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NCAA D1 Game of the Week
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Game Of The Week: Duke vs. Notre Dame

Editor’s Note:  Each week Ryan Connors will highlight an NCAA Division 1 game that he thinks will be the Game of the Week.  Last week he picked UNC – Penn State, and then graded his predictions.  He really did very well!!!!  So we trust Ryan when it comes to picking a great game and then informing us WHY it will be great, and WHAT we should watch for!

NCAA D1 Game of the Week

NCAA Division 1 College Lacrosse is entering its third week of play and I’m already addicted. I find myself checking my phone for updates and scouring the forums trying to get my fix. This week will feature the first televised lacrosse game (Hop – Towson Friday night at 5pm on ESPNU), FINALLY!  You better believe that I will have that game on every TV in the bar when I have to go in to work later.

My Game of the Week is:

Notre Dame Vs. Duke

There is a ton of great lacrosse going on this weekend; once again it was impossible to choose just one game for my Game of the Week. Umass-Bucknell will be a great game that I was planning on attending until I remembered I had to work. Maryland-Hartford, Syracuse-Albany, and Denver-OhioSstate are all great games to follow this weekend.

However, the game I chose is a powerhouse matchup between Duke and Notre Dame, and here are my five reasons why to watch this game!

2010 National Championship Rematch:

Two years ago these two teams met in the National Championship game. Duke downed the Irish in an overtime thriller, and ever since then a cross-conference rivalry has been bred. The past two years, these two teams have met four times and the series is split 2-2. Notre Dame has beaten the Blue Devils twice in the regular season, but Duke is 2-0 against Notre Dame in NCAA playoff games. Duke comes
into South Bend ranked #2 in the nation and Notre Dame sits at #9.

A win for either team is huge but if the Irish come away with this one, they will jump a few notches in the rankings. No one knows for sure who will win when these two teams faceoff, but I can guarantee that it will be a great game to watch (they always are).

Westy Hopkins, Attack, Notre Dame:

Aside from having one of the greatest names in college lacrosse, Westy Hopkins can flat out play. He led the team in goals last year coming off the bench. He only started 6 games last year, I expect him to start every game this season and be a huge contributor. The only flaw I see with him is the big ZERO in his assist Colum. Within a certain diameter of the goal, Hopkins is deadly as ever (.43 shooting percentage last season). My question is can he dodge and create for his teammates. With David Earl and Zach Brennaman gone, Notre Dame has shifted to a more attack oriented team.

This means Hopkins will have to learn to create for others. I have no doubt he can do it, I am positive that he has worked to round out his game. Hopkins stats will be more even this year. Last year against Duke in a NCAA playoff game, Hopkins buried three goals. This year I can see him putting up similar numbers, look for Hopkins to go 2, 1. If Westy can get more than 3 points Duke might be in trouble.

Goalie Showdown – Duke’s Wigrizer vs. Notre Dame’s Kemp:

Both of these goalies are two of the best tendies in college lacrosse, they both were high school Under Armor All-Americans. Statistically, John Kemp is the better goalie. but I believe that Wigrizer has a better defense in front of him this year.  Last year, Kemp played all but 5 minutes where as Wigrizer struggled as of late, which led to Mike Rock getting a start in a NCAA tournament game. Which leads one to ask, “If Wigrizer struggles, will Danwoski replace him with a solid backup of Mike Rock?”

In the first game of the season, Wigrizer only had a handful of saves and let in 8 goals. What I can tell you is whichever goalie plays better, that team will have a significant advantage over the other. I’m going with Wigrizer has a big game, and shuts down the Notre Dame offense.

Return of Mike Manley:

One word here… consistency. Mike Manley started his fist game last weekend after missing all of the 2011 season with an ACL injury. He registered 4 GB’s and 2 CTs which means he is back to his old All-American self. He had a long time table for recovery and it seems like he has recovered well and is ready to roll. This is a tremendous boost for the already solid Duke defense.

He has been consistent all three years he has played. Manley isn’t a flashy player, he is a meat and potatoes kind of job, plain and simple…he gets the job done. I know one thing if I were an attack man, I wouldn’t want Manley guarding me.

Duke’s Offense:

Duke will have an arsenal to choose from on offense this year. In their opening game, 5 different players scored more than one goal including Robert Rotanz rattling off four. Notre Dame could be in trouble here. Duke has so many weapons to choose from it is going to be hard to stop them all. If you shut down Rotanz, Justin Turri or Jordan Wolf may light it up. You see this in any championship caliber
team; a team with a bunch of offense weapons goes deep into the playoffs.

I don’t want to get ahead of myself here, it’s only the third week after all, but Duke has a powerful offense. If that engine gets firing on all cylinders, Notre Dame could be in trouble. I can easily see Duke putting up over ten goals in this contest. It will be fun to watch this offense fill up the next, expect to see some highlight reel goals.

Well there you have it, 5 good reasons why to watch this game. My fearless forcast for this game is, Duke 11 Notre Dame 9. I think both teams come out blazing this season, but no hiccup here for Duke, they’ll get the W and take it back to sunny North Carolina. Duke’s offense is just too good to stop in this game. If you think I’m crazy or just left a good reason out let me know. Leave a comment or tweet me @connors36. See you on the other side.