JMU Men’s Basketball’s Season Ends With Loss to Duke

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Bennett Conlin

JMU men’s basketball’s 2023-24 season will be one that’s remembered fondly by fans forever. The Dukes’ NCAA Tournament exit, however, will be one they’d like to soon forget.

Duke beat JMU 93-55 on Sunday, a blowout victory for the Blue Devils. Jared McCain hit eight of Duke’s 14 3-pointers, scoring a game-high 30 points. Duke scored at will against JMU’s defense, which frustrated Wisconsin for 40 minutes just two days prior.

JMU’s offense was also out of sorts, as the Dukes shot 22.2% from 3-point range and averaged just 0.86 points per possession. It was a rough showing for JMU, but still a strong season for the mid-major with large aspirations.

Mark Byington’s team finished the season with a 32-4 record, including wins over Michigan State and Wisconsin. The Dukes won the Sun Belt Championship, made the Big Dance, and won a game in the tournament. They set a record for the most wins in program history, and they broke a four-decade drought of not advancing to the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament.

By all accounts, this was a stellar season.

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

What’s next?

The immediate challenge for JMU is retention, as is the case for almost every mid-major program in 2024. Can JMU retain Byington? He was rumored to be a candidate for the West Virginia opening, but the Mountaineers hired Drake’s Darian DeVries. Could another offer arise?

If JMU keeps Byington around, the Dukes will still be forced to overhaul their roster due to graduations. Michael Green III, Julien Wooden, T.J. Bickerstaff, Bryant Randleman, and Noah Freidel are out of eligibility. All five of those players were contributors this season.

Terrence Edwards, the Sun Belt Player of the Year, has one year left, but he’s expected to pursue professional opportunities. It’s unlikely Edwards returns for another season in Harrisonburg.

That leaves JMU replacing six critical members of its rotation. The Dukes are projected to return key players like Jaylen Carey, Raekwon Horton, and Xavier Brown. They can build around that trio (Quincy Allen also has a ton of potential on the wing, when healthy) and Justin Amadi has remaining eligibility at the forward position.

That’s assuming none of those players enter the portal, which is always a concern for good mid-major programs. App State, for example, had two of its best players enter the portal Monday.

There’s promise for JMU’s 2024-25 season, although the Dukes will need to hit the transfer portal for reinforcements, even if they return several young pieces. Roster management is a massive project for college teams in 2024 and beyond, and the Dukes have their work cut out for them in the coming months.

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