Let's keep it simple, shall we?
Win, and Marquette is all but guaranteed a spot in the NCAA tournament. Lose, and the Golden Eagles will likely need to defeat Denver next weekend to truly feel comfortable on Selection Sunday. We'll get into it a little bit more later on today, but the simple version is this: Lacrosse Magazine has Marquette as the second to last team into the 16 team national championship tournament, while Duke is the third to last team in. By the time that the NCAA gets around to picking out and seeding the teams, it seems completely reasonable that a loss to a bubble team isn't going to be helpful in convincing anyone that Marquette belongs in the field.
The problem with this very simple plan is that Marquette has never had much success against Duke in the past. The two teams have played each other in each of Marquette's first three seasons, twice in Milwaukee and once in Durham. The combined score of those three contests? 54-20, favoring the Blue Devils. Most of that margin was built up in the first two meetings, with Duke wrapping up Marquette's first ever season with a 19-3 drubbing, while the first trip to Durham ended with a 20-9 Duke win. Last year's game back in Wisconsin turned up as a 15-8 Duke victory thanks to five straight unanswered goals to end the first period and another 3-0 run to end the second quarter.
I bring up those runs by the Blue Devils, because Marquette nearly coughed up a game against Providence on Saturday. The Golden Eagles went up 7-0 against the Friars, but only won 8-7. A win is a win is a win is a win, but that kind of second half letdown won't work out that well for Marquette when they step onto the field to take on Duke.
Part of that anemic offensive performance in the second half might have had something to do with Conor Gately sitting on the sideline. The senior attacker suffered some kind of injury against Notre Dame, and he was in a walking boot on Saturday. Sure, they had that explosion to start the game without Gately, but you have to wonder if things might have gotten calmed down on the field after halftime with Gately available. Odds are that whatever his issue was less than a week ago won't be healthy enough for him to play in this game, so the Golden Eagles will have to mine goals from elsewhere.
Game #12: at #16 Duke (8-6, 2-2 ACC)
I think it's safe to say that the three seasons of Marquette's participation in Division 1 lacrosse coincides with the high point of Duke lacrosse. They won back to back national championships in the first two years to cap off an 10 year run with nine final four appearances, five title game appearances, and three national championships. Relative to the rest of that run, last year's first round loss to Ohio State is almost a complete disaster, so to speak.
If going 12-6 and finishing second in the ACC was bad relative to the previous decade's results, then I don't even want to know where the mindset of the crazies in the Duke fanbase are this season. John Danowski's squad is just 8-6 and has finished ACC play with a record of 2-2. One of those wins came against Virginia, though, and the Cavaliers have lost 12 straight ACC games at this point. They are 2-5 against ranked teams this year, and I guess you really can't get too upset about losing those games. The most shocking result on their slate this year is a 12-10 home loss to Richmond. It's not surprising because they lost to a third year Spiders team, it's shocking because Marquette beat Richmond 7-2. Yes, you're reading that correctly: Marquette held Richmond to just a pair of goals, while Duke allowed 12.
If you've been watching these Duke-Marquette games the last three years, then you're familiar with Myles Jones. The senior midfielder has seven goals and three assists in three games against Marquette, and he has 58 points to lead a trio of Blue Devils with 50 points already on the season. Jones' advantage is his passing, as he ranks 10th in the country in assists per game. He'll be the best assists man that Marquette will see this season, beating out Notre Dame's Matt Kavanagh. Deemer Class is the best goal scorer on the Duke roster with 41 markers on the season and ranking 8th in the country in goals per game. He'll most likely be the target of B.J. Grill's attention on defense, and this seems like the best time to point out that Villanova's Jake Froccaro averages more goals than Class but did not score against Marquette.
Marquette's Zachary Melillo will have his work cut out for him on faceoffs in this one. While Melillo (62.8%, #9) is one of the best faceoff guys in the country, Duke's Kyle Rowe isn't that far behind him (62.3%, #12). I don't think that goalie Danny Fowler is the source of Duke's struggles this season, but he's a middle of the pack goalie with a goals against average of 10.10 (#35 in the country) while stopping just 51% of shots on goal to rank #36 in the country. REMINDER: There are only 68 teams in Division 1.