Commentary

Duke edges Virginia for Quint's vote in battle of unbeatens

Originally Published: March 18, 2008
By Quint Kessenich | ESPN.com

We're five weeks into the season, and teams are beginning to show their true colors. Here's a look at my top 20 this week:

1. Duke (7-0)
The Blue Devils handled then-No. 3 North Carolina 19-9 on Saturday in Durham and beat Presbyterian 18-4 on Tuesday. Matt Danowski and Co. averaging 17.7 goals per game -- a point total comparable to Duke's football team, which averaged 17.9 last fall. The Blue Devils' bandwagon has become a popular ride, with the only speed bumps appearing to be hubris and injury. But remember, championship rings aren't minted in March, they're won in May. Duke's next challenge is Colgate on Tuesday and then a trip to DC to face Georgetown on Saturday.

2. Virginia (8-0)
The Cavs outscored Towson 18-13, helping raise their 16 goals per game average. UVa's extra man offense is an amazing 21-for-30 (70 percent). Brian Carroll already has eight extra-man goals. Garrett Billings has 37 points and Danny Gladding has 34. Their freewheeling style will be an interesting mix for Johns Hopkins on Saturday in Charlottesville.

3. Syracuse (4-1)
Intangibles are back for the Orange -- T-shirt sales in the Dome will once again be brisk. Head, heart and hustle provided the final four goals of Saturday's 14-13 OT win over rival Hopkins. Sharp shooter Steven Brooks continues to vie for Midfielder of the Year honors for SU. The Orange have one-goal wins over Army, Georgetown and Hopkins and an overtime loss to UVa; four of their five games have been decided by one goal.

4. North Carolina (5-1)
The Tar Heels were torpedoed by Duke; the Blue Devils led 10-2 in the second quarter. Carolina missed the goal 17 times. On Tuesday, the Heels struggled a bit, but beat Providence 8-6. They host Maryland on March 22.

5. Notre Dame (5-1)
The Irish rebounded from their loss to North Carolina by whipping Dartmouth 19-7 on Saturday. The old formula that faceoffs and goaltending win championships applies to Notre Dame. Taylor Clagett has won 63 percent of his faceoffs and goalie Joey Kemp has a 64 percent mark between the pipes.

6. Cornell (3-1)
The Big Red have quickly become the dominant sports program in the Ancient Eight -- their men's and women's basketball teams and wrestling team won Ivy titles this year. Jeff Tambroni's crew shut down Canisius 14-3 on Wednesday, and is holding opponents to 29 percent shooting. They are, however, allowing close to a .500 mark when opponents are on the EMO.

7. Georgetown (3-2)
The Hoyas snuck by Hobart in double overtime this weekend on a goal by Andrew Baird. The Hoyas have beaten the Statesmen 13 straight times. Brendan Cannon exploded with seven points against Delaware on Wednesday as the beltway bullies rolled 18-10.

8. Johns Hopkins (3-2)
The Blue Jays gave up 14 goals at home in this weekend's overtime loss to Syracuse. With a three-goal lead Hopkins suffered engine failure, winning just one of the final nine faceoffs. Hopkins has been outshot (53-34) and outscored (14-12) in the fourth quarter of games in 2008. The Jays are now staring at the ACC portion of their schedule, with their opening win over Albany dropping in value like Bear Stearns.

9. Princeton (2-2)
The Orange and Black found Hofstra to be a kinder foe than Hopkins or Virginia, catching the Pride at the right time. Opponents are shooting 28 percent against the Tigers right now, compared to 20 percent in 2007. Coach Bill Tierney pointed said he felt this team would improve considerably in March and April. The Tigers are moving in the right direction.

10. Bucknell (5-1)
The Bison have wins over Hobart, Ohio State, Mt. St. Mary's, Fairfield and Lafayette after dropping their opener to Duke. Bucknell is only a 40 percent faceoff team and shoots a lower percentage than their opponents, but have managed to outscore opponents 17-3 in the first quarter. Austin Winter has 12 assists.

11. Navy (6-1)
Navy has workmanlike wins over VMI, Ohio State, Mt. St. Mary's, Lafayette, Lehigh and Holy Cross. Right now the Mids are bottom-feeders who have yet to beat a top-15 team, but in the six games remaining on their schedule, they have plenty of chances to prove themselves -- starting with Bucknell on Wednesday at home.

12. Maryland (5-2)
The Terps were upset by UMBC on Friday night as their extra man offense went 0-for-6. The premature coronation of the Terps' freshman class had repercussions, as immediate success can sometimes be the worst thing for a young player to experience. Baby Terps bounced back on Sunday against Air Force. Maryland must face North Carolina, Virginia, Hopkins and Navy in the next four weeks. Yikes.

13. Drexel (6-1)
Drexel's winning streak is now at six games after toasting Albany 7-6 on Saturday and crosstown rival St. Joseph's 12-5 on Tuesday. Colin Amber has 22 points and Andrew Chapman has found the net 14 times, but the big story is goalie Bruce Bickford and his 68 percemt save efficiency. March 25 at Notre Dame is a golden opportunity for the Dragons.

14. Army (3-2)
When a team plays for a cause bigger than its individual members, great things can be accomplished. Army beat Rutgers in Texas Stadium 12-11 in an event that benefited the Wounded Warrior project. Ten of the last 12 games in the Army-Rutgers series have been decided by one-goal. Cadets have one-goal losses to Syracuse and Cornell sandwiched between wins over VMI, Air Force and Rutgers. Coach Joe Alberici's offense is shooting 32 percent, compared to 22 percent in 2007. Lehigh and Holy Cross are up next.

15. Loyola (3-2)
Loyola built a 9-1 lead in Queens, N.Y. against St. John's and held on. Shane Koppens now has 10 assists, helping the Greyhounds to wins over Towson, Penn State and St John's, with losses coming against Notre Dame and Duke.

16. Delaware
Delaware (5-2) - It was a week to forget for the Blue Man Group. They got dusted by Georgetown on Wednesday 18-10, then were upset on Saturday by Stony Brook 19-16. That's 37 goals against in two games! Jordan McBride scored 10 goals for the Seawolves. Blue Hens have nagging injuries to Kevin Kaminski and Brett Manney and a defense surrendering more than 10 goals per game.

17. UMBC (3-3)
Coach Don Zimmerman has resuscitated the Retrievers after a 1-3 start. UMBC beat intrastate rival Maryland on Friday night 9-8 in overtime and there's a lot of positive karma hovering over the Catonsville, Md., campus, as the men's basketball team ventures into March Madness.

18. Ohio State (3-2)
The Buckeyes have two overtime losses (Navy and Bucknell), but held serve against Penn State, Colgate and Robert Morris. Senior Kevin Buchanan has 17 points in five games. Buckeyes are only winning 43 percent of their faceoffs. Joe Breschi's Scarlet and Gray play at Villanova on Tuesday and then host UMBC in a key contest on Saturday.

19. Hofstra (2-2)
Last week's Hopkins upset was followed by a headache, as the Pride fell to Princeton on Saturday 11-6. The JHU win will be worth something come tournament time -- but losses to UMass and Princeton prevent a higher rank. Up next: Towson on Friday on Long Island.

20. Harvard (4-1)
An opening loss to Siena hurt the Crimson, but since then, first-year coach John Tillman has led his team to wins over Stony Brook, UMass, Hartford and most recently Fairfield. Harvard travels to Penn for its highly anticipated Ivy League opener on March 22.

Question of the week: How do you explain the fact that 4,000 fans watched Duke beat North Carolina in Durham, N.C., while only 3,500 showed up at Homewood Field in Baltimore to watch Syracuse beat Hopkins?

As the weather warms up, get out and watch a game -- but please enjoy your lacrosse responsibly.

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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