James Madison Preview and Q&A

Posted In News - By Alan Kelly On Saturday, December 12th, 2015 With 1 Comment

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This afternoon at 4 pm, George Mason (4-6) makes their first trip to face James Madison (7-3) in Harrisonburg since leaving the CAA in 2013. The long-time rivals renew their series with the Patriots holding a current nine-game winning streak and wins in 19 of the last 20 contests against the Dukes, while Madison still holds a 49-45 all-time edge. Bill Rohland provided a good summary of the rivalry’s history in his Off Air column on GoMason.com yesterday.

The Patriots will be without the services of senior forward Marko Gujanicic, who was suspended indefinitely on Thursday for the violation of team and university academic policies. The suspension sounds like a serious matter, and Gujanicic’s academic future is more important that a basketball game, but the timing is ironic, as it prevents a Serbian reunion with Madison’s Dimitrije Cabarkapa and Ivan Lukic.

JMU comes into the matchup with a five-game winning streak and a 4-2 home record on the season. To get a better understanding of this season’s Dukes squad, and what’s changed in Harrisonburg in the last few years, I asked Rob & Todd from JMU Sports Blog to answer some questions.

masonhoops.com: Senior guard Ron Curry, picked preseason first-team All-CAA, is off to a hot start, averaging 14.2 points, with 20+ points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists in each of his last two games. What are the keys to his game?

JMU Sports Blog: Curry has matured tremendously during his time at JMU. With Charles Cooke transferring to Dayton and Andre Nation getting kicked off the team, this really became his team last year. He surprised even the most optimistic JMU fans with his play. He can get to the hoop and has developed into a reliable outside shooter. The best part of his game is the way he runs the offense. When he limits the turnovers, he’s very effective and makes the whole team better. Thus far, he’s had a 3.5 assist to turnover ratio and has been able to get everyone involved in offense. But when things aren’t going the Dukes’ way, he’s proven capable of taking over.

masonhoops.com: One big question for every Mason opponent this season is, how will they counter the rebounding force that is 6’11” center Shevon Thompson? Forward Shakir Brown, at 6’7″, leads Madison with 7.3 rebounds per contest, while Dimitrije Cabarkapa, the tallest and heaviest Duke (6’10” / 240 lbs.), has averaged just 3.5 rebounds.

JMU Sports Blog: Yeah, based on his measurements, you’d expect Cabarkapa to be more of a banger. He’s really not though. He’s actually more comfortable away from the basket. Shakir Brown has been a best in his first year with the Dukes, and obviously has made a tremendous impact rebounding the ball. Yohanny Dalembert is still operating at less than 100%, but when healthy, he can grab a lot of boards. In an inconsistent season thus far, he’s still managed to grab 2.4 offensive rebounds a game. JMU hasn’t been a particularly great rebounding team for a while, but this year’s team shows more promise in that area.

masonhoops.com: Aside from Curry and Brown, what should Mason fans know about the Dukes’ starting rotation? Forward Yohanny Dalembert was a preseason All-CAA second teamer, but he’s had an inconsistent season so far.

JMU Sports Blog: YoYo missed the beginning of the season while recovering from surgery and still is struggling to get to full speed. He’s a very dangerous player, but it wouldn’t surprise us if he’s not playing up to his potential for a few more weeks while he gets his legs back. Newcomer Shakir Brown is the name to know for JMU opponents. He’s a JUCO transfer who’s leading the team in scoring and rebounding. Tom Vodanovich is another guy who can give the opponent fits when things are going his way. He’s got sort of that “old man throwing sneaky elbows” sort of game that can really get under guys’ skin. A more plodding, less skilled Andre Semenov if you will. When confident, Jackson Kent is a real weapon. When lacking confidence, much less so.

masonhoops.com: Who are the main contributors on the JMU bench? How deep is Matt Brady’s typical rotation?

JMU Sports Blog: We’re not sure who’s set to start tomorrow, as Brady sometimes tinkers with his lineups prior to CAA play. It’s a safe bet that it will be Curry, Brown, Dalembert, Vodanovich, and Kent though. Other guys like Cabarkapa, Joey Mclean, and Winston Grays see consistent minutes and are regular contributors. Thus far, we’ve seen Brady go 10 deep pretty regularly with Ivan Lukic and Paulus Satkus getting around 10 minutes each some night. There appears to be more depth than in recent memory, but some of that might be Brady trying to figure out who’s going to earn the minutes come conference play.

masonhoops.com: James Madison was picked second in the ten-team CAA, behind Hofstra. So far the Dukes seem to be meeting most expectations, but what will they need to do to unseat Hofstra, win the league, and get back to the NCAA tournament?

JMU Sports Blog: It’s very early, but the CAA as a whole seems to be a much better this year. Hofstra is a deserved favorite, but Northeastern, CofC, and William & Mary have also picked up some nice wins early. It’s really going to be a dogfight. Last season JMU took care of business agains the weaker teams in the league, but failed to get a single win against the top teams. Somehow, that was enough to tie for the regular season title. This year, JMU needs to build on last year’s consistency against the bottom of the league, but get over the hump and start beating the contenders. Better rebounding and defense will be key to doing that. They’ve showed signs of improvement doing both already. It’s just a matter of continuing to improve.

masonhoops.com: The last time Mason fans saw the Dukes, head coach Matt Brady seemed to be on his way out the door in Harrisonburg — until JMU surprised everyone by winning the 2013 CAA tournament. Brady went from a lame duck to a new contract, and three years later, the program seems to be turning a corner. How secure is Brady’s job at this point?

JMU Sports Blog: You never know with Brady. He saved his job with the NCAA tourney bid in 2013. And it’s not entirely clear if the school was happy about that. Sometimes we think that the powers that be were hoping he’d bomb out and they could let him go. He’s a solid coach who took over a program that was an absolute disaster. He’s now got it back to respectability. We’re not sure if he’s a coach who can turn the Dukes into tourney regulars though. He’s safe this year. However, if the administration thinks he’s sort of peaked at 20 win seasons (which aren’t as impressive as they used to be) and crappy 3rd tier postseason tourneys, then it wouldn’t surprise us to see him and the school part ways when his contract is up.

About - Alan Kelly is a 2010 and 2013 graduate of George Mason University and a former member of the Patriot Platoon. He had the memorable experience of being in the middle of the college decision process as George Mason's Final Four run unfolded. He currently resides in Northern Virginia.

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  1. […] from Masonhoops.com agreed to do this Q&A with us. We were also given the chance to do the same over on his blog. Enjoy the game today […]

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