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Season Preview: Delaware Blue Hens

September 26, 2011

Devon Saddler

2010/2011 Record: 14-17 (8-10, 7th in CAA)

What happened last season: Combo guard Devon Saddler won Rookie of the Year and showed potential for stardom but Delaware went just 14-17 in matching coach Monte Ross’ best season in five with the Blue Hens. The Hens nipped Northeastern in the first round of the CAA Tournament before bowing out against eventual-champion Old Dominion.

What’s Changed: Guards Jawan Carter (3rd team All-CAA), D.J. Boney and Brian Johnson moved on; Ross signed a big and well-regarded freshman class.

Key Team Stat: (7) Consecutive losing seasons for the Blue Hens – tied for the second longest drought (along with Georgia State and behind Towson) among CAA teams. This could be the year the Hens finish above .500…but we’ve heard that before.

Key Player Stat: (13.3) Points per game by Saddler, the most by a freshman since former Hofstra guard Charles Jenkins averaged 15 in 2007-08. Saddler averaged 15.0 in conference games (Jenkins put up 15.3 as a frosh). There are definite similarities between the two muscular guards, an observation that bodes well for Delaware.

Who’s Vince: With Carter (he of the 1,314 career field goal attempts) gone, it’s Saddler’s team to run. Delaware will be in a fine place with the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder as the no-doubt-about-it leading man. From the field last year he shot 46.7 percent (a high mark for any guard, let alone a rookie) and added 4.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.8 steals per game. If you’re playing CAA Fantasy Basketball (I’ll get to that in a couple months), he’s not a bad early pick.

Who’s E: While Saddler captains the offense, junior Jamelle Hagins will anchor the “D.” Last year the 6-8, 22-pound Roanoke native led the CAA with three blocks per game and nabbed 7.8 rebounds a night (fifth best among returning players). Unfortunately for UDel, Hagins was an inconsistent offensive option: He reached double-figures 11 times but scored five or fewer points eight times.

The Entourage: The frontcourt should be productive on an nightly basis, whether it’s junior Josh Brinkley (7.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg), junior Kelvin McNeil, (5.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg), or senior Hakim McCullar, (4.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg) who steps up. The 6-6, 220-pound Brinkley probably has the most potential of the three to become a go-to scorer in the post. As good as Saddler could be, the back court is as inexperienced as they come. The Hens will be counting on freshmen to play right away, but hey, that didn’t work out too bad last year with Saddler.

Realistic Goal: Snap the seven-season streak and win more games than you lose.

Postseason tournament chances: Not likely the Hens will have a game after the CAA Tourney, but not out of the question either.

DN-R Prediction: 8th in the CAA

Next Up: Drexel Dragons…

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