By Sean Greene 7:54am, March 20, 2014 - Updated 6:29pm, March 20, 2014Delaware looks for its first ever NCAA Tournament victory when they face off with Michigan State Thursday in an East Region 2nd Round game in Spokane, Washington.
Where: Spokane Arena, Spokane, Washington
When: About 4:40pm (EDT)
What: NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament 2nd Round
Who: #13 Delaware 25-9, CAA Champs) vs. #4 Michigan State (26-8, Big Ten Champs)
On the Line: NCAA 3rd Round Game against Cincinnati/Harvard winner on Saturday
Series History: 1st Meeting
NCAA Tournament History: Delaware 0-4 (1992, 1993, 1998, 1999), UNC 56-26 (Best: 1979 and 2000 National Champs)
Coaches: Delaware - Monte Ross (115-140, 8th year), MSU - Tom Izzo (465-186, 19th year)
Players to Watch:
Devon Saddler (6'2" Senior, 19.7PPG, 4.4RPG, 43.8%FG) - Delaware's all-time leading scorer sparked the dormant Delaware basketball program with his arrival four years ago, and now he gets a chance on the sport's biggest stage to make a major impact. A dynamic and fearless driver to the basket, he has shown a willingness to battle much bigger bodies inside, and also has the ability to hit from beyond the arc if given space. A solid start from him could go a long way to giving Delaware confidence.
Kyle Anderson (6'3" Junior, 11.0PPG, 3.8RPG, 38.6%3PG) - Anderson has been relatively quiet after a blistering start where he held at nearly 60% from behind the arc earlier in the season. Has extended his game from just a spot-up shooter to someone who can fake and drive, or hit off of screens. An early basket or two from him can help open up driving lanes for Saddler, Jarvis Threatt, and Davon Usher.
Branden Dawson (6'6" Junior, 10.4PPG, 8.3RPG, 1.7APG) - The Most Outstanding Player of the Big Ten Tournament returned after missing 9 games with a broken right hand to spark the Spartans. MSU was just 5-5 with him out of the lineup. Assuming Carl Baptiste of Delaware is focusing on fellow center Adreian Payne for position inside, it's Dawson who will go against Davon Usher, who could be freed to have a monster game on the boards.
Denzel Valentine (6'5" Sophomore, 8.3PPG, 6.0RPG, 3.9APG) - If Dawson doesn't prove to be a rebounding force, it could be the Spartans "Unsung Player Award" winner. Valentine is second on the team in assists, and had a 2.3 assist-to-turnover ratio in conference play. He's also another player not afraid to crash the glass, as he finished in the top 12 in the Big Ten in both assists and rebounds. He'll also have at least a 2-inch height advantage on the player guarding him, so he could be a tough match-up for the Delaware backcourt.
Delaware Will Win If: They can find the basket. Tom Izzo teams are typically known for their defense, but this year's team has given up 75-or-more 10 times this year. The Blue Hens average just under 80 points a game, and if one, or they hope several, players can get hot, they can stay in the game.
Delaware Will Lose If: Long scoring droughts hit. They went from 12-up to 6-down in the 2nd half of the William and Mary game. They cannot afford to go too long without a basket. This is a confident Delaware bunch, but just because they've made several comebacks this year means they want to try it against one of the Tournament favorites.
Michigan State Will Win If: They own the glass. Michigan State is plus-5 in rebounding margin while Delaware is minus-2. Extra rebounds means extra possessions in a game, and for Delaware to win they need to hold the Spartans to as few second chance opportunities as possible. Getting Baptiste into foul trouble would really aid the Spartans' cause as well.
Michigan State Will Lose If: They take Delaware too lightly. President Obama is just one of many "experts" who not only have Michigan State winning this game, but winning 6 games and taking home the trophy. While Delaware did not have a top-100 victory this season, they gave Villanova one of their closest games of the year (84-80 loss), and challenged Notre Dame and Ohio State on the road as well when both teams were stronger back in December. Tom Izzo's teams are 17-6 in the Round of 64, so this shouldn't be a problem.
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