What’s a Realistic Win Total for JMU Men’s Basketball After Starting 2-0?

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Bennett Conlin

JMU men’s basketball beat No. 4 Michigan State and Kent State on the road to open its season. There’s a chance, come March, that those will have been the two toughest opponents on the Dukes’ schedule. 

Given the stellar start for the Dukes, they’ve risen 46 spots in KenPom. After starting the year at No. 136, the Dukes are 90th as of Friday afternoon. KenPom also projects JMU to be favored in all but two of their remaining games. 

This got us thinking, what’s a realistic record expectation?

Initial expectation 

I projected JMU to finish its 31-game regular season with a 23-8 record in our season preview article. I anticipated Terrence Edwards looking like a Sun Belt Player of the Year candidate, and the Dukes being deep. 

I’m not sure I expected Edwards to look like as complete a player as he did in JMU’s first two games, and the Dukes can reasonably go five players deep into their bench. They’re really good, and they look like one of the best mid-major teams in the country. It’s a long season, but early signs suggest I slightly undervalued JMU’s overall ability. 

Honestly, I expected JMU to open the season 0-2. 

Now with JMU sitting at 2-0 and a relatively easy nonconference schedule remaining, my thoughts have changed. 

Is 31-0 possible?

You can’t go 31-0 without starting 2-0! 

Is JMU going to go unbeaten? I highly doubt it. The Dukes could stay undefeated for a bit, though. 

Upcoming home games against Howard and Radford are winnable. Neutral site games with Southern Illinois and the winner of Fresno State-New Mexico State will present a decent challenge. Fresno State, especially, is a quality team currently inside the KenPom Top 100.

It’s not crazy to see a world where JMU gets to 12-0 before the start of conference play, but the Dukes will have to play exceptionally well to reach that number. Something like 9-3 or 10-2 feels more likely. If the Dukes are somehow 12-0, consecutive road games against Louisiana and Southern Miss early into conference play may quickly end the undefeated season. If JMU gets through those two games with an unblemished record, it’s time to consider 31-0. Until then, it’s a silly talking point. It’s hard to win college sporting events, and even the best mid-major teams slip up a couple times each year. 

For the glass-half full crowd, JMU’s record could look special when the calendar flips to 2024. 

New expectation

I’m not predicting an undefeated season for JMU, but I’ll say the Dukes win more than my original prediction of 23-8. I think JMU can go 10-2 or 11-1 in its first 12 nonconference games – the Dukes will play their final nonconference game in February against a MAC team – and 11-2 overall in nonconference play. 

Let’s say the Dukes deliver on that expectation and are 11-2 with 18 conference games left to add to their win total. Last year’s Sun Belt regular-season champion, Southern Miss, went 14-4 in league action. If JMU matches that record and goes 11-2 in nonconference games, JMU will end the season with a 25-6 record. 

Sure, why not! I’ll boost my preseason expectation by two wins, which makes sense, as I expected an 0-2 start instead of 2-0. 

You heard it here first, JMU goes 25-6 and enters the Sun Belt Tournament as the top seed.

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