Titletown, North Carolina

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Similarities abound between Duke's two national championship teams this year, The Chronicle's Josh Hammer writes.

Besides their shared Polish ancestry, coaches Mike Krzyzewski and John Danowski now share something else in common—a championship-winning pedigree. Danowski joined the elite group of national championship-winning coaches at Duke by guiding his team to a thrilling overtime win in Monday’s victory over Notre Dame. Krzyzewski added yet another feather to his Kentucky Derby-worthy hat by leading the Blue Devils to the men’s basketball program’s fourth national championship in April. With their titles, these two sideline stalwarts are now forever linked in Duke annals for being the first to bring two NCAA national championships to the school in the same year.

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But what similarities exist concerning their respective teams? As discussed by The Chronicle's Alex Fanaroff in March, the 2009-2010 Blue Devils men’s basketball team won by employing an implementation of stat guru Ken Pomeroy’s beloved formula for hardwood success—careful shot selection and downright nasty team defense. Duke Basketball ultimately thrived in the NCAA Tournament due to tremendous rebounding on both ends of the court and timely buckets by whoever stepped up to become the hero du jour. By contrast, the 2010 Duke lacrosse team featured the highest-octane offense in Division I lacrosse. Led by veteran gunners Ned Crotty and Max Quinzani, it was Duke’s offense that often had to aggressively attack the opponents’ cage to make up for the Blue Devils’ inefficiencies in their own goal. Duke Basketball won in 2010 with methodical efficiency, whereas Duke Lacrosse won in 2010 with brute offensive firepower.

However, the two teams are not polar opposites. In the physical contest against Notre Dame, where goals were harder to come by than a pair of natural breasts in the Academy Awards audience, Duke was forced to take a page out of Ken Pomeroy’s basketball playbook and win with terrific team defense and offensive efficiency. Notre Dame dominated time of possession, outshooting the Blue Devils 19-13 at the halftime and holding the ball so much it was called for multiple stall warnings. The relatively rarer possessions for Duke resulted in attackers placing extra pressure on themselves to convert when they got any chance at all. Couple the Irish’s stall offense with the as-advertised play of their superb goalie, Scott Rodgers, and a team inferior to Duke would have simply melted in frustration and exasperation.

In the second half, however, the Blue Devils defense ferociously barraged the Irish attackers, forcing five more turnovers in the second half than their adversary, including a 5-1 turnover differential in the all-important fourth quarter. The performance by Duke’s defense—led by All-Americans Parker McKee and Mike Manley—was even more impressive given the greater pressure placed on them due to shaky performances by freshman goalie Dan Wigrizer throughout much of the season. Through its defensive tenacity and careful looks on goal against Rodgers and the terrific Irish defense, Duke garnered enough momentum to ultimately force overtime and earn the victory.

Just as the J.J. Redick- and Shelden Williams-led Duke basketball teams of 2004-2006 featured more surefire talent than this year’s championship-winning squad, the Zack Greer and Matt Danowski-led lacrosse teams of 2007 and 2008 arguably featured more pure talent than this year’s champions. Due to a careful implementation of defensive voracity and offensive efficiency, though, it was these two 2010 Blue Devils teams that triumphed where their more talented predecessors did not. Those in the know often compare the sport of lacrosse to basketball rather than its ostensibly more natural relative of ice hockey, due to lacrosse’s emphasis on attacking the cage for easy shots and utilizing tight man-to-man defense. It seems that in Durham—“Titletown”— in 2010, the analogy extends one step further.


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