NCAA game day
Blue Hens make final preparations to take on Michigan State
9:01 a.m., March 20, 2014--The University of Delaware men’s basketball team is making final preparations to take on Michigan State University at 4:40 p.m. today in the NCAA Division I championship tournament in Spokane, Wash.
On Wednesday, the Blue Hens practiced at the Spokane Arena and participated in interview sessions in advance of the game, which will be televised live on TNT.
Skaters win gold
“We prepare ourselves to play anyone,” said Delaware senior guard Davon Usher, a first team All-Colonial Athletic Association selection who averages 19.4 points per game. “We knew coming in that we were going to face a good team. Everyone in the tournament is good.”
“Michigan State is the Big 10 champion,” Usher added, “but we don’t really worry about the name on the other team’s jersey, we just play against the team. Those guys lace up their sneakers just like we do and we’re going to put in all that we got to have a winning outcome.”
“There aren’t many chinks in their armor,” said Delaware head coach Monté Ross, who has led the Blue Hens (25-9) to their fifth NCAA tournament appearance but first since 1999. “Michigan State has gotten healthy at the right time of year. When they are healthy, they resemble much more the team that was the No. 1 or No. 2 in the country earlier this year. They just keep getting better and better.”
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, and is ranked No. 22 in this week’s polls.
They have been selected to win the tournament in the bracket picks announced by President Barack Obama, who may get pushback in the White House because Vice President Joe Biden is a UD alumnus and Blue Hen fan.
“I’m trying to get hold of the president now to see if he has any pull with the officials since he picked us so high,” joked Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo. “I like it. I think that's part of our growing process and we have to learn how to handle that. I hope we can live up to it. We're going to embrace it and just see if we can do our job without getting too full of ourselves because we are a four seed.”
“We are well aware that Delaware is a pretty good team,” said Michigan State’s Keith Appling. “We know that they're not in this tournament for no reason. They have three players that average over 18 points, so they have every right to be confident. But, at the same time, we're playing some of our best basketball right now, so we're a pretty confident team, as well. So, it should be a pretty good matchup.”
UD’s Carl Baptiste said the Hens are “not scared of anybody. We are ready to play. We’ve had a lot of success this season and we’re looking at this as just another challenge. We’re excited to get on the floor with them.”
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 Campell