JMU Sports News Staff Predictions: Will the Dukes Beat Wisconsin?

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By JMUSN staff

We’re on the verge of the biggest JMU men’s basketball game in decades.

JMU men’s basketball faces Wisconsin on Friday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. It’s the Dukes’ first NCAA Tournament game since 2013, and they’re a 12 seed this time instead of a 16 seed. JMU has its eyes on the Sweet 16, given its roster strength and stellar season.

Will the Dukes get by fifth-seeded Wisconsin? The JMU Sports News staff is here to share predictions.

Jack Fitzpatrick, JMUSN Co-Founder

The Dukes should have a good night behind the arc and that will lead them to the win.

Wisconsin ranks 345th in the nation in 3-point defense, according to KenPom. Against the worst 3-point shooting defenses in the Sun Belt (all of which rank higher than Wisconsin’s 3-point defense) the Dukes shot 39.3 percent, three points better than their season average. That mark would be Top 10 in the nation.  

Add in the fact that Wisconsin, despite having a 7-footer down low, isn’t great at blocking and altering shots. That should allow JMU to play the exact game they want. 

Final score prediction: JMU 78, Wisconsin 70 

Editor’s note: Thanks to Christopher William Jewelers for their advertising support.

Ben Hofer, JMUSN Contributor

In my humble opinion I think JMU will live and die by the 3 versus Wisconsin.

The Badgers have one of the most shambolic 3-point defenses in the country and JMU plays its best when they have or can create open looks beyond the arc. I’m looking for Julien Wooden to have a big game, if Wisconsin leaves him open, he can be an incredibly efficient shooter.

We know he’s capable of putting up 30 points when he’s left open from earlier in the year.

I like JMU to beat Wisconsin with Wooden, Noah Friedel, and Terrence Edwards all making significant contributions.

Final score prediction: JMU 78, Wisconsin 73

Daniel Merriman, JMUSN Contributor

James Madison matches up incredibly well against the Wisconsin Badgers. The Dukes are a fast-paced team in contrast to the Badgers’ methodical approach. JMU also shoots the basketball much better from 3 compared to Wisconsin (48th vs 133rd nationally). 

Mark Byington’s squad plays very well against tournament teams (3-0) and can go on game-breaking runs in an instant. Greg Gard’s group has stellar size, some positional athleticism advantages, and better free-throw shooting than the Dukes. However, I don’t think this will matter because JMU’s defense is very good overall, especially on the perimeter.

The Badgers have not played their best ball against “worse” teams this season, and UW had an awful February. Their lack of depth and tired legs may be factors in Brooklyn, too. I believe that the Dukes can unleash a Kill Shot (Evan Miya’s title for a 10-0 run) in the first half which could put this game out of reach. 

Wisconsin needs to hit outside shots to be the best version of itself on offense. That doesn’t look very likely to happen because of JMU’s tremendous three-point deterrence. Additionally, Wisconsin’s slow pace limits the possibility of a comeback. 

UW’s defense (69.9 papg) isn’t the same as years past. Therefore, James Madison should be able to score like they have all season (84.4 ppg). If the Dukes can shoot around or above their 3-point average for the year, this game should be a victory for JMU.

Final score prediction: JMU 81, Wisconsin 76

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Bennett Conlin, JMUSN Co-Founder

There’s reason to love this matchup for JMU. Wisconsin’s 3-point defense is vulnerable (345th nationally), and the Badgers don’t block a lot of shots (they’re 357th in block rate). App State’s shot blocking gave JMU fits in Sun Belt play, as the Mountaineers were one of the few teams to disrupt JMU’s offensive flow. 

Wisconsin has a losing record since Feb. 1, while JMU enters the tournament on a 13-game winning streak. It’s easy to see why this is a trendy 12-5 upset pick. 

On the flip side, JMU fans might be underestimating this Wisconsin team. The Badgers don’t actually give up an overwhelming amount of made 3-pointers per game because they run teams off the 3-point line. 

Offensively, Wisconsin is one of the most efficient teams (13th, per KenPom) in the country. The Badgers have a range of scoring threats, including AJ Storr, who might be a nightmare matchup for the Dukes. The Badgers don’t turn the ball over (39th nationally in turnover rate), and JMU’s defensive strength is forcing takeaways. Wisconsin has a veteran backcourt, skilled wing players, and good post play. 

JMU can win this game, but the Dukes are an underdog for a reason. The Badgers played one of the toughest schedules in the country this year and performed admirably. Experiencing a challenging schedule boosts Wisconsin down the stretch of a tight game.

Final score prediction: Wisconsin 81, JMU 77

Editor’s note: Who do you think wins? Drop your score prediction in the comments.

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