If you can figure out what exactly the identity of this year’s University of Delaware men’s basketball team is then by all means please help me out. Are they good with a chance to be great, or are they mediocre with occasional flashes of brilliance? The Hens concluded the non-conference portion of their campaign on Saturday with an uneven 82-72 win over Cal Poly.
UD looked like world beaters in the opening half and then more ordinary over the final 20 minutes on the way to victory. In many ways the triumph was a microcosm of the initial two months of Delaware’s season. At times the Hens have looked magnificent. In narrow losses to Villanova, Ohio State and Notre Dame as well as during thrilling wins over Bryant and Charleston Southern, UD has shown its ability to be a true contender for the CAA crown this year. The same exact team has also looked lifeless in losses to Charleston Southern, North Dakota State and St. Bonaventure this season.
Accordingly, Delaware opens CAA action tonight as a total riddle.
Monte Ross’ team has the ability to score with anybody, something they proved by scoring 80 or more points nine times over the course of its first 15 games. Yet they also struggle to slow teams down, yielding 80 or more points on eight occasions this year. They turned in an incredible seven-game stretch from late-November to early-December that featured five wins as well as a four-point loss at nationally-ranked Villanova and a five-point setback at perennial tournament team Notre Dame. The Hens also endured a four-game span that featured three losses and a win that came in spite of surrendering 107 points at Madison Square Garden.
Not surprisingly UD sits at just a game above .500 on the season. The team’s play has been like a Dickens novel so far this year, as in, “It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times.”
Consistency will be the key come conference play.
The Hens open their CAA slate at the Carpenter Center tonight against Hofstra. Ross and his crew are hoping that familiar foes may settle Delaware into a more regular identity. The pieces are in place for that identity to be a basketball team that strikes fear in the hearts of opponents. UD should be known as a squad with great perimeter shooting and three guys that torture opposing defenses off the dribble. That reputation is in place, but it cannot be coupled with a caveat that the Hens don’t play any defense on the other end of the floor.
Yet that is exactly the perception that is beginning to formulate.
Twelve CAA wins and a high seed for the conference tournament in March is very attainable for this group of Hens. Yet an 8-7 non-conference performance will hopefully serve as a reminder that mediocrity is well within UD’s grasp as well.
It is up to the Hens which way they will go.