At this point of the season, Marquette enters their final non-conference game of the year with nothing particular to play for other than pride.
Even if Marquette were to pull the road stunner on Friday night, it’s not going to be enough to pop the Golden Eagles into contention for an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament. That’s fine, to be honest. With as little experience as Marquette had on offense coming into the season, it was going to be an uphill battle for that at-large bid. In fact, it’s safe to say that it’s been an uphill battle for Marquette just to get to 6-5 on the season, considering that four of Marquette’s wins have come in overtime and the fifth was a result of a goal scored in the final 10 seconds of regulation.
That’s.... not really the kind of way you want to go through life. Sure, it’s probably beneficial for head coach Joe Amplo to teach his very young team a lot of lessons about fighting and working hard and never quitting.... but it sure is stressful as hell.
And now, after all of that, MU heads out on the road to face a top five team working on fine tuning their team as they prepare to challenge for a national championship. In fact, a top five team that Marquette has never beaten in five previous meetings. A program that has roundly outscored Marquette 81 to 28 in just five games, and that includes two games where Marquette was ranked at the time.
This one is probably not going to be fun, either.
Here’s the attitude that Marquette has to take for this one: It’s preparation for next week. Next Saturday, April 28th, Marquette will be out in Colorado to take on Denver. The Pioneers are ranked #4 in the country right now, and they’ve got a superstar attacker just like Duke does. Playing the Blue Devils is just prep work for that Denver game which, by the way, has the Big East regular season championship on the line, no matter what the Pioneers do against Providence on Saturday. The result of Friday night’s game in North Carolina doesn’t matter, but the process of it is what’s going to be a big deal heading into that very big contest eight days later.
Game #12: at #3 Duke Blue Devils (11-2)
Date: Friday, April 20, 2018
Time: 6pm Central
Location: Koskinen Stadium, Durham, NC
Streaming: ACC Network Plus, which I think is not behind the ESPN+ paywall.
Live Stats: StatBroadcast/GoDuke.com
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteMLax
Marquette is 0-5 all time against Duke, tangling with the Blue Devils each and every season in MU history, but not yet securing a victory. Last year’s contest at Valley Fields was the closest that the Golden Eagles have come to a win, falling 11-7 while #4 ranked Duke scored six out of the final seven goals of the game.
While Duke’s 11-2 record would be impressive enough on face value, their willingness/luck when it comes to facing ranked teams is the reason why they’re ranked #3 in the countryin the media poll right now. The Blue Devils have faced seven ranked foes this season, and they’re come away with the win five times. Both of their losses came on the road, and both were by just one goal.
In other words, they’re really good. To give it a little bit of extra color: Lacrosse Refernece marks Duke with the third best offense and the fourth best defense, which is the best 1-2 punch in the country. Don’t count out Touchdown John Danowski, everyone.
If Marquette wants to keep this one close, they’re going to have to find a way to contain Justin Guterding, and boy howdy, good luck with that one. Duke’s #2 all-time scorer has 43 goals and 34 assists on the season. That has him ranked #3 in the country in goals per game, #9 in the country in assists per game, and #5 in the country in points per game. He will be the most dangerous offensive player that Marquette sees all season, and it’s nearly a full point per game between him and the next guy.... who MU won’t see until next week.
Even if MU manages to put a cap on Guterding, there’s still Joe Robertson averaging two goals per game, and Brad Smith and Peter Conley aren’t that far behind him. Smith is almost as difficult as Guterding to defend, as he has almost as many assists (20) as he does goals (21).
Danny Fowler will assuredly get the netminding duties on Friday night, and that will be a trick and a half for Marquette’s offense to attack. He’s been Duke’s full-time goalie over the past two seasons and played nearly 600 minutes the year before that. Marquette has managed to score just 16 goals in three games against Fowler, so they’re going to have their work cut out for them.