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Season Preview: James Madison Dukes

September 23, 2011

Devon Moore

2010-11 Record: 21-12 (10-8, 6th in CAA)

What happened last season: The Dukes created buzz in Harrisonburg with a 15-3 start but their schedule quickly toughened and they failed to rise above it. In coach Matt Brady‘s third season, one that began with so much promise, Madison lost nine of 15 down the stretch, including a first-round exit in the CAA tournament to 11th-seeded William & Mary.

What’s Changed: Denzel Bowles took his daily 20-and-10 to Lithuania, the Dukes signed three big men they hope can at least represent a defensive improvement at the center position, high-flying swingman A.J. Davis became eligible after sitting out last season due to transfer rules, while point guard Devon Moore learned he’ll probably be academically ineligible for the first semester (about seven games).

Key Team Stat: (68.3) Possessions per 40 minutes for JMU last season. While that was the most in the CAA, it only ranked 160th nationally. The Dukes will play even faster now that their offense doesn’t revolve around a pivot like Bowles.

Key Player Stat: (4.2) Assists per game for Moore, the most of any returning CAA player. Moore could increase his assist total again, but the Dukes might struggle to find playmakers when he’s out early in the year, especially if senior James Millen is not granted an exception to let him play outside the NCAA’s five year career window.  JMU’s second-best assist guy last year was Bowles, with 2.2.

Who’s Vince: If you asked this question last year it would have been debatable. Sure, Bowles put up the big numbers and often carried the Dukes offensively, but the ball was Moore’s at the end of tight games, and the skinny 6-foot-4 guard was the leader defensively as well. With Bowles gone, this is clearly now Moore’s team,  from the locker room to the Convocation Center floor. Moore (11.3 points per game) always seems to make sound decisions on the floor. At times he can be a bit too unselfish. To help the Dukes eke out nip-and-tuck games, he’ll have to improve on his 73.9 percent free throw shooting (he hit 84.6 percent from the line as a freshman).

Who’s E: Julius Wells’ legacy as a college player depends on this senior season. After winning Rookie of the Year, he scored even more points as a sophomore, but on a lousy team. As a junior and with talent around him, the athletic small forward seemed more worried about sublimating than anything else. With a similar cast around him for the first time, he should have his most efficient year. He won’t have the no-restrictions green light that allowed him to fire off shots at will as an underclassman, but he should  have more quality opportunities in an up-and-down offense. Wells has yet to shoot over 40 percent for a season, but smart money says he does this year.

The Entourage: Player for player, the Dukes have the most offensive horsepower of any team in the league. We haven’t even yet mentioned power forward Rayshawn Goins who joined the team last year after two years in JUCO and was the team’s best player early on. He tailed off considerably, finishing with 9.8 points per game on the season, but was still the CAA’s eighth most used player (26.23 percent usage rate). Davis could be an All-CAA type talent if he fits in right away. Humpty Hitchens (8.9 ppg) and Andrey Semenov (7.5 ppg) will hit open shots and exert themselves defensively. If one of the Dukes’ four tallest players – 6-11 junior Trevon Flores, 6-11 junior Gene Swindle (a Virginia Tech transfer), 6-10 freshman Keynan Pittman or 6-8 freshman Enoch Hood – has a productive season, JMU will be a serious contender.

Realistic Goal: Earn a bye (top four finish) for the CAA Tournament for the first time since 2000 and hear your name called on Selection Sunday… during the NIT show.

Postseason tournament chances: CBI or CIT shouldn’t be a problem and might even be a disappointment; NIT would signify solid season

DN-R Prediction: 4th in the CAA

Next Up: Delaware Blue Hens…

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Randall permalink
    September 23, 2011 12:14 pm

    When will the word come down about Moore’s eligibility for the first semester and Millen’s exception? Hasn’t the semester started already?

    • Mark Selig permalink*
      September 23, 2011 4:24 pm

      Randall,

      To me, the situation with Moore appears very unlikely to work itself out. I know Devon has done well in classes already this semester, and maybe they’re hoping if that continues it will convince somebody to make an exception, but I’m only speculating there. Neither Brady nor Moore seemed to know (or at least want to discuss) what needs to happen for him to become eligible. Brady is preparing for the first semester as if Moore won’t be around, and Moore repeatedly called the situation a “learning experience,” but said he remained hopeful he could play. On Wednesday he said, “If it happens it happens. I can’t worry about it. I got a full schedule this year to worry about my grades and worry about my credits. Coaches keep telling me to lead, keep telling me to be the guy I’m being.”

      As for Millen, it’s an interesting case because he enrolled in school at North Carolina A&T years back, but just as a “normal” student. So his eligibility clock began ticking before he was ever an athlete. Of course, after a couple years in junior college, he missed last season because of grades. His grades are fine now, and he’s on path to graduate, according to Brady, but his fate appears to be in the hands of the NCAA.

      Thanks for reading the blog. Hope that cleared things up a bit.

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