By: Jack O’Keefe
Spread: James Madison -4
3:00 pm Central – Atlantic Union Bank Center, Harrisonburg, VA
Towson Tigers (3-7, 2-3)
During the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been many individuals to thank for their front line services. Unsung heroes perhaps have been teachers. Towson University, Maryland’s first training school for educational studies, has produced the most teachers of any university in the state of Maryland. For their relentless efforts keeping our youth focused and well equipped for the future, we thank you. In terms of their production on the hardwood this season, Towson should look into getting a tutor for help. The Tigers are currently 3-7 and remain winless on the road this season (0-3). The Tigers opened the season against strong competition in Virginia, San Francisco, Buffalo and George Mason. The Tigers started out 0-4 and did not pick up their first win until December 26th against Coppin State. The Tigers opened up Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) play against the Dukes of James Madison, losing 81-72. Perhaps the Tigers can turn things around for the 2020-21 season, but they will have to take it one game at a time, starting tonight with James Madison.
The Tigers lost their two top scorers from a season ago in Brian Fobbs and Allen Betrand. Zane Martin though is back in a Towson uniform this season. If that name sounds slightly familiar, it is because Martin started his collegiate career at Towson. Martin was not much of a factor his freshman season, but he really began to get the spotlight of attention during his sophomore campaign. The Philadelphia native averaged 19.8 points per game during his second year at Towson. Martin then left the program to pursue an opportunity to play in a higher echelon of competition within NCAA Division-I Men’s Basketball. He landed a spot on the New Mexico Lobos team, where he averaged 10.1 points per game. Martin felt like a fish out of water in the southwest, and he did what he could to rebuild his relationship with his former coach, Pat Skerry. Skerry admired Martin’s humility, and he is someone who is a believer in second chances, so Skerry provided an opportunity for Martin to come back to his former team. The Return of the Prodigal Son, hardwood edition.
Alongside Martin, Nicholas Timberlake and Charles Thompson have been solid secondary scoring options for Towson this season. Timberlake is averaging 11.6 points per game this season, and Thompson is averaging 9.4 points per game this season for Towson. The Tigers have struggled offensively this season, averaging 67.9 points per game (232nd in Division-I). They are one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the country (26.1%; 342nd in Division-I) and they have been a non-factor on disrupting passes and playing with active hands defensively (4.2 steals per game; 333rd in Division-I). One positive though is that the Tigers are a force on the glass, as they are currently averaging 38.9 rebounds per game this season (42nd in Division-I). If the scoring consistently can ever catch up with their rebounding consistency, the Tigers can be a very solid team in the CAA.
James Madison Dukes (7-5, 2-1)
As you may recall, nothing gets me more pumped up for preview than a historical figure in my preview. See Sam Houston preview for a refresher. Vito Corleone is The Godfather. Steve Martin is the Father of the Bride. James Madison is the Father of the Constitution. Madison is credited with drafting and promoting the Constitution of the United State and the United States Bill of Rights. Madison was physically small in stature but packed a powerful punch so to speak in his tiny frame. The Dukes, a small time program, have their eyes set on being the most dominant team of the CAA Conference this season. After winning just two games in the conference last season (2-16), the 2-1 conference record should give fans of James Madison basketball a degree of hope for this season.
Matt Lewis leads the way for the Dukes this season, averaging 21.3 points per game, 5.0 rebounds per game and 3.9 assists per game. Should Lewis continue to put up these kind of numbers, he will be in a good position to win the CAA Player of the Year. His running mate, Vado Morse, has been solid for James Madison this season as well. Morse is averaging 13.4 points per game this season for the Dukes. The Dukes have had a bit of an up-and-down season thus far. They lost a bad home game to Norfolk State (favored by 4.5 points), but they also almost defeated the VCU Rams as a 20-point underdog. The opened CAA play with a victory over the aforementioned Towson Tigers, followed by splitting a pair of games with Northeastern, the team to beat in the CAA this season.
The Dukes are middle of the road in terms of offensive and defensive effectiveness this season. James Madison is averaging 73.3 points per game this season (112th in Division-I), and the Dukes are allowing 73.7 points per game this season (237th in Division-I). The Dukes are shooting 43.4% from the field (190th in Division-I) and their opponents are shooting 44.4% from the field (196th in Division-I). The turnover margin seems to be the telling sign for a win or loss this season for the Dukes. When the Dukes cough up the basketball 12+ times in a game this season, they are 0-5. When the Dukes have 11 turnovers or less, they are 4-0. Last time out against Towson, the Dukes had 11 turnovers, so should they win again today, expect the turnover numbers to be around 9-10.
Towson this season is 0-6 when scoring fewer than 69 points per game this season. Towson this season is 0-3 on the road, scoring just 64 points per game in that span. Towson covered the spread in their last game by a half-point, but they were 2-7 in their previous nine games against the spread. James Madison on the other hand has covered the spread in six out of their last nine contests. Again, I think James Madison already winning once this season against Towson on the road shows they are the better of the two teams here. James Madison was the fourth President of the United States. Take James Madison -4 tonight and do not second-guess it for a minute.
Jack’s 2020 CBB picks: (15-13)