Delaware Menís Basketball Touches Down in Spokane, Preps for NCAA Tourney Appearance Thursday vs. Michigan State
SPOKANE, Wash. -- A 5 a.m. wakeup call followed by a five-hour cross country flight could do nothing to damper the excitement for the University of Delaware men’s basketball squad Tuesday.
The Colonial Athletic Association champion Blue Hens have arrived at the Big Dance - the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament - and a 2,500-mile trip is just a small part of the journey.
On Thursday, the No. 13 seed Blue Hens will make their fifth NCAA Tournament appearance - and first since 1999 - when they face No. 4 seed and Big 10 Tournament champion Michigan State at 4:40 p.m. ET at the Spokane Arena. The game will be televised live on TNT Television.
The Blue Hens will be looking for their first-ever post-season victory in five tries and will be taking on a Michigan State team that many experts are predicting to be a Final Four team.
“Today was definitely the easiest 5 a.m. wakeup call that I’ve ever had,” said Delaware senior center Carl Baptiste. “It was great to be on a charter and have a comfortable flight out. Everyone is in good spirits, and it doesn’t seem like anyone is nervous or anything like that, which is good since that is how our team has been all year and that is how we have been able to keep winning. We know that we can play with them (Michigan State). We just need to exploit their weaknesses and lock in and play defense.”
The Blue Hens’ travelling party, which included the team, administration, and members of the UD Dance Team, Cheerleaders, and Pep Band, hopped on a charter flight out of Philadelphia early Tuesday morning and arrived in Spokane just before noon local time.
After lunch, some rest, a film session, and several media interviews for UD head coach Monté Ross, the Blue Hens went through a nearly two-hour practice session at nearby University High School. Wednesday’s schedule will include press conferences and an open practice at the Spokane Arena. Just 24 hours later, it will be gametime.
The Blue Hens (25-9), riding a five-game win streak, will take on a Michigan State team that is a perennial NCAA championship contender and captured national titles in 1979 and 2000.
The Spartans (26-8), who finished second in the Big Ten regular season standings with a 12-6 conference mark, held the top spot in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches Polls for three weeks in the early portion of the season, and is ranked No. 22 in this week’s polls.
Gary Harris leads the Spartans by averaging 17.1 points per game, while Adreian Payne has added 15.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per contest. Keith Appling chips in with 12.3 points per game to go with a team-high 144 assists, while Branden Dawson is the fourth Spartan averaging double figures with 10.4 points while grabbing a team-best 8.3 boards per game.
Delaware is paced by senior guard Devon Saddler, the third leading active scorer in Division I who leads the Blue Hens with 19.7 points per game. Davon Usher, a first team All-CAA selection along with Saddler, is averaging 19.4 points per contest, while CAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player Jarvis Threatt is contributing 18.1 points to go with 139 assists.
Baptiste is averaging 11.3 points and a team-high 8.0 rebounds per game for the Blue Hens, while junior Kyle Anderson is the fifth Blue Hen averaging double figures at 11.0 points per contest. Delaware has won five consecutive games, including Monday’s pulsating 75-74 last second win over William & Mary in the CAA Tournament final in Baltimore.
Also playing in the Spokane second round games on Thursday will be No. 5 seed Cincinnati (27-6) taking on No. 12 Harvard (26-4) at 2:10 p.m. ET, No. 5 Oklahoma (23-9) facing No. 12 North Dakota State (25-6) at 7:27 p.m., and No. 4 San Diego State (29-4) facing No. 13 New Mexico State (29-7) at 9:57 p.m.