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March Madness for the JMU Dukes

By: Bennett Gravely

What a time to be a JMU Dukes sports fan. Not only did the JMU football team navigate a significant conference jump with ease, earning their way to an 11-2 record and a spot in a bowl game, but immediately following that impressive performance, the basketball team decided to top them by having a historic season of their own. From a brilliant regular season to a dominant postseason run, the Dukes aren’t done yet.

The Dukes ended the regular season leading the NCAA with 31 wins, but the magical season did not end there. They were the number two seed heading into the Sun Belt Conference tournament and went on to win all three of their games, earning a spot in the big dance, the NCAA tournament. Already an impressive season for a team that just joined the conference, right? Not as impressive as what was still to come from the Dukes.

Making their return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2013, the Dukes came in fired up. As a 12-seed, JMU got matched up with the 5-seed Wisconsin Badgers in the first round. They came in as an underdog, which surprised no one as the Dukes had already overachieved this season; however, as soon as the ball was tipped, no one saw JMU as the underdog.

JMU led the game from start to finish, demonstrating complete poise and comfort on a much bigger stage than they are used to. They went on to win comfortably, 72-61, advancing to the round of 32 for the first time since 1983.

In the round of 32, the Dukes had the opportunity to continue making history by winning one more game to make their first sweet sixteen in program history. JMU faced Duke in the second round, one of the most successful college programs ever. In this Duke vs Dukes matchup, JMU looked to capitalize on a historic run and continue to make a name for themselves in the world of college basketball.

Unfortunately, the Dukes lost, and their run came to an end. Despite the sadness that fell across JMU, the majority of fans hold their heads high as they have a lot to cheer for when looking back on this season. The program made a name for itself and set itself up beautifully for the future. So, even though the Dukes may have lost, the legacy will continue for years to come.

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