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NCAA Tournament Primer: Delaware Blue Hens

Mar 10, 2014, 9:56 PM EDT

delaware AP

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.