Last night, the University of Delaware delivered quite the birthday present to my fellow Blue Hen alums Rinalli, Andrew, and Larry by stamping their ticket to March Madness. The Ass Kickin’ Chickens will be making just their fifth appearance in tournament history but we are Dancing nonetheless. Yes, Blue Hen Nation we are Dancing to some sweet, sweet music and as Delaware alum, still current resident, and Delaware’s sharpest jeweler , Taco, so eloquently put it, we hope the DJ keeps spinning through March!
When I was accepted at University of Delaware way back in 1993, we were amid a two year run in the tournament. In fact, the spring before I moved into Dickinson Hall F in 1993, we nearly upset Louisville losing 76-70. In August of that same year I made Newark my home and Delaware basketball fell off the map. Luckily for me, I seriously messed up my freshman year of college (do you realize how far Dickinson was from main campus? Why would I walk there when I had beer from State Line Liqours sitting in my fridge?) so I got to stay there for a fifth year before entering the “real world”. While most of the friends I walked into Freshmam Orientation with were gone, I got to stay around and watch the Blue Hens make the tournament in 1998. I remember the championship game being on ESPN and my good friend Ryan Law rushing the court and being so happy that he saw his shirt sleeve on national T.V. in the highlights. I remember this turtle-neck, sports coat-wearing, former Duke assistant named Mike Brey being regarded as the savior of Delaware athletics. I also remember that my Philosophy teacher was a Purdue grad and gave us off for the first round game against his alma mater. We were blown out of the water. I’m pretty sure I remember Purdue scoring 18 points before we were on the board, and it was one measly free throw. We lost that game 95-56 and I left Newark athletically unfulfilled.
We made the tourney again in 1999 but once again lost big to Tennessee. Since then the only promising hype Delaware had about basketball was Elena Delle Donna. She led the nation in scoring as a junior, took the women deep in the tourney, and became the second overall pick in the 2013 WNBA draft.
Now, with Selection Sunday less than a week away, the Blue Hens have returned to The Dance 15 years later. Monte Ross is our head coach as Mike Brey left to become a national figure at Notre Dame. Last night, the patios at Deer Park and Klondike Kate’s better have been overflowing. God Street Wine, Grinch, Caravan, Love Seed Mama Jump, Jefe, and Mr. Greenjeans better have been blaring through the Mall, Harrington Beach, and the Student Center (the old one, not that new brightly lit, crazy one). There better have been some beer spilled for The Stone Balloon. And there better have been hundreds of college mistakes made at the wee hours of the morning. Why? Because this team not only made the tournament but has the chance to be your 2014 Bracket Buster.
TOP THREE REASONS WHY THE BLUE HENS HAVE A CHANCE:
3. We’re from CAA Country!
The Delaware Blue Hens beat William and Mary 75-74 in an exciting, down-to-the-wire finish to claim their first ever Colonial Athletic Association Championship. The CAA has been producing Bracket Busters pretty steadily over the last decade. Most people remember George Mason’s shocking run to the Final Four in 2006. A few people remember Old Dominion bouncing Notre Dame, coached by the aforementioned Mike Brey, in 2010. But most NCAA March Madness fans remember Shaka Smart and his Virginia Commonwealth Rams running from The First Four to The Final Four just 3 years ago. That same year the CAA had a rare two teams in the tourney as George Mason earned an outright bid by winning the CAA Tourney. The Patriots went on to upset Villanova in their first game before being bounced by number one seeded Ohio State. The CAA is sleeper country, folks, and you never rule out the Fighting Blue Hens!
2. We have experience.
Like most small schools, Delaware has the luxury of avoiding one-and-doners. Three of the starting five are seniors. Three have played together for a few years while the other two transfers have gelled in nicely. Monte Ross took over the depleted program in 2006 and while it has not been easy, his teams have shown improvement each and every year. This team has been patiently waiting for their chance. Now they have it.
1. The Ass Kickin’ Chickens are flat out good.
We have one of the more underrated starting 5s in the nation. All five average over 10 points a game as they run a fluid, unselfish offense. If Saddler has a big game one, Baptiste will have a huge game two. That’s how they operate and that’s what makes it difficult to shut down one guy for opposing defenses.
It all starts with Carl Baptiste staying out of foul trouble. Standing at 6’9″ and 260 pounds he’d be better named BapBEAST. He is going to cause match-up problems for a lot of schools because he is not just a huge hulking body but he can shoot and move. Jarvis Threatt is the floor general and has a handle on the ball that is dangerous for opposing defenses. He can slice down the middle and put in a sick lay-up, dump it to Baptiste who will dunk it down the opponents’ throat — or kick it out to Davon Usher, Kyle Anderson, or Devon Saddler waiting to drain a three. Threatt’s numbers show how important he is to the all-around game of the Blue Hens, averaging 18.1 points with 5.8 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and 2.5 steals per game. Usher and Saddler, both seniors, are legit scoring threats as both averaged over 19 points per game. They are also solid on the glass and can drill it from three point land. Anderson reminds me of Ollie from Hoosiers except he shoots a hell of a lot better than that underhand garbage. He fills his roll nicely as the perimeter guy but can sneak inside if you give him too much space.
The only question that remains for Delaware is the Blue Hens’ opponent in Round One (or Two, or however it works these days). Of course, the biggest question The Wayniac has been asked over the last 12 hours is, “What happens if Delaware draws Syracuse?” And I got to tell you, folks, that is a tough predicament for me. If you haven’t read my bio, then you are unaware that I have rooted for Syracuse longer than any other team I have affiliated myself with since basketball was my first true love. Since 1986 and Derrick Coleman, Sherman Douglas, and Rony Seikaly, I have bled Orange. If you follow @UofDWayne on Twitter, then you know I’m part of #CuseNation. But when push comes to shove, the University of Delaware was five of the best years of my life. They gave me the skills that made me The Wayniac. They gave me one of my oldest friends who edits every piece I write. And they gave me 20% of their tournament visits while I was there. The very least I could do is give them my allegiance. It will be an emotional roller coaster of a game, I’ll tell you that. I’ll curse while cheering. I’ll be yelling while clapping. I’ll probably throw up somewhere. But right now I’m in the Cockpit gearing up to wear my blue and yellow and represent Blue Hen Country. Sorry Cuse fans.
Till next time folks, LET’S GO BLUE HENS!!!