JMU hoops faces challenging schedule in 2012-2013

James Madison men’s basketball will open its 2012-13 season at UCLA in the Legends Classic while also traveling for two games in Las Vegas and playing a stretch of five straight home games over three weeks to highlight the non-conference portion of the schedule announced by head coach Matt Brady on Wednesday.

“We feel like this non-conference schedule has some very stern challenges,” noted Brady upon announcing the slate.  “The opening game at UCLA could be against a top-five team and a program with Final Four aspirations, which will allow us to learn a lot about our team right out of the gate.  Starting a series with Richmond, continuing a series with George Washington and the games at Duquesne with neutral-court games will all be terrific tests for our team.

The Legends Classic will ring in the new season for the Dukes, who will make the 2,200-mile journey to Los Angeles to open the season at UCLA (19-14 last year) on Thursday, Nov. 15.  JMU will be the third opponent for the Bruins in newly-renovated Pauley Pavilion.  Early preseason polls, such as The Sporting News, have ranked UCLA as high as second nationally thanks to the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class.

From California, the Legends Classic venue then switches to Pittsburgh and subregional games Nov. 19-21 against host Duquesne (16-15) along with Youngstown State (16-15) and North Dakota State (17-14).  JMU will be participating in an event produced by the Gazelle Group for the fourth time in four years.  The Dukes opened the 2009-10 season in the 2K Sports Classic, competed in the CBE Classic early in the 2010-11 season and closed the 2010-11 campaign in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI).

JMU’s non-conference schedule also features a stretch of five consecutive home games over a period of 19 days during the Fall semester.  The Dukes begin the run with a Nov. 28 game against George Washington (10-21).  The home slate continues the following month with contests Dec. 1 against Winthrop (12-20), Dec. 5 vs. East Tennessee State (17-14), Dec. 8 hosting Richmond (16-16) and Dec. 16 against UNCG (13-19).

The home stretch will mark the most home games during the Fall semester with students in town (not coinciding with Thanksgiving break) since the 1998-99 season.  Brady stated, “We try to plan every year to get first semester games with students on campus and it hasn’t worked out.  But we are tremendously excited to have five straight with students.  We’re eager to get off on the right foot, and it would be a tremendous thing to gain our students’ support early with all of these home games.”

The GW and ETSU dates are each return contests from the 2011-12 season as JMU defeated the Colonials 62-57 in a Presidential battle in Washington, D.C. and fell at ETSU 70-56.  The Dukes will play Richmond for the first time since the Spiders left the Colonial Athletic Association following the 2000-01 season.  Meanwhile, UNCG features NCAA Division I’s second-youngest head coach, former JMU guard Wes Miller (2002-03).

Brady added, “The JMU community should be excited about renewing a series with Richmond, which is something we’ve been working towards for years.  It is a quality program in the state, and it’s a series that we hope to keep going indefinitely.”

Following the home stretch, the Dukes again travel West, this time for a pair of games at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.  Making the third appearance in Vegas in program history, JMU will face San Jose State (9-22) on Dec. 22 and San Diego (13-18) on Dec. 23 in a pair of neutral-court contests.  The Dukes also played at UNLV in 1991 and faced Southern Illinois and Southern Methodist in Vegas in 1983.

On the Vegas trip, Brady commented, “Going to Las Vegas will be another highlight of this schedule for our players and our program with neutral-court games against San Jose State and San Diego.  We feel strongly that any time you can get neutral-court games against quality competition, it allows us to improve our RPI and learn about our team.”

JMU’s out-of-conference schedule will also include away contests vs. Miami (Ohio) (9-21) on Nov. 24 and Hampton (12-21) on Jan. 7.  The Dukes will also see home action before the official start of the season with an exhibition game Oct. 28 against Division II Philadelphia University.  The MU game is a return contest from a 2010-11 BracketBusters game.  The Dukes will face the Pirates for the second of three meetings in three years.  It will be the fifth straight year for Madison to square off with Philadelphia in a preseason contest.

Overall, the Dukes will be battling five of their non-conference opponents for the first time.  That group includes UCLA, North Dakota State, Winthrop, San Jose State and San Diego.  Meanwhile, after the 11-year hiatus, it will be the 51st matchup all-time between JMU and Richmond.

Should UCLA reach the official AP or Coaches preseason polls as anticipated, the Dukes will open the season against a nationally-ranked team for the fourth time in the last five years.  In 2010, JMU fell 75-61 at No. 3 Kansas State in the CBE Classic.  In 2009, the Dukes dropped a 72-44 decision at No. 16 Ohio State in the 2K Sports Classic.  In 2008, Madison lost to No. 20 Davidson at Oklahoma in the NIT Season Tip-Off.

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