Record: 25-9 (14-2 in Big East)
Coach: Monte Ross
Tournament Berth: Automatic Bid
Big Wins: Cal Poly, William & Mary, Towson, Drexel
Big Loses: Villanova, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Richmond, Charleston Southern
The Delaware Fightin Blue Hens scheduled fairly light in terms of non-conference opponents. Ohio State, Villanova and Notre Dame were the only ones of note; however, Delaware still struggled to keep its head above water, losing also to Richmond, Charleston Southern, North Dakota State and St. Bonaventure to take an 8-7 non-conference record into Colonial league play.
Conference play, however, was much kinder to the Fightin Blue Hens and they would dominate the Colonial for more than a month in winning eleven consecutive league games before dropping their first to Towson, who they ended up battling back and forth with for the regular season title. Delaware would lose just once more to Drexel before reeling off five straight, culminating with a heart-stopping 75-74 victory over William & Mary in the conference championship game.
F – Carl Baptiste
G – Devon Saddler
G – Jarvis Threatt
G – Kyle Anderson
G – Davon Usher
Who’s Hot: Senior guards Devon Saddler and Davon Usher. Saddler is the nation’s 28th-ranked scorer and Usher’s right behind him at number 36. Usher was held under double-digits just once this season, scoring 11 points against UNC-Wilmington. Saddler scored 13 or better in every other game and dropped 20 or more in 14 games. He entered the season as the second-leading scorer in Div. I basketball behind Creighton’s Doug McDermott and was named CAA Player of the Year along with receiving All-America consideration. Saddler isn’t big on the three ball, but he’s a slasher that can find his way to the rim in a hurry. Usher, meanwhile was held to single-digits just four times this season and also went over 20 14 times, including a 42-point showing against Charleston.
Who’s Not: Every single one of the starters comes into the tournament shooting well, but Usher and Anderson struggled a bit in the Colonial championship game, scoring a combined 17 points on 5 of 22 shooting. Usher’s more of a quarterback who creates and feeds, but Anderson’s one player who’ll need to outdo his 11.0 ppg for Delaware to have a chance to advance to the next round.
Outlook: The Fightin Blue Hens drew one of the toughest first opponents of anyone in the field in Michigan State. Forget the number four seeding, Tom Izzo builds tournament teams for a living and, per usual, he’s got his Spartans peaking at exactly the right time. Michigan State probably didn’t need to win the big 10 tournament to get a good seeding, but topping Michigan by 14 points and stifling them to 31 percent from the field served as a reminder that this is a team that can make a deep run. That said, Saddler and Usher may be their only real chance at the upset. If they go off, the Delaware Fightin Blue Hens have a puncher’s chance of advancing to face either Cincinnati or Harvard in the next round, incidentally a more favorable matchup.
Commentary by Rick Sarlat
Follow me on Twitter @RickSarlat