By: Matt MacCormack
Last Season: 10-20 (CAA: 9-9), 6th place
Losses: G Kyle Anderson, F Tom Allshouse, G Matt Grassi
Newcomers: G Tyler Burns, G Curtis Lochner
The conversation about this year’s Blue Hens squad starts and ends with a pair of standout sophomores who thrived in their first year in the CAA a season ago.
Point guard Kory Holden and forward Chivarsky Corbett, both CAA All-Rookie Team selections in 2014-15, figure to be the lynchpins of head coach Monte Ross’s team. The duo were the second and third highest scorers, respectively, amongst CAA freshman last season.
Ross will be hoping his team starts off better than last season, when the Blue Hens lost their first ten games. A lousy defense (last in the CAA with 72 ppg allowed) and turnover-prone offense (8th in turnover margin) led to much of the early-season woes. Things started to click late, however, as a slew of young and inexperienced players began to emerge.
UD finished the year by tallying a 9-7 record in their final 16 contests. Along the way, the Hens twice bested eventual CAA No.1 seed William and Mary, and fought their way to the six spot in the conference tournament. Once there, the Blue Hens came within a missed layup of upsetting eventual champion Northeastern in the second round, but fell, 67-64.
An encouraging late-season surge gave way to a somewhat-tumultuous offseason. Coach Ross’s contract was up, and rumors swirled that the skipper, who had led the Hens to a conference title and NCAA tournament appearance in 2013-14, was on the hot seat.
Ross eventually fetched a three-year extension, but the air of uncertainty damaged recruiting hopes. Recruit Eli Cain, a 6’5 guard who received interest from Oklahoma and Memphis, bolted to DePaul, leaving the Hens with just two incoming recruits. Guards Curtis Lochner and Tyler Burns, a transfer from Division III King’s College (PA), don’t seem primed for much playing time this season.
Despite the graduation of last year’s leading scorer G Kyle Anderson (14.4 ppg), the Hens return most of their big-time producers. Anderson brought leadership and a go-to scorer moxy, but the Blue Hens will return 78% of their scoring and 91% of their rebounding from a season ago. Redshirt senior captain PF Marvin King-Davis (9.7 pts, 5.7 rebs last year) will step into the leadership role.
Holden was just one of two players in Division 1 who averaged 12 points, 3 rebounds and 4.5 assists last season. The other? Former Ohio State and current Los Angeles Laker PG D’Angelo Russell. While the Blue Hen’s ball handler isn’t quite at that level, he does figure to be one of the conference’s best players this year.
The same could be said for Corbett, whose combination of athleticism and three-point precision make him one of the CAA’s most complete wings. The 6’7 sophomore should take on a bigger role in the offense this season; expect his freshman averages of 8.8 points and 4.2 rebounds to shoot upwards.
The Blue Hens’ frontcourt will be intimidating, with redshirt junior C Mo Jeffers (6’9) and King-Davis (6’7) holding down the paint. The Hens were third in rebounding in the conference last year, and should be similarly dominant this year.
SG Cazmon Hayes, who started all 30 games a season ago while averaging 11.4 points per contest, is another big contributer. The 6’4 junior is an aggressive slasher and defender, and also totes an improving three-point jumper.
Junior Devonne Pinkard, a 6’6 G/F, figures to be the first man off the bench after chipping in 4.1 points per contest last year.
Bottom Line: With some of the most intriguing young talent in the conference, the Blue Hens are certainly a team on the rise. Kory Holden has the makings of a superstar, and he has some deadly weapons around him. Defense and lack of experience are potential issues, but the Blue Hens seem destined to be make the leap to the top-tier of the CAA this season.