JMU Hammers Wisconsin, Set to Face Duke Next

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Bennett Conlin

JMU men’s basketball dominated Wisconsin on Friday night, manhandling the Badgers 71-62. The Dukes’ win moves them to the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1983.

Mark Byington’s squad will enter Sunday’s matchup with Duke – the game tips off at 5:15 p.m. ET in Brooklyn – with a record of 32-3. The Dukes now have a perfect 2-0 record against Big Ten teams, taking down both Michigan State and Wisconsin this season.

Friday’s win was arguably JMU’s best showing of the season, and it was definitely the Dukes’ best defensive effort of the season. JMU shut down one of the country’s most efficient offenses, forcing Wisconsin into a season-high 19 turnovers. The Badgers averaged just 0.84 points per possession, turning the ball over on 26% of their possessions.

Terrence Edwards led JMU with 14 points, while Julien Wooden and T.J. Bickerstaff each chipped in 12. Michael Green III added 11, and Noah Freidel contributed an important eight points.

It was hardly a perfect offensive showing – JMU shot 29% from 3 – but the Dukes did plenty defensively to overwhelm a good team. A rowdy group of JMU fans in attendance helped propel the Dukes to the victory, as they clearly fed off the environment.

Duke matchup

Now, JMU is one win from the Sweet 16.

Duke is a better team than Wisconsin, but the Blue Devils aren’t world beaters. The Blue Devils are 4-3 in their last seven games, going 2-3 against teams in the KenPom top 100. The Dukes are ranked 57th in the latest KenPom rankings.

The Blue Devils outlasted Vermont in the first round of the tournament, winning 64-47 after leading by just five points at halftime.

Kyle Filipowski only scored three points in the game, but he added 12 rebounds. The 7-footer is a talented 3-point shooter and a beast on the low block. He’s an NBA player and arguably Duke’s biggest mismatch.

The Blue Devils are plenty talented at guard, with Jeremy Roach, Tyrese Proctor, and Jared McCain among their top guards. Duke has NBA level talent across its roster, something the Dukes don’t.

Duke is sound on both ends, but the Blue Devils are also really young outside of Roach. KenPom says Duke’s D1 experience ranks 205th nationally, while JMU is 12th in the nation in terms of D1 playing experience on its roster.

The Blue Devils don’t have a ton of depth either, as JMU is older and deeper. If the Dukes shoot the ball better from beyond the arc – 20% won’t cut it — JMU can absolutely win this game.

JMU might not have the same level of individual talent as Duke, but the Dukes play exceptionally well as a team. They have pieces that work well together, and guys like Edwards, Freidel, and others have the ability to play professionally in some capacity, whether that’s in the NBA or abroad.

Sunday’s game should be a competitive battle between two really good teams. Buckle up.

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

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