Monday, January 24, 2011

Five pregame thoughts: James Madison

I am going to have way too much fun with this tonight.

1.) Nothing has come easy for the Flying Dutchmen this year, so why shouldn’t another top CAA team come to Hempstead snarling after a tough loss? Actually, unlike Old Dominion nine days ago, James Madison arrives today on a two-game losing streak (Old Dominion Wednesday and George Mason Saturday) that has dropped the Dukes into the quagmire of three-loss teams hanging on to the edge of the top four. JMU is in a lot of trouble from a tiebreaker perspective if they lose this one—especially since this is the only meeting of the season between the teams—so the Dutchmen will have to be at their best to beat the best James Madison team in well over a decade.

2.) NBA prospect Denzel Bowles was an absolute beast against Mason on Saturday (21 points, 14 rebounds, six blocks and four assists), so it’s a good thing Greg Washington had a confidence-boosting game against William & Mary. The Dutchmen will need every big body they can muster to handle Bowles and Rayshawn Goins (averaging 11.2 points and 7.9 rebounds per game), so hopefully Stephen Nwaukoni is out of the doghouse and Paul Bilbo and Roland Brown can provide a few valuable minutes (and fouls) in relief of Washington and David Imes.

3.) If only the Dukes were all Bowles and Goins. But James Madison has five players averaging at least nine points and it ranks second in the CAA in scoring and field goal percentage and first in 3-point field goal percentage. This will be a shootout, if not quite the classic barnburner we saw the last time the Dukes came to Hempstead, so Brad Kelleher and Shemiye McLendon will have to hit some 3-pointers to keep the Dutchmen in it and Yves Jules will have to make some stops on defense.

“I told our guys in film today: Everybody in here has got to be ready—three games in the next six days and everybody’s got to be ready, it’s all hands on deck,” Mo Cassara said last night.

3b.) James Madison has a guy named Humpty. Seriously.

4.) Jenkins had one of the best games of his career in that double-OT duel two years ago and he’ll have to have another monster performance today. He’s been a shade less than awesome the last four games (20.5 ppg, 26-for-59 from the field, 7-for-23 from 3-point land), which is an indicator of just how great he’s been the rest of the time. This is one game in which the Dutchmen will need him to put them on his back and carry them in the second half. Bet on 30-plus points and an assist total closer to 10 than five.

4b.) I swear, he’s named Humpty. Look here!

5.) As noted today, the Dutchmen have had to maximize every little edge they can find as they mount this marvelous run. Will taking a charter flight home Saturday and doing nothing more stressful yesterday than watching film before enjoying a team dinner and the football games in a suite at the Arena give the Dutchmen an ever-so-slight advantage? The Dukes presumably flew up no later than yesterday morning, but at this time of year, two quiet nights at home is a luxury. In a matchup that’s so close (the betting line, for entertainment purposes as Brian Mull always puts it, is Hofstra by 1), and with a team that has so little margin for error, every little bit helps.

5b.) I am going to make so many Humpty Dance references tonight.

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