2020–21 CAA Preview: James Madison Dukes

Last season: 9–21 (2–16, 10th place CAA), lost to Elon in CAA First Round

Head coach: Mark Byington (first season)

Preseason Poll Projected Finish: Ninth

Departures

  • G Deshon Parker — 10/3/4 (44/24/53)
  • G Darius Banks — 12/5/2 (36/33/81)
  • F Dwight Wilson — 10/9/0 (53/X/51)
  • F Devon Flowers, F Dalton Jefferson, G Antanee Pinkard, G Zyon Dobbs, G Quinn Richey — played few minutes

Additions

  • F Justin Amadi
  • G/F TJ Taylor (junior transfer)
  • G Rashawn Fredericks (senior transfer)
  • G Vado Morse (junior transfer)
  • G/F Terrence Edwards
  • G Terell Strickland
  • G Tyce McNair
  • G Jalen Hodge (junior transfer)
  • G Hollman Smith
  • F Joel Mensah (junior transfer)

By Milton Posner

Only in the Trump cabinet is this kind of turnover normal.

It began when James Madison dismissed Head Coach Louis Rowe just two days after a heartbreaking, buzzer-beating loss to Elon in the first round of the CAA Tournament. In four seasons in Harrisonburg, Rowe never notched a winning season, winning just 29 percent of conference games and never finishing higher than seventh. His final season wound up being his worst record-wise, as the Dukes went 2–16 in conference play before their first round exit.

The press conference after that game spoke volumes, especially given what came next. A visibly emotional Rowe took the blame for the outcome and spoke sincerely and movingly about his love for his players, his dedication to them, and their inspiring persistence and dedication in the face of adversity. In most circumstances those sentiments would be written off as sports interview clichés, but it was obvious in Rowe’s voice and demeanor — as well as the reactions of his players — that there was a lot of mutual love and respect there.

I have no idea whether the players Rowe recruited saw his dismissal and decided to transfer because of it. But given that more than half of the would-be returners did not return, it was likely a big factor in their decisions.

Three of those transfers were rotation mainstays. Defensive stalwart and second-leading scorer Darius Banks bailed for Chattanooga. Scorer and top playmaker Deshon Parker set sail for Appalachian State. And the conference’s third-leading rebounder, bruising big man Dwight Wilson, packed his bags for Ohio.

This leaves Preseason Player of the Year Matt Lewis, four other returners who averaged a combined 12 points per game last year, and ten newcomers — five freshmen and five upperclassmen transfers.

Perhaps appropriately, the head coach tasked with guiding this new team is a newcomer himself. Mark Byington comes to James Madison after seven years at Georgia Southern, during which he won 59 percent of his conference games. While William & Mary’s Dane Fischer had a stellar first season last year — he was voted CAA Coach of the Year — he was gifted two all-conference players and a solid supporting cast. Byington is not so lucky, and as he admitted on last month’s preseason conference call, he is still trying to figure out which play style is best for his new squad.

Bottom Line: Matt Lewis is arguably the best scorer in the conference, and possibly the best overall. But after the Dukes sank to last place in 2019–20, then lost three of their top four scorers, this year is not shaping up well for them. They will need a few major surprises from newbies to keep them out of the cellar.

Men’s Basketball Deposes the Dukes

By Milton Posner

For a few games, it appeared as though Jordan Roland had settled down. His scoring average dropped from the national top-five toward slightly more reasonable territory, and he was shooting just 30 percent in the team’s last three games.

But he couldn’t lie dormant forever, and on Monday evening he woke up, burying a James Madison lineup stocked with talented juniors. The Huskies ran past the Dukes, 88–72, in one of their best offensive showings of the year. The last Northeastern sporting event of the 2010s had a happy ending for the Huskies.

Roland wasted no time, putting himself on the board with an early lay-in.

He made it into double figures before the midway point of the second half, assailing the Dukes with his trademark blend of lefty floaters and three-point bombs. He was particularly zoned in on attacking late closes; if a defender didn’t get back to him in time, Roland would field the pass and take a quick, strong first step in the direction the defender was coming from. When his man couldn’t change direction in time, Roland drove to the basket and wreaked havoc.

When Roland’s white-hot shooting touch faded a bit, Tyson Walker picked up the torch.

By the end of the first half, Roland had amassed 21 points on 11 shots. Walker was somehow more efficient, collecting 15 points and making all six of his attempts, including three triples. Northeastern’s backcourt had outscored James Madison all by themselves.

But the Huskies’ first-half success also stemmed from their solid defense. Save for Deshon Parker and Matt Lewis, who both scored nine points, none of the Dukes really got going in the first 20 minutes. Just as they did against Towson on Saturday, Northeastern packed the lane, forcing difficult shots that frequently dripped off the rim.

Husky forward Max Boursiquot, starting his fourth consecutive game as a small-ball center, was once again tasked with guarding a larger player. Though James Madison forward Dwight Wilson was three inches taller and 40 pounds heavier, Boursiquot rose to the challenge with a deranged intensity, fighting for every rebound like his life depended on it. He routinely tipped balls away from Wilson’s reach, turning easy James Madison rebounds into scrambles for loose balls. Boursiquot also held firm on the low block, denying Wilson favorable position and limiting him to two points on one-of-four shooting in the first half.

The Huskies led by 12 at halftime. Four minutes into the second half, the lead had all but evaporated.

Lewis and Darius Banks drove in for layups. Wilson notched back-to-back buckets from point-blank range. Banks. Parker. Wilson. A 16–5 James Madison run shaved the Northeastern lead to one with 15:19 to play.

“They came out fired up and they were scoring — it felt like — in the first two seconds every time,” Roland remarked. “They played so fast that it catches you off guard. They’re laying the ball up before you’re even ready to play defense.”

But the first-half offensive floodgates were about to burst open once more. Roland got things back on track with a triple. Bolden Brace slid a slick bounce pass to a cutting Shaq Walters for an easy jam.

Roland drove to the basket for a layup, then notched another layup on a leakout. Brace nailed his first three-pointer of the evening.

Boursiquot scored off a nice dish from Walker. Walters nailed a pair of free throws. Three minutes after the Dukes cut the lead to one, Northeastern completed a 16–0 run and blew the game open. Though the lead oscillated for the rest of the game, the outcome was never really in doubt. Northeastern matched JMU bucket-for-bucket to keep the lead in double digits.

Roland finished with 33 points (12–18 FG, 4–9 3PT), three rebounds, and three assists in his best offensive game in more than a month. Oddly enough, he missed three of his eight free throws, the most he’s ever missed in a college game. His CAA-best mark of 93 percent and streak of 26 straight made free throws entering the game — along with the fact that he hadn’t missed multiple free throws in a game in nearly two years — shows his prodigious skill from the stripe.

Tyson Walker didn’t score in the second half, but added six assists to accompany his 15 points. Brace and Walters contributed superb all-around stat lines, with Walters notching 12 points, 12 rebounds, and four assists and Brace logging 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

James Madison’s junior quartet of Lewis, Parker, Banks, and Wilson paced the team; each finished in double figures. Parker played brilliantly, notching 19 points and six assists while cutting through the defense like a warm butter knife. He took note of how Husky defenders were playing him, then made split-second decisions regarding whether to take or reject his teammates’ screens.

Wilson turned on the jets in the second half to net another double-double, while Lewis made up for inefficient field goal shooting with eight free throws. Banks was the only one without a ton of upside, making just five of his 18 shots.

The result boosted Northeastern to 8–6 (2–0 CAA) and dropped James Madison to 7–6 (0–2 CAA). Both teams have a quicker turnaround than usual due to compact nature of the CAA’s opening week schedule. Northeastern will return to Boston for a Thursday matchup with the Elon Phoenix. Matt Neiser and Milton Posner will call that game, with coverage beginning at 6:45 PM EST.

CAA Preview: James Madison University Dukes

Last season: 14–19 (6–12, eighth place), lost in CAA quarterfinal

Head coach: Louis Rowe (third season)

CAA Preseason Poll Finish: Fourth

Losses

  • G Stuckey Mosley
  • G Matthew Urbach
  • F Greg Jones
  • F Develle Phillips
  • F Cameron Smith

Additions

  • G Zyon Dobbs
  • G Quinn Richey
  • G Jayvis Harvey
  • F Dalton Jefferson
  • F Julien Wooden
  • F Michael Christmas

By Adam Doucette

The JMU Dukes will look to rebound from their lackluster, eighth-place 2018–19. It won’t be easy after graduating second-leading scorer Stuckey Mosley, but JMU returns the other four starters and has added some depth with new recruits.

One of those recruits is Michael Christmas, a three-star prospect according to 247sports. He is ranked as the 14th best prospect from the state of Virginia for 2019.

Junior guards Matt Lewis and Darius Banks look to build on fantastic sophomore seasons. Lewis averaged 16 points, four rebounds, and three assists per game, making the All-CAA third team in the process. He will likely become the offensive centerpiece. Banks averaged 12 points and five assists per game, and his 56 steals were second only to Defensive Player of the Year Desure Buie. Banks also made a mind-boggling 49 percent of his threes last year.

Sophomore point guard Deshon Parker will look to become a leader after earning a starting spot last season and averaging six points, two rebounds, and three assists per game. JMU also returns 6’8” junior forward Zach Jacobs, who paced the team defensively with 26 blocks.

JMU will face one of the nation’s toughest teams early on. In just their second regular season game, the Dukes will travel to Charlottesville to play the reigning national champion Virginia Cavaliers. JMU has faced Virginia ten times in the past; they’ve lost all ten.

The Dukes head into the season under the direction of head coach Louis Rowe. Rowe played two years at JMU, was an assistant coach for five, and has been head coach for the last two. In his first season at the helm, the team finished last in the CAA; last year they finished eighth. The Dukes have not earned a top five seed in the CAA tournament since they were third in 2015–16.

Bottom line: JMU has hung out at the bottom of the CAA standings for the better part of the last three seasons. Digging themselves out won’t be easy, especially with the loss of leading scorer Mosley. But with an added year of experience for coach Louis Rowe, the maturing of Lewis, Banks, and Parker, and the addition of some talented recruits, the Dukes should jump in the standings.