Merry March Madness! That’s right, the best time of the year has finally landed on our doorstep, but not without a little bit of drama. The CAA ended as most people would have expected, with Delaware victorious, and deservedly so. They were the hottest team in the league with by far the best player, but will any of that matter on the big stage?
We all watched VCU tear up the NCAA Tournament in 2011, stomping their way into the Final Four as an 11 seed. This performance put the CAA back on the map, helping open the doors for a possible mid-major bid, but now that they have transferred to the Atlantic 10, does the CAA still matter?
Before we pick apart their matchup, Michigan State, let’s take a look at some of their top performers. Devon Saddler is one of, if not the, best player in the CAA this season. He averaged 19.7 points per game, but what may be even more beneficial is the fact that he only played in 27 games this season, missing seven due to a suspension. While some may overlook this, it’s important to note that those are seven games that didn’t take a toll on his body, which is vital at this time of the season.
Next to Saddler is his accomplice, Davon Usher, who recorded 19.4 points and six rebounds per game. Finally, there’s the big man down low, Carl Baptiste, who averaged 11.3 points and eight rebounds per game. While these three players are their biggest factors, it’s important to note that their five starters average double-digit scoring. Saddler, Usher and Baptiste are all seniors as well, so not only will this be their first tournament experience, but very possibly their last game. The other two starters, Jarvis Threatt and Kyle Anderson, are both juniors, which may instill the feeling that this could be the only opportunity for them to play in the tournament.
The Blue Hens have nothing to lose, which I believe will be visible on Thursday against Michigan State. The only problem with this is that their draw may not have been capable of being any worse. The Spartans could easily be a one seed in this year’s big dance if not for some unfortunate mid-season injuries that put them in a lull. Sadly enough for Delaware, it looks like Izzo’s team is back to its regular form, winning the coveted Big Ten Tournament. The team hailing from East Lansing feels snubbed by just getting a four seed and is out to show the committee why they’re better than that.
This will be a good game, but Delaware is going to feel the pain inside. The Blue Hens start four guards and a 6’9 center, which is much smaller than the Spartans, who feature two big men down low in Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson. Matt Costello comes off the bench for State, who is a 6’9 hustle player that looks for any loose ball on the court.
Delaware will try to get out and run on the Spartans, but don’t expect it to last very long. I expect the final of this game to be 79-66, with the Spartans starting slow, but regaining their momentum in the second half and never looking back. It was a great season for the Blue Hens, but when your first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1999 is against a perennial powerhouse like the Spartans, you can’t imagine your run will take you very far.