Big game tonight for the Flying Dutchmen, who can cement their status as The Best of the Rest in the CAA and officially suck all of us back on to the bandwagon by beating James Madison in Virginia.
As lousy as the Dutchmen’s luck has been this season, they’ve been lottery winners compared to the Dukes, who emerged as one of the league’s true up-and-comers last year under first-year coach Matt Brady. His second year hasn’t been quite as smooth: The Dukes’ progress has been stalled by season-ending injuries to guard Devon Moore and forward Andrey Semenov and the academic-related absence of Daz Thornton.
Virginia has been a nightmare for the Dutchmen the last three years in general and the last five weeks in particular, but James Madison is the one Virginia school at which Hofstra tends to fare well: The Dutchmen’s only two regular season wins in Virginia since 2007-08 were one-point victories in Harrisonburg.
The Dutchmen will need a better effort than the one they produced in the victory over similarly hexed Delaware at the Arena Saturday, especially from big men Greg Washington and Miklos Szabo. Their task will be to slow down 6-foot-11 Denzel Bowles, a transfer from Texas A&M who has been a monster for the Dukes (21 points and 9.9 rebounds per game) since he became eligible at midseason.
The Dutchmen’s self-confidence is mostly restored after routing UNC Wilmington and fending off Delaware late and hanging on for a second straight wire-to-wire victory. “Hey, you’ve got to win close games,” Tom Pecora said Saturday. “This is what tournament games are going to be like in Virginia at the end of the year. There’s no blowouts. You go down there and you’re going to battle and it’s going to come down to a possession or two with a minute or two left in the game. So it’s a good experience for us.”
A win tonight and the Dutchmen will become the first team since Towson in 2001-02 to win three straight CAA games following a 2-7 start. A victory would also threaten to turn Saturday’s game against second-place Northeastern into something very interesting.
Sorry for the lack of an earlier post today, I’ll make up for it tomorrow with the JMU recap as well as my rantings on the possibility of the NCAA Tournament expanding to 96 teams and, perhaps, a look back at a long-ago Hofstra legend. Intriguing, yes?
And if you’re following the JMU game along with me on Twitter, stick around afterward as I watch the Utah State at Idaho game as part of the Mid-Majority’s National Pixelvision Day. If you thought I was in a bad mood after the Mason loss, wait ‘til you see me if Whelliston doesn’t play “Into The Great Wide Open” during the Tom Petty halftime show.