Two teams looking to get back on track in Sun Belt Conference play will square off tonight as the James Madison Dukes will head to South Alabama to take on the Jaguars. We’ll preview the game before reviewing which side you should consider backing.
South Alabama has opened conference play with a 1-3 record, and a big reason for their slow start has been their offense. The Jaguars have only scored 60 or more points in one of the four conference games they’ve played, bringing their offensive efficiency rating down to 99.7 on KenPom. That rating is ranked 239th in the country, and to make matters worse, they are now ranked 238th in effective field goal percentage.
Leading scorer Isaiah Moore has been the only consistent scorer as of late, as the Jaguars shot below 38% in their first two conference games. The only thing the Jaguars have done exceptionally all season is limit their turnovers. South Alabama ranks 10th in the country in turnovers per game, with an average of just 10.1.
Defensively the Jaguars have been unable to force turnovers all season, ranking 305th in turnovers created a game which plays into the hands of JMU, who has struggled all season with not turning the ball over. The Dukes have had a combined 32 turnovers in their past two games, leading to them falling to 2-2 in conference play.
James Madison could be a much more dangerous team on the offensive end if they cut down on the turnovers. That may seem like an obvious statement, but the Dukes are 25th in the country in shooting percentage this season, and despite low scoring by them in all four conference games, they still rank 12th in the country in average points per game.
On the other end of the floor, the Dukes have a defensive efficiency rating of 96.6, which is ranked 69th in the country, according to KenPom. Unlike their opponent, the Dukes' aggressive style of defense has led to them forcing an average of 17.9 turnovers per game.
James Madison can currently be found as -2.5 point road favorites, and I’ll be taking them as my best for the game. The Dukes possess significant advantages on the offensive end of the floor, and with the way South Alabama has struggled to shoot recently, I don’t think they can stick around with JMU.
The Dukes have ended 85% of their possessions with either a three-pointer or a shot at the rim, and their 53.8% effective field goal percentage and the lack of pressure South Alabama creates on defense make me think the Dukes get back on track offensively tonight.
The real difference will be seen in the second half, as JMU is the 10th-best second-half scoring team in the country, while South Alabama is 205th in second-half points allowed this season. JMU is 13-4 ATS in their last 17 games against a team with a straight-up losing record, and I think all signs point to that continuing tonight.