Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications
By Bennett Conlin and Jack Fitzpatrick
March Madness is here, and the Dukes are dancing! JMU’s women’s team heads to Columbus for a Saturday afternoon showdown with No. 3 seed Ohio State.
The game tips off at 1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2, and while the Dukes are major underdogs, it’s great to see them play postseason basketball in front of a national audience.
To break down the matchup, we sat down for a brief roundtable discussion.
What was your immediate reaction to JMU receiving a 14 seed? Were the Dukes snubbed at all?
Bennett: I was a little disappointed! I hoped the Dukes could be a 12 or 13 seed, but I also don’t really think they were snubbed. JMU didn’t dominate the Sun Belt, outside of the SBC Championship game. The Dukes played close games against the top teams in the league, and they lost five league games. JMU didn’t have any crazy impressive wins either.
From a national standpoint, JMU is an above-average team, but the Dukes have a NET ranking of 101. That’s fine! But it’s also a worse number than three of the four 13 seeds. No. 12 seed Florida Gulf Coast has a NET ranking of 36!
At the mid-major level, the Dukes are a quality team. But I don’t think JMU was snubbed. There are other good mid-major teams, too. I think fans should just be thankful the Dukes are in the event! That’s a special achievement for this team.
Jack: I think JMU is right where it should be. If the Dukes were a 15 seed then yes, but like Bennett said they have a worse NET than 3 of the 4 13 seeds. The one team the Dukes have a better NET than is Saint Louis, an A10 school who had a better schedule.
JMU still lost 5 conference games and fell to Maine this season. Its only game vs. a tournament team was against UNC which was an 11 point JMU loss. JMU is a top tier SBC school, but not a top tier mid-major right now, this is their first NCAA Tournament appearance in nearly a decade.
This seeding, and this appearance though has the Dukes on an awesome trajectory.
What will the Dukes need to do to pull the massive upset?
Bennett: Ohio State runs a full-court press and creates a ton of turnovers. If the Dukes can take care of the ball, they can hang around for a bit. If they don’t, they might lose by 30 or more. The Buckeyes can SMOKE teams if they’re forcing turnovers at an impressive clip.
JMU also needs some good shooting. The Dukes are talented, but the Buckeyes are more talented. The Dukes need to level that talent differential with a hot shooting night. Kiki Jefferson and Peyton McDaniel were stars in the SBC title game. Can they get hot again?
Jack: The Dukes will need to have another game like the SBC title game. Shoot 75% from deep, have Peyton McDaniel go off and Koslova feasts on the interior. Oh and Kiki Jefferson probably needs to drop 25+.
What’s your prediction for the matchup? Do the Dukes stand a chance?
Bennett: I hope I’m being overly negative, but I just don’t see it happening. Ohio State likely has its eyes on an Elite Eight appearance. The stage is massive for JMU, and early nerves could prevent the Dukes from playing their best in the first quarter. An early hole against an elite pressing defense? Yikes!
I see the Buckeyes winning 85-60, but man, I hope I’m very wrong.
Jack: I think JMU struggles in this game. Ohio State’s worst loss this season was against Purdue. Their next worst loss was vs. No. 10 at the time Iowa. The Buckeyes are elite and run a defense the Dukes have never seen. They may run the Dukes out of the arena.
I’ll be tuned in cheering my head off and questioning every call that goes against JMU and hope they can not only cover the 18 point spread but pull out the MASSIVE upset. Worth nothing that in the history of the NCAA Women’s Tournament 14, 15 and 16 seeds have combined for just one win.
Ohio State will probably win by 25+.