Editor’s Note: Guest post by Hayden King
Duke enters the season ranked #7 by USA Lacrosse Magazine and #8 by Inside Lacrosse. Oddly, Vegas has them as the 4th highest odds at +850. They’re going to look a lot different this year, but there is some value in this bet.
In 2022, the team went 11-6 and narrowly missed the tournament. Along with Notre Dame, their fans felt felt snubbed by the omission. That emotion should help in their 2023 campaign.
They’ll be returning 64% of their scoring led by Brennan O’Neill and Dyson Williams. Also returning, close defender Kenny Brower and long pole Tyler Carpenter. Both defenders and O’Neill are preseason All Americans.
Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, they lost major veteran presences. Mike Adler is gone between the pipes. First team All American Nakeie Montgomery’s spot in the midfield has been vacated. Add in the losses of Sean Lulley and Joe Robertson and this team will look completely different in 2023.
I’m not betting against John Danowski. He’s the winningest coach in college lacrosse history. He’s gotten this team to Memorial Day weekend countless times. He may have to capture a little Durham magic this year, but Duke is an attractive future bet at +850.
Duke graduated 3 of their top 6 point producers from 2022 in Montgomery, Lulley, and Robertson. They also graduated stud goalie Mike Adler which is going to hurt.
Losing Sean Lulley and Joe Robertson will hurt the Blue Devils. Both are high level players and dish out as much as they dunk. Lulley had 24 goals and 17 assists, while Robertson had 21 goals and 18 assists. They were major facets of this offense and Joe was guaranteed to net a clutch goal when you needed it.
This is a hot take, but I think Duke will actually look better without Nakeie Montgomery as their main initiator. Yes, he was a stud at Duke and constantly blew by defenders off a nasty split dodge. However, I think he actually held back the Duke offense for years.
Duke doesn’t include turnovers in their stat sheet wrap up from the previous year, and I can’t find anything online to back this up. However, I’d be willing to wager he’s led the team the last few years in turnovers for Duke.
Rant for a second: Lacrosse statistics are still PAINFULLY abysmal. Can’t find individual turnover statistics for a player and the stats we keep are insanely basic. If we ever want good analysis out of the game we need better statistics. Go follow Joe Keegan @joekeegs on Twitter for (in my opinion) the best statistics in the game.
Back to Montgomery. He’s a good player but I think Duke will be better this year by getting back to the basics and not relying on Nakeie to initiate. Expect classic Duke lacrosse: operating a pairs offense and likely using McAdorey as their main speed initiator to draw a slide.
In weeks past, I’ve mentioned Maryland, Notre Dame, and Virginia’s ability to utilize the transfer portal. I don’t think Duke got the most out of the portal this year, but they did net second team all conference attackman Thomas Schelling from Lehigh. He will play attack for the Blue Devils and will likely start to begin the season.
I haven’t followed enough of their 2022 recruiting class to know who may come knocking in 2023. However, it’d be silly to not expect a newcomer to fill the roles left by graduations, so expect some fresh faces to dazzle for the Blue Devils.
Brennan O’Neill has the capability of being the best lacrosse player on planet Earth. He’s one of the biggest dudes I’ve seen play attack at 6’2” 225 lbs, and you’d be hard pressed to find any goalie in the country that wants to take shots from him.
He can dominate defenses by himself, and not sliding is guaranteeing a goal. Last year, I did a little appreciation post for his dominant performance vs. Loyola.
I haven’t seen a guy play offense like him since Mark Matthews with Denver.
If you haven’t watched those highlights, you’re missing out. He was a freak.
Andrew McAdorey will also be returning for the Blue Devils, and I expect him to have a breakout year as he fills Montgomery’s role in the offense. I think he will do most of the initiating.
O’Neill’s high school teammate has great field awareness and I expect him to find Williams and O’Neill early and often.
Dyson Williams is one of my favorite players. I still watch the video below weekly. His subtle BTB fake is one of the prettiest things I’ve ever seen, and you can see his box influence while he plays.
Fun fact about Dyson: he’s carrying on his father Shawn’s legacy wearing the #51 jersey. His sister Dylana wears #51 for Pitt Women’s lax. Pretty cool homage.
Returning on the defensive side will be Kenny Brower who was named 3rd team Preseason All American, along with Tyler Carpenter who also received 3rd. They should be fine defensively, but as I mentioned, the loss of Mike Adler leaves a big question between the pipes.
From what I’ve seen: Andrew Bonafede may be the starting goalkeeper come their first game. He saw action in 10 games last year and recorded a 9.72 Goals Against Average. I don’t know how he will fill the shoes left by Adler, but I guarantee Danowski will put someone in cage that lives up to the Duke name, and it this point I see that being Bonafede.
Finally, Jake Naso will be returning at the face off. He’s already eclipsed the 60% mark. Duke should have a two headed monster with Penn transfer Jamie Zusi, who earned honorable mention All Ivy last year. The Devils should have one of the best face off units in the country.
2023 Schedule-Why Duke will make it to May
As always, Duke has a loaded schedule in 2023. The ACC is looking strong this year, and Duke didn’t shy away from scheduling some strong out-of-conference games.
For the ACC, I expect Duke to go 3-3 this year with wins over Syracuse and UNC. Unfortunately, they scheduled Virginia twice, and I don’t think they’ll win either matchup. Further, I do expect them to drop their away game to Notre Dame in April.
The Blue Devils won’t lose much outside of the ACC. I expect them to beat Bellarmine, High Point, Jacksonville, and Denver to start the season. However, we all know Duke blows a game early that they shouldn’t. If you were pulling my leg, I’d say the ‘bad February loss’ for this team may be Jacksonville on February 11th.
If they win all 4 games, I’d expect them to start the season 4-1 with a loss to Penn in week 5. Fast forward to Virginia on March 31st, and I expect this team to win every game, earning them a 9-1 record to start the season.
With losses to Virginia (twice), Notre Dame, and Penn: I expect this team to go 11-4 in the regular season. That would earn them an at-large bid.
This is why Duke is a fascinating bet for 2023. Their odds are high which means a big payout, and they have the star power to deliver. The only question heading into the season: How will they replace what they’ve lost?
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