Jun 17 / Rob

The CAA Basketball Tournament is Headed to Washington DC in 2020

The CAA Basketball Tournament has taken place in North Charleston, SC for the past two years. The city is set to host the 2019 edition next spring. And then it’s headed north about 500 miles. The league approved a plan to hold the tourney in Washington DC starting in 2020. DC will also play host in 2021 and 2022.

This really isn’t much of a shock. Charleston is a terrific destination, but a tough trip for the northern based schools of the CAA. The tourney has had pretty good (reported) attendance, but benefited greatly from having  the hometown College of Charleston Cougars make runs to the championship games each of the past two years. Over 8,000 people were in the stands to see CofC cut down the nets this past March. Safe to say the number would have probably been much smaller without the Cougars playing.

Personally, the tourney moving to DC makes it far easier for me to attend. It’s a much more central location, in an area that has plenty of CAA alums. Charleston shouldn’t be considered a failure by any means. Sparsely attended early round conference tournament games are kind of a thing. Not too many, if any, conferences pack ’em in before the semi-finals and championship games. The games in DC will be played in the newly built St. Elizabeths East Entertainment and Sports Arena (future home of the Mystics and Capital City Go-Go). It’s a 4,200 seat facility, which is probably telling. Charleston was a really good host for the CAA. But the league will probably struggle to fill any normal sized arena anywhere. Finding a more centrally located host and a smaller arena, is an experiment worth trying.

Jun 14 / Rob

New NCAA Redshirt Rule Is Huge for FCS Programs

Sure, the NCAA is generally a corrupt and incompetent organization, but it finally got something right this week. The NCAA Division 1 Council passed a proposal allowing players to play in up to 4 games in a season and still use a redshirt year. It’s a good rule that will allow developing players to get some game action, without exhausting a year of eligibility. And it also gives those players thrust into only a few games another year to complete their degrees, which is supposed to be an important part of the student athlete experience.

This is a rule that benefits both players and coaches. Coaches gain the ability to give players some playing time to test the waters or fill in to back up injured players. And the players themselves gain a chance to have a more phased transition to the college game. Transitioning from high school to college is a big deal for many college students, but especially for football players. They go through al the same struggles are regular students, plus they need to adjust to the difference between taking the field against teenagers to competing against bigger, faster, and stronger grown men. This A redshirt year makes that adjustment much easier for many players. Now they can still take it, but have the experience to play a few games.

While this is a positive change for FBS programs, it’s absolutely huge for FCS teams. And that is of course due to the smaller roster size. With fewer scholarships, FCS coaches have had to be extra careful about pulling a players redshirt and exhausting his eligibility. Fill in for a game because the starter gets injured in the past and it would cost you a year. That’s no longer the case. The obvious example for JMU here is Cole Johnson. He came off the bench as a true freshmen when Bryan Schor got hurt against Villanova. Then he started against a completely overmatched Elon team the following week, before returning the the bench for the playoffs. As a result of playing fewer than 2 total games, he used an entire year of eligibility. Under the NCAA’s new rule, he could have counted that season as a redshirt year. The experience of being thrown into game action probably accelerated Johnson’s development at some level. He got a chance to perform under pressure and delivered. But should that limited game action have cost him a full season of eligibility? The NCAA seems to think it shouldn’t have. So from now on, it won’t.

Jun 11 / Rob

JMUSB Pod: Talking National Titles With Coach Shelley


The latest episode of the JMUSB podcast is a fun one. It features one of JMU’s latest National Champions, JMU Lacrosse Coach Shelley Klaes-Bawcombe. Give it a listen to hear Todd geek out over this year’s Dukes squad and all its accomplishments.

As always, the JMUSB Podcast is brought to you by Pale Fire Brewing. Let them know we sent you next time you’re at the tasting room and they’ll give you a free pint glass.

Be sure to subscribe to the JMUSB Pod via iTunes.

Jun 6 / Rob

JMU is #2 in the First FCS Preseason Poll. Should We Even Care?

The first FCS Preseason Poll is out and JMU is ranked #2. Yes, the Athlon FCS Preseason Poll has arrived. It uses the default setting, so NDSU landed in the top spot. A total of 6 teams from the CAA made the top 25. That’s more than any other conference. New Hampshire was right on the Dukes’ heels in third, and Elon snagged the final spot in the top 10. Villanova, Delaware, and Stony Brook were 11th, 13th, and 25th respectively.

Obviously, it’s nice that JMU is well regarded. And terrific that folks think the CAA will be a strong (the strongest?) conference this season. But should we even care at all about these polls? On one hand, it’s standard blog policy to blow anything that shows JMU in a positive light, completely out of proportion. If JMU lands near to the top of virtually any list, we’ll post about it. Especially in the summer. On the other hand, it’s June! We appreciate Athlon’s efforts to cover FCS football and recognize that they know their stuff. But according to Craig Haley, this thing was put together all the way back in March in order to hit publishing deadlines. It’s really nothing more than glancing at rosters to see who the top teams bring back, and then making some wild ass guesses.

The truth is, we’re probably somewhere in the middle. We know it’s WAY to early to accurately predict how the upcoming season will play out. But also, Dukes rule and we can point to this poll as evidence of that. The other influencing factor is that we’re downright spoiled as JMU fans. The program is 28-2 the past two seasons under Head Coach Mike Houston. So we’re really not too concerned with early polls or how others view the program.

The reality is that JMU is an FCS heavyweight and a threat to go to Frisco again. We know. Everyone who follows or covers FCS knows. And they know, that we know, that they know. The Dukes aren’t sneaking up on anybody. And as a fanbase, we’ve kind of passed the point of looking for validation from others. The Dukes should be national championship contenders again in the 2018 season. And thankfully, the season kicks off in 87 days so we can start talking real football, instead of relatively meaningless stuff like this.

May 31 / Rob

JMUSB Pod: Talking Lax National Championship

As you can probably guess, the latest episode of the JMUSB Podcast is all about JMU lacrosse’s National Championship. Give it a listen to hear our thoughts on the big game, what it means for the program, and how it takes me off the hook.

As always, the JMUSB Podcast is brought to you by Pale Fire Brewing. Let them know we sent you next time you’re at the tasting room and they’ll give you a free pint glass.

Be sure to subscribe to the JMUSB Pod via iTunes.

May 28 / Todd

JMU Lacrosse Wins the NATIONAL Championship!

JMU National Title

National Champs!

Unbreakable indeed. “Unbreakable” is the word JMU’s Lacrosse program used to describe itself all season long and they proved it to the entire country in winning the program’s first, and JMU’s fourth overall, national title this weekend with a thrilling 16-15 victory over the ACC Champs Boston College Eagles. Finishing a remarkable season at 22-1 and a pretty darned fantastic 2017-18 year for JMU Athletics with another Natty is really special stuff. Oh yeah, Sunday’s game came after the Dukes systematically dominated lax heavyweight North Carolina 15-12 in Friday’s semi-final.

You can read all about the heroics of this easy-to-root-for squad over at the official JMU Sports (most of you probably already have), but we’ll try to give a few of our own uneducated insights here for your post Memorial Day pleasure.

First and foremost, WHAT A GAME! Thanks to friends, we watched a few games at JMU in our day, and Rob played the game growing up. But we really tried to learn the game and follow this team closely this season for the first time. In other words, we’re no experts, but this Final Four was a noticeable step up in quality of play, competition, and all-around ferocity from anything we’d seen in the regular season, the CAA tourney, or the two previous wins over UVA and Florida to get to Long Island. In hindsight, it seems that UVA and Florida both changed their games to try and contain the Dukes, leading to (especially against the Gators on a blistering day in the ‘Burg) a bit of a park-the-bus mentality. These two games looked like they were being played at light-speed in comparison, and the Dukes were more than up to the challenge. On Friday versus the Heels, the game was free-wheeling, flowing, and filled with finesse. But on Sunday against Boston College, this was sport, any sport, at its very best. Skilled, fast, and played with a ferocious intensity throughout that was worthy of any title matchup anywhere. Back and forth throughout, the battle featured big runs from both teams and five lead changes. Seriously, it was the type of game where if you were watching the sport for the first time, there’s a 100% chance you’d walk away a fan. And with both teams vying to become the first team in 14 years outside of traditional powers Maryland, UNC, Northwestern, and Virginia to win a title, it was the kind of game that grows a sport and shakes the power-structure. That sounds pretty damned JMU if you ask us! read more…

May 24 / Rob

JMUSB Pod: Lax is Final Four Bound

Good morning Dukes fans. We’ve got a brand new episode of the JMUSB Podcast available just in time for your morning commute (or trip to Long Island). Friend of the pod, and recent JMU grad, Bennett Conlin sat in as co-host for this one. Give it a listen to hear us discuss the softball season, the program’s potential heading into next season, and the coaching season. But it’s really all about JMU lacrosse this week. And if you’re dying for a bunch of relatively uniformed (but enthusiastic) fans to “break down” a game they don’t truly understand, then this is must listen stuff. We really hope you enjoy it.

As always, the JMUSB Podcast is brought to you by Pale Fire Brewing. Let them know we sent you next time you’re at the tasting room and they’ll give you a free pint glass.

Be sure to subscribe to the JMUSB Pod via iTunes.

 

 

May 23 / Rob

Jawon Hamilton Makes So Much Sense for JMU

Jawon Hamilton announced that he’s transferring to JMU from University of Central Florida. Hamilton is a running back who will join a JMU backfield featuring Marcus Marshall, Cardon Johnson, Trai Sharp, and Percy Agyei-Obese. He led the Golden Nights in rushing with 495 yards as a true freshman, prior to getting hurt in UCF’s Fake National Championship season in 2017 and redshirting. He’ll come to JMU with 3 years of remaining eligibility.

This move makes so much sense for JMU. Yes, running back doesn’t jump out as a position of need for JMU. With the 4 guys listed above, it’s clear the Dukes are pretty stacked at the position. But depth is critical at the position. It allows the coaches to play the hot hand or utilize players with different strengths against various defenses. Last year all 4 returning backs eclipsed the 100 yard mark in games. And history has taught us that running backs often go down with injuries. It’s important to have multiple guys who can be counted on to carry the rock. More importantly, as Greg Madia explained on our podcast, a transfer like Hamilton helps balance the classes. Marshall, Johnson, and Sharp are all seniors. While it would be unfair to say the cabin would be left dry with just Percy, the addition of Hamilton improves the team next year and beyond.

We were fortunate to chat with Coach Houston last night at the Duke Club Spring Tour event. First of all, he is incredibly optimistic about next season’s squad. He was practically giddy when discussing the potential of the defensive line. And he had lots to say about Hamilton. Houston insists the kid is a player and that he’ll contribute this upcoming season. The injury he suffered is completely healed and he’s ready to go. But Coach said that the move is really about the future. It’s only May and I was ready to drive straight to Bridgeforth after talking to him. Hamilton was being pursued by other FBS programs and he’s a great get for Houston and the Dukes. He’s a kid who had offers from schools such as Louisville and Miami coming out of high school. He’ll join a Dukes rushing attack that was already dynamic. Now it’s just scary.

May 21 / Todd

Lacrosse is Final Four Bound!

A rare, big post-graduation JMU sports weekend did not disappoint. Three different teams had great success in their own ways this weekend, but obviously there is no bigger story than the JMU Lacrosse team clinching its second-ever (and first since 2000) trip to the Final Four with an 11-8 victory in the Elite 8 at home over Florida. With apologies to a football program of whom big things like a return to Frisco were already expected in the preseason, this is arguably the biggest story in JMU Athletics for the 2017-18 year. JMU will now be looking to spoil the party for more P5 squads (the ACC’s UNC and Boston College and the B1G’s Maryland) at Stony Brook on Long Island next weekend. Dukes players and fans wouldn’t want it any other way!

This weekend’s big win didn’t start out all that exciting, with both teams playing a tense, physical game for the first 15 minutes or so. The Gators actually scored the game’s first two goals and the Dukes struggled to generate their usual offensive fireworks early. Other players will get the headlines for gaudier stats in this one, but their wasn’t a bigger goal this year than super-sub freshman Charlotte Haggerty’s opener for the Dukes, which seemed to relieve the pressure on her more decorated teammates and deliver on some of Coach Shelley’s pre-season excitement about her tiny speedster. The Dukes steadied themselves late in the first to take a 4-3 lead to the break before breaking out with a 7-1 run in the middle of the second half to take command of the game and ultimately run out the clock the last 3 or 4 minutes. As always this season, JMU’s depth of firepower and talent eventually took over on a hot day. We’re no experts on this sport, but JMU’s biggest asset this year seems to be the sheer number of talented players capable of big things. As always, Kristen Gaudian and Elena Romesburg did their All-American things. But this game reminded us just how great players like Katie Kerrigan, Hayley Warden, and Hanna Haven really are. Kerrigan usually is happy to let others grab the headlines as she doles out assists, but her decision to take one herself in a key part of that run might’ve been this week’s true highlight. Warden just is so solid in every facet. Winning draws, leading the defense, and controlling the pace on offense all while running about 38 miles every game and still being the most physical player in the lineup. And finally Haven, who had one of her best games as a Duke. She’s seemingly never met a shot she didn’t like, but she did a fantastic job of staying with the gameplan, not forcing shots early when Florida’s defense was so tight, and then coming up with a couple stunning goals in the flow of the offense. And of course we’d be remiss not mentioning the stellar effort on defense (in particular the reliable Emma Johnson) and in net from Molly Dougherty. They were clutch in keeping the Dukes in the game when they were struggling to get on track early and hopefully that bodes well for next weekend.

The Dukes begin the Final Four with the weekend’s first game, at 5 p.m. Friday against North Carolina. JMU began its season at home with a thrilling 15-14 OT victory over the Heels and it’s hard to imagine at this point that this weekend’s game will be anything less. If the Dukes can repeat that feat, they’ll take on the Maryland/BC Winner for the National Championship on Sunday. JMU suffered its only loss of the season to the top-seeded Terps in College Park back in March 15-12 and did not play the Eagles this season. With the top four national seeds all making the F4, this should be an excellent showcase for the sport and a great weekend to be a Dukes fan.

Next, the JMU Softball team went to the Knoxville Regional, where they took Game 1 from Ohio before getting knocked off by the favored Tennessee Volunteers and then losing a rematch to Ohio to finish the season at 43-14. The loss to Ohio – who would ultimately lose to Tennessee in the final – was very a disappointing one for the Dukes who had taken a 2-0 lead in the top of the 5th before giving up six runs in the bottom of the frame and falling 7-3 in the end. But that game does not in any way tell the story of this squad.  That a team with only a few seniors and NO juniors that lost a National Player of the Year candidate in Megan Good to injury and their long-time head coach to Auburn way too late in the offseason for any rationale explanation managed to win 43 games, get an at-large bid without much bubble concern and win a game in the NCAA tourney speaks volumes to the talent, resiliency, and foundation that has been built in this proud program. By any measure, it would be hard to call this season anything other than a resounding success, but under those circumstances it seems certain. With Coach LaPorte seemingly having gained control of the program and belief from her players, with Megan Good (who was happily leading cheers all weekend in the dugout) back to relieve the pressure and keep Alexander and Buresch fresh next year after wearing down a bit this season given their huge workloads, and all of the youth in the program, next year could be one for the ages. Finally, congrats to the seniors, in particular Jessica Mrozek and Morgan Tolle, who have been such a key part to the best times in program history.

Lastly, we should mention the JMU baseball team. The Diamond Dukes continued their slow march towards respectability by finishing the season on a five-game winning streak, including sweeping a double-header from Towson on the season’s final day, to finish the season at .500 with a 26-26 mark. That’s the squad’s best record in seven seasons and hopefully a positive sign heading into the offseason that Coach Ikenberry is building a solid foundation for bigger things to come.

May 17 / Rob

How Come JMU Sucks at Online Voting Now?

There was a time when you could virtually guarantee that any online poll, contest, or competition that included JMU was a done deal. JMU was going to win and win big. Sure, sometimes the powers that be pulled a fast one and rendered said poll results meaningless in the end (cough, Capitol One Mascot Bowl), but the point is that the JMU community absolutely lapped the field in every online vote. But that’s no longer the case. Because for the past 2 years, we as Dukes with viable internet connections have completely failed some of our own.

We’re talking of course about our collective failure to get out the vote for a group of JMU hoops alums in their attempt to gain entry into The Basketball Tournament (TBT) in 2016 and 2017. Thankfully, we have a chance to make amends. This year, the team, called “The Founding Fathers,” is back and trying to get enough fan votes to earn a slot in the 64 team tournament with a $2 million prize for the winners.

TBT was started in 2014, and is an “open application, 5-on-5, single elimination, winner-take-all basketball tournament”. Teams can be composed of a general manager, coach, booster and up to nine free players. Former JMU Men’s Basketball managers, Sean Wheeler, Camden Butler and Joe Kuykendall and former JMU Basketball Video Coordinator Kevin Albright formed The Founding Fathers two years ago, but have been able to secure enough votes for a bid. This year though, JMU is gonna get it done and provide the votes they need. They’re hoping to play in the South Region and can secure an entry if they’re one of the top 9 vote getters. This is a fun tournament that will be broadcast on the ESPN family of networks. Before you do anything else, go vote for The Founding Fathers now!

Thus far, the team has an impressive roster, including former JMU studs such as AJ Davis, Dimitrije Cabarkapa, Joey McLean, Shakir Brown, Kyle Swanston and James Millen. The team is in talks with other former Dukes to fill the final three roster spots. This should be a home run. It comes down to online votes. Like we said, stuffing online ballot boxes used to be somewhat of a JMU specialty. We’ve come up short the past 2 years though. And by doing so, we’ve been forced to watch the likes of VCU gain entry and make a run. This year is our year though. So go out and vote for The Founding Fathers and encourage all your JMU friends to do the same.