JMU Men’s Basketball 2023-24 Season Preview

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Bennett Conlin

Basketball season has arrived!

It’s a great time to be a JMU sports fan, and the men’s basketball team is expected to contend for an NCAA Tournament berth this season. That’s been a rarity the last couple decades, but the Dukes are legit. 

Can Mark Byington’s team make the Big Dance for the first time during his tenure?

2022-23 Review 

The Dukes were solid last season, going 22-11 overall and 12-6 in regular-season conference games. They lost in the Sun Belt Tournament semifinals to South Alabama and didn’t make the NCAA Tournament or the NIT. 

They finished fourth in the Sun Belt in the regular season. 

JMU did finish in the top 100 (98th) of KenPom’s final ranking, a feather in the cap for an improving program. The Dukes also went 1-0 against Louisiana, the league’s eventual champion and NCAA Tournament representative. 

Editor’s note: Thanks to Three Notch’d Brewing for their advertising support this season.

2023-24 Expectations

The expectation is to compete for the Sun Belt championship and the league’s automatic NCAA Tournament bid. The Dukes are the preseason Sun Belt favorite, thanks in large part to the return of Terrence Edwards. 

Edwards is a Sun Belt Player of the Year candidate after averaging 13.3 points per game and 5.1 rebounds per game last season. He also recorded 38 steals and shot 53% from the field as a guard. 

Julien Wooden, a reliable scoring threat at forward, and Noah Freidel, an underrated defender and 3-point weapon are other notable returners. JMU lost guards Takal Molson and Vado Morse to graduation. Key post players Mezie Offurum and Alonzo Sule also graduated. 

JMU used the transfer portal – and a little high school recruiting – to fill gaps. 

Roster breakdown 

Here’s the nitty gritty on the roster, focusing just on the team’s scholarship players. 

  • Xavier Brown, G – A true sophomore, Brown showed flashes last year. He’ll handle some point guard duties, likely off the bench. 
  • Noah Freidel, G – The former South Dakota State standout had the worst 3-point shooting season (31.7%) of his career last season, but he shot nearly 40% from distance as a Jackrabbit. Expect him to bounce back this season. He has a good shooting stroke.
  • Bryant Randleman, G – The High Point transfer brings a veteran to the backcourt. While not a natural scorer or shooter, Randleman can play in transition and defend. 
  • Brycen Blaine, G – A sophomore, Blaine has decent athleticism. He might be hard-pressed to find playing time this year, though. 
  • Michael Green III, G – A veteran Robert Morris transfer, Green is likely going to be the Dukes’ primary point guard this season. He averaged 4.2 assists per game last season and has averaged 10.7 points per game over his four-year career, which began at Bryant.
  • Terrence Edwards, G/F – A standout wing, Edwards is probably JMU’s best player. He can handle the ball, score, and defend. He’s a Power Six caliber player and averaged 13.3 points per game last season.
  • Quincy Allen, G/F – The former top-100 recruit and Colorado transfer has talent for days, but his readiness to contribute for a Sun Belt contender is a question. 
  • Raekwon Horton, F – Horton, a College of Charleston transfer, feels like a potential glue guy. He likely won’t score a ton, but he brings good defensive energy and experience from a winning program. 
  • T.J. Bickerstaff, F – A former Drexel and Boston College player, Bickerstaff will play a ton for the Dukes in the post. He was a massive transfer addition, and he’s probably going to lead JMU in rebounds. He’s averaged at least five rebounds per game in each of the last three seasons.
  • Justin Amadi, F – The hyper-athletic Amadi will miss the season due to injury. 
  • Jaylen Carey, F – A true freshman with a brother who used to play in the NBA, Carey is expected to see action this year with Amadi out. Can he become a difference maker?
  • Julien Wooden, F – Wooden should play a ton this year. He can score and rebound well. He’s as reliable as they come on JMU’s roster. Like Freidel, Edwards, and Bickerstaff, he’s one of the JMU players that simply has to be in the rotation all season. 
  • Jerrell Roberson, F – The sophomore should compete for minutes in the post, given Amadi’s absence. 

As for a starting five, I’d guess:

  • Michael Green 
  • Noah Freidel
  • Terrence Edwards
  • Julien Wooden
  • T.J. Bickerstaff

That lineup is my best guess, but I think JMU has 11 players with a legitimate chance to play meaningful minutes early in the season. The Dukes will likely use a ton of different lineups in the nonconference in search of a reliable 8-10 man rotation come February and March.

Schedule

It’s soft! Aside from a season-opening game against Michigan State, none of JMU’s regular-season games are against teams currently in the KenPom top 100. For a scheduling fun fact to impress your friends, JMU’s first game against Old Dominion (Dec. 9) is a nonconference game. 

Also, “LA PLUME” is Keystone College. Not sure what ESPN is doing on its schedule page.

In addition to the games pictured, JMU will also play either Fresno State or New Mexico State on Nov. 22. The Dukes will also play a MAC team on Feb. 10, with the opponent to be announced later. 

Our season prediction

I’m bullish on this roster and Byington’s ability as a head coach, so I’ll predict JMU goes 23-8 across their 31 regular-season games this season. The Dukes will win the Sun Belt regular season championship and enter the Sun Belt tournament with a chance to win the title. 

I’ll remain optimistic and say that the Dukes win the Sun Belt tournament title, securing an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. I question JMU’s consistent ability to make 3-point shots, which makes me think the Dukes won’t be more than an NCAA Tournament participant in 2023-24. The Dukes lose in the first round as a 13 or 14 seed, but fans are invigorated by the appearance in the Big Dance. 

This is a glass-half-full prediction, but this is the most optimistic I’ve been about the program since I started following the team a decade ago. It’s been a long time since the Dukes had this much talent.

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