JMU prepares for Northeastern in CAA clash

By Jack Fitzpatrick

This weekend JMU travels to Boston, Mass. to take on the Huskies of Northeastern in a CAA showdown. The two teams will play on back-to-back days starting on Saturday with tip-off at noon then will be right back at it at noon on Sunday. JMU is coming off of its first conference game against Towson where it won 81-72 and is riding a three-game winning streak (2 game winning streak against DI opponents) and Northeastern is on a 6 game winning streak after starting the season 1-5. 

The basics for the Huskies

  • Record: 7-5
  • Conference: 6-0
  • Last 5: 5-0
  • Key wins: UMass by 3, Hofstra x2
  • Key Losses: Syracuse by 6 

How to watch

  • You can stream the game on FloSports with coverage starting at tip-off. If you don’t have a Flo account, you can follow this link to get a discounted, $7.99 a month rate. 
  • If you are local to the Harrisonburg area you can listen on 550 AM or 92.1 FM. If you are out of the area and want to listen to Dave Thomas call the game over the FloHoops broadcast it is also available on the JMU Glo Fiber broadcast

Head coach Bill Coen 

Northeastern men’s basketball head coach Bill Coen. Photo Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University
  • Head coach of the huskies since the 2006-07 season amassing a 248-218 record with a 152-104 mark in CAA play. 
  • Coen is the second-winningest head coach in Northeastern history, trailing Jim Calhoun’s 250 mark by just two. 
  • Has made it to the NCAA Tournament twice with the Huskies. Has appeared in the NIT twice and the College Basketball Invitational once as well. 
  • Has led the Huskies to the CAA Championship game the past three years becoming just the fifth program to do so. 
  • Since the 2012-13 season has only had two losing seasons while finishing in the top 2 of the conference five times. 

Key Stats this season

  • Points per game: 67.3 
  • Opponents points per game: 68.2
  • FG Percentage: 43.9%
  • Opponents FG percentage: 43.2% 
  • 3PT percentage: 36.2%
  • Opponents 3PT percentage: 28.5%
  • Rebounds per game: 33
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 35.7
  • Turnovers per game: 13.9
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 11.8 

Team Leaders

Tyson Walker: Walker is the heartbeat of this team he is a distributor and a top tier scorer that will present problems for the JMU defense. 

He leads the team in PPG with 16.2, 8th best in the CAA, he tallies 5.3 assists per game which is 2nd in the conference, he forces turnovers with 1.9 steals a game which ranks 3rd in the Colonial and to top it all off he takes care of the basketball with a 1.68 AST/TO ratio, 5th in the CAA.

According to KenPom, Walker is ranked as the best player in the CAA edging out Matt Lewis. The 6-foot sophomore guard has put up double-digit point totals in each game this season except for one and has been an all-around monster in CAA play averaging 16.5 PPG

Jason Strong:  In an era where the 3 ball is one of the most important weapons a team can have, Strong is the go-to 3-point weapon. On the season he is 24-59, a 40.7% clip on a team that leads the CAA in 3-point field goals made and the most made per game at 8.7. 

Strong is also one of four players that average double digits with 10.4 per game and is a lethal scorer from close range as well. The 6-foot-8 forward shoots 55% from inside the arc and has come on strong since conference play has begun. 

Shaquille Walters: Walters is a 6-foot-6 guard who plays more like a CAA 5 than he does a 2 or a 3. He’s started each game this season and averages 10.8 PPG and leads the team in rebounds with 6.5 per game which is fifth in the CAA

On top of being a top rebounder Walters, like most of his Northeastern teammates, can step out behind the arc and drain it with ease. He is a 41% shooter from deep, a 51% shooter from inside the arc and a 47% shooter overall. Walters, much like Walker, is a dynamic player that will make an impact in a few different ways. 

What to expect

Suffocating defense

A slow-paced game 

Opportunities for both sides

This is going to be a tough matchup for JMU, there really is no way around it but it is a great measuring stick to see how far JMU has to go to be among the top CAA teams. This matchup lends itself to be a low scoring affair where every single possession is going to matter for both sides. 

JMU is one of the fastest teams in the nation, it averages 71.6 possessions per 40 minutes which is 57th fastest in the nation. The Dukes get out and run and that has shown up in the scoring column, as they are the number one scoring offense in the CAA. 

The speed of JMU may become an advantage in this game if they can play their brand of basketball and not bend to Northeastern’s Boa Constrictor like style of play. This season Northeastern has only played three games against top 60 tempo teams and are 1-2 in those being outscored, 245-215. 

photo courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

Then you look to the other bench and it is the exact opposite. Northeastern is a gritty defensive-minded team that is going to drain the clock each possession and limit the number of touches the opponent gets. 

The Huskies are one of the slowest teams in the nation with a defense that is 4th best in the CAA allowing just 68.2 points per game. (65.8 ppg if you throw out the season opener where they allowed 94).

Think of this matchup as an NFL game where an explosive offense with a shaky defense takes on a defensive-minded squad that runs it 50 times a game to drain the clock and limit possessions.

Diving a little deeper into advanced stats show that both of these teams will have their opportunities though. If you look at both sides’ effective possession ratio, which is just the number of shot opportunities per possession, both of these teams get their opportunities fairly similarly on both offense and defense. 

JMU gets about .932 shot opportunities per possession and they allow just .927. Both of those marks are better than Northeastern who only gets .879 shot opportunities per possession and they allow .933. 

Now, I won’t be naive when looking at these numbers. JMU has played two DII schools and an NAIA school whereas Northeastern beefed up their non-conference schedule squaring off with UMass, Syracuse, Georgia and West Virginia. And since I won’t be naive I looked at the numbers over the last three for both schools, where JMU has taken on FAU, Chowan and Towson (still leaves something to be desired) but Northeastern has taken on Charleston twice and Hofstra once. 

JMU in that time frame is .941 on the offensive side and is allowing .950 on the defensive side. While Northeastern’s offensive EPR jumped to .933, its defensive number is actually worse moving .005 to .938.

All advanced stats and metrics aside, we know that Northeastern is a dominant CAA team that will provide many challenges in this game, from its four-headed scoring machine to its top 5 defense. JMU will need to value each and every possession since they won’t have as many as they are used to and lockdown on defense.

Get ready for a fun, defensive driven matchup between a perennial CAA power and a perennial CAA basement dweller that is trying to rise up to the top level.  

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