Wednesday, February 3, 2016

James Madison - Home - Pregame

The Dragons final chance (spoiler alert: it's not a good one) to pickup a win on their four game homecoming homestand comes Thursday night against James Madison University.  The Dukes are 16-7 overall and 4-1 on the road in conference this season.  As mentioned prior to the first meeting between these teams, JMU is a seasoned, deep, talented team and while sitting in 5th place in the conference standings today, is still considered a favorite by many.

While the Dragons resume may seem the inverse image of the Dukes, this game will still be played, 5 on 5, at Drexel's Daskalakis Athletic Center.  And there are two significant reasons to believe this will be a game.  One relates to what Scott Kier wrote about over the past two days, Drexel's record may be brutal on the eyes at 3-18, but they've been in more close games than any team in this conference.  While their late game execution leaves much to be desired close games can be decided by a bad bounce, a friendly rim, a crazy rebound or a referees whistle.  At some point one of those things will break the Dragons way.

The second and perhaps more pertinent point is how the Dukes are getting things done.  They use an above average offense behind Ron Curry and Shakir Brown coupled with what appears to be a very good, 67th in the country defense.  That defense has caught some breaks though, including a weak opposition strength of schedule.  The biggest statistical stronghold for the JMU defense is their three point defense, which is 2nd in the country, allowing only 28% shooting from deep.  While an individual teams three point shooting percentage is usually a somewhat accurate descriptor of how they shoot (although still not necessarily predictive, per this must read blog post from Ken Pomeroy) three point defense is much more of a crapshoot, and in fact, unless you're Bruiser Flint, the best predictor of future 3pt shooting defense is current 2pt shooting defense.  While the Dukes are 2nd in the country from long range, they are 151st at 2 point defense.  In short:  They've been lucky.

So on Thursday night we have one team that's caught some breaks and one team that hasn't caught any.  And so maybe, just maybe there will be a game at the DAC worth seeing afterall.  But given the way JMU dominated the glass against Drexel in their first meeting, and Drexel's inability to play their way out of a wet paper bag this year, it seems much more likely that this homestand will end an 0-fer.

Prediction:  JMU 65, Drexel 48
Vegas Line:  JMU -7

Alan Boston's Take:

If nothing else, Drexel is consistent.  Lead for much of the last 3 home games. Lost them all late. I do not expect that to continue. James Madison returned all 5 starters from last season. They have an excellent senior point guard in Ron Curry. If the league were not so strong this year, they would be one of the favorites. Strangely they began conference play by losing at home to College of Charleston, winning at a beat up Delaware then losing again at home to Elon. That loss must of lit a fuse as they then clobbered Towson at home and went on the road and won both at Northeastern and then most impressively on short rest at Hofstra. Coach Brady said the reason for the improved play was their defense rose to another level. Two weeks ago they clobbered Drexel 68-45. Now they come to Philly, losers of 2 in a row, including blowing an 18 pt lead to William and Mary in their last outing. As a result they should be super focused. That is not good news for Drexel, who have been unable to hang on vs teams that have not been at their best. This one could get ugly early.

JMU 78 Drexel 45

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