(Photo credit: Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK)
Entering the rankings for the first time in program history, No. 24 James Madison is in rare air after a dizzying week of national acclaim.
After playing three games in seven days, followed by Monday's ranking news, the Dukes (3-0) have had time to take it all in as they prepare for a tough testFriday night against Radford (2-2) at home in Harrisonburg, Va.
"We really just talked about it for about 15 seconds and then we moved on," coach Mark Byington said to the Daily News-Record of being ranked.
James Madison burst into the national spotlight on the opening night of the season when it toppled then-No. 4 Michigan State 79-76 in overtime, handing the Spartans their first home loss in November since 1986.
Three nights later, the Dukes needed to go two overtimes to outlast Kent State 113-108, as they snapped the Golden Flashes' 23-game home winning streak. On Sunday, James Madison took care of Howard 107-86.
Amid the whirlwind, Byington has reminded his players that it's still November and that what happens in March will define the Dukes.
"Ranking is great for attention, It's great for recruiting. We've got such a long season," Byington said. "It's still going to come down to us being our best down in Pensacola. Whether there's a number beside us or not a number, it doesn't make a difference. We gotta be good down there."
Pensacola, Fla., is the site of the Sun Belt Conference tournament. Last year, in going 22-11, the Dukes fell in the semifinals, falling two wins short of an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Terrence Edwards Jr. is the Dukes' top scorer at 21.0 points per game. T.J. Bickerstaff, a transfer from Boston College, averages 14.7 points and a team-high 8.7 rebounds per game.
Quarterbacking the Dukes at the point has been Michael Green III, a transfer from Robert Morris who averages 14.3 points and 4.3 assists. Green has played a major role in the quick start.
"Mike Green is extremely intelligent. He's got a basketball IQ," Byington said. "He's tough. He's New York City tough."
Radford of the Big South will not be a pushover on Friday. The Highlanders are coming off a 21-win season and made North Carolina, now ranked No. 20, sweat on opening night, leading the Tar Heels late in the first half before falling 86-70 in Chapel Hill.
Kenyon Giles leads the Highlanders, averaging 18.0 points. He teams in the backcourt with DaQuan Smith, who averages 12.3 points, and Bryan Antoine, who puts up 10.3 points per game.
Smith and Antoine have found success at Radford after stops at Murray State and Villanova, respectively. Both were Big South first-team all-conference choices in the preseason.
Radford is coming off a 73-50 loss at VCU on Wednesday despite 19 points from Giles.
VCU and James Madison are tough road games in a schedule that includes dates next month at Clemson and West Virginia.
"We try to play different styles, different places, different venues to give our guys a better chance during conference," Radford coach Darris Nichols said.
--Field Level Media