Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications
By Bennett Conlin
JMU women’s basketball is going dancing!
The Dukes defeated Texas State 81-51 on Monday to win the Sun Belt Championship. The Dukes are headed to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016.
It was an incredible performance by JMU, which shot 75% from 3-point range and held Texas State to 33.3% shooting from the floor. The Dukes left no doubt that they’re the best team in the Sun Belt, dominating the Bobcats across the 40 minutes.
Kiki Jefferson scored 22 points on 8-13 shooting. She was incredibly efficient, also adding four rebounds and four assists. Peyton McDaniel dropped 30 of her own, going a perfect 7-7 from 3-point range. The duo was unbelievable, showing why they’re two of the most gifted scorers in the Sun Belt.
After winning a Sun Belt regular-season title, the Dukes backed it up in Pensacola. Sean O’Regan’s team’s special season moves forward.
JMU heads to the NCAA Tournament, which begins later this month. The NCAA Selection Show will take place on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET and it will air on ESPN. The first round will take place on Friday, March 17 and Saturday, March 18.
Look for JMU to be a 12-14 seed in the NCAA Tournament, if recent ESPN bracketology projections are any indication. The Dukes finished the season 26-7, and their NET ranking should finish right around 100. They have a better body of work than some of the teams projected to be 15 and 16 seeds.
If JMU is indeed a 12-14 seed, the Dukes will be a dangerous first-round team. They won’t be expected to advance, but as Jefferson and McDaniel showed, the Dukes have the high-level talent needed to pull an upset in the Big Dance.
It’s worth noting that the seeding is highly important in the women’s game, as seeds 1-4 host first and second round games. If JMU is a 12 seed, it will face a 5 seed at a neutral site. That neutral site crowd will likely root for JMU to pull the upset. If the Dukes face a 3 or 4 seed, they’ll play an opponent on the road in front of a hostile crowd. Earning a 12 seed could be massive.
Regardless, the Dukes are dancing!