Brady’s Waiting Game
Posted: November 12, 2013
HARRISONBURG — Matt Brady has developed a “formula” for his James Madison basketball team to reach success this season.
Brady’s Law might consist of arithmetical calculations, but its explanation is simple: Eight or so players operating within themselves minus zero players trying to do too much equals potential success.
The formula, pending Andre Nation’s return from a 15-game suspension, is designed to keep the Dukes’ nose above water.
“If you do it mathematically, and I do this every single day, if we play eight guys, you need to get to 66 points the next 15 games,” Brady said. “That’s a .500 team — 66-67 points. Can this team do it? Well, I’ve figured out a way mathematically we can get to that number and nobody’s got to average 20. We just need everybody to play well and not great. If we have that mindset — which is not easy for a few guys — if we can develop that mindset and kind of follow the plan, and everybody stay calm, we’ll be fine.”
Brady didn’t share the specifics of his point distribution plan, but three days after the Dukes shot 31 percent and scored 41 points in a season-opening loss at No. 24 Virginia, he maintained a sunny outlook for the future of his young squad.
Virginia, after all, was a top-five defense last year and projects to be elite on that side of the ball again this season. JMU’s offensive struggles also include a razor-thin exhibition win against a Division II team during which Madison shot just 36 percent. The Dukes beat Philadelphia University 73-69 in overtime but had only 58 points at the end of 40 minutes.
Brady doesn’t anticipate the Dukes being an offensive juggernaut this year, but if they stay within the system and clamp down defensively, he believes they should be competitive while they wait for Nation to return in early January.
“Until we get Andre Nation back — and I’m not going to talk about Andre Nation back — but you’re talking about a guy who could easily be our leading scorer and one of our league’s best players,” Brady said. “We’re not going to get to 72, in fact we didn’t average 72 last year [the Dukes averaged 65.2 points per game in 2013-14].
“So with freshmen and sophomores, there is a mathematical formula. As coaches, certainly I’ve always done this — you’ve got to get to a number, whatever that number is. And if you can’t get to that number, what’s the numbers on the other side you’ve got to compensate for, you know, mitigate. I don’t know what the number is that this team can achieve, but it’s certainly not 70 and it’s got to be higher than 60. But somewhere in the middle is what this team is capable of.”
JMU could certainly win some games in the 60s against its upcoming competition. Madison will play in a three-game tournament this weekend at Northern Illinois, starting with the host Huskies on Friday.
Dating back to last season, NIU (0-1) has lost 12 consecutive games. It had one of the country’s least efficient offenses last year. On Saturday, JMU plays Milwaukee, which went 8-24 last year, opened this season with a loss and also was weak offensively a season ago. The Dukes will close with San Jose State, which lost its final 14 games last year and opens this season tonight against Santa Clara.
“I’m very eager to see what this team is able to do this weekend because I think they’re excited about what’s in front of them,” Brady said.
According to a JMU spokesman, the Dukes have the nation’s youngest team by class, featuring seven freshmen, four sophomores, one junior and one senior.
Only one of the freshmen, forward Tom Vodanovich, played particularly well during the Virginia contest, scoring 11 points in 38 minutes during the first action of his career. No other Duke reached double figures.
Brady expects gradual growth from his team this season and said he isn’t concerned with the early results so much as the improvement. While JMU won the Colonial Athletic Association championship last March, this season is very much a rebuilding one for a team that currently doesn’t have any of the five starters from that game.
“We have a long way to go,” Brady said. “I don’t know that I learned anything [from the Virginia loss] that I didn’t already know, but I think our team learned, ‘Jeez, we’re not as good as we think.’ So I knew that. I keep saying I know the freshmen and sophomores aren’t as good as they think they are. But they don’t. I always say they’re ready to make the next jump. They’re ready to go, they’re ready to play, they’re going to go to the NBA.”
Brady said the Dukes don’t need NBA-star-like performances from any players — just guys who won’t spoil the formula.
“Mathematically, we’re OK here,” he said. “We don’t need Kevin Durant. We just need everybody to take a deep breath and share the ball. Because they’re all good players. Now we just need to have a calm about us, and a sense of poise on offense.”