First things first: Saturday’s game is the HEAD Coaches Classic, in benefit of the HEADstrong Foundation. Marquette will be auctioning off the unique helmets and jerseys that they wear for the game, and the nets will be strung in lime green.
Whatever thin chances Marquette has for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament ride completely on getting a win on Saturday against a very good Duke team.
Marquette didn’t have a sterling resume headed into the final four games of their schedule in the first place, and they’re currently riding a two game losing streak after last week’s losses to Notre Dame and Providence. You can’t quite call Marquette’s Big Barbecue hopes totally dead, because wins over Duke and Denver would put them in the conversation with the two best wins of any team in the country.
The issue is, of course, getting those two wins.
It’s hard to say that a team averaging just under 10 goals per game while allowing just over eight per game has a lot of hope against two of the powerhouse programs in the country. To make matters worse, over the four year history of the Marquette program, the Golden Eagles have not shown an ability to beat Duke or Denver, going just 1-8 against them and largely getting trounced.
But the chance exists. To paraphrase Jim Valvano, they’re going to play the games, so they’ve got a chance to win.
Marquette does benefit from getting to play the two games at home, and both games are already sold out. A raucous home atmosphere has not turned into wins against Duke in the past for MU, but maybe things are about to change.
Game #12: vs #4 Duke Blue Devils (10-3)
When: Saturday, April 22, 2017 at 12pm Central
Where: Valley Fields
Audio/Visual: The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network and live stats will be here.
Special Promotions: Doesn’t matter because the game is SOLD OUT.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteMLax
Marquette is 0-4 all time against Duke, with the smallest margin of defeat coming in a 15-8 game at Hart Park back in 2015. The Blue Devils crushed the Golden Eagles, 16-1, in their last meeting.
Duke comes into the game on a three game winning streak and winners in eight of their last nine games. Their only loss in that stretch was a 12-11 overtime tilt on the road against a Syracuse squad that was ranked #5 in the country at the time. Duke has four wins over ranked foes in that 8-1 stretch, including two wins over opponents that Marquette has also played this year. The Blue Devils beat Richmond 9-8 up in Virginia, and popped Notre Dame 11-8 in Durham. They also have a 12-7 road win over Georgetown to their credit as well as a season opening loss to the Air Force squad that MU defeated in Milwaukee. Let’s hope that Duke team shows up. Fingers crossed.
Duke has two players that have more points individually this season than any two Golden Eagles combined. Justin Guterding has 37 goals and 31 assists, which gives him the sixth best points per game average in the country. Jack Bruckner is no slouch, tallying 39 goals and 14 helpers in 2017, which mean he “only” has the 19th best points per game average. Real bummer there. Marquette’s coaching staff is very familiar with what those guys can do after they combined for seven goals and three assists in that 16-1 disaster in Durham a year ago.
Senior Danny Fowler has played the majority of minutes in net for the Blue Devils this season. He’s allowing just 8.77 goals per 60 minutes and stops more than 52% of shots on goal. Marquette has been pretty good at turning shots on frame into goals this season (59%), so they’ll need to need to maximize that efficiency in order to have a chance to beat Fowler. Last year in Durham, Fowler needed to make just six saves in 41 minutes before exiting with a 13-1 lead.