JMU Hoops Opens At UCLA Tonight
It’s hard to believe, but the 2012-2013 JMU Basketball season is starting today. The Dukes have traveled all the way across the country to face UCLA in Pauley Pavilion. If it seems like the season snuck up on you, we completely understand because it definitely snuck up on us. But it’s here and despite the program’s struggles recent history (and we’re referring to the lesser known definition of recently meaning nearly the past two decades), we’re excited. And there are some things about JMU hoops that are definitely worth getting excited about. Of course there are also some things that make us want to pump the breaks on our enthusiasm. Since we didn’t get to a full-on season preview, here are three of each.
Reasons for Optimism
Freshman Upside: Lost in all of the consternation about Coach Brady’s future last year, was the fact that he was actually doing a decent job on the recruiting trail. Brady himself has said that he thinks this is the best recruiting class he’s had since coming to JMU. On several occasions he’s even stated that it’s a stronger class than his first one which included Devon Moore, Julius Wells, and Andrey Semenov. This three most heralded members of this recruiting class are Ron Curry, a 6’4″ guard out of New Jersey, Charles Cooke, a 6’6″ guard also from New Jersey, and Andre Nation, a 6’5″ guard from Florida. A couple of big men in Taylor Bessick and and 6’10” Serbian Dimitrije Cabarkapa. The player I’ve been most excited to see is Curry, an athletic guard who let his high school team on a deep run in the NJ state playoffs. However, Cooke apparently has earned a spot in the starting lineup already.
Senior Experience: It’s odd to call JMU, a team with 5 freshmen, experienced but it’s true. Tonight’s starting lineup will feature redshirt seniors, Devon Moore, A.J. Davis, and Rayshawn Goins. And good old fashioned regular senior Alioune Diouf is also starting. Plus, redshirt senior Andrey Semenov will challenge for a starting spot once he returns from injury and redshirt senior Gene Swindle could provide some fouls and rebounding off the bench. It’s a deep group full of some guys who’s seen the highs and lows of JMU hoops in their tenure.
The Magnificent Seven: Duke to VCU and ODU divorcing themselves from the CAA, and Towson and UNCW’s struggles with the APR, only seven teams will be eligible to compete for the CAA Championship. Despite what VCU and ODU fans might tell you, the teams remaining in the CAA are talented. Drexel, Delaware, and Mason all have their sights set on NCAA bids. And most people believe the CAA crown will go to one of them. With only 7 teams tourney eligible, anyone could get hot and go dancing though. And after a nearly 20 year absence from the tourney, I’ll take a bid anyone JMU can get it.
Reasons to Be Concerned
Lame Duck: Folks have accused me of being a Brady apologist in the past. While I think that’s an inaccurate statement, I have supported the Coach and think he’s caught some rough breaks. With that being said, I really don’t like idea of Brady staying on as coach without a contract beyond this season. I would have preferred they either extend him or fire him. This middle ground seems dicey to me and I’m worried how effectively he’ll be able to lead the team, if things turn sour and everyone knows he’s a dead man walking.
Unrealized Potential: You know all of that senior leadership and experience on the team we mentioned? Yeah, well those guys haven’t exactly lived up to expectations in their JMU careers. A.J. Davis is about as talented a players as JMU has had in years. In his only year with the Dukes however, he proved to be about as mercurial (and sometimes un-coachable) as he was talented. And Devon Moore is one of those players with a ton of upside, who seems to have taken steps backward as he got older. If Brady can get the most out of this team, they can win the CAA. Seriously. Unfortunately, that is one really big if.
History: It would be ludicrous to allege that JMU hoops is cursed or destined to fail. For much of the past twenty years however, the Dukes have been trapped in a culture of losing. And just when it looked like Brady was on the verge of turning things around, circumstances and injuries led to the program boomeranging back around to misery. It’s easy to blame things on coaches and folks certainly piled on Brady last year. Maybe it was deserved. I don’t know. One thing is for certain, the team was absolutely decimated by injuries last year. When you’re only dressing 7 or 8 players, it’s tough for any team to win. JMU has had some extremely bad luck and some sort of black cloud hanging over it for years. Whatever the cause, be it some sort of curse or just the wrong people involved, it’s hanging our there like an elephant in the room.