Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications
By Bennett Conlin (This content was originally published in our newsletter)
Dukes finish regular season – JMU beat Delaware 56-51 to end the regular season. The Dukes will be the No. 1 seed in this week’s CAA tournament.
Kamiah Smalls injury – JMU’s junior guard and star player left the game early in the first half, which led to the Dukes scoring just three points in the second quarter. Smalls hurt her hand and Madison Green hurt her knee during the game. According to Shane Mettlen of the DNR, both are expected to play in the CAA tournament.
Stepping up – Jackie Benitez led the team with 17 points, and Green scored 11 points in 13 minutes before getting injured in the final seconds. The team struggled, but a few players did enough for JMU to survive without Smalls.
Up next – The CAA tournament begins on Wednesday and JMU will play the winner of Elon and Hofstra on Thursday in the quarterfinals. Check out our preview of the tournament below.
CAA Tournament Preview
Top contenders – JMU and Drexel. The top-two seeds are far and away the CAA’s best teams. Expect one of these two teams to earn the CAA’s automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.
Middle of the pack – No. 3 UNCW, No. 4 Towson, No. 5 Delaware and No. 6 Northeastern. It’s hard to imagine any team other than JMU or Drexel winning the tournament, but UNCW, Towson and Northeastern are all quality teams. Delaware isn’t overly impressive, but the Blue Hens have the advantage of hosting the tournament.
Long shots – No. 7 William & Mary, No. 8 Elon, No. 9 Hofstra and No. 10 College of Charleston. These teams likely won’t be much of a threat. These four teams are 17-55 in CAA action.
JMU’s road – We’ll include the bracket below. The Dukes get an easy quarterfinal opponent before a daunting semifinal matchup with Towson or Delaware. The Tigers are the tougher team, but playing Delaware in its home arena would certainly be a challenge. The semifinal game will test JMU. Assuming JMU advances, the final doesn’t get much easier. Facing Drexel or UNCW wouldn’t be easy. It’ll be a challenging few days for the Dukes.
Worst-case scenario – JMU won’t lose in the CAA quarterfinals, but a loss in the semifinals is the worst-case scenario. It means the Dukes won’t earn the at-large NCAA Tournament berth AND they won’t get a win over Towson or Delaware in the semifinals to keep their RPI in a good spot. A loss in the finals might not kill JMU’s at-large chances, but a semifinal loss would hurt tremendously.
Best-case scenario – Kamiah Smalls gets healthy and JMU rolls through its three opponents en route to a CAA title and an NCAA Tournament appearance.
Realistic scenario – The Dukes blow out their quarterfinal opponent before pulling out close wins in the semifinals and finals. JMU isn’t unbeatable, though, and a loss in the semifinals or finals could very well occur. With that being said, JMU has earned the No. 1 seed and deserves to be the favorite in this tournament. Anything less than winning the championship will be disappointing for the team.
What to watch for from JMU – Smalls’ health. If Kamiah is limited and the hand bothers her, the Dukes go from favorites to the second or third best team in the conference. Drexel, UNCW and Towson would be licking their chops if the CAA’s best player is limited during the tournament.