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JMU’s Athletic Department Enjoys National Spotlight

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Bennett Conlin

JMU’s athletic department is having a moment. 

On what can only be described as a lackluster schedule for the first night of the men’s college basketball season, JMU men’s basketball became the story of the night. Yes, JMU’s men’s basketball team became the talk of the college basketball world on opening night. 

The Dukes took down No. 4 Michigan State 79-76 in overtime, the program’s first win over a team in the AP Top 5. The Dukes opened their season beating a program with national title aspirations. There’s a case that it’s the biggest, or at least one of the biggest, wins in JMU’s program history. 

Men’s basketball looks legit

While the Dukes had a few things go their way Monday — the Spartans shot able abysmal 1-20 from 3 — they also didn’t play perfectly. JMU shot 36.8% from the field and still beat a top-5 team on the road. 

The Dukes also committed 32 fouls. About 12 of those probably weren’t fouls, but hey, the Spartans had some favorable officiating at home. What else is new? 

So JMU dealt with major foul trouble all night in a game that went into overtime. The Dukes, the Sun Belt preseason favorite, still won. 

There’s a ton of season left, but for the first time in arguably decades, JMU men’s basketball fans have reason to be exceedingly optimistic about the season’s outlook. JMU can make the NCAA Tournament. Heck, the Dukes looked the part of a Sweet 16 team Monday. Maybe there’s an NCAA Tournament win on the horizon. 

Regardless of how the season unfolds, the basketball program is making giant strides forward. 

Athletic department-wide success

On Halloween, the men’s soccer team defeated No. 1 UCF. The Dukes are a fringe NCAA Tournament team, and the win showed their potential when playing well. 

A few days later, the football program demolished Georgia State 42-14 to improve to 9-0. There’s a legitimate case that Curt Cignetti’s team is the best in the Group of Five, and a 12-0 season is possible. 

The football program is a perfect 1-0 against Power Five teams this year, knocking off Virginia 36-35 in a September thriller. They also knocked off an impressive Troy team the following week, which may be the Dukes’ best win at the end of the year. 

Women’s soccer punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament earlier this week, but the Dukes weren’t Sun Belt champs. They earned an at-large bid to the event, a significant accomplishment.

The impressive week for the Dukes comes after several major accomplishments in recent years. JMU moving to the Sun Belt was a big deal, and it came shortly after lacrosse won the 2018 national title and the softball team made a magical run to the Women’s College World Series in 2021. The Dukes even beat eventual national champion Oklahoma during the WCWS. 

Just this year, volleyball is a Sun Belt title threat. The women’s basketball team is the Sun Belt preseason favorite, and they dropped 100+ Monday in a win over Eastern Mennonite. Lacrosse is expected to be a top-10 team in the spring, and the softball team reloaded and should compete for an NCAA Tournament berth.

While JMU fans have known for years that the athletic department is one of the most complete and competitive outside the Power Five, a string of major accomplishments in the last 10 days has JMU earning the national respect it has long deserved. 

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