Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications
By Bennett Conlin
It’s that time of the year again. Basketball season is here.
While JMU fans might very well ignore the men’s basketball team until football season concludes, we’re big basketball people at JMU Sports News. To be completely frank, we’re big JMU people. So we can’t skip out on a season preview even if you’re mostly focused on a potential trip to Frisco.
I’ll break this up into a few digestible segments to make it easier to read. You’re welcome, JMU Nation.
Potential starting 5
Point guard: Deshon Parker, sophomore
Shooting guard: Matt Lewis, junior
Small forward: Darius Banks, junior
Power forward: Zach Jacobs, junior
Center: Dwight Wilson, junior
I’m not sold on this being the starting five, as I think they’re better off going small and Michael Christmas at the PF spot, but this is my best guess as to what Louis Rowe might do.
I have absolutely no idea what he’ll actually do, but I’m forecasting that he may use Jacobs for his experience and defensive prowess.
These guards are studs. Deshon Parker rarely makes mistakes, Matt Lewis is a gifted scorer and Darius Banks can do it all. They need to be more consistent, but there’s a chance that the guards are the best in the CAA.
The front court is solid, but the Dukes could benefit from more consistent scoring production out of Jacobs. Wilson is going to be a double-double machine for Louis Rowe and company, and his strength poses issues for any CAA power forwards or centers attempting to guard him.
This is the best starting unit in Louis Rowe’s time as head coach.
Forward – Michael Christmas, freshman
Forward – Julien Wooden, freshman
Forward – Devon Flowers, redshirt freshman
Guard – Quinn Richey, freshman
Don’t discount the other reserves, as they’re all talented and good enough to play. I’m just keeping a close eye on these four. Christmas will likely be a starter by year’s end if he isn’t to open the season, and Wooden and Flowers add necessary size in the front court.
Richey could be a 3-point specialist off the bench. JMU’s shooting has left a lot to be desired in recent seasons, and the Dukes could use some production from the freshman off the bench.
There are likely to be a few guys not on this list who also contribute key minutes this season. JMU’s reserves are hard to get a handle on without having seen them in person yet.
The Dukes were picked to finish fourth in the CAA, and they should finish in the top half of the league. There’s way too much talent on this roster to finish in the bottom half. If they do, it’s going to be an interesting time for this program.
The nonconference schedule is fairly challenging with road games against Virginia, George Mason and Old Dominion. The Dukes also have a chunk of winnable nonconference games against teams like Coppin State, Shenandoah and New Hampshire, though.
If JMU wants to take a step forward this season, the Dukes need to beat the teams it should beat. That means it needs to take care of the weak nonconference foes on its schedule.
I see the Dukes as a team contending for 20 wins this season. Will they get there? I’m skeptical given the team’s underachieving nature in past seasons, but a 20-win season before entering the new arena with a loaded senior class would mean everything to this JMU program.
I’ll take the Dukes to go 6-5 against this nonconference slate. The potential for 8-3 is there and anything under .500 would be a disappointment.
In these 18 games, I like JMU to finish 10-8. Again, the potential for a better record is there, but I need to see it to believe it.
With a 6-5 nonconference record and a 10-8 conference record, the Dukes finish this season with a 16-13 record. It’s far from impressive, but it’s technically a slight improvement. A win or two in the CAA tournament would make the record look better on paper.
I don’t expect JMU to make the NCAA Tournament this season, but I do expect the Dukes to lay the foundation to make the Big Dance next year.