#712 James Madison University Dukesvs.#711 Rice University Owls
Written by Chris Kubala
NCAAB: Sunday, November 13, 2016, JMU Convocation Center, Harrisonburg, Virginia, 2 pm ET
Spread: James Madison -7, Over/Under: 150
It’s a non-conference matchup on the hardwood in a matinee contest. The Rice Owls are on the road as they battle the James Madison Dukes Sunday afternoon. Rice is playing their season opener in this contest. James Madison is playing their home opener: they fell 62-55 at Old Dominion Friday night. This is the first meeting on the hardwood between the two teams.
Rice posted their fourth straight losing season in 2015-16 as they finished the year 12-20 overall. The Owls finished just 9th in Conference USA with a 7-11 mark in conference action. Rice hopes to have a better season this year than they had in the last few seasons. Rice was above average on the offensive end as they enter the game 112th in scoring with 75.8 points per game. The Owls weren’t a great shooting team as they hit 45.2 percent from the field. Rice knocked down an average of 7.1 three pointers per game but shot just 31.8 percent (297th in the nation) from beyond the arc. Marcus Evans was the leading scorer for Rice after scoring 21.5 points a game last season as a freshman: he’s back this year.
The Owls were terrible on the defensive end of things as they finished 334th in the nation in scoring defense by allowing 80.5 points per game. Rice doesn’t rebound well either as they finished 297th in the country with 32.9 boards per contest. Opposing teams shot a blistering 48.1 percent from the floor (342nd) against the Owls this season. Rice allowed opponents to shoot at a 41.3 percent (dead last in Division I) clip from three point range as opponents sank 8.7 threes per game. Egor Koulechov (16.8 points, seven rebounds) and Marquez Letcher-Ellis (10.2 points) both averaged in double figures for Rice. Connor Cashaw and Andrew Drone have another year of experience to build off as well.
James Madison had their struggles in their opener against Old Dominion and it ended up costing them a loss. The Dukes look for better success in their home opener here. The team had success last year, going 21-11 overall and 11-7 in the Colonial Athletic Association. James Madison has to put together better nights than they had against the Monarchs in order to put games in the win column. The Dukes were limited to 39.6 percent shooting from the floor in the game. James Madison went 6 of 20 from three point range, missed 6 of 13 free throws and turned the ball over 16 times.
The Dukes enter this contest tied for 251st in the country with 55 points per game. James Madison is tied for 115th with 40 rebounds a night but is tied for 252nd with seven assists. The Dukes come in tied for 68th in scoring defense by allowing 62 points a game. Shakir Brown led James Madison with 16 points in the loss but misfired on five of seven three point attempts. Joey McLean was the only other player in double figures for the Dukes with 10. Yohanny Dalembert and McLean both fouled out in the contest as James Madison committed 26 fouls, which led to 27 Old Dominion free throw attempts.
James Madison has the advantage of having a game under its belt at this point in time but it was hardly one to be impressed by. Rice has a lot of pieces in place from last year’s extremely young team and could surprise in Conference USA. Having Evans, Koulechov and Letcher-Ellis back in the fold gives Rice a trio of solid scoring options that should only get better from their experience. Take the points and the Owls in this contest as James Madison has to prove they can score.
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Christopher Kubala has been crunching stats and following sports for over 30 years. His in depth analysis and passion for sports have led him to writing books about sports, regularly being featured on sports talk radio and as the go-to person for any obscure trivia. He keeps an eye on transactions and statistics like a hawk, especially when it comes to football, both the NFL and college, the NHL, the NBA and college basketball and MLB.