Wednesday, March 13, 2013
While many Virginians bemoaned the arrival of a March snowstorm, the James Madison Dukes may have seen it as a good omen for the start of the Colonial Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament. In 1994, a storm dropped 20 inches of snow over the Shenandoah Valley just before the tournament that year.
The Dukes dug themselves out and made it to Richmond, eventually leading to Kent Culuko hitting a 3-pointer in the waning seconds for a one-point win over Old Dominion to give the Dukes the CAA title, their last one before Monday night’s 70-57 victory over Northeastern at the Coliseum.
Appropriately, the Dukes came to town just after winter storm Saturn dumped about the same amount of snow across the state and defeated William and Mary, Delaware and No. 1 seed Northeastern.
“It’s like LeBron James said after he won his first championship,” redshirt senior forward Rayshawn Goins said. “ ‘It’s about damn time.’ ” Snowstorm aside, the history attached to the Dukes’ win was not lost on James Madison coach Matt Brady.
“It has a monumental ripple effect for any program that can get to this point,” he said. “It’s a tremendous accomplishment. What this can do for a program is set the bar so high and attract guys that can follow in the footsteps that are hard to follow.”
James Madison was 12-20, 5-13 CAA last season. The Dukes started this season 1-5.
However, JMU has gone 19-9 since, thanks to a simple mantra.
“We’ve been saying all year ‘Whatever it takes,’” Goins said. “That was my mindset.”
Brady said another reason for the turnaround was the result of consistency in the lineup and the emergence of redshirt senior guard A.J. Davis.
“For five straight years, I’ve brought a different team to Richmond,” he said. “(Davis) has had one of the most remarkable turnarounds for someone invested in a team as I’ve ever seen.”
Davis has been a key player for the Dukes over the past nine games, shooting 58 percent from the field and 30 for 66 from 3-point range, scoring 179 points.
He scored 26 points in the CAA final and was named tournament MVP, something he didn’t think was going to happen at the start of the year.
“Coach put me in the right position time in and time out,” he said.
With the CAA title comes an NCAA bid. The Dukes last attended the tournament in 1994, losing to Florida in the first round 64-62. James Madison has defied history all season, and Brady doesn’t believe moving forward will be different. “I’ve been a part of staffs where magical things have happened,” he said. “March is a crazy month. We’re going to face a challenge, no matter who we draw.