November has historically been one of my favorite sports months for all of the obvious reasons. And there's been so much shit going on lately that I had to put down my legal pad and pen, set aside my storyboards, and poke my head out of my self-imposed sports sabbatical. I mean, have you heard some of the shit you cretins spout out of your face-holes when I'm not writing on this blog? Good grief.
It's time to fall back in line, hooligans.
Wait, "Fire Withers" is a thing? Get a grip people. Trajectory of the program has been upward since the day he took over.— JMU Sports Blog (@JMUsportsblog) November 1, 2015
I'd like to start with this, because... WHAT?
Seriously? Who started this? Because this is why we can't have nice things.
Lobbying to fire a head coach after he loses two games to ranked opponents, even when it's in a defensively atrocious fashion, is why players and media types laugh at fans. Etymologically, they might be the same, but a fan and a fanatic have two completely separate connotations. Don't be a fanatic. Don't be an asshole. Be a hard-nosed, passionate, still-sensible fan.
Right. On to the Dukes. Look, I'm not going to lie to you. I'm pretty sure I've sold my stock in "JMU, the National Title Contender." My good friend Taylor Mickelberry, proud Double-Duke and current Illinois resident, was oh-so-happy to inform me back in early October that he had already bought tickets to Frisco. Taylor, as I sometimes tell his girlfriend, is a lunatic.
So save your money. Don't buy train tickets to Texas for January, even if you're thinking that the Valley gets a tid bit nippley after New Years. Don't hold your breath. Don't light candles after church. JMU is not winning it all without Lee. Etch it in stone. It's done.
But it doesn't mean that the program isn't on the upswing. Everett Withers made the playoffs in Year 1. He's still got a very real shot at the program's first playoff win since 2011. He's all but locked up the first set of consecutive playoff appearances since 07-08. But even at 9-2, I'm not convinced JMU can back into a playoff seed without some miraculous help from around the nation. So let's focus on what is going to become a theme for this blog post: obtainable goals.
JMU needs to beat Villanova, lobby for a home playoff matchup, and win a post-season game in Harrisonburg for the first time in seven years.
If the Dukes can accomplish those three things, they'll have dialed the clocks back to 2008. The season will have been an unmitigated success. And from there... can't anything happen?
As October was wrapping up, you'd be excused if you had no idea what West Virginia's record was, or whether or not they were any good. They were 3-4, including an 0-4 October performance in Big 12 play, and hadn't won a game since scalping a dreadful Maryland squad back in September by a score of 45-6.
What was the Mountaineers' October slate of games? @Oklahoma. Vs Oklahoma State. @Baylor. @TCU.
So, yeah, they went 0-4. Three road games against Top 15 teams, plus a home matchup with what could potentially be the Big 12-winning Cowboys. That OSU game, by the way, ended up going to overtime. Was I in Morgantown that day? Of course I was . THE CURSE OF MY FANHOOD. IT'S REAL.
The Mountaineer panic right now is crazy. Wish everyone would settle down -- WVU had 3 turnovers and still took an undefeated team to OT.— Chase Kiddy (@ckiddysports) October 12, 2015
By the time the blowout in Waco went final, Mountaineer fans were done. Fire Dana! Buy out Rich Rod! Bring in someone that can win three road games, each one 2,000 miles away, in four weeks! What are we doing?
Isn't it time to check our expectations at the door? West Virginia fans have had a few years now to adjust to the Big 12, and if one thing is clear, it's that the Wild Wild West is definitely not the Mild Mild (Big) East. Some years, even with a great defense and a strong running game, West Virginia just won't have the tools to win the title. Living in reality isn't lowering your expectations -- it's being a responsible fan.
And yes, West Virginia does have a solid defense and a strong running game. Even without All-American Karl Joseph -- who I still think get's drafted before Day 3 despite the season-ending injury, by the way -- the Mountaineer D has looked like one of the best units this program has fielded in my lifetime. Meanwhile, Smallwood is climbing draft boards, and the offense is averaging 225 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 18th in FBS football. It also ranks as the No. 1 reason West Virginia nearly doubled up Texas over the weekend, 38-20. Did you ever think you'd see the day where a Holgorsen-coached quarterback only threw the ball 12 times?
Classic Dana. https://t.co/Id3XYFopBy— Chase Kiddy (@ckiddysports) November 14, 2015
West Virginia (5-4) closes its regular season schedule with home games against Kansas and Iowa State, along with a road tilt in the Little Apple with Kansas State. I'm inclined to make the argument that these are the three worst teams in the conference. So pitch your fuss if you'd like, but after all the October wining, the Mountaineers are positioned to have a shot at a 9-4 season. With the team's best player gone and an average quarterback under center, that's nothing to sneeze at.
Men's Basketball: JMU vs West Virginia (Monday, 7:00pm @Charleston Civic Center)
JMU fans will probably point to the fact that this is hardly a neutral site, being in Charleston. West Virginia fans would probably argue back, noting that setting the game a stone's throw from Huntington would make it Marshall territory more than anything else. More importantly, the Civic Center hasn't exactly been a bastion of great basketball for the Mountaineers over the years -- a number of foul-laden rock fights with the aforementioned Thundering Herd come to mind.
So, hey, JMU fans. Listen. I'm in your corner here. The Dukes went to Richmond and beat the hated Spiders, and that feels like a big, emotional win. And it is! It's even true that there's more than just emotion behind the win; there's some solid numbers to back up how great JMU played. We could start with the fact that, even without its best post player, Madison smacked Richmond on the boards.
Unbeaten teams remaining: 337 (Sorry, Richmond).— Ken Pomeroy (@kenpomeroy) November 14, 2015
That's great. Really! It's early, but I'm thinking JMU could contend for a conference title, and maybe even a sneaky NCAA upset this year. This squad ticks all the boxes -- inside-out play, a strong ball handler (Curry), a grindy post-player (Dalembert), and a dangerous X-factor (take your pick -- Brown, Kent, Cabarkapa). I believe it could be a special year.
So please also believe me when I tell you that West Virginia is going to obliterate JMU tonight.
This whole #PressVirginia thing? It's not a joke. They're going to be so far inside Curry's personal space, they might walk off the court with intimate knowledge of his love life and ATM balance. With Dalembert out, West Virginia is going to smash the boards so hard, I expect players to be picking glass out of their skin during the post-game press conference. Do you see what I'm getting at here? It's not going to be pretty.
It's just not a good matchup, folks. West Virginia has a big frontcourt, and they foul a lot during their press. JMU does not handle a press well, does not shoot well from the stripe, and is missing its best frontcourt player. Sometimes, it's that simple.
Measuring stick game for @JMUMBasketball tonight vs. WVU. Mountaineers #22 in country. Dukes have 1 top 25 win in program history— Kevin Warner (@KevinAWarner) November 16, 2015
Best of luck to both teams tonight. My only rooting interest is that both teams end the game still healthy.
And if you insist on being that guy? The guy who makes me choose a team? Well, I guess you've got some reading to do.