James Madison opened the season Saturday night with a win over Furman, so the Dukes have had the chance to get many of the first game bugs worked out. JMU also owns two exhibition wins this year.
James Madison is going with a small lineup, featuring two guards, two forwards and a swingman, which could be a disadvantage against the taller Mountaineer interior.
The Dukes are led by senior swingman Dwayne Broyles (6-6), who is a two-year starter and a solid scoring threat both inside and out. Broyles had 14 points in the Dukes' win over the Paladins.
Teaming with Broyles as a scoring threat is true freshman guard Ray Barbosa (6-2), who came off the bench to rack up 28 points in only 28 minutes of action. Barbosa's emergence gives Dukes a long range scoring threat from the guard position, and should open things up for Broyles as well.
Guards John Naparlo (6-3) and Chris Williams (6-2) started the Furman game for head coach Sherman Dillard, but that lineup could undergo some shuffling after Barbosa's outing. Naparlo failed to score in 13 minutes of action, while Williams had a solid game with 13 points and seven assists.
Inside, things aren't quite as bright. Forwards David Cooper (6-7) and center Chris Cathlin (6-7) combined for only 11 points, and don't appear to be major scoring threats for the Dukes. The Dukes do have some bigger help inside, but all three players who watnd 6-8 or taller are freshmen.
West Virginia forward Drew Schifino vs. James Madison forward Dwayne Broyles
Although the heights of these two players would seem to make them more likely to face off at guard than at forward, the sparks figure to fly as these two team leaders try to carry their squads to victory.
|Mon 11/24 7:00 p.m.|
WVU 0-0, 0-0
JMU 1-0, 0-0
WVU - 191
JMU - 92
|Line: WVU -6|
Schifino has worked hard to improve his outside shooting, as teams backed off him during the latter stages of last year in order to better defend his forays to the basket. And although the results of his offseason work appear promising, look for Broyles to likewise give Schifino space on the perimeter until he proves he can knock down the outside jumper consistently.
As is often the case when two scorers collide, the edge in the matchup may go to the better defender. Schifino will give up three inches to Broyles, but the shorter Mountaineer will enjoy a strength and weight advantage over his foe - something that won't be the case in many matchups for the junior WVU standout this season.
Although the Mountaineers are young, the Dukes are younger. West Virginia will likely try to take advantage of the Dukes' lack of experience by being patient with the ball and forcing James Madison to defend for long stretches. This fits in well, of course, with WVU's general method of operation, but look for head coach John Beilein to emphasize keeping the pace under control, especially with this game on the enemy's home floor.
WVU will have to get into a "real game" frame of mind early. James Madison has already played one game, and so should hit the floor running while West Virginia might still be feeling things out a bit. The fact that the Mountaineers will also be looking to establish a playing rotation is another cause for concern. A good early start by JMU, which would bring the crowd into the game, could put the still-developing Mountaineers into a tough spot. That happened in West Virginia's last trip to Harrisonburg, and resulted in a big win for the Dukes.
That shouldn't happen this time, however. WVU is a patient squad, and although any first game is fraught with peril when playing a solid program like James Madison, the Mountaineers don't figure to panic if things don't go well early. Whether that will be enough to come away with a win depends on how well WVU is able to mesh the returning veterans with the newcomers on the team. It's also instructive to recall that WVU barely squeaked out a three-point win over the Dukes last year at the WVU Coliseum.
West Virginia was scheduled to open the season at home against Morris Brown, but that school dropped basketball, which forced the Mountaineers to reshuffle their early season slate.
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While West Virginia remains one of the younger teams in the country (the Mountaineers still don't have a senior scholarship player on the roster), the Dukes are even more callow. Only five of the sixteen players on the James Madison roster played in a game for JMU last year, and seven of the sixteen are either true or redshirt freshmen.
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Steady starting guard Chris Williams played for two seasons at Linsly Academy in Wheeling, W. Va. as a high schooler before transferring to the prestigious Oak Hill Academy.
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All five of WVU's wins over James Madison have come in Morgantown. The Dukes have prevailed twice on their home court, and also own a first-round NCAA win over the Mountaineers.
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Ray Barbosa's 28-point game against Furman is a record for a first game performance by a JMU freshman in Division 1 play.