2023 Men's Top 30: How Duke Fared vs. Projections


The Blue Devils have the best player in the sport — maybe at any level after Brennan O’Neill’s showing in the world championship in San Diego this summer

Before USA Lacrosse Magazine looks ahead to what’s to come in 2024, our team of staff and contributors decided it was worth taking one last look at 2023.

After all, you have to look at the most recent results before making projections for what’s to come. To do that, we’re taking a journey through the top 30 teams in men’s and women’s lacrosse — what went right, what went wrong and what we should all think of that team’s season.

Was it a success? A failure? A mixture of both? You’ll find out our thoughts over the next month or so.


Nike/USA Lacrosse Preseason/Final Top 20 Ranking: 7/2
2023 record: 16-3 (5-1 ACC)


The Blue Devils had Tewaaraton winner Brennan O’Neill (55 goals, 42 assists), a 60-goal scorer (Dyson Williams), one of the country’s best faceoff men (Jake Naso) and a top defenseman in Kenny Brower. With plenty of help, those guys helped pilot Duke back to the national title game a year after missing the NCAA tournament altogether.


Duke absorbed its usual February loss (to Jacksonville) as part of some inconsistent early play and couldn’t find a consistent answer for Notre Dame’s defense in two meetings. Maybe the Blue Devils could have stood to be a little more dynamic, but they still averaged 14.8 goals per game. There is only so much to nitpick about when it comes to a 16-win team.


O’Neill was at the peak of his powers on March 31, delivering six goals and three assists in a 16-14 victory at Virginia. And while Duke was more dominant on other days (its games against Loyola and North Carolina in the regular season and against Michigan in the NCAA quarterfinals come to mind), that probably goes down as its best victory, given the opponent and the contest’s location. 


Notre Dame was not a good matchup for Duke, which handled business against nearly everyone else and often in especially impressive fashion. The Blue Devils have the best player in the sport — maybe at any level after O’Neill’s showing in the world championship in San Diego this summer — and plenty of incentive in the wake of losing on the season’s final day. It will be fun to see their response in 2024. 


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