With the former McEachern star contributing, the Dukes were one of a handful of teams that punched their tickets to the NCAA tournament last week. They won their final four games, going 3-0 in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament and beating top-seeded Northeastern 70-57 in the final.
It was the first CAA championship and NCAA tournament berth in 19 years for the Dukes (20-14).
For James Madison to continue its season, it will have to go through an extra step.
The Dukes are one of two No. 16 seeds in the East Region and will face the other, Northeast Conference champion LIU Brooklyn, on Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio. The winner will then face No. 1 seed Indiana two days later.
Diouf started and played 23 minutes in the CAA championship game. He finished with nine points on 4-for-6 shooting, with two assists and two rebounds.
“I hoped it would happen at some point, but I wasn’t sure,” Diouf said of winning a spot in the NCAA tournament. “But I’m glad it’s happening.
“It’s been really exciting around campus. We’ve been waiting to get to the tournament since the championship game, so it’s a great feeling.”
A solid contributor since he arrived at James Madison before the 2009-10 season, Diouf has seen his first significant playing time as a starter during his senior season. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound guard started just three times over his first three seasons, but he started 28 of 33 games this season, averaging 4.8 points and 3.4 rebounds over 20 minutes per contest.
Diouf credits his aggressive play as part of his biggest strengths.
“I think my ability to defend is my No. 1 strength — my rebounding ability and how I’m able to attack the basket are also strengths,” he said.
As James Madison entered the CAA tournament as a No. 3 seed, Diouf believed that the Dukes had a special team.
“I saw our potential last year,” he said. “I knew we had the talent, we just couldn’t put it together.”
James Madison began the 2011-12 season with a 7-4 record, but it struggled to a 5-13 mark in conference play and lost in the first round of the CAA tournament.
“This year, we have a lot of seniors on the team giving us a lot of experience, and we have some talented freshmen,” Diouf said. “We were able to put it all together this time.”
After winning the CAA title last Monday in Richmond, Va., James Madison’s players patiently awaited the announcement of where they would play their first NCAA tournament game.
“We’ve just been practicing and getting as much school work done as possible,” said Diouf, a sport management major. “There’s a lot of travel involved with the tournament, and we recently got back from a few days in Richmond, so catching up and getting ahead of school work has taken up some time.
“But the time off has been good. It’s allowed us to rest and refocus and just enjoy what we’ve accomplished. It’s been an up-and-down year, but all of the hard work has paid off. Now, we just go out and enjoy the moment and try to keep it going.”