Late surge propels Duke past Virginia, keeps Blue Devils at No. 1

For the second consecutive week, Duke separated itself from the pack, putting forth a powerful performance against Virginia at a rocking Klockner Stadium. With five of the top 10 teams from a week ago losing in the past seven days, the playoff picture got a lot murkier.

1. Duke
The Blue Devils finished the Virginia game with 10 unanswered goals, winning 19-9 in front of more than 8,000 fans. The attack unit of Max Quinzani, Zack Greer and Matt Danowski are putting forth a case to be considered one of the top trios in the last 30 years. Without a glaring weakness in its lineup, Duke has earned lopsided wins over Bucknell, Virginia, Johns Hopkins, Maryland, Loyola and North Carolina -- all quality teams -- with only a loss to Georgetown counting against it. Another quality game looms this weekend when Duke travels to Manhasset, N.Y., to take on an Army team that just broke a 13-game losing streak against archrival Navy.

2. Syracuse
It was an impressive week for the Orange, as they beat Cornell on Tuesday 15-8 and Rutgers on Saturday 17-9. After a 5-8 season a year ago, I couldn't be more impressed with the turnaround that the players and coaching staff have engineered.

3. Virginia
The Cavaliers had no answer for Duke's runs on Saturday at Klockner Stadium, taking their first-ever home loss at night (in 22 games) and allowing the Blue Devils their first win in Charlottesville since 1994. The Wahoos' top three scorers (Brian Carroll, Garrett Billings, Danny Gladding) all had quiet outings against Duke, which clinched the top seed in the upcoming ACC tournament (also at Klockner). There is just one game (Dartmouth) left on the regular season schedule for Virginia.

4. Cornell
The Big Red couldn't handle Syracuse's firepower Tuesday, but they bounced back this weekend with a workmanlike win over Dartmouth. Cornell's best victories are against Navy, Army, Denver, Penn and Harvard, but the biggest game of the season (to date) looms on Saturday as it travels to Princeton in a game that could decide the Ivy League championshp.

After a 1-3 start, the Retrievers have taken seven straight wins, topping Albany, Yale, Maryland, Ohio State, Stony Brook, Towson and Binghamton. Attackman Ryan Smith is a legit All-American candidate.

6. Bucknell
Bucknell has wins against Army, Ohio State, Fairfield and Towson with losses to Duke and Navy. I feel that the Bison are the best of a trio of Patriot League teams that could make the NCAA field, and if the Herd win out, they will have the bonus of being the top seed and host of the Patriot League tournament.

7. Johns Hopkins
The Blue Jays tweeked their lineup and tightened up their defense against Maryland on Saturday at Homewood Field. Behind stellar work at the face-off X from Stephen Peyser -- a midfielder who seems to improve as the weather warms up -- Hopkins ended a five-game skid. Those losses were to Duke, Cuse, Virginia, North Carolina and Hofstra, all teams that have a chance to be in the tournament. I think the Jays have a chance to make a run like they did last year after a rocky start.

8. Maryland
Terps have four losses, but wins over Georgetown, Towson, North Carolina and Virginia. More alarming, Maryland's offense has disappeared during the last two games against Navy and Hopkins -- the first midfield has been invisible. Maryland plays Penn this weekend then heads down to play host Virginia on April 25 in the ACC tournament.

9. Georgetown
The only team with a win over Duke in 2008, Georgetown continues to struggle facing off and clearing the ball, two things that cost the Hoyas in a loss to Loyola on Saturday. For an athletic team, they do not push the tempo and rarely create fast breaks. It's hard to figure this group out -- they bring in top quality recruiting classes every year, yet drop games they should dominate.

10. North Carolina
Just as it looked like UNC was starting to put it together, the Heels drop a game to Ohio State in Baltimore on Saturday. It was a weekend to forget in the ACC. The Heels have lost three of their last four games and have given up nearly 12 goals per game in that time span.

11. Army
The Cadets got off to a great start against Navy on Saturday and beat the Midshipmen for the first time in 13 tries. Lafayette and Duke remain on the Mules' schedule before moving on to the Patriot League tournament.

12. Navy
All year, I had Army ranked ahead of Navy -- and last week, when Navy beat Maryland and Army lost to Bucknell, I finally bumped the Mids into the top 10 ahead of Army. This Navy team has a top quality faceoff man in Mikelis Visgauss and a top 10 defense -– but I'm not sold on the offense.

13. Ohio State
The Buckeyes are still rolling, taking down North Carolina in Baltimore behind Kevin Buchanan's seven point showing. All three OSU losses (Navy, Bucknell and UMBC) have come in overtime and the next game could be a watershed moment for lacrosse in Columbus, as the Buckeyes open for the spring football game (against Denver) in front of a crowd that is likely to number in the tens of thousands.

14. Princeton
The Tigers fell behind Harvard 3-0 but rallied and prevailed in OT. Princeton has won four of its last five games and face Cornell at home on Saturday. The Tigers have losses to Hopkins, Albany and Syracuse.

16. Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish had a bye this week -- an unusual week off during the middle of the season. The Irish have beaten Loyola, Albany and Drexel -- their playoff résumé isn't exactly stellar, but they have a chance to get back at Denver in the GWLL playoffs at the end of the month.

17. Loyola
Loyola lost to Siena earlier this season, but beat Georgetown on Saturday. Go figure. The Hounds have wins over Georgetown, Rutgers, Towson, Penn State, UMass and St John's. The Greyhounds are now 5-0 in the ECAC, and will clinch the league's automatic NCAA bid if they win against Fairfield and Hobart. P.T. Ricci, Shane Koppens and Paul Richards are three terrific players who carry the load for coach Charley Toomey.

18. Brown
Bears have won seven straight -- topping Penn, Air Force, UMass, Dartmouth, Vermont, Delaware, and Yale, with Providence and Harvard on the schedule this week. They are unbeaten in the Ivy League and have only given up double digits once this year, but huge games loom as the Bears close with Cornell and Princeton.

19. Drexel
A midweek loss to Delaware was eye opening. The Dragons have lost to the Blue Hens, Virginia and Notre Dame and have wins over Towson, Penn, Albany and Hofstra.

20. Hofstra
The Pride have won three straight over Sacred Heart, Villanova and Delaware, but will need to beat North Carolina or win the CAA conference tournament to be certain of an NCAA bid. The Hopkins win on March 8 is what Hofstra fans will point to for inclusion into the big dance.

Quint Kessenich covers college and professional lacrosse for ESPN. He can be reached at quint@insidelacrosse.com.