UD men's basketball team arrives in Spokane for NCAA tournament game
8:32 a.m., March 19, 2014--The University of Delaware men’s basketball team has arrived in Spokane, Wash., in preparation for its NCAA Division I championship tournament game on Thursday against Michigan State University.
The Blue Hens had a 5 a.m. wakeup call Tuesday, followed by a cross-country flight.
On Thursday, the Hens – champions of the Colonial Athletic Association and a No. 13 seed -- 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 Hens will be looking for their first-ever post-season victory 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 UD 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 UD traveling party, which included the team, administration and members of the 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 Hens went through a nearly two-hour practice session at nearby University High School.
Today’s schedule will include press conferences and an open practice at the Spokane Arena. Just 24 hours later, it will be game time.
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. They are ranked No. 22 in this week’s polls.
Gary Harris leads Michigan State with 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 and a team-best 8.3 rebounds per game.
Among the most famous Michigan State alumni is Magic Johnson, who went to Twitter to say, “Delaware is a tough opponent. They have three great scorers. If we don’t come in focused on defense, we could get beat.”
UD is paced by senior guard Devon Saddler, the third leading active scorer in Division I who leads the 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 Jarvis Threatt, named most outstanding player in the CAA tournament, 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 Hen averaging double figures at 11.0 points per contest. Delaware has won five consecutive games, including a pulsating 75-74 last second win over the College William and Mary in the CAA tournament final in Baltimore.
Also playing in Spokane 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.
Fans will gather to cheer on the Hens at watch parties being held across the country. For details, click here.
Also, University Student Centers invites the campus community to watch the game in the Perkins Student Center West Lounge, the Hen Zone or the Trabant University Center Lounge.
Photos by Mark Campbell