HARRISONBURG – Last season, the James Madison men’s basketball team played just 10 home games, went 4-12 on the road and endured a 41-day stretch during its non-conference slate in which it did not host a single opponent at the Convocation Center.
Going from one extreme to another, coach Matt Brady’s program on Friday released its schedule for the 2014-15 season – and this one features a school-record 19 home games.
With three starters gone – sharpshooting forward Andrey Semenov graduated and rising juniors Charles Cooke (Dayton) and Taylor Bessick (Iona) transferred – Brady is hopeful this season’s Convo-heavy slate will help jump-start a team coming off an 11-20 campaign.
In total, 10 of JMU’s 13 non-conference games will be played at the Convo.
“Clearly, the opportunity to play home games is a potential springboard to a successful season, No. 1,” Brady said. “And I think, No. 2, with so many home games, this team has the opportunity to gain confidence, to learn about themselves and obviously — against the likes of Virginia, Richmond and Ohio State – to be tested, to be tested early and to be tested by great competition.”
Five previous times in the history of JMU’s men’s basketball team, most recently during the 2011-12 campaign, the Dukes played 16 home games in a single season – the program’s previous high mark.
Madison’s highly publicized season-opener at the Convo against reigning Atlantic Coast Conference champion Virginia on Nov. 14 is one of two games on JMU’s schedule against power-conference opponents.
The Dukes will travel to face perennial Big Ten contender Ohio State on Nov. 28 as part of the Buckeye Classic, which has Brady’s team also hosting Colgate (Nov. 24), Sacred Heart (Nov. 26) and Campbell (Dec. 2) – all of which are single-game series.
The Buckeyes last drew JMU in the 2009-10 season opener, with OSU cruising to a 72-44 victory at Value City Arena.
Also included in the schedule is a Dec. 7 date with Richmond, a middle-of-the-pack Atlantic 10 program. That is the first contest of a home-and-home series that will be completed next season.
The return games – ones that complete home-and-home series — on Madison’s non-conference schedule are Convo contests against U.Va., Ball State (Dec. 17), High Point (Dec. 20) and Valparaiso (Dec. 29).
“Obviously, the most exciting game on the schedule for our community, our fans and our students is the Virginia game,” Brady said of a contest JMU’s athletic department is expected to result in a Convo sellout. “… I think Ohio State is who they are – they’re always a factor in the Big Ten race and a perennial top-25 program. And two seasons ago, we played Richmond in a great home game that we lost in overtime. So I think our schedule – while it may not be balanced in terms of road games – certainly has a lot of challenges and opportunities for us to grow as a team.”
Other newcomers to JMU’s 31-game schedule include Radford (Nov. 17, home), Longwood (Nov. 19, home), East Carolina (Dec. 13, road) – the final game Madison scheduled after searching to finalize its slate for over two months – and in-state foe Norfolk State (Dec. 22, home).
Radford, Longwood and East Carolina were all scheduled as home-and-home series, while Norfolk State is a single-game series.
In Brady’s six seasons, JMU is 99-102 (.492 winning percentage) overall — 50-32 (.609) at home, 32-56 (.364) on the road and 18-14 (.563) in neutral-site games.
The Colonial Athletic Association also released its schedule this week, and JMU is not slated to play in any of the league’s 10 nationally broadcasted games on NBC Sports Network. The Dukes open the Colonial season on Jan. 3 at home against Towson.
“We’ve had seasons where we’ve had more than our share, and this year, I think, there was no opportunity to be on national TV,” Brady said. “I think our players are much more motivated to turn this season into nothing but positives. And they’re going to get the opportunity. As long as we play well early, we think we can have a great season.
“And the thing that I would say is that these players are all on board. I think this team is enjoying the best chemistry of the teams I’ve had so far, and hopefully that will show itself on the court.”