Mar 26 / Rob

TBT: Lefty Driesell’s First Home Game at JMU

It’s the offseason for both hoops and football and Throwback Thursday, so we might as well take a look back. Way back. All the way back to 1988 in fact when one Charles “Lefty” Driesell was in his first year as head coach of the JMU Dukes.

The video above is of JMU’s first home game under the Lefty regime. As you can see, things were quite a bit different then. The convo was packed and in full “Electric Zoo” mode, a certain alum with a “Daaaagggggeeeerrrr” of a catch phrase was on the play by play, and the sideline reporter just might have been a New York Times best selling author. And the Dukes beat VMI 94-92.

h/t @bpmarkowitz for the video

Mar 22 / Rob

Ladies Fall to Ohio State to Officially End JMU Basketball Season

kbrooksKenny Brooks and the ladies dropped their opening round game of the NCAA tournament to Ohio State. The Buckeyes won by the score of 90-80 thanks to a trio of hot shooters. Ameryst Alston poured in 28 points and freshmen Kelsey Mitchell and Alexa Hart added 23 and 20 respectively. Precious Hall led the Dukes with 28 points, but it was Ashley Perez who kept JMU close in the second half by going 6 of 9 from deep on her way to 20 points.

It wasn’t exactly a plodding, grind ‘em out, defensive struggle. JMU managed to get off 79 field goal attempts for the game. In a weird twist, the Dukes shot 38% overall and 38% from long range. They won the battle  of the boards, out rebounding Ohio State 44 to 41 and also bested the Buckeyes in assists 19 to 16. The difference came down to shooting. Ohio State made 48% of its field goals and routinely got to the line, making 26 of 34 from the stripe. The Dukes on the other hand, only attempted 10 free throws and made 9. That’s a huge difference in a relatively close game. read more…

Mar 17 / Todd

Women’s Hoops Road to Greensboro! (and the CIT)

Hahahaha, the CIT, hahhahaha. We were willing to overlook the scam nature of the CIT and rationalize it if they won. But a Total collapse down the stretch, waste of an opportunity, very odd finish. And now we’re just glad we’re not the players taking a miserable 7 hour ride back after that place and that tourney. I mean, you know that feeling of regret you students woke up with on Spring Break? That’s pretty much us tomorrow after live-tweeting a CIT game in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Hopefully the last time we'll have to use this picture till June 1st.

Hopefully the last time we’ll have to use this picture till June 1st.

I guess that’ll about cover the CIT.

On the incredibly positive side of the JMU sports ledger (no, not “conference realignment” news), the incredible (dare we say dynastic) Women’s Hoops team is bound for the Big Dance once again! The facts are as follows: #12 JMU v. #5 Ohio State, Greensboro Regional, in Chapel Hill, NC for the first two rounds, to play the winner of #4 North Carolina v. #13 Liberty, 1:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPN2. So basically the Everett Withers region. Also a chance to avoid the top 10 nationally before the Final Four for a chance to go just down the street to Greensboro (aka JMUSB HQ South) and take out the tourney’s most vulnerable top seed. The Buckeyes have arguably the nation’s best freshman (is fresh”man” still the preferred nomenclature?) in Guard Kelsey Mitchell, but their up-tempo style will be nothing new or intimidating to the equally capable Dukes. Should be a shootout assuming Precious Hall just shoots like her old self. If they can win Saturday, we’ll have a guaranteed JMUSB presence for this run for at least the next three games. No active Ohio State player has played in the NCAA tourney while JMU’s roster is mostly battle-tested.

Those are mostly positives. For a much more eloquent window into how we really feel, please check out the [most dedicated to her fans, subject matter, and craft] excellent LadySwish blog here. We’re just going to assume despite no empirical evidence that the 12/5 upset happens the same way on the Women’s side because Dukes!

Lastly, just do yourself a favor and go follow @JMUMBBManagers for next year no matter what happens with the program this offseason. You can thank us fall camp.

Mar 16 / Rob

JMU Ladies, and the Pep Band, Cut Down the Nets at CAA Tourney

ReepAs expected, Kenny Brooks and the JMU women’s basketball team went a perfect 3-0 in the CAA Tournament and took home the league championship. It was the Dukes second straight CAA title for the Dukes and 4th overall for Brooks. JMU was pushed to its limits in the final against Hofstra, but managed to grind out a 62-56 win. The victory moved JMU to 29-3 on the season. The Dukes will find out where they’re headed in the tourney when the women’s bracket is revealed on Monday.

Hofstra was the one CAA team to defeat the Dukes all season and almost beat them again with the NCAA tourney bid on the line. JMU struggled from the field, hitting only 23 of 68 in the final. CAA Player of the Year, Precious Hall had a rough day making only 1 of 20 shots. Fortunately, the team was pretty much lights out from the charity stripe, knocking down 15 of 17, which helped the close out the game. Junior Jazmon Gwathmey led the way with 17 points, 11 boards, 3 blocks, and 2 assists and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Toia Giggetts was the only other Duke in double figures, with 14 points. JMU now moves on to the NCAA tourney with a chance to make some noise.

Keeping with tradition, the coaches and players cut down the nets after winning the championship. Kenny Brooks had a little something up his sleeve though. After all of the players and staff had taken a piece of the net, Brooks invited Chad Reep, the Director of the JMU Pep Band, to make the final cuts. It was completely unexpected. It was also completely awesome. Reep and the entire Pep Band have really stepped up their game the past few seasons. They’ve helped make the convo an incredibly tough place for opponents to play. And they’re tireless supporters of both the men’s and women’s teams. So it was great to see Brooks give Reep and the Pep Band a place in the spotlight. And it added a little something extra on an already exciting day.

Mar 12 / Todd

OGL Friday Roundup (WBB, MBB, Lax)

Well, it’s been a while for me, but one great way to keep working the kinks out is to go back to our old Old Guys Leave Friday Roundup.

First, a few notes and thoughts on the Women’s CAA Hoops tourney this weekend. Unfortunately for everything but recruiting, the CAA has rented out the dingy VFP Post of tourney sites again, the world-famous ghetto-fabulous Show Place Arena in scenic (actually, it is scenic and the incomparable Rosaryville Mountain Bike trail is just down the road) Upper Marlboro, Maryland. JMU is the heavy, heavy, heavy favorite after rolling through CAA play at 17-1 and sporting a 26-3 overall record. Of course, that “-1″ came just a couple weeks back at the hands of 4th seeded Hofstra so this ain’t a sure thing. And as always, WBB is even worse than the men’s side when it comes to national, and selection-committee, disrespect for low-majors so despite the gaudy record and hanging around the fringes of the Top 25 all year, the ladies need to take care of business this weekend in order to feel comfortable on Selection Day. Dukes start the tourney Friday at noon against a Towson team they should mop the floor with, but as we’ve seen in year’s past, sometimes the toughest part about this tourney is being mentally charged in front of twenty-seven fans at an agricultural arena. Thanks goodness for Chad Reep and the JMU Pep Band!!!

CAA POY

CAA POY

Also from the amazing women’s side of the story, Kenny Brooks – best man in the Valley – took home another CAA COY award this week while Precious Hall won CAA POY honors. Lady Okafor won a slot on the 1st team as well as the Dean Ehlers Leadership Award. Point guard Angela Mickens made the second-team, and do-everything badass Jazmon Gwathmey was actually kind of robbed only making the third team. Mickens and Okafor also made the all-defensive team and Okafor made all-academic for good measure! Way to go Dukes and thanks for another great CAA run – now go cut some nets down!

Next, in case you haven’t noticed, and based on the weather and Spring Break we’re guessing you haven’t, the JMU Lacrosse team is currently ranked 15th in the country and just came from way behind to knock off #9 Penn State on the road this week! That runs the Dukes’ record to 6-1, including a 2-1 record against ranked foes, and makes six straight wins since a season-opening and nothing-to-be-ashamed-of 13-9 loss to #2 North Carolina. JMU hosts Rutgers this weekend. Rob is definitely our lacrosse expert, but the one thing I know is teams that get high enough up in the rankings early on tend to stay there, so keep your eyes on what could be an all-timer type season from the women!

Moving on, Softball seems to have shaken off this crazy-weather/cancellation-filled early season and a few tough losses to BCS Conference teams (in addition to a couple wins over those teams too) to run their record out to 12-5 and begin the process of living up to quite a bit of preseason hype surrounding Jailyn Ford and company.

Finally, Rob mentioned he was in favor of accepting the CIT bid earlier this week and I just wanted to note I couldn’t agree more. We’re not in favor of losing money here (or risking scheduling conflicts should the women end up in the NIT – please please please don’t let this be the case), so we don’t even have a problem with traveling either, but whatever your issues with the team or Brady, these kids got better throughout the season, tied for the CAA title, and deserve another chance that the young team can clearly use to learn about tournament play. We’re also squarely in the “Keep Brady” camp, not because we’re homers (though we obviously are), but simply because we do NOT believe anyone can procure a preferable alternative in the poop-fecta that is the CAA/Convo/rudderless administration state of the program AND because we’d like to see him grow with this team that showed flashes. YoYo and Curry make them a clear contender next year and no reason to mess that up just now. Of course, if everyone transfers, we’ll feel differently, but this year feels different in that regard and no reason we’ve heard so far to think any of the starters are leaning that way.

Mar 12 / Rob

JMU to Face USC Upstate in College Insider Tournament

CIT LogoYesterday we ran a poll on the blog asking folks if JMU should play in the CIT or CBI tournament. The 78% of you who voted “Yes” are going to be happy. It was announced yesterday afternoon that JMU has accepted an invitation to play against USC Upstate. The game will take place on the road in Upstate’s Hodge Center, which has a capacity of 818 fans. read more…

Mar 11 / Rob

Lower Tier Tournaments, Should the Dukes Stay or Should They Go?

With an NCAA bid out of the picture due to losing in the CAA tourney, the Dukes still have a shot at postseason play. The NIT ain’t gonna happen, but other options still exist. The CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT) and College Basketball Invitational both could offer JMU to get in some more time on the court. The CBI has a 16 team bracket with a best of 3 championship series between the finalists. The CIT is open to 32 teams and is geared for mid-majors. We could argue about which tournament is more “prestigious”, but come on. Whichever one was determined to be “best” would still just be a race to determine the 101st place team in the country.

Regardless of tournament status, both the CBI and CIT would provide an opportunity for Brady and the Dukes to continue practicing and playing games. There’s an argument to be made that doing so could pay dividends next year and give players another opportunity to advance. Of course there’s a counter-argument, that the team could be well served by resting and focusing on the off-season program. Matt Brady has said that JMU is considering pursuing a bid for one of the tourneys. What do you think? Should JMU go for it or should they just pack it in and focus on the off-season?

Mar 8 / Rob

Looking Back on JMU’s CAA Tourney Loss to Hofstra

CAA TourneyAfter defeating Hofstra twice during the regular season, JMU dropped a close one to the failed to show up against the Pride in the CAA tournament. Hofstra beat the Dukes 74-57. If you were at the game or watched it on television, you know the story. JMU came out lifeless and got beat on both ends of the court. The Dukes didn’t protect the ball, hit the glass, defend, or shoot particularly well. Other than that though, things were swell.

Save a CIT or CBI tournament bid/payment for entry, JMU will finish 19-13 and as Regular Season Quad-Champions.It’s a little easier to write off a flat performance during the regular season. Come tournament time though, you expect teams to come out sharp and focused. JMU was off from the opening tip this tourney. I lost track of how many times the Dukes turned it over by losing their dribble, stepping out of bounds, or mishandling a simple hand off. Hofstra turned those mistakes into 23 points off turnovers.

Perhaps more aggravating than the sloppy ball control, was the way JMU just essentially conceded the lane to Hofstra. The Pride dominated down low to the tune of 46 points in the paint. They were able to do this of course because JMU did much more watching than boxing out. For fans of fundamental basketball, it was an ugly affair.

All season long Hofstra’s poor defense was its Achilles heel. The Dukes didn’t exactly take advantage of that relative weakness. They shot only 37% from the field overall and were a terrible 5 for 22 from long range. Bad shooting nights happen. Good teams find a way to overcome them by working for easy looks and getting to the line. JMU did not do that against Hofstra. There were long periods of the game, where Ron Curry’s teammates on the floor looked content to let him try to pull the Dukes back on his own. Players seemed to alternate between standing around watching and playing hot potato with the ball on the perimeter. It was really just a total lack of offensive creativity.

Clearly, the game left me frustrated. Maybe I’m making it seem worse than it was. Or maybe it was even worse than I’m indicating. The fact is that JMU got boat raced by a team it had beaten twice already. Hofstra definitely has more talent, but the Dukes didn’t look prepared to play. Whether that’s an indictment of the coaches and players, or just an inopportune time to have an off night is a question for another day.

Mar 6 / Rob

Curry and YoYo Earn All CAA Honors

YoYo save 2The CAA basketball awards were handed out last night and a few Dukes were honored. Junior Ron Curry was selected as All CAA Second Team and Yohanny Dalembert made All CAA Third Team. Both players were clearly deserving of the honor. Curry had a legitimate argument for the First Team, which he just narrowly missed, receiving the 6th most votes of any player in the league. He took a huge step forward this season and averaged 13.8 points per game and had an assist to turnover ratio of 1.9. His long range shooting was night and day from last year. As a sophomore he shot 24% from behind the arc, but improved to 42% this season. Perhaps most importantly, he established himself as the Dukes’ leader after Andre Nation was dismissed from the program. We’ve got no beef with any of the guys who made the league’s First Team, particularly Player of the Year Marcus Thornton from William & Mary or Damion Lee from Drexel. The reality is that you probably could swap Curry and anyone other than Thornton or Lee from the First Team and nobody would scream too much. Ron had a great year and has probably positioned himself to be in consideration for All CAA First Team and even Player of the Year next season.

YoYo made All CAA Second Team and the conference’s All Defensive Team. While Curry was an honorable mention All CAA selection in the preseason, Yohanny wasn’t really on many people’s radar. Of course after watching him his freshman year, most JMU fans saw the tremendous potential. As charter members of his fan club, it was awesome to see him take a huge step toward reaching that potential this season. He’s not done yet though and definitely has the chance to become a downright dominant CAA player as an upperclassman. In his second year at JMU he averaged over 11 points and nearly 6 boards a game. He also eclipsed the 20 point mark twice.

While it tends to be less celebrated by fans than the other All CAA honors, the All Academic team is a huge honor. And the Dukes were lucky to have Dimitrije Cabarkapa selected. He came out of nowhere late this season to make an impact on the court and become a fan favorite. It’s great that he’s also leading the way classroom as well.

Overall, this was a season of exceeding expectations for the Dukes. They took a share of the conference title and earned the 4th seed for this weekend’s tourney, despite being picked to finish 5th in the league. And they did it without the services of the most talented guy on the roster, Andre Nation. Four of the five players picked to the preseason All CAA First Team ended up making the final team. The only exception was Andre Nation, who was selected to the First Team in the preseason, but dismissed from JMU’s program by Matt Brady during the season. While that’s disappointing and almost tragic in some ways, it also makes JMU’s accomplishments this season more impressive. The Dukes jettisoned their most talented player, but instead of packing it in and going home, they kept playing. They played better actually. And now they’ve got a shot to return to the Big Dance with three wins in Baltimore.

Mar 4 / jmusport

Guest Post: Is JMU Proving Bill Simmons’ Ewing Theory?

nba_g_pat_ewing_580Our buddy Zac (@ZPriceIsRight) contributed some fun guest posts during football season, so we recently asked him if he’d like to submit something about hoops. Thankfully he agreed. Here’s his take on the Andre Nation-less Dukes and Bill Simmon’s famous “Ewing Theory.”

For those of you who don’t read Bill Simmons, the Ewing Theory was a theory he pushed on his “The Sports Guy” column.  More accurately, it was put forth by his friend Dave Cirilli, back in the early 90s.  But it wasn’t put into print until Simmons ran this article in 2009.
To prevent you from having to read two articles (although it’s a great one), the Ewing Theory came about when Cirilli noticed that Ewing’s teams would have better results when he went out with an injury  He noticed it both at Georgetown and with the Knicks.
Check the article for other classic Ewing Theory candidates, (my favorite is the 2000 Mariners), but the question I’m asking here is: are the 2014-15 Dukes a Ewing Theory candidate?
Now, before we delve into this, I should clear the air about my personal feelings towards Nation.  I loved him, and was entirely in his corner.  I followed him on twitter through the good and the bad, but always delighted in whatever nonsense he was tweeting.  I hated hearing about his multiple suspensions, but usually sided with coach on the action he took.  I was heartbroken when he left the team.  Especially because of his strangely out of character mature(ish) response to it all.  The fact he still shows up to support “his team” breaks my heart.  But we all have to deal with the consequences of our actions in life, and so I hope he learns that lesson.
Having said that, I’m clearly not someone with a bone to pick with Andre.  But I still can’t help but to look at what this team has become without him and think… wow, we really are a case of addition by subtraction.

read more…