I would like to thank the CAA conference for bringing their tournament to the city of Baltimore, we rarely get big time basketball like this, as a fan and native, I greatly appreciated. This is the best time of the year and to get a chance to witness one these great battles that goes on during the month is very gratifying. Unfortunately, only one team could go dancing from this conference, the Blue Hens of Delaware.
Congratulations to the University of Delaware for capturing the CAA title. They were the best team throughout the season in the conference, going 19-2 since January 1st, 14-2 in the conference. This is the Hens first conference championship in school history . For the past 2 seasons the Hens have been eliminated in the semi-finals of the CAA's but they took full advantage of the school's first championship game. Head coach Monte Williams has built a program since becoming head coach in 2006. After a few years of bad basketball, 53-103 in first 5 seasons, the program has done a 180, going 62-37 since 2011. I would say the turning point for Monte was when he recruited Devon Saddler, who started as a true freshman and will finish his Delaware career as the school's best scorer.
Mid-Major conferences are always filled with gems and Saddler is one of them. Saddler has been a starter for all 4 season but he burst onto the national scene his junior season, where he averaged 20 points a game and became one of the best guards in the country. Saddler is not very tall, only 6'1, but he is strong and can score in a lot of ways. He reminds me of Eric Bledsoe because both are strong guards that can attack the paint at will. Saddler averaged 16 points and 5 dimes in the conference tournament but his leadership was more vital in the championship game. In fact Saddler dish out the assist to Carl Baptise for the game winning bucket. Saddler didn't start of well though. The Hens lost their first two games and afterwards he was suspended for 7 games. To make it to this point shows how he and the team can overcome adversity. I am excited what this kid will do in the dance because he is the perfect tourney player, can take over at any time. He is NBA Bound.
Williams didn't just recruit players out of high school, he also got some talent from other schools. Seniors Carl Baptise and Baltimore native Devon Usher both transferred to UD, Baptise form Saint Joeseph in 2011 and Usher from Mississippi Valley State just this season. These two help make UD a tournament team. Baptise scored a career high 24 points and 8 rebounds while controlling the paint and Usher hit two big 3's in the last stretch of the 2nd half. Jr. point guard Jarvis Threatt also made a big bucket, an AND-1 layup that put the Hen's down 2 with 51 seconds left. The Hens had a 10 point lead early in the 2nd half but the W&M Tribe began to make a run, outscoring the Hens 33-17 for 13 minutes.
This is a great win to have going into the big tournament simply because they faced adversity. While the Tribe was on their run, all the momentum was going their way and the Hens couldn't seem to find a way to slow it down. Tribe guard Marcus Thorton, scored 10 point in the final 7 minutes but missed his final two shots, one of which could have been a game winner. The Hens were smart for going inside to Baptise for the game winner because he was already having a career game. This will be a tough team to play for anybody in the first round. Saddler, Usher, and Threatt combined averaged 58 points this season, while Baptise at 6'9 270lbs controls the paint. This is a veteran squad with one of the best backcourts in the country. Don't sleep on the Hens.