#123 James Madison Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

James Madison Dukes

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #123
Conference Rank: #3 CAA

James Madison Team Page#123 James Madison Men's Basketball 2015-2016 PreviewBuy James Madison Basketball Tickets

This season, eighth year head coach Matt Brady is looking to break a disturbing trend in his coaching career at James Madison up to this point. In his first season with the Dukes, he led them to a CBI berth. The year after that, they failed to make a postseason tournament. In the five years following, he has clinched a postseason berth, then failed to make a postseason tournament the next year. Considering last season the Dukes made the CIT, that means, by Brady’s coaching logic, that they will miss a tournament this year. However, this year may be the time Brady finally breaks the trend and makes two postseason tournaments in a row. With a bucket-load of returners and a couple decent prospects, James Madison will look to improve on what was a good 2014-15 season (12-6 in CAA last season) and make a run for the first place spot.

2014-15 Record: 19-14, 12-6
2014-15 Postseason: CIT
Coach: Matt Brady
Coach Record: 118-116 at James Madison, 191-166 overall

Who’s Out:
A terrifically young team last season, it should come as no surprise that the Dukes aren’t losing a whole lot of talent from last year’s roster. In fact, the team lost only two players (Andre Nation, Hari Hall) and neither one of those guys graduated or transferred. Andre Nation was dismissed from the team about midway through last season. Throughout his college career, Nation battled academic issues, personal battles, and issues with his teammates. He deserved to go, but there is no denying how deeply talented a player he was when on the floor and healthy. In his short freshman season he averaged 15.4 points per game and shot a dazzling 48.7% from the field. Those numbers were a bit lower this time around (9.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg), but he still played a lot of minutes (27.5 per game) and was a force to be reckoned with when slashing (6.3 free throw attempts per game in 2013-14, 3.3 per game last season). Most importantly, he was a beast on the defensive end (2.0 spg in 2013-14) who never let his defender by without a fight. The other player leaving is Hari Hall. Hall is actually kind of a cool story. Although he will no longer be a member of the basketball team next year, he’s actually pursuing a professional career in the music industry. As a player, the Dukes will be losing a big, young, strong forward inside (6-7, 220 pounds) who also showed versatility with his shooting (35.3% three point percentage) and defense. The loss of Hall isn’t quite as bad as the loss of Nation, but will still hurt the team’s depth for next season. Overall, the returning talent vastly outweighs the departing.

Who’s In:
A long-time coach like Matt Brady knows quality over quantity when it comes to recruiting; especially at the mid-major level. He grabbed four newcomers for the 2015-16 season and each of these guys could be starters sooner or later. The first recruit was a walk-on last season but was redshirted by Brady. That recruit is small forward Matt Risse. Risse, although still extremely raw and inexperienced, could help the Dukes next season based on his shooting alone. He showed extreme poise from outside the arc throughout his high school career, and doesn’t need a whole lot of space to get off a quick, accurate shot. His midrange shooting, slashing and defense all need a ton of work, but he at least has the skeleton (shooting) of a solid DI role player. The other freshman is Kevin Kangni from Amelia Academy. Although Kangni is unranked, he may be the most exciting recruit out of this bunch. An elite athlete, solid ball handler and a fighter in every aspect of the word, Kangni made up for his lack of size (6-2, 165 pounds) by simply outworking other players in high school. Of course, that’s not going to do it in the college level alone. He showed nice poise from the midrange in high school, but was far from an elite outside threat. He’s most likely going to shift over to point guard for his college career because of his small size, but having at least a decent perimeter shot wouldn’t hurt. Overall, Kangni is underrated, talented and a hard-worker, and all the signs are pointing towards him blowing away expectations at JMU.

The third recruit is junior college transfer Shakir Brown from Baltimore. His ceiling, although still high, is not even close to as large as Kangni’s. However, his floor is much higher. Smart, talented and calm, Shakir Brown looked like a man among boys throughout his JUCO career. In his final season, he averaged over 20 points and 10 boards per game. He’s a terrific outside shooter and often times took shots from 24-28 feet out (and usually made them too). His work in the open floor and midrange were also both good, but could still use some work. The place where he really has to work moving forward is his defense. He isn’t quick enough to stay in front of most college wings, at least not yet. He’ll be a valuable role player if he doesn’t work at improving much in the offseason, but he could be a borderline starter if he cleans up his already polished game. The final recruit is the one with the most potential, but also the one that people know the least about. That recruit would be redshirt junior Devontae Morgan. Morgan, a freakish athlete that committed to Butler back in the Brad Stevens era, didn’t do anything in his two seasons with the Bulldogs (1.8 ppg, 43.5% FGP as a sophomore). Still, Morgan is a former two star recruit with elite athleticism and still quite a lot of potential. He’s the biggest question mark, but could end up being the difference maker for the Dukes if he can find a rhythm.

Who to Watch:
With a team returning as much talent as James Madison, it’s hard to pick out just a few players to pick out to really focus on. However, after reviewing the team and the returners I think the three guys that will really dictate how next season goes are Ron Curry, Yohanny Dalembert and Jackson Kent; all double digit scorers from last year’s team. Curry, the heart, soul and MVP of last year’s team is entering his senior season with the Dukes. He was able to snag a spot on the All-CAA second team last season and was one of the most talented mid-major point guards in the nation. Offensively, he can really beat you in any way. Leave him alone on the perimeter, he’ll drill a three (42.2), cover him too tight and he’ll blow right by you and draw the contact (4.7 free throw attempts per game). The weakest part of his game is his midrange game, but even that started to look better by the end of the year (40.4% FGP). He’s a solid defender too, evident in both his steals per game (1.2) and minutes per game (35.6). Brady feels confident rolling him out in huge time intervals, and loves the way the offense moves under his control. Dalembert, Kent and the young guys can help, but this is Curry’s team next season and everybody knows that.

The second big returner is junior Yohanny Dalembert. Dalembert was an All-CAA third teamer last season, the first time he’s made any of the three teams. There is a lot to like about Yohanny: he’s big (6-9, 225 pounds) athletic, can finish around the rim and started to show prominence from the midrange by the end of the season as well. He’s also a capable shot blocker (1.1 bpg) who clogs up the lane effectively. However, the reason Dalembert is such an asset for Brady moving forward is because he’s still pretty raw. He played only 25.2 minutes per game last season (partly because of foul trouble) but still averaged the second most points (11.4) and most rebounds on the Dukes (6.0). If he can play 30-32 minutes per game next season, he could be a 16-9 type player. The final big returner is junior wing Jackson Kent. Kent, a sharp shooter in every aspect of the term, hit 42.0% of his deep tries last season, trailing only Curry (42.2%) in percentage. However, the reason he played 31.8 minutes per game wasn’t because of his shooting alone. No, he was also easily the most effective perimeter defender on the team and did an excellent job of consistently staying in front of his man. Brady doesn’t need Kent to outscore Curry this season, but 13-15 points plus his consistent defense could go a long way for this team. Some other notable returners are Winston Grays (7.8 points per game), Joey McLean (6.5 points per game) and Tom Vodanovich (5.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg).

Final Projection:
Last year, the CAA showed the world that they are not your grandmother’s conference. The winner of the CAA Tournament, Northeastern, gave Notre Dame a run for their money in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, nearly beating the mighty Irish. This year a lot of talent is returning to a lot of the top teams from last season (James Madison included). Ron Curry, one of the better mid-major point guards in the nation last season is returning for his senior season, while two other double digit scorers (Dalembert, Kent) look to help him out in the scoring department. No huge recruits are coming in, but former two star recruit Devontae Morgan had some high-flying moments during his time with the Butler Bulldogs and could become a big time player if he can find consistency on the floor. Look for the Dukes to be contenders all season long in the improving CAA.

Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI/CIT

Projected Starting Five:
Ron Curry, Senior, Guard, 13.9 points per game
Winston Grays, Junior, Guard, 7.8 points per game
Jackson Kent, Junior, Forward, 10.3 points per game
Yohanny Dalembert, Junior, Forward, 11.4 points per game
Dimitrije Cabarkapa, Junior, Forward, 4.7 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 67.2 (180th in nation, 6th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 68.3 (230, 6)
Field-Goal Percentage: 45.1 (88, 3)
Field-Goal Defense: 43.4 (198, 6)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.9 (109, 4)  
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 37.2 (64, 3)
Free-Throw Percentage: 70.4 (121, 4)
Rebound Margin: -0.8 (224, 6)
Assists Per Game: 12.7 (162, 4)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.1 (229, 7)


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