Tiny Dancers: Delaware beats William & Mary in final minute

Delaware made its first appearance in the CAA title game -- and won. (USATSI)
Delaware made its first appearance in the CAA title game -- and won. (USATSI)

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The last time Delaware reached the NCAA Tournament, Mike Brey was the head coach and the Fightin' Blue Hens were the class of the America East. It was 1999, and Brey's program was in the midst of a three-year run in which it went 41-13 in league play, reached two NCAA Tournaments and also made one NIT appearance.

There hasn't been consistent success in Newark since Brey left and the Blue Hens joined the CAA.

Until Monday night.

Carl Baptiste's layup with 12.8 seconds left gave Delaware a 75-74 lead over William & Mary, and when Marcus Thornton's potential winning shot hit the back rim, the Blue Hens were heading back to the NCAA Tournament.

Baptiste finished with 24 points and eight rebounds, as the big man came up big time after time against the Tribe. That was a stark contrast to most of the season, when Delaware's perimeter players carried the load.

Delaware ended the game on a 7-0 run, which kept William & Mary from its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance.

It's been a long journey back to the tournament for Delaware, as the Blue Hens had eight losing seasons in the first 11 seasons after Brey's departure for Notre Dame. They never appeared in the CAA title game before Monday. Monte Ross struggled through five losing seasons after he took over for David Henderson in 2006, but the past three seasons built up to Monday. The Hens were 37-28 the last two seasons, taking the next step and winning the CAA regular-season title this year. 

Player to know: Jarvis Threatt. The Fightin' Blue Hens are led by their perimeter trio of Threatt, Devon Saddler and Davon Usher -- but Threatt is the key. He's the best playmaker and facilitator of the group, capable of keeping all three alpha males happy and content on the offensve end. He was suspended for a month during the second half of the conference season, and has been on a tear since returning. In the past five games, Threatt is averaging 19.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 6.4 assists. He had 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists in the championship game.

Threatt isn't a great outside shooter, but he can get to the rim essentially whenever he wants. When teams in the NCAA Tournament take Delaware out of its transition game, Threatt will be the guy that initiates offense.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 25-9 overall, 14-2 in the CAA
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 1999 (lost to Tennessee in Round of 64 as a No. 13 seed)
  • Jerry Palm predicts: 13 seed
  • RPI: 76
  • KenPom ranking: 105
  • Sagarin ranking: 111
  • Best wins: vs. Towson, vs. Robert Morris
  • Worst losses: vs. Charleston Southern, vs. Drexel
  • Notable stat: 1.20. That's Delaware's point-per-possession in transition, which ranks No. 13 in the country. When the Fightin' Blue Hens can get out and run, they are much tougher to defend. They rack up steals and love to get easy baskets in fast-break situations. They have weapons in the half-court, but they can go on game-changing runs with their transition game.
  • Closing quip: Delaware will go as far as its three scoring guards take them. Carl Baptiste was the main man on Monday, but the Hens are carried by Threatt, Saddler and Usher. If those three guys are hitting on all cylinders -- with Kyle Anderson making shots from the wings and corner -- they can throw a scare into a higher-seeded team in the Round of 64. They're talented and have enough playmakers on the offensive end to score, but the big question will be on the glass and inside. If they avoid a team that crashes the glass and finishes around the rim with consistency, they can win a game.
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