Commentary

Duke's dominance is hard to overlook

Originally Published: March 3, 2008
By Quint Kessenich | ESPN.com

Here's a look at my top 20 teams, and the reasons I'm voting for them:

1. Duke
Wow. If you watched Duke beat Maryland 15-7 on Saturday, you understand why I have them ranked on top. The Blue Devils are visually fast; they sprinted to a 6-1 first quarter lead. Duke has a professional-quality roster -- well balanced, skillful and nasty. It was great to see Matt Danowski's goal as a Top 10 play on "SportsCenter." Duke hosts Lehigh on Tuesday, then travels to Loyola on Saturday (ESPNU, 2 p.m. ET).

2. Johns Hopkins
The Blue Jays ambushed Princeton 10-1 in the first half of a 14-9 win Saturday, but were outscored 8-4 in the second half. Kevin Huntley shot 5-of-6 from the field while Paul Rabil tallied three goals and four assists and Stephen Peyser scooped up 11 ground balls. I was most impressed by their ground ball game and the way they were able to run off of 50-50 ground ball wins. The Jays play UMBC on Tuesday (ESPNU, 7 p.m. ET).

3. Virginia
I liked what I saw from Danny Glading, Ben Rubeor, Brian Carroll, Shamel Bratton, Ken Clausen and freshman goalie Adam Ghitelman in Saturday's overtime win over Syracuse. That said, the team defense needs to be tightened -- as does the man-down D, which surrendered four goals to the Orange. Cavaliers travel to Princeton on Saturday to play the Tigers (ESPN, noon ET).

4. North Carolina
Goalie Grant Zimmerman made 15 saves on Sunday as the Heels beat Cornell. Carolina hosts Notre Dame on Saturday at Fetzer Field in a showdown of two unbeaten teams that have Top 10 wins under their belts.

5. Maryland
Maryland is ranked fifth in my national poll, but fourth in the ACC. The Terps will look to bounce back in their next four games against Providence, Towson, UMBC and Air Force.

6. Syracuse
Even in Saturday's loss to Virginia it was apparent that the Orange has vastly improved upon its 5-8 record a year ago. Freshman goalie John Galloway is more than solid between the pipes and throws frozen rope outlets. Junior college transfer Sid Smith knocks down passes and gets to loose balls in the defensive zone. Dan Brennan is one of the top faceoff/get off men in the nation. Mike Leveille is playing his way into the Tewaaraton Trophy (lacrosse's version of the Heisman) discussion. Kenny Nims is nifty around the crease, and Steven Brooks has a blistering shot from the perimeter. The entire roster looks more fit, focused and hungry. John Desko's midfield lines remain a work in progress. Up next is another big game in Georgetown.

7. Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish have found ways to win without Will Yeatman, topping Loyola (7-6), Penn State (15-9) and Albany (7-6). Major League Lacrosse general managers are very interested in defender Sean Dougherty, who attended Malvern Prep with former ND defenseman D.J. Driscoll, who now plays for the L.A. Riptide. Driscoll taught Dougherty the basics of defense back at Malvern.

8. Delaware
Bob Shillinglaw's extra-man offense is 7-for-9 this spring, and has helped the Hens jump to a 4-0 start. Curtis Dickson already has 20 points, and Cam Howard has 15. We'll find out more about the Blue Man Group on Saturday when it hosts Albany.

9. Georgetown
Georgetown beat St. John's 13-7 on Saturday. We'll see if shooting drills with live goalies -- as opposed to firing at an empty net -- improves the Hoyas' shooting percentage.

10. Cornell
Big Red fell to North Carolina on Sunday, proving that the Ivy League is wide open in 2008.

11. Princeton
The Tigers fell behind JHU 11-1 on Saturday. But the good news is that they outscored the Jays 8-4 in the second half and hope to use that momentum this Saturday when they host Virginia.

12. Bucknell
Prevailed in three overtimes against Ohio State this week, taking only 19 shots but managing a 3-for-6 day on extra-man offense.

13. Navy
Mids enter the Patriot League portion of their schedule with games against Lafayette, Lehigh, Holy Cross, Bucknell and Colgate -- only one Top 20 team is in that bunch. Navy is 3-1 with wins over Virginia Military Institute, Ohio State and Mt. St. Mary's, and should creep up the polls in March with its schedule.

14. Albany
The Great Danes are now 0-2 after dropping a one-goal game to Notre Dame on Saturday in Indiana. Albany must find its offense quickly -- it is taking only 24 shots per game. Scott Marr's crew plays four key games before March 21 -- Delaware, UMass, Drexel and Princeton.

15. Drexel
The Dragons beat Binghamton 3-2.


16. Loyola
After dropping their season opener to Notre Dame, the Greyhounds have beaten Towson and Penn State. The Nittany Lions put only 11 shots on Jake Hagelin. Attackman Shane Koppens is a playmaker, and he'll have to continue that trend as the Greyhounds entertain Duke on Saturday.


17. Rutgers
Rutgers beat UMBC in Week 1, but lost to Delaware by a pair in Week 2.


18. Ohio State
The Buckeyes are the tough-luck team of 2008, having lost in OT to Navy and Bucknell. They boasted the top extra-man defense of 2007, but so far this spring have surrendered goals on six of 12 penalties.

19. Army
Army's wins over VMI and Air Force -- and its close loss to Syracuse -- look better after this past weekend. Goalie Adam Fullerton has saved 70 percent of his shots, and opponents are only shooting 17 percent. The team has a big showdown with Cornell on Saturday.

20. Towson
Towson got back on track with a 10-9 win over Denver after an opening-week loss to Loyola. The next four games are brutal -- against Maryland, Virginia, Hofstra and Bucknell -- which means the Tigers goalies are going to have to improve on their 45 percent save numbers.

Quint Kessenich covers college and professional lacrosse for ESPN. He can be reached at quint@insidelacrosse.com.

Quint Kessenich covers college and professional lacrosse for ESPN.

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