The LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds are back in the NCAA Tournament for their third straight attempt at winning on NCAA Tournament game. The Blackbirds look to get their first ever win in the NCAA Tournament. LIU is 0-5 all-time in the NCAAs. They look to break this streak against the James Madison Dukes of the Colonial Athletic Association in the first round matchup in this year’s NCAA tournament. The game is schedule to tip off at 6:40 pm on TruTV (check your cable listings to find channel).
JMU went 20-14 and were 11-7 in the CAA to finish fourth in their conference. They are winners of four straight games including three CAA tournament games coming into this one. They upset the #2 seed Delaware by a point in the CAA semifinals and upset #1 seed Northeastern by 13 in the CAA championship game.
The two teams played just one same-opponent this season and that was Hofstra. Both teams play Hofstra at home and both won their games against them. JMU beat Hofstra by 21 in January while LIU beat Hofstra by four in Julian Boyd’s second-to-last game of his season before he tore his ACL back in December. Interesting enough, JMU played against former LIU head coach Jim Ferry’s Duquesne team on road and lost to them by two.
Looking at JMU season statistics, it looks like the Dukes are a better defensive team than they are on offense. Offensively, the Dukes finished seventh in their league in scoring offense with 65.2 points per game. They score just under a point per possession (0.99 ppp). They shoot 42% from the field (7th in the CAA/240th in the nation), 33.3% from beyond the arc (7th-CAA/212th-NCAA), shoot an effective FG% of 47.4 (6th-CAA/241st-NCAA), and shot free throws at a 70.1% success rate (7th-CAA/154th-NCAA). They play at pretty moderate tempo at 65.6 possessions per game which ranks them 242nd in the nation. In comparison, that is a tempo would put them second-to-the last in the Northeast Conference, only ahead of St. Francis (PA). Their 65.2 ppg would put them 10th in the NEC, only ahead of Monmouth and SFPA. JMU has scored above 80 ppg just four times this season, the last time was nine games ago on February 6th against William & Mary. Conversely, LIU has scored above 80 ppg fifteen times this season including ten of the last thirteen games.
Defense is where JMU likes to hang their hat. They were second in their conference in scoring defense at 64.4 ppg allowed, that would put them number one in the NEC. They have a 0.97 ppp allowed which tied them for first in the CAA. Teams shoot 42.7% from the field against them (4th-CAA/152nd-NCAA) and 35% from three (9th-CAA/229th-NCAA). This team is good at forcing turnovers (13.5 TOs forced/gm), getting blocks (4.5 bpg) and getting steals (7.9 spg). The last time JMU gave up 80 points in a game was all the way back on December 8th against Richmond (83 pts). Yet, they have allowed over 70 ppg four times since February 1st.
James Madison’s leading scorer is someone you all might have heard of recently. His name is Rayshawn Goins. He is a 6’6″, 265 lbs redshirt senior forward who is averaging 12.7 ppg and 7.4 rpg in 28.5 minutes per game. Goins was arrested on Saturday night/Sunday morning for obstruction of justice and disorderly conduct after police tried to break up a campus party. JMU has suspended Goins for the first half of this game against LIU Brooklyn. Goins shoots 41.2 FG%, 37.8 3FG% and 69.9 FT%. He is a double-double threat with eight of them this season. He had a 20 pts/15 rebs game against Duquesne this season. He also didn’t foul out of a single game this season for a guy his size and position and with him sitting for a full half, that will likely be the case in this game also. Goins does most of his damage from the inside but he won’t be reluctant to shoot from the perimeter. He will likely see time against both Kenny Onyechi and Jamal Olasewere and possibly even E.J. Reed on the defensive end.
A.J. Davis is a 6’6″, 210 lbs. redshirt senior shooting guard. He is JMU’s second-leading scorer at 12.1 ppg and third in rebound at 3.6 rpg. He has an eFG% of nearly 60% so he is definitely a great shooter. He has scored 36 pts in a game this season so he can fill it up. LIU will need to find him on the defensive end and also keep him off the glass. Devon Moore is their point guard at 6’4″. He will have a definite height advantage against either Jason Brickman or C.J. Garner. He scores 11.6 ppg, dishes out 4.9 apg and grabs 3.7 rpg while shooting 49% from the field and nearly 40% from three.
In fact, JMU doesn’t have a single player on their entire roster under 6’4″ tall. They have six player over 6’6″ and above who have played in at least two-third of their games this season. LIU has five player 6’2″ or below on their roster. The Dukes will definitely have the height advantage edge in this one.
For LIU Brooklyn, they will need for senior guard C.J. Garner to continue his hot play from the NEC Tournament. Garner was named NEC Tournament MVP for his 28 ppg in his three NEC tourney games. He has scored at least 30 in three of his last four games and shot 69% from the floor in the NEC tournament. NEC Player of the Year Jamal Olasewere finished a distant second in scoring for LIU during the NEC tourney. He scored 15.6 ppg and grabbed 9.3 rpg in the three NEC tourney games. He had two double-doubles during the NEC tourney and had four double-doubles in the last five games. Olasewere was in foul trouble in the Quinnipiac NEC quarterfinals tourney game where he fouled out and in the first half of the NEC Championship game. Olasewere has to play under control and keep himself out of foul trouble against the size of JMU.
Jason Brickman finished with nine points and 8.3 assists per game during the NEC tourney. He turned the ball over at 4.6 times a game during the NEC tournament which is still a bit high even for LIU fast-paced offense. Decision making will be key for Brickman during this game. Gotta make the right passes at the right time. I trust in Brickman.
LIU got great production from senior Kenny Onyechi at the 5 position in the NEC tournament and they are going to need more of that in this game against the JMU size advantage. Onyechi averaged 7.3 ppg and 7 rpg in close to 20 minutes per game. I think LIU would love to see that from Onyechi vs JMU. The LIU bench played great during the NEC tourney. Between Gerrell Martin, Troy Joseph and Booker Hucks, each of these guys are capable of having a great shooting night off the bench for the Blackbirds. They will need to have strong games on both ends of the floor if LIU is get by the Dukes.
So what are the keys for LIU to advance to Friday’s game against Indiana?
– They need Jamal Olasewere to play smart but use his ability to slash to the basket and get points inside. He has got to stay on the floor and be smart on the defensive end. He can’t take foolish fouls on either end.
– Can C.J. Garner stay hot? Blackbirds fans hope so. He has taken his game to another level since the senior day Quinnipiac game and I don’t see that slowing down in this game. Garner has to stay aggressive and play his game. He has to attack the defense when the chances present themselves.
– Onyechi needs to continue his solid play. If he can give LIU a solid 20 to 25 minutes, play steady defense and clean the boards, it would be a tremendous lift for the Blackbirds.
– Get the tempo to their liking. It is obvious JMU doesn’t usually play fast so LIU is got to get stops on defense and get the run and gun going early and often. LIU’s defense will help ignite the LIU offense and get the break going. LIU needs to try to get the possessions up into the high 70s and get the points up. If LIU scores in the 80s, they should win this game.
– Need solid production off the bench. Whether it scoring or cleaning the glass, LIU needs a couple of guys off the bench to have good games. They have been doing that of late, need to keep it going.
– Protect the basketball. JMU is somewhat similar to RMU and Mount St. Mary’s in terms of playing style. They will look to get after it on the defensive end so LIU needs to be smart with the ball in their hands.
Las Vegas has LIU favored by either 1.5 to 2 points depending where you look. Ken Pomeroy on his website has JMU winning a close affair 74-73 with 51/49 probability split for JMU. He thinks it could be anyone’s game.
The winners of this game faces #1 seed Indiana at 4:10 pm on Friday afternoon in the second round of the East Region of the NCAA Tournament. The game will be shown on TBS.
Good luck to the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds!