James Madison has not played well so far this season, with an injury and inconsistent play contributing to three different starting lineups during their first three games.
We expect JMU to go with the smaller lineup that they started against Drexel, with guards David Fanning and Chris Williams joining swingman Dwayne Broyles in a three guard set. The Dukes will thus hope to use quickness to their advantage against the Mountaineers' height advantage, especially at the three position.
Preseason first-team all conference pick and Poca, West Virginia native Tim Lyle has been quiet thus far for the Dukes, averaging only eight points and three rebounds per game while being slowed by a knee problem. Lyle, who has struggled against WVU throughout his career, would like ntohing more than to put together a great performance in his final appearance against the Mountaineers.
Picking up the slack for JMU has been Fanning, a junior who has led the Dukes in scoring in all three games this year while averaging 19 points per outing.
JMU has some size up front to combat the Mountaineers, but like WVU has gotten little offensive production from the five spot. The rotation of Kenny Whitehead and Ian Caskill has resulted in only five points and seven boards per game.
WVU's Lionel Armstead vs. James Madison's David Fanning
This matchup of three point threats should be an entertaining one, and not only from an offensive perspective. Armstead and Fanning are two players that are similar in style, so it should be interesting to see how they match up with each other defensively.
|WVU 0-0, 4-0
UAM 0-1, 1-2
|Wed 12/5 7:00 PM|
|Series: WVU 4-2|
|RPI: WVU-67 JMU-295|
|Line: WVU -4|
When two players similar in style meet, they often are able to hinder their opponent on the defensive end, because they are familiar with the moves, fakes, and even thought processes of someone who plays the game in the same manner.
Look for Armstaed and Fanning to go right at each other early and try to establish a psychological edge in the early stages of the game. Both are aggressive, streaky shooters who figure to have a good game every time they can hit a couple of threes in the early going. Armstead did just that against Arkansas-Monticello, burying all seven of his three point attempts.
JMU: Ron Anderson (Broken Hand)- Out; Tim Lyle (Knee) - Probable
This game has the makings of an upset. JMU is off to a slow start, and the Mountaineers could take the Dukes lightly after their impressive road trip championship in Albuquerque.
The oddsmakers apparently think so too - despite the apparent mismatch WVU is only a four point favorite.
While the ingredients are there, we don't see the recipe coming out in JMU's favor. WVU so far has displayed a very impressive ability to get down to business, and also to shake off bad stretches of play.
In past seasons, a three or four minute period of poor shooting or defense would typically doom WVU to a loss, as they just weren't able to bounce back quickly.
This year's team looks to be another story in that regard. Make a bad play? Forget it and go on and get the next one. This team has done that, and that's a key to winning on the road, where the home team can usually be counted on to make a couple of runs and challenge for a win.
Tim Lyle is not the only West Virginia native on the Duke roster. Sophomore guard Chris Williams hails from Wheeling.
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One of JMU's two series wins over WVU came in the 1983 NCAA tournament. The Dukes booted WVU 57-50 in the opening round of play at Greensboro.
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JMU is promoting this game heavily, as a visit by a team from a "power conference" is a rarity. Despite averaging just over 3300 fans per home game so far, the Dukes hope to draw at least 6000 fans to the 7100 seat Convocation Center.
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Drew Schifino could get a starting nod tonight at the three position over Josh Yeager.