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JMU releases nonconference hoops schedule

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James Madison men’s basketball head coach Matt Brady revealed the 2011-12 non-conference schedule for the Dukes on Wednesday, featuring the Philly Hoop Group Classic, the UCF Holiday Classic, four additional home dates, a pair of quality road opponents and participation in ESPN BracketBusters weekend.

“We’re excited to be adding some top 100-caliber RPI games to our schedule,” stated Brady. “We’re facing programs that have had recent success, including George Washington, East Tennessee State, Rhode Island in the UCF Classic and hopefully UCF in the championship game of that tournament. We’re also excited to be playing in the Philly Hoop Group Classic, which gives us a road game with La Salle, a home game with Robert Morris, which will be picked near the top of the NEC, as well as road games against two teams with NCAA aspirations in Penn and Rider. It’s a schedule with a lot of challenging games, and in order for us to win our fare share of games, we’re going to have to come together and play well.”

Overall, the schedule shapes up to be more challenging than the 2010-11 slate for the Dukes. According to last year’s final ratings percentage index (RPI) of the NCAA, JMU’s non-conference opponents a year ago had an average RPI of 170. The 11 known opponents for 2011-12 hold an average of 144. If the Dukes face UCF that number climbs to 138 and could reach higher depending upon the BracketBusters matchup. Currently, only one opponent this year holds an RPI over 200 while five fell below the mark last year.

Brady added, “We scheduled purposeful road games at GW and ETSU and the Philly Classic. Those are games that we thought would be good series and good for our RPI. The RPI progress we made last year was a significant step for our program to reach 73 by the end of the regular season and be as high as 58 at one point. If we’re healthy this year, we think we can make even further significant progress on it.”

As has been the case for each of Brady’s first three seasons with the Dukes, JMU will host Philadelphia University (NCAA Division II) in a preseason exhibition contest on Saturday, Oct. 29 at 2 p.m. The season then tips off at home on Nov. 13 as JMU hosts Canisius in the return game of a BracketBuster contest from the 2009-10 season, when the Dukes fell 70-66 in Buffalo.

The Dukes then play four games in three different venues over eight days as part of the Philly Hoop Group Classic. JMU travels to La Salle Nov. 19 and returns home to host Robert Morris Nov. 22. The classic concludes Nov. 25 and 26 at the historic Palestra in Philadelphia with games against Rider and Penn.

December will feature a pair of return dates at home following road victories during the 2010-11 season as the Dukes welcome Kent State on Dec. 6 and The Citadel on Dec. 22. JMU then travels to the nation’s capital for a Dec. 22 contest at George Washington.

JMU will travel to Florida to participate in the UCF Holiday Classic. The Dukes will face Rhode Island, their third Atlantic 10 opponent on the schedule, in Orlando on Dec. 29. The tournament also includes Stetson against the host Knights with consolation and championship games on Dec. 30.

The non-conference portion of the schedule will also include two games in January as the Dukes host in-state foe Hampton on Jan. 9 and travel to East Tennessee State on Jan. 30.

Last year JMU went 21-12 overall, reaching 20 wins and qualifying for postseason play for the second time in three years under Brady as the Dukes competed in March in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) presented by Zebra Pen. JMU returns seven letterwinners and four starters from last year’s squad.

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