Thursday, March 21, 2013

ACC Wannabe JMU Crushes LIU, Poised For First Ever 16 Seed Over 1 Seed Upset

DAVIS (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
By G. Petty, (with an assist from the AP), soon-to-be retired Editor/Publisher T.A.H. (JMU '79)

All hail JMU, all hail JMU Nation.

JMU Nation celebrated last night when the beloved Dukes, absent from the big Dance since 1994, crafted a brilliant 68 to 55 win over tough, crafty, underrated and no doubt future national champion Long Island University Brooklyn in the first round of the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.  

(No pushovers, the Blackbirds are two-time men's basketball national champions based on winning the  National Invitation Tournament (NIT) in 1939 and 1941. The 1935-36 team went 25‑0 and was the overwhelming favorite to represent the United States at the 1936 Summer Olympic Games in Berlin, with basketball a medal sport for the first time. However, the Blackbirds decided as a team to boycott the Games as a protest of Nazi Germany and its anti-Jewish policies. 

That said, on the downside, in 1951,  some Blackbirds went all Black Sox and were involved in the CCNY Point Shaving Scandal that resulted in five players receiving a suspended sentence and one player visiting the big house. The school suspended its athletic program from 1951 to 1957 due to the scandal.)

The Dukes’ faithful were a little worried when a bird - literally a black bird - appeared and flew around the arena. Alas, it was not a tell-tale omen of doom, just the LIU mascot who escaped his cage wearing his version of a technicolor dream coat. 

(The bird’s keeper, a sophomore team manager from Flatbush Avenue B, will not be suspended for the first half of LIU’s opener next season, but he will not be allowed a bagel until a month that ends in “y” according to sources close to the bird and retired FSU coach Bobby Bowden who now servers as the “Suspension Consultant” for the NCAA.)

(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
The Duke’s A.J. Davis, who stepped in as a starter after JMU’s leading scorer was suspended for the first half, led the way with 20 points.  Said leading scorer, Rayshawn Goins, drew a short suspension for over consumption and failure to treat his elders with the proper respect.  (Critics of the program will say he was drunk and disorderly yelling obscenities at the local constables (allegedly), but they would be wrong, or so one hopes.)

Immediately after this stunning victory, the Dukes thoughts turned to top-seeded Indiana (27-6), who they'll play on the same University of Dayton Arena court on Friday night.

"They're Indiana," defiant defensive stalwart Andre Nation (5 blocks) said. "We know about them. We see them on the TV all the time. It's not nothing new."

He's not the only Duke who was undaunted.

"We have some older guys. They're typically pretty unafraid of any of the challenges we face," coach Matt Brady said.

The Dukes started fast and built a large first half lead, but the Blackbirds (20-14) battled back.  LIU took a brief lead early in the second stanza, tbut he Dukes surged again to win going away closing the game on a 10-2 run.

Davis opened the game with an emphatic three-pointer as if to say this was his time. And he didn't let up.

Charles Cooke, who hadn't scored in three of his last four games, added 15 points and Nation added 14 for the Dukes, who were winless in the NCAA tournament since 1983 and hadn't played in the big dance in 19 years.

Jamal Olasewere had 20 points and 10 rebounds and C.J. Garner 16 points for the Blackbirds, who have lost in their first game in each of their six trips to the tournament, including the last three years.

After falling behind by as many as 12 points early, E.J. Reed's two foul shots with 15:02 left gave the Blackbirds their first lead of the game. But after falling behind, JMU found another gear.

(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Devon Moore, who had six assists, scored in transition right through the heart of the lane, Nation hit a follow and Davis took a long pass and popped in the shot off glass for a 45-40 advantage.
  
Now, the Dukes have are poised for the first ever 16 over 1 upset and a return to NCAA glory.

Once upon a time, Lou Campanelli coached the Dukes to mammoth NCAA upsets over Georgetown in 1981, Ohio State in 1982 and West Virginia in 1983. The 1982 team lost to eventual national champion North Carolina -- led by Michael Jordan, James Worthy and Sam Perkins -- 52-50 in the final minute.

But James Madison's last appearance came with Lefty Driesell prowling the sideline in 1994.

As recently as 2007, officials at the Harrisonburg, VA university were advocating inclusion in the Atlantic Coast (Northeast, Midwest, Central PA, Shenandoah Valley) Conference (see below).

Brady figured his Dukes have one huge advantage over Indiana since they've already played on the court. And they're already in Dayton.

"I'm hoping they haven't arrived in town just yet and they get here right before the game starts," he said with a laugh.

In the words of Craig “Mr.” Anderson an esteemed alum from sometime in the 1980’s, “Fear the bulldog with a chain around his neck.”

Nice, DUKES w/bling, NICE!

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