a loss, it did not go well for the next team they played. They fell to Penn and dismantled Princeton about a day later. Coach Danowski can get this group to turn the page and be ready for a new opponent in a hurry. 


17 RICHMOND VS 10 GEORGETOWN


I have bemoaned the Spiders for much of this year for beating mediocre teams, losing to good teams, and being ranked as a result. The A-10 was likely always going to be a one bid league, so barring the Spiders having an undefeated season this probably didn’t really matter all that much. They have a top ten opponent Georgetown, a team that handed Notre Dame their only loss. The defense has been very good for Richmond. They have the second best scoring defense in the country, and they’re about as efficient as Syracuse and Maryland on defense according to Lax Reference. Not bad for a team with Duke, UVA, and Maryland on the schedule. The offense was what I thought would carry them this year, given the caliber of players they have like Lance Madonna and Dalton Young. Regardless, this is Richmond’s last chance at a major non-conference win this year. They’ll need both units to show up. The Hoyas are six in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency. 


Georgetown is coming off an early week game against Dartmouth, that’s their only contest since March 5th. It’s a bit of a strange stretch of schedule for the Hoyas. I always wonder how teams will handle changes or abnormalities in routine. The March 5th game was against High Point, and the Panthers hung with Georgetown for 3+ quarters. It was closer than the final score. They were better against Dartmouth, putting up 21 and getting to sub liberally as that game went on. The Hoyas have won five straight, and they’ve got that win against the Irish, not to mention a win against Penn, to bolster their tournament resume however things go from here on out. This would be a very nice last non-con win before they get into Big East play. It probably doesn’t do a ton for the RPI at this point - Georgetown is 17 and Richmond is 29 - but it’s the kind of win against a ranked opponent that helps with the eye test if you believe in such things.


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