Thursday, November 10, 2016

Tennessee visits JMU: anything's possible?

Now, we're not saying JMU is definitely going to beat No. 13 Tennessee when the vaunted Lady Vols hit Harrisonburg Friday in the season opener for both.

But did you know that, over the last five years, the Dukes actually have a better overall record (138-35) than the Lady Vols (135-43)?

Of course, all this means is that Tennessee knows these Dukes can ball. No way the Lady Vols will be looking past JMU, especially on the road.

Then again, did you realize the Lady Vols are just 2-3 in their first road game the past five seasons, with two losses at Chattanooga and one, in 2011, at Virginia?

But what's 2011 got to do with today, right? I mean, it's not as though Tennessee has any sort of recent track record of losing to unranked non-conference opponents.

Except...didn't Virginia Tech spank the Lady Vols 57-43 just last season, in Knoxville, snapping Tennessee's 44-game winning streak against unranked non-conference opponents at home?

OK, but it can't just be about Tennessee being off its game. JMU has to really bring it, too. Who knows if the Dukes can deliver that kind of performance in this big of a spot?

Although...the last time the Dukes opened a season at home against a ranked opponent, in 2014, they did take down No. 23 UCLA 91-87 in overtime. Just sayin'....

Will the Dukes pull off a similar feat Friday? Your guess is as good (or as lousy) as ours. But that's our point. Because if you comb through the data - and especially if you cherry-pick stats like we just did - you quickly realize that when two good teams go to battle this early in the season, forget about what you think you know.

Anything's possible.

JMU notes: Sean O'Regan, who will be making his JMU head-coaching debut in this game, on what it will take to beat Tennessee: "One possession at a time. Force them out of their rhythm. Take away the easy baskets and make them shoot over us. It's going to be a grind. We have to rebound the ball, period." ... Dukes junior guard Hailee Barron and redshirt junior forward Amber Porter sat out Sunday's exhibition game after sustaining concussions but both have been cleared to return to action...In that same exhibition, sophomore forward Kayla Cooper-Williams left in the first half with an apparent knee injury and was on crutches after the contest. No word on her status for this game...Dukes senior guard Precious Hall needs one 3-pointer to reach 200 for her career...Doors at the JMU Convocation Center will open at 5:30 p.m., and prior to the announcement of the starting lineups the Dukes will unveil their 2016 Colonial Athletic Association championship and NCAA Tournament appearance banners.

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