HARRISONBURG — This summer is a little bit different for the James Madison women’s basketball team as the offseason schedule centers around a European tour in August for the defending Colonial Athletic Association regular-season champions.
While some programs are only beginning to really get into summer workouts, JMU players have already been through weeks of grueling individual sessions with coaches and are about to step away from those drills in July before reassembling for actual team practices at the start of August.
“We’re in the last few days of our individual stuff,” JMU coach Sean O’Regan said. “We’re playing some one-on-one. Wednesday, we’re going to go five-on-five, but we’ve really spent the last three weeks working one-on-zero. But we need that to figure out how we’re progressing.”
The trip to Europe — the Dukes leave Aug. 11 — begins in Amsterdam and has stops in Belgium and France for four games in 10 days, should allow the Dukes to work out many kinks and begin to establish a rotation.
By the time JMU gets back for fall practices in Harrisonburg, the lion’s share of the focus should be on preparing for early non-conference games that could be critical to the Dukes’ NCAA Tournament case next March.
The amount of time O’Regan and his assistants can work with players during the summer is limited by the NCAA and with full practices beginning Aug. 1, that means the Dukes can only work with the strength and conditioning staff for most of July.
But August provides a head start for what should be a competitive season in the CAA.
“It’s really an opportunity for us to get together before everybody else, and I’m really excited about that,” O’Regan said. “To be able to get the lessons in that you usually have to wait until October for, that’s a jump.”
There will also be more to the trip than basketball with sightseeing and educational opportunities in places such as Amsterdam, Normandy and Paris. But even with the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe looming, the athletic implications may be what O’Regan is most looking forward to.
“I’m extremely excited,” he said. “It’s the experience of a lifetime, but it’s more game for us, too. It gives us extra time to work with them and I think that can really pay off.”
Intriguing Non-Conference Schedules
2019-20 could be a banner season for the CAA as JMU, Drexel and Towson all return most of their key players from last season.
JMU has five seniors back after losing just once on the way to the regular-season title while Drexel, which has all five starters back, finished second.
Towson returns most of the team that won the CAA postseason title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
But work toward becoming a multi-bid league in the NCAA Tournament this season begins early on with challenging non-conference slates for all three teams that could boost the CAA’s reputation and rankings.
Towson opens the season at home against Penn State and also travels to Rutgers with a home game against the American Athletic Association’s Temple in between.
Drexel will participate in the Preseason WNIT, opening with a game against Davidson while DePaul, Oklahoma, Oregon State and Missouri State are also among the field.
As for JMU, the Dukes have one contract yet to be finalized before the non-conference schedule can be released, but JMU is expected to play Maryland and home and travel to Virginia to play in the Cavalier Classic, along with games against other teams from major conferences.
Victories from any of them against bigger-conference foes could help everyone’s case in March.
“With out schedule the way it is, we’re going to have to be ready early,” O’Regan said.