Feb 15 / Rob

The JMU Dukes are Better Than Duke

JMU picked up a couple of big wins over Hofstra this past weekend. If you haven’t been paying attention, Coach Byington has the guys playing some good basketball in his first season at the helm. Very good basketball. The Dukes shot up 44 places in the RPI over the weekend and now find themselves as the 104th best team in the country according to the metric. College basketball blue blood, Duke University also moved up a few places and is now only 27 spots behind the mighty JMU program.

Outdated and relatively arbitrary metrics aside, things are definitely trending in the right direction for JMU. The Dukes swept Hofstra over the weekend to move to 8-1 in the CAA and 13-5 overall. Thanks to Towson’s defeat of Northeastern, the JMU is in sole possession of first place in the CAA standings. That’s right. First place.

We were pretty high on the Byington hire, but did not expect JMU to have this much success so early in his tenure. Three of the programs top four scorers transferred in the offseason. Byington brought in an impressive collection of transfers and freshmen to join preseason CAA Player of the Year Matt Lewis. We thought they’d do better than the ninth place they were picked to finish, but we’d be lying if we said we expected them to get off to an 8-1 start.

And it’s not just the fact that JMU is stacking up wins, it’s the way that they’re doing it. Lewis has been terrific, but this isn’t a case of one player putting a team on his back. The Dukes played almost the entire second game against Hofstra, with him on the sideline after he dinged his knee. JMU is getting contributions from up and down the roster. Vado Morse has been a terrific number two scoring option behind Lewis most nights. Michael Christmas has taken a big step forward in his second year. And no freshmen class has excited the fanbase since the days of Nation, Cooke, and Curry.

Watching this JMU team is fun. Really. The defensive effort is light years ahead of anything we saw under Coach Rowe and the team doesn’t seem to get rattled in big moments. During Saturday’s game against Hofstra, I literally jumped off my couch and started pumping my fist after Christmas hit a three to give JMU the lead. I jumped for joy, not out of frustration or anger. That’s something I haven’t done in years. But I can’t wait to do it again.

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