Here, here! Welcome all to the first installment of what we ambitiously hope to be a weekly diagnosis and prognosis of the week that was and the week ahead in Duke Athletics. A quick-hitting canvas of the entire sports scene, this shall strive to be your source for concise, informative and (fingers crossed) humorous breakdown of the continuously fluid athletic landscape. So, without further ado...
Bye, bye, bye!
After getting everyone's blood pumping with a huge win over Vanderbilt three weeks ago, the Blue Devils have quickly tumbled out of almost everyone's bowl conversations. Two losses, a close 33-30 nailbiter against Wake Forest and a disappointing 27-17 letdown versus NC State, and people's hopes of seeing a bowl game in head coach David Cutcliffe's maiden season have all but evaporated.
Standing at 4-5 (1-4 in conference), the Blue Devils would have to steal two wins out of a fairly brutal remaining schedule—away at Clemson and Virginia Tech, then home against North Carolina. Although this seemed unthinkable at the beginning of the season, the Blue Devils' most winnable game out of all those is in Death Valley against the Tigers. The Hokies and Tar Heels are both gunning for the conference title, while Clemson has been on a colossal nosedive from the outset worthy of Tommy Bowden's midseason firing. If Vanderbilt was the biggest win of the first half of the season, Clemson would be the biggest of the second half. Then, the most likely situation for bowl eligibility would be an inspired win over what may be a top-10 North Carolina in the season's last game.
Bowl-Eligibility Likelihood: 15%
That's just downright rude
The stage was set. Duke field hockey was hosting the ACC tournament in its renovated new digs at Williams Field, but a scrappy Virginia team stole the show with a 5-2 first-round victory. The Blue Devils was riding an eight-game winning streak and was ranked No. 4 when they headed into the regular season finale against the Cavaliers, who captured a 4-3 upset. Then, just five days later, Virginia strolls back into Durham and ends Duke's ACC title hopes. Ouch!
The Blue Devils now await the NCAA tournament seedings, which will be announced Tuesday at 8 p.m.
The road to Cary
The 25th-ranked men's soccer team is in full preparation for its ACC tourney opener against Virginia set for 8 p.m. Wednesday in Cary, N.C. The fifth-seeded Blue Devils are 3-3-2 in conference play, compared to the fourth-seeded Cavaliers' 4-4-0 record. The winner takes on No. 1 Wake Forest (16-0-1), whose only non-win this season came in a scoreless tie against Duke earlier this year. Although this is much too much of an oversimplification, it's still somewhat safe to say the Blue Devils will advance as far as Mike Grella's foot will carry them. He has 33 points and 13 goals this season, good for first and second in the conference, respectively.
And, now, to the weather!
In this segment, we will assess the various patterns moving across Duke's campus, starting with the weekly beach weather updates.
Low Tide: Football — We touched on this up above, but it bears repeating. This last loss against N.C. State, which admittedly wasn't as bad as its 2-6 record indicated, was damaging to this season. Of all Duke's losses, maybe only the one versus Miami is worse because of the apparent lack of effort and conjured memories of the Duke of Old displayed in the second half. The loss against the Wolfpack, though, is something the Blue Devils simply couldn't afford: a trap game from a team that really has no right to have trap games. The Blue Devils were favored, they were at home, and they should have been fighting like hell to get the taste of last week's close loss at Wake Forest, a game they absolutely should have won, out of their mouths. In fact, it might prove to be the rip tide that carries the team out to sea, never to be seen again as nationally relevant this season.
High Tide: Volleyball — The Blue Devils are riding a huge wave of recent success following two wins over tough ACC foes over the weekend. After defeating Georgia Tech in five sets and Clemson in four, Duke (20-7, 11-4) now sits alone atop the conference standings with two weeks left in the season. Since losing its home opener against Miami way back when, the Blue Devils have been unbeaten in Cameron Indoor. Oh, and what a segue that is into what we call...
Storm Watch: Men's Basketball — Following a steady growth that started somewhere over the capital of China this summer, the mounting hype surrounding this year's Duke team will finally be unleashed in the form of a likely blowout in the regular season opener against Presbyterian tonight at 7 p.m.
Did coaching Team USA detract from head coach Mike Krzyzewski's ability to prepare the Blue Devils for a NCAA title run? What will Greg Paulus' role be? Which freshmen will contribute the most? Is the air Brian Zoubek breathes thinner than mine?
Most certainly none of these questions will be answered conclusively tonight, or even in the next few weeks, for that matter. Except the one concerning Zoubek, that one's fact. But seriously, there are a lot of question marks surrounding what this team will even look like, what its identity will be. Although tonight's game might be akin to learning about the appearance of a room by peering through the keyhole, it could shed a little light on some things. Namely, who will run the point and how will the minutes be doled out. In any event, it should be a great game if you like high-flying dunks and lots of P.T. for Jordan Davidson.
Duke By The Numbers
To wrap it up, we'll leave you with some arbitrary odds to ponder and debate. Feel free to comment below and tell us which side you'd take.
Number of times the Cameron Crazies chant 'Go to Hell, Carolina!' when Duke isn't playing Carolina this season: 3.4 million.
Number of Duke students at the football season finale against the Tar Heels: 11
(Sidebar: This is really atrocious, actually. Especially with the state of the program on the rise, can't something be done to avoid the fact that almost no students can go to the team's biggest rivalry game because it's always scheduled over Thanksgiving break? I mean, there were two bye weeks this season, which is odd already, so why not eliminate one of those and move the North Carolina game up a weekend? I know it wouldn't coincide with some other things going on in the conference, but it just seems like something should be done to fix this.)
Number of parking tickets accrued per student this basketball season because they are forced to park illegally as thousands of outsiders descend on our campus to see a game: 7.5
This is actually my favorite, and most personal, one of the three. I know the state of parking at Duke is not normally a discussion found on sports blogs, but I've been dying to voice my lamentations regarding this issue during the entirety of my four years at Duke. I'm not going to even make an argument for why there's not enough (reasonable) student parking on campus. That's a fact that I'm positive no student would dispute. Case closed. But can someone explain to me why parking in a reserved spot in the Kilgo fire lane for 20 minutes can possibly cost the university $40? Have you seen the parking ticket slips with all various violations and their fines enumerated? I'm pretty sure $40 is the least costly of every fine on there, and some are as high as the 200s! Somewhere on this campus, a cohort of insiders is counting our cash and laughing at us.
And so, with that digression, I end this week's first-ever Chronicle Sports Blog Monday Musings.
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