delaware

NCAA Tournament Primer: Delaware Blue Hens

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Get to know all of the NCAA Tournament’s automatic bids here.

Conference: Colonial Athletic Association

Coach: Monté Ross

Record: 25-9 (14-2 CAA)

Rankings and Ratings:

– Kenpom: 105
– RPI: 78
– AP/USA Today: Not ranked

Seeding?: In Dave Ommen’s most recent bracket, Delaware was projected as the CAA’s lone representative, potentially earning a strong 13 seed but beginning their tournament ride more than 2,500 miles from Newark, Delaware (in Spokane).

Names you need to know: Devon Saddler (19.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg); Davon Usher (19.7 ppg, 6.0); Jarvis Threatt (18.1 ppg, 5.6 apg, 2.6 spg)

Stats you need to know: The backcourt trio of Saddler-Usher-Threatt rarely turns the ball over — just 13.6 percent of the Blue Hens’ possessions result in a giveaway, fifth best in Division I. The squad isn’t completely dependent on their guards for point production: as evidenced in the CAA title game, senior big Carl Baptiste is the conference’s most improved player. The 6-foot-9 Baptiste scored 24 points against William & Mary, and he is making roughly 57 percent of his twos. Bonus: per @JV_Looper, the Blue Hens are the first top seed to so far win their conference tournament.

Tendencies: The Blue Hens are the epitome of a non-power six team that the high majors would like to avoid in late March. They are capable of scoring in bunches — their overall offensive efficiency rate is just outside DI’s top fifty — and they love to push the pace, letting their backcourt trio, along with long-range sharpshooter Kyle Anderson (39 percent from three), quickly pick apart an opposing transition defense. One caveat is a suspect defense: while UDee forces a fair amount of turnovers, they don’t particularly attack the defensive glass and are susceptible to teams finishing strongly on the interior.

Big wins, bad losses: Delaware’s biggest win came during CAA play, a January 20th victory at home against Towson. The Blue Hens played a difficult non-conference schedule, but weren’t able to capitalize on their OOC strength of schedule (which ranked among the nation’s top 75; single-digit losses to Villanova, Richmond, and a closer than expected loss to Ohio State). Ross’ club did drop games to Charleston Southern and St. Bonaventure.

How’d they get here?: Hofstra threw a scare into Delaware in the conference quarterfinals before the Blue Hens stretched the margin of victory to double digits. A blowout of Northeastern in the conference semifinals led to Monday night’s cuticle shortening win against the Tribe. Despite Tony Shaver’s squad making 38 percent of their threes and scoring 1.12 points per possession, Delaware was able to exploit their frontcourt advantage and dance for the first time since 1999.

Outlook: Ross has been entrenched in Newark since the 2006-07 season, and while progress has been slow — the 2014 season is the first 20-plus win season for UDee — the team possesses the experience (all juniors and seniors) and offensive makeup to pose an opening round threat.

How do I know you?: During the 2013 CAA tournament, Delaware was the second-ranked seed which lost to the eventual CAA tourney winner, James Madison. And for the second straight season, another former Phil Martelli assistant will lead his CAA squad into the NCAAs — both Ross and Matt Brady were longtime assistants at St. Joseph’s and were on the bench during the Hawks’ 2003-04 season.

No. 14 West Virginia takes care of No. 15 Baylor

West Virginia forward Devin Williams (41) dunks the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor, Saturday, Feb, 6, 2016, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)
AP Photo/Raymond Thompson
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Not exactly noted for their ability to knock down shots from the perimeter, No. 14 West Virginia grabbed sole possession of first place in the Big 12 thanks in part to their perimeter shooting. The Mountaineers shot 7-for-14 from three and 49.1 percent from the field in a 80-69 win over No. 15 Baylor that wasn’t as close as the final margin would lead one to believe.

Bob Huggins’ team led by as much as 19 in the second half, and the way in which they did it is what makes the win so impressive. “Press Virginia” yielded just ten Baylor turnovers, but that low number didn’t matter much thanks to West Virginia’s execution offensively.

They found quality looks against Baylor’s 1-1-3 zone in the first half and made them at a good clip, forcing Scott Drew to switch to man-to-man. That change didn’t do much to slow down West Virginia either, as Daxter Miles Jr. scored 20 points and sixth man Jaysean Paige added 17 off the bench. And with Devin Williams chipping in with 16 points and seven boards in the post, outplaying Baylor’s Rico Gathers Sr. (five points, seven rebounds), West Virginia grabbed control of the game in the first half and did not relinquish it.

The usual formula for West Virginia offensively is to attack the offensive glass, as their offensive rebounding percentage (43 percent) is tops in the country. “Their best offense is a missed shot” is a familiar refrain heard when people discuss the Mountaineers, who entered the game shooting just over 30 percent from three.

They didn’t need to lean on those second chances as heavily as they normally do Saturday night, not only because of the improved accuracy but also the improved work in finding shots. The ball moved against the Baylor defense and so did the players, resulting in an offensive attack that proved tougher for the visiting Bears to stop that one would expect given the statistics entering the game.

West Virginia was already established as a contender in the Big 12, but thanks to their win Saturday night the Mountaineers are the current pace setters. With a showdown at No. 7 Kansas set for Tuesday night, this was a big win for Bob Huggins’ team to get. And with it coming in spite of a low turnover (forced) count, this should only help West Virginia in the confidence department moving forward.

No. 22 Indiana falls at Penn State

Penn State's Shep Garner (33) moves towards the basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Indiana in State College, Pa., Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)
(AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)
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Brendan Taylor scored 24 points to lead Penn State to a 68-63 upset of No. 22 Indiana on Saturday night.

The Nittany Lions were 2-8 in Big Ten play entering the weekend. Indiana? They were 9-1 and tied for first in the conference. It’s the second loss in four games for the Hoosiers following a 7-0 start to Big Ten play, a fact made all the more concerning by the fact that their league schedule is finally about to get difficult.

The Hoosiers play No. 5 Iowa at home and No. 10 Michigan State in East Lansing next week. The following week they get No. 18 Purdue at home. In the final week of the regular season, Indiana squares off with No. 5 Iowa on the road and close the regular season with a visit from No. 4 Maryland.

That’s a lot of good teams that the Hoosiers to close out the year.

The question has been asked since Indiana’s hot start to league play: Are they for real? Did the Hoosiers really somehow turn things around defensively, or was that winning streak simply a by-product of their schedule?

The truth is that it was probably a combination of both. Calling them a fraud would be unjust — if you watched those games, there wasn’t much fluky about them; Indiana earned the Ws — but it does seem fair to say this is something of a regression to the mean.

They were going to slip up eventually.

And it will totally be forgotten if the Hoosiers can find a way to close the regular season with a winning record in their final seven games.