James Madison won the Colonial Athletic Association Title after beating the best team in the conference, Northeastern, 70-57. The win marks the Dukes first automatic NCAA bid since 1994.
That year, James Madison beat in-state rival Old Dominion to win the conference tournament before losing to the University of Florida in the first round of the NCAA tourney. Florida beat the Dukes 64-62 before losing to the Duke Blue Devils in the final four.
James Madison came into the CAA tournament ranked fourth in the conference behind Northeastern, Towson, and Delaware. James Madison beat Delaware 58-57 in a thriller in the second round of the tournament.
James Madison only played one game against a ranked team this season, losing to UCLA by 30 points in their first game of the year. The Dukes dominated Northeastern Monday to assure themselves a spot in the Big Dance.
The Dukes started on a 23-1 run over the Huskies and were leading 40-18 at the half. Northeastern took command of the floor early in the second half but failed to catch the Dukes after falling so far behind in the first. The Huskies outscored the Dukes by nine points in the second half and still lost by 13.
Senior A.J. Davis led the charge for the Dukes, finishing the game with 26 points and seven rebounds. Rayshawn Goins finished with a double-double at 14 points and 13 rebounds. Freshman Andre Nation was the only other James Madison player in double figures, ending with 10 points, four rebounds and three steals.
Northeastern has not made an NCAA appearance since 1991, and looked to be the best team in the CAA before losing in the final Monday. The Huskies beat James Madison in their only regular season match-up, 66-64 at home.
Dukes head coach Matt Brady secured his third 20-win season in five years, practically assuring himslef a chance to re-sign as the Dukes head coach this offseason. Brady began the year with an uncertain future at James Madison after being knocked out of the CAA tournament in the first round last season.
A.J. Davis was named the CAA tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after the finals Monday, and led the Dukes in scoring during their run. James Madison will now keep a close eye on the major conference tournaments while waiting to see where they fall in the bracket on Selection Sunday.
Davidson, Iona, and Western Kentucky also received automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament after winning their respective conference titles Monday night. Liberty University made headlines after winning the Big South tournament Sunday with a 15-20 record on the season.
Liberty is just the second 20-loss team to ever reach the Big Dance, and they just so happen to be located only a 100-miles south of James Madison’s campus.
Conference tournaments can make or break your season and teams outside of major conferences have to play with a “win it all or go home” attitude. James Madison did that and more, dominating Northeastern en route to the big win. James Madison wins the CAA title and hopes to shake up the bracket in early April, when mid-major teams thrive on the upset.