Blackbirds, Dukes clash in NCAA Tournament's first round
Dayton, OH – With a spot in the second round of the NCAA Tournament up for grabs the Long Island Blackbirds will square off with the James Madison Dukes at UD Arena on Wednesday night.
Whichever team manages to pull out a victory on Wednesday will be back on the floor on Friday to take on No. 1 seed Indiana in East Regional action.
With a third straight Northeast Conference Tournament title in their back pocket, the Blackbirds are set to make a run at an NCAA Tournament win yet again. The 20-13 Blackbirds were also a No. 16 seed a year ago when they were routed, 89-67, by top-seed Michigan State. The Blackbirds have been one and done in each of their previous five NCAA Tournament appearances.
James Madison rolls into the NCAA Tournament with wins in four straight contests, including a 70-57 win over the regular season champion Northeastern Huskies on Monday. JMU has been NCAA Tournament four previous times and twice since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
These teams played in back-to-back seasons in 1999 and 2000 and James Madison collected wins in each of those meetings.
The Blackbirds got a career-high 31 points from C.J. Garner en route to a 91-70 rout of Mount Saint Mary's to lead the Blackbirds to their conference record third-straight NEC crown. As they have been all season the Blackbirds were sensational offensively in the win, connecting on 61.4 percent from the field.
All season long Long Island has been pouring it on offensively. They are among the top 10 teams in the nation in both points (79.5 pg) and field-goal percentage (.483), while ranking among the top 30 teams in assists (15.3 pg). The rapid pace at which the Blackbirds play has opened them up to some defensive lapses as they let up 76.4 points per game on 46.8 percent shooting to opponents. Jamal Olaswere (18.9 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and Garner (16.1 ppg) are more than a handful for opposing teams to try to defend, while Jason Brickman (9.6 ppg, 8.5 apg) is one of the best distributors in the country.
James Madison controlled the contest from start to finish in the CAA title game against Northeastern. The Dukes led 40-18 at halftime by holding the Huskies to just 20.8 percent shooting in the first 20 minutes and then coasted to the win in the second frame.
The Dukes are going to be without leading scorer and rebounder Rayshawn Goins (12.7 ppg, 7.4 rpg) for part of Wednesday's game due to disciplinary measures taken by head coach Matt Brady. Goins is expected to be suspended for just the first half per a statement from Director of Athletics Jeff Bourne. With Goins out there is additional pressure put on backcourt partners A.J. Davis (12.1 ppg) and Devon Moore (11.6 ppg, 4.9 apg). Even with Goins on the floor the Dukes are not nearly as explosive as the Blackbirds. They net just 65.2 points per game and shoot at a 42 percent rate from the field.