Home College Basketball Notebook: No. 19 JMU stays perfect heading into conference play

College Basketball Notebook: No. 19 JMU stays perfect heading into conference play

Scott Ratcliffe
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It’s a new year, which means it’s time for conference competition across the college-basketball landscape to heat up, and the state’s top teams will be looking to enhance their respective postseason chances in league play over the next two months-plus.

The hottest team in Virginia — and one of the hottest in the country — is James Madison, which stayed perfect after a big home win in the Sun Belt opener against Texas State.

“We’re excited about the league,” said coach Mark Byington. “The challenges that’ll come to us in 2024, we’re going to try to do everything we can to try to overcome them, but we know they’re coming.”

Forward T.J. Bickerstaff was named the conference’s Player of the Week for the second time this season, as the Boston College transfer posted a double-double with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists against the Bobcats.

The Dukes are now 13-0, and are one of just three unbeaten teams remaining in the country (Houston, Ole Miss). JMU moved up a spot to No. 19 in the AP Top 25, and will hit the road for a pair of games against conference foes this week (at 7-6 Louisiana Thursday; at 6-7 Southern Miss Saturday).

As Byington pointed out, the Ragin’ Cajuns are the defending Sun Belt champions and haven’t lost a home game in two seasons (19 in a row), while the Golden Eagles have won 18 of their last 19 on their home floor.

“So what’s that math there — 37-1 is what we’re going against on the road,” Byington said of the upcoming trip, “so we better be our best.”

Elsewhere in the Commonwealth, George Mason (11-2) won its fourth-straight game with a blowout in the non-conference finale against North Carolina A&T, marking just the second time in 40 years that GMU has notched 11 wins in non-league play.

In a cool moment after the win, walk-on Kam Johnson was surprised in the locker room with a scholarship after sinking his first career 3-pointer late in the contest. The Patriots, along with Richmond and VCU, will be jumping into Atlantic-10 play this week

Moving to the Big South, after pulling a recent upset at West Virginia, Radford (10-5) got blown out at Clemson to end a five-game win streak. Longwood (12-3) won 12 of its first 13 games but has dropped its last two, as the Lancers begin conference competition on Wednesday at Winthrop.

In the ACC, Virginia (10-3) was embarrassed at Notre Dame, and Virginia Tech (9-4) got spanked by Wake Forest on the road, snapping a four-game winning streak.

The No. 13 VT women’s team (10-2) won by 50 against Pitt, their fifth win in a row. The Hokies will travel to Wake on Thursday before a highly anticipated matchup against No. 3 NC State in Blacksburg Sunday at noon (ACC Network).

The UVA women (8-4) hung around early with the Wolfpack on Sunday, but eventually dropped the ACC opener. The Hoos will try to rebound at Georgia Tech on Thursday and then will host Duke on Sunday at noon (CW Network).

Here’s a closer look at each of the 14 Division-I men’s programs in the Commonwealth, including last week’s results and this weekend’s schedule.

Team Capsules

Virginia Cavaliers

W-L Record: 10-3 (.769) | 1-1 ACC (.500)

Current Streak: Lost 1

Last Week: Def. Morgan State, 79-44; Lost to Notre Dame, 76-54.

This Week: Wednesday vs. Louisville, 7 p.m. (ESPN2); Saturday at NC State, 2 p.m. (ACCN)

Virginia Tech Hokies

W-L Record: 9-4 (.692) | 1-1 ACC (.500)

Current Streak: Lost 1

Last Week: Lost to Wake Forest, 86-63.

This Week: Saturday at Florida State, 4 p.m. (ACCN)

George Mason Patriots

W-L Record: 11-2 (.846) | 0-0 Atlantic 10 (.000)

Current Streak: Won 4

Last Week: Def. North Carolina A&T, 94-69.

This Week: Wednesday at La Salle, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN+); Saturday vs. Saint Louis, 2 p.m. (USA Network)

Richmond Spiders

W-L Record: 8-5 (.615) | 0-0 Atlantic 10 (.000)

Current Streak: Won 3

Last Week: Def. Lafayette, 59-38.

This Week: Saturday vs. St. Bonaventure, 4 p.m. (ESPN+)

VCU Rams

W-L Record: 8-5 (.615) | 0-0 Atlantic 10 (.000)

Current Streak: Won 4

Last Week: Def. Gardner-Webb, 87-73.

This Week: Wednesday vs. St. Bonaventure, 9 p.m. (CBSSN); Saturday vs. George Washington, 4 p.m. (USA Network)

No. 19 James Madison Dukes

W-L Record: 13-0 (1.000) | 1-0 Sun Belt (1.000)

Current Streak: Won 13

Last Week: Def. Texas State, 82-65.

This Week: Thursday at Louisiana, 8 p.m. (ESPN+); Saturday at Southern Miss, 3 p.m. (ESPN+)

Old Dominion Monarchs

W-L Record: 4-9 (.308) | 0-1 Sun Belt (.000)

Current Streak: Lost 2

Last Week: Lost to South Alabama, 61-59.

This Week: Thursday at Troy, 7 p.m. (ESPN+); Saturday at Arkansas State, 3 p.m. (ESPN+)

Longwood Lancers

W-L Record: 12-3 (.800) | 0-0 Big South (.000)

Current Streak: Lost 2

Last Week: Lost to Dayton, 78-69.

This Week: Wednesday at Winthrop, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN+); Saturday vs. Charleston Southern, 3 p.m. (ESPN+)

Radford Highlanders

W-L Record: 10-5 (.667) | 0-0 Big South (.000)

Current Streak: Lost 1

Last Week: Lost to Clemson, 93-58.

This Week: Wednesday vs. High Point, 7 p.m. (ESPN+)

Hampton Pirates

W-L Record: 4-9 (.308) | 0-1 CAA (.000)

Current Streak: Lost 4

Last Week: No games.

This Week: Lost to Drexel, 99-65; Thursday at Delaware, 7 p.m.; Saturday vs. Campbell, 2 p.m.

William & Mary Tribe

W-L Record: 5-8 (.385) | 0-0 CAA (.000)

Current Streak: Lost 2

Last Week: Lost to Navy, 77-65.

This Week: Thursday vs. Elon, 7 p.m.; Saturday vs. Drexel, 2 p.m.

Liberty Flames

W-L Record: 11-4 (.733) | 0-0 C-USA (.000)

Current Streak: Won 1

Last Week: Lost to Alabama, 101-56.

This Week: Def. Boyce, 88-46; Saturday at Western Kentucky, 6 p.m. (CBSSN).

VMI Keydets

W-L Record: 3-10 (.231) | 0-0 Southern (.000)

Current Streak: Won 1

Last Week: No games.

This Week: Wednesday at Wofford, 7 p.m. (ESPN+); Saturday vs. Mercer, 1 p.m. (ESPN+)

Norfolk State Spartans

W-L Record: 9-6 (.600) | 0-0 MEAC (.000)

Current Streak: Won 1

Last Week: No games.

This Week: Tuesday at Tennessee, 7 p.m. (SECN); Saturday at SC State, 4 p.m.

Scott Ratcliffe

Scott Ratcliffe

Scott Ratcliffe has worked as a freelance writer for several publications over the past decade-plus, with a concentration on local and college sports. He is also a writer and editor for his father’s website, JerryRatcliffe.com, dedicated to the coverage of University of Virginia athletics.