The road leading to their showdown with Villanova at the Wells Fargo Center has been anything but easy for Delaware. After losing each of their first four contests by an average of 20 points per game, the Blue Hens find themselves ranked 271st in the Pomeroy College Basketball Ratings.
The statistics provide a pretty clear illustration of where the team has struggled. Delaware is putrid from beyond the arc, connecting on just under 30% of their tries; only five players have even attempted a three pointer. What's shocking, though, is that this conversion percentage from deep is actually higher than their overall field goal percentage of 29.3%. Pair that shooting with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 6:7 and it's easy to see why the Blue Hens average an anemic 53 points per game.
Taking a glance at their roster, you can start to understand the root of Delaware's concerns; the team lost over 85% of its production from last year and its five top scorers. Gone is Davon Usher, owner of 27 points in last year's contest against Villanova, and team-leader in ppg Devon Saddler. Would be senior and highest returning scorer Jarvis Threatt was dismissed from the team in June for "violation of team rules." Even Coach Calapari might have a tough time reloading in that kind of situation.
Nevertheless, this is a team that took the Wildcats to the wire last year in an 84-80 nail-biter. Coach Monte Ross is more than familiar with Villanova's tendencies and should have his team fired up to compete against one of the best squads in the country.
With that in mind, let's take a look at three of the most important match-ups facing the Wildcats.
Dylan Ennis vs. Cazmon Hayes
When your team labors on offense as much as the Blue Hens, well as the saying goes, any scorer in a storm right? In the case of Delaware, the burden has fallen squarely on the shoulders of Cazmon Hayes. The 6'4" sophomore led his team in three of their four contests to the tune of 16.5 ppg. While it certainly hasn't been efficient, both of his shooting percentages hover around the 30% mark, Hayes represents Delaware's best proposition at breaking through the stifling Villanova defense.
While both he and fellow lead-guard Ryan Arcidiacono should share the responsibility, Dylan Ennis will likely be tasked with shutting down the Blue Hen out of the gate. Keeping Hayes out of the lane, where he averages six attempts from the charity stripe per game, will be a top priority for the red-shirt junior.
Battle of the Frontlines
For Delaware, the front-court rotation is a fluid situation. 6'9" sophomore Barnett Harris started against Stanford yet only recorded 7 minutes of action. Freshman Kory Holden leads the team in rebounding with over 5 per game yet is listed at 6'2". Villanova should come out of the locker room with the sole intention of dominating the Blue Hens down low. Force feed Jayvaughn Pinkston and Daniel Ochefu and, for the love of Father Peter, please don't launch over 25 attempts from beyond the arc.
Shaking Off the Tryptophan
Fresh off of securing victories against VCU and Michigan, the Wildcats have reason to feel very good about themselves. Pair the extended layover after the Thanksgiving Holiday with an unusual 4:30 tip-off at Wells Fargo, and you could make the case that this has the makings of a classic "trap game." Though that concept may be overly-used, it will be up to the team leaders, Arcidiacono, Darrun Hilliard, and Pinkston, to make sure their team is primed and ready. While I have every bit of confidence that the Wildcats will emerge victorious, the Wildcats can hopefully jump out to an early lead and ensure that the Battle of the Blue is never in doubt.