With 74 wins in the past three seasons, a shared Colonial Athletic Association regular-season title and an outright crown, James Madison heads into 2019-20 poised for a return to the NCAA Tournament.
The Dukes dropped a first-round stunner to Hofstra in the CAA Tournament a season ago, narrowly missing the NCAA Tournament as a result. Sean O’Regan’s team went on a deep run in the WNIT that ended six points shy of the championship game.
With a stacked roster returning in 2019-20, this season’s squad made be the best of O’Regan’s tenure.
Head Coach: Sean O’Regan (4th year at James Madison, 74-24 overall)
Assistant Coaches: Ian Caskill, Ashley Langford, Ashley Perez
2018 Record: 29-6, 17-1 CAA
2019 Preseason Poll: 1st, 81 points (9 first-place votes)
Three Dukes scored in double-figures a season ago: All three return for 2019-20. First team All-CAA honoree last year and preseason Player of the Year Kamiah Smalls leads the way, coming off a 2018-19 in which she posted 15.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.
Jackie Benitez, third team All-CAA in 2018-19 and second on the team with 12.1 points per last year, and Lexie Barrier (second team All-CAA in 2018-19) at 10.7 points a night also return. That’s a lot of scoring pop from the perimeter, and the interior presence returning complements them nicely.
Center Kayla Cooper-Williams averaged 10.2 rebounds per game and blocked close to three shots a nigh in 2018-19. Coupled with Devon Merritt, who averaged better than a block a game, the Dukes boast the best rim protection in the nation. A team that finished third nationally in scoring defense at 51.6 points per game should be even stingier.
James Madison does not have much to replace from last season’s roster. Logan Reynolds started all 34 games in which she appeared, and her 26.4 minutes per game were tops among graduating Dukes.
Aneah Young’s 4.5-point per game average is the most in lost scoring production. She added a presence on the glass, as well, grabbing seven-plus rebounds in seven different games last season.
There is not much roster turnover at James Madison, but the Dukes are bringing in freshman forward Rayne Tucker. The daughter of former NBA players Anthony Tucker, the Riverdale Baptist prospect was a 2019 McDonald’s All-American.
James Madison also has newly eligible transfer Nikki Oppenheimer, a guard who redshirted last season after arriving from Syracuse.
Dates To Remember
Nov. 13 vs. Maryland: No. 4 in the Associated Press Top 25, and fifth in the Coaches Poll, perennial powerhouse Maryland’s visit to Harrisonburg is a biggie. After a few frustrating near-misses in reaching the NCAA Tournament, an early-season over the Terps would give the Dukes quite an at-large resume bullet-point. Pulling off such an upset isn’t easy: Kaila Charles is one of the most versatile players in the country.
Nov. 17 vs. St. John’s: Picked to finish second in the Big East Conference, St. John’s comes to Harrisonburg with an impressive backcourt duo of Qadashah Hoppie and Tiana England.
Nov. 30 at Virginia: James Madison tips off the UVa Tournament with host Virginia. The Cavaliers feature preseason All-ACC honoree Jocelyn Willoughby.
Jan. 12 at Towson: The Dukes’ first CAA road contest is against the 2019 conference tournament champion. Both meetings between the teams last year were competitive, with the Dukes winning at home in overtime and beating the Tigers by seven in Maryland.
Jan. 17 at UNC Wilmington: The Seahawks handed James Madison its only CAA loss a season ago, 66-63.
Feb. 2 at Drexel: The only other CAA team to garner a first-place vote in the preseason poll, Drexel features 2018-19 CAA Player of the Year and last season’s conference-leading scorer, Bailey Greenberg.
Feb. 9 vs. Towson: Preseason 1st Team All-CAA honorees Kionna Jeter and Nukiya Mayo lead the Tigers into the Convocation Center for the first in a three-game home stand. The Dukes went undefeated at home in the regular season last year.