Home Virginia College Basketball Notebook: Surprising JMU looks to stay perfect

Virginia College Basketball Notebook: Surprising JMU looks to stay perfect

Scott Ratcliffe
virginia college basketball
(© Derek Brumby – Shutterstock)

While everyone is busy wrapping up holiday gifts, the state of Virginia’s NCAA Division-I basketball teams will be wrapping up non-conference play over the next few weeks.

As institutions recently concluded their winter exams, the next two weeks will provide a few more tuneups before jumping into league play. Here are a few storylines as we wind down 2023, complete with men’s team capsules (records, results and scheduled) listed below.

The most impressive team in the Commonwealth right now may just be James Madison. The 20th-ranked Dukes are perfect through their first 10 games, and will be favored to add two more wins to the tally this week against 1-11 Coppin State and 4-8 Morgan State.

Mark Byington’s team caught national attention when it went on the road and knocked off then-No. 4 Michigan State in the season opener on Nov. 6. Since then, the Dukes haven’t skipped a beat. JMU entered the national rankings for the first time in program history, and reached as high as No. 18 two weeks ago.

T.J. Bickerstaff, a graduate-transfer forward from Boston College, leads the Dukes in scoring (16.1 ppg) and rebounding (8.4 rpg), and is joined by three other teammates who are averaging double digits in the scoring department (Terrence Edwards 16.1; Michael Green III 12.5; Noah Freidel 11.4).

Three other schools — Liberty, Longwood and Norfolk State — currently own the best record in their respective conferences. Former UVA assistant Ritchie McKay has his Flames (9-3) sitting atop the Conference USA standings, while the Lancers (12-1) have reeled off a dozen straight after falling in the season opener at St. Bonaventure. The Spartans (7-5) have dropped two in a row, but will look to bounce back this evening at home against Southern Virginia before going up against UTEP on Wednesday in the Sun Bowl Invitational in El Paso, Texas.

Radford (9-4) has won its last four games and will have its toughest test yet on Wednesday, when the Highlanders travel to take on West Virginia. Meanwhile, VCU senior guard Joe Bamisile, a Chesterfield native who began his college career at Virginia Tech before transferring to George Washington for a season and then playing for Oklahoma in 2022-23, made his long-awaited debut for the Rams (6-5) in Saturday’s 87-78 win over Temple. Bamisile, who was forced to miss the first 10 games of the season due to the NCAA’s rules regarding multi-transfer athletes (which have since changed), played 19 minutes, finishing with 11 points and a pair of rebounds.

After a bit of a rocky start, Mike Young’s Hokies (8-3) are starting to put it together, winning each of their last three contests by an average of about 17 points per game. The Hokies will face American on Thursday in Blacksburg before a nine-day layoff heading into the conference schedule. Senior center Lynn Kidd posted his third double-double of the season (17 points, 11 rebounds) in a 22-point win over Vermont on Saturday.

On the women’s side, Virginia Tech is off to an 8-2 start, with both of its losses coming against a couple of fellow 2023 Final Four contenders and current top-10 opponents (No. 4 Iowa and No. 7 LSU). Kenny Brooks’ 15th-ranked squad will host William & Mary on Thursday at 2 p.m. in the final non-league tuneup. All-everything center Liz Kitley is making a case for her third-straight ACC Player of the Year award, averaging 20.6 points (third in the conference), 11.1 rebounds (first) and 2.2 blocks per game (second), all team highs. Fellow senior Georgia Amoore is not far behind with 17.0 points and a conference-best 7.8 assists per contest.

Team Capsules

No. 22 Virginia Cavaliers

W-L Record: 9-1 (.900) | 1-0 ACC (1.000)
Current Streak: Won 5
Last Week: Def. Northeastern, 56-54.
This Week: Tuesday at Memphis, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)

Virginia Tech Hokies

W-L Record: 8-3 (.727) | 1-0 ACC (1.000)
Current Streak: Won 3
Last Week: Def. Vermont, 73-51.
This Week: Thursday vs. American, 5 p.m. (ACCNX/ESPN+)

George Mason Patriots

W-L Record: 8-2 (.800) | 0-0 Atlantic 10 (.000)
Current Streak: Won 1
Last Week: Def. Loyola-Md., 62-54.
This Week: Tuesday vs. Bridgewater, 7 p.m. (ESPN+); Friday at Tulane, 2 p.m. (ESPN+)

Richmond Spiders

W-L Record: 6-5 (.545) | 0-0 Atlantic 10 (.000)
Current Streak: Won 1
Last Week: Def. Charlotte, 64-56.
This Week: Thursday vs. Buffalo, 7 p.m. (ESPN+)

VCU Rams

W-L Record: 6-5 (.545) | 0-0 Atlantic 10 (.000)
Current Streak: Won 2
Last Week: Def. Temple, 87-78.
This Week: Friday vs. UMES, 7 p.m. (ESPN+)

No. 20 James Madison Dukes

W-L Record: 10-0 (1.000) | 1-0 Sun Belt (1.000)
Current Streak: Won 10
Last Week: Def. Hampton, 88-71.
This Week: Tuesday vs. Coppin State, 7 p.m. (ESPN+); Friday at Morgan State, 1 p.m.

Old Dominion Monarchs

W-L Record: 3-6 (.333) | 0-1 Sun Belt (.000)
Current Streak: Lost 3
Last Week: No games.
This Week: Thursday vs. TCU, 5 p.m. (ESPNU)

Longwood Lancers

W-L Record: 12-1 (.923) | 0-0 Big South (.000)
Current Streak: Won 12
Last Week: Def. Gallaudet, 92-61; Def. Milwaukee, 80-67; Def. VMI, 68-49.
This Week: Wednesday at NC Central, 3 p.m.

Radford Highlanders

W-L Record: 9-4 (.692) | 0-0 Big South (.000)
Current Streak: Won 4
Last Week: Def. VMI, 73-56; Def. Bucknell, 70-63.
This Week: Wednesday at West Virginia, 7 p.m. (BIG12/ESPN+)

Hampton Pirates

W-L Record: 4-6 (.400) | 0-0 CAA (.000)
Current Streak: Lost 1
Last Week: Def. Mary Baldwin, 100-53; Lost to JMU, 88-71.
This Week: Tuesday at Bowling Green, 11 a.m. (ESPN+); Thursday at Eastern Michigan, 1 p.m. (ESPN+)

William & Mary Tribe

W-L Record: 5-6 (.455) | 0-0 CAA (.000)
Current Streak: Won 2
Last Week: No games.
This Week: Thursday at Pepperdine, 7 p.m. (ESPN+)

Liberty Flames

W-L Record: 9-3 (.750) | 0-0 C-USA (.000)
Current Streak: Won 2
Last Week: Def. Tennessee State, 74-52; Def. St. Andrews, 99-26.
This Week: Wednesday at Utah Valley, 8 p.m. (ESPN+)

VMI Keydets

W-L Record: 2-10 (.167) | 0-0 Southern (.000)
Current Streak: Lost 5
Last Week: Lost to Radford, 73-56; Lost to Longwood, 68-49.
This Week: Friday vs. Penn State-NK, Noon (ESPN+)

Norfolk State Spartans

W-L Record: 7-5 (.583) | 0-0 MEAC (.000)
Current Streak: Lost 2
Last Week: Lost to Stony Brook, 84-78; Lost to Hofstra, 74-58.
This Week: Monday vs. Southern Virginia, 7 p.m.; Wednesday vs. UTEP, 9 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.