Head coach David Cutcliffe has, at the very least, revitalized a sullen program in just nine months on the job—this we all know. But perhaps the most telling sign of change came in the form of this week’s Sports Illustrated’s college football power rankings, which pitted Duke at No. 66 in the country, followed in order by Stanford, Arizona and Michigan.
You read that right: the Blue Devils are better than the Wolverines, according to SI.
The two schools have more in common than Tommy Amaker (circa 2006, that would be an apt analogy). Both have new coaches—Cutcliffe in Durham, Rich Rodriguez in Ann Arbor. Both are proponents of a spread offense, even if Cutcliffe prefers the term “pro-style.” Both teams, um, wear blue. The similarities end right about there; Michigan has earned a bowl bid in every season since 1976, whereas Duke has been waiting for a berth since 1994.
Now, though, they’re separated by another strand: apparently, Duke is the better team.
—by Ben Cohen
Doesn’t it seem like the men’s lacrosse just ended last week? Inside Lacrosse, the mecca for college lacrosse online coverage, just released its first poll…for next season. What’s even more surprising, though, is that Duke is ranked No. 6. ACC foes Virginia and Maryland occupy the top two spots.
The Blue Devils held the No. 1 slot for most of this season and garnered the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament before losing to No. 5 Johns Hopkins in the Final Four. They lose the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer in Matt Danowski, in addition to goalie Dan Loftus and defensemen Nick O’Hara and Tony McDevitt, but will still have plenty of talent, especially if Zack Greer and Brad Ross use their extra years of eligibility at Duke (more on that later).
Where do you think Duke should be ranked?
–by Ben Cohen
We’re late to the party, but on April 10, The Sporting News’ Tom Dienhart ranked the best coaches in BCS conferences, placing first-year Duke head coach David Cutcliffe No. 51 of 66 coaches and No. 9 of 12 in the ACC. Should Cutcliffe “talk the talk and walk the walk” at Duke, as Tennessee running back Arian Foster told The Chronicle he did in Knoxville, he could be even higher next year, especially given Duke’s futility in the conference over the last few years.
“Think Ole Miss still regrets canning him? Coach Cut is a master offensive tactician, but questions remain about his ability to recruit,” Dienhart writes. “And if there’s one thing Duke needs, it’s a coach who can burn up the recruiting trail. At least Cutcliffe will benefit from an improved commitment to football by university honchos.”
In the national poll, Cutcliffe was put ahead of other household names, like Notre Dame’s Charlie Weis and Nebraska’s Bo Pelini. In the ACC, he is ranked ahead of Maryland’s Ralph Friedgen, Boston College’s Jeff Jagodizinski and Miami’s Randy Shannon. Wake Forest’s Jim Grobe led the pack in the ACC, while USC’s Pete Carroll took top honors overall.
Is Cutcliffe’s preseason rank merited? Where would you rank him among ACC coaches?
–by Ben Cohen
In his latest preseason college basketball rankings (that’s right, this isn’t the first), Sports Illustrated’s Luke Winn ranked Duke No. 4 in the country, a step-up from his last poll, in which the Blue Devils were ninth. The only thing they have done in the time between polls is lose Taylor King to Villanova, but Winn writes that his mea culpa had more to do with his reevaluation of the team than anything else.
“It’s hard to argue that they’re not as legitimate of a Final Four contender as a few of the teams that were slotted ahead of them,” he writes. “Sophomore Kyle Singler and junior Gerald Henderson are the nation’s best pair of wings, and while the backcourt duo of Greg Paulus and Jon Scheyer aren’t exactly Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts, they should score about 27 points per game combined and hit better than 40 percent of their threes, which isn’t bad.”
Is Duke correctly ranked at No. 4? Where should the Blue Devils be?
It seems that recently, whenever Duke travels to road games even at neutral venues, the crowd has two favorite teams: the local team, or whoever is playing Duke. Washington D.C. fans rallied behind West Virginia as the Mountaineers upset the Duke men in the NCAA Tournament’s second round, and the crowd at Maryland was decidedly anti-Duke for the women’s team’s first two NCAA Tournament games, both wins.
According to a new Harris Interactive poll, though, Duke is the most popular college basketball team in the country. After being replaced by North Carolina in 2007, Duke regained the top spot it held from 2003-2006. Rounding out the top five: North Carolina, Indiana, UCLA and, um, Iowa. Not sure how the Hawkeyes slipped in there with the traditional powers, but so it goes.
The women’s team jumped three places from 2007, finishing fourth this year behind Tennessee, Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland and Stanford. Again with Iowa. Skewed polling! Conspiracy!
–by Ben Cohen