Does Duke Lacrosse Play Worse in February?
Does Duke Lacrosse Play Worse in February?
Two weeks ago, Duke had a comfortable 9-5 lead at Jacksonville. The Dolphins would outscore the Blue Devils 8-3 in the come-from-behind win. Last Friday, Duke struggled to keep pace with Denver and needed a late goal by Brennan O’Neill to force overtime. O’Neill bailed out his Duke teammates with a right-handed rip in overtime to give Duke the win. Duke is 4-1 in February this college lacrosse season.
4-1 is not quite good enough for “Lax Twitter” and the message boards. “February Duke.” Those two words have popped up in recent years and again this season.
Is it true though? Does Duke really play poor lacrosse in February? Let’s dig into numbers to find out. We used data from currency and history data from Lacrosse Reference between 2015 and 2023 to find out if “February Duke” is fact or fiction.
Let’s start by looking at Duke’s February records between 2015 and 2023.
|Year||February Record||Losses Against||Final Record|
|2017||3-2||Air Force, Denver||13-5|
|2020||3-2||Air Force, Penn||6-2|
Duke averages 1.22 losses during the month of February. Having only lost more than one game only two times. The teams they lost to were usually pretty good too. Excluding the 2020 season, only three Duke teams failed to make the NCAA Tournament. Penn (2018) is the only team that Duke lost to with a losing record. High Point (2019) was 13-3 on the season and was a finalist in the SoCon Tournament. Jacksonville (2022) was 14-3 and also was a finalist in the SoCon Tournament.
Duke went 0-3 against the Pioneers from 2015-2017. Denver was pretty good during that stretch. The Pioneers were national champions in 2015, made the tournament in 2016, and made the Final Four in 2017. Air Force qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 2017 and last year Penn was the Ivy League Champion and a national quarterfinalist.
Taking a closer look at their records, the “February Duke” mantra doesn’t match up. Now let’s take a look at their February numbers in comparison to their final stats.
Maybe Duke lacrosse just starts slow or maybe they play too many guys in February. That could help explain why Duke struggles in February. With the help of Lacrosse Reference, we broke down Duke’s performance in six categories month-by-month from 2015 to last week’s game against Penn to see if we could see a trend or a February outlier.
|Month||Win %||Average Contributors||Offensive Efficiency||Defensive Efficiency||Save Percentage||Faceoff Win Rate|
- Win Percentage: Wins/Number of Games Played
Duke’s highest winning percentage is in the month of February. ACC play takes place in March and April and the tournament begins in May. Probably not the strongest stat to make an argument, but still negates the “February Duke” mantra.
- Average Contributors: The Number of Players Who “Played” in Each Game (takes into account shots, penalties, caused turnovers, or anything that shows up in the play by play)
Duke goes deepest in the roster in their February games. Had an argument/discussion on this topic last week on Twitter. In the age of fall ball and scrimmages, do coaches still need to go deeper in their bench in February to see who they have? It makes sense to me and the data seems to align with the facts. Coaches get their best evaluation when the lights are bright and the pressure is at it’s highest.
- Offensive Efficiency: Goals Scored/Number of Offensive Possessions
February is Duke’s most efficient month offensively. Helps to refute the “February Duke” mantra.
- Defensive Efficiency: Goals Allowed/Number of Opponent Possessions
February is Duke’s second most efficient month defensively. Helps to refute the “February Duke” mantra.
- Save Percentage: Saves/Number of Shots
Duke’s worst regular season statistic. 5 of their 11 February losses were by one goal. Would slightly better goalie play have made “February Duke” never really be a thing in the first place?
- Faceoff Win Rate: Faceoff Wins/Faceoffs Taken
February is Duke’s second most efficient month with faceoffs. Helps to refute the “February Duke” mantra.
Looking at the evidence presented, we the jury find “February Duke” to be a piece of lacrosse fiction. How many D1 teams would really trade places with the Blue Devils? We rest our case.
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