Now that Super Bowl XLVIII is over, the next big event on the sports betting calendar is the 2014 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship. Six weeks remain before March Madness takes over, but the bracketologists have already sharpened their No. 2 pencils and made their early projections, and the Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens could be one of this year’s hottest commodities at the Big Dance.
Yes, the Blue Hens. They might not win the whole tournament — Delaware is a 500-1 long shot at Bovada to win it all — but the Blue Hens are a solid candidate to pull off a first-round upset, either as a single-game bet or to bolster a March Madness bracket.
The traditional approach is to focus on three seedings sets: No. 3 vs. No. 14, No. 4 vs. No. 13 and especially No. 5 vs. No. 12. These matchups produce the best opportunities for an upset. They often include a high-numbered seed that has played excellent basketball in a mid-major or low-major conference, while the other team has had a so-so season in one of the power conferences.
The Blue Hens definitely fit the bill so far. They’re undefeated in the Colonial Athletic Association with an overall record of 17-7 straight up and 11-5 against the spread. Delaware was one game away from winning the CAA title last year, and senior forward Davon Usher (19.6 points, 6.5 rebounds per 40 minutes) could be the difference-maker this season after transferring from Mississippi Valley State.
The Hens also have retained junior guard Devon Saddler (23.6 points, 3.5 assists/40) and sophomore guard Jarvis Threatt (19.3 points, 5.8 assists/40) from last year’s squad, giving them a very potent perimeter. Ken Pomeroy has Delaware ranked No. 93 in overall efficiency, but with the No. 48-ranked offense running the No. 10-ranked tempo in Division I. That’s the kind of specialized approach that can really trip up a second-tier team from, say, the Big 12.
That scenario easily could develop come March. Joe Lunardi’s latest bracket has Delaware slotted in at No. 13 in the East region, matched up against the No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners (17-5 straight up, 11-8-1 against the spread). The Sooners actually are playing quite well, sitting at No. 21 in the Associated Press poll and No. 35 on the Pomeroy charts, but that’s split between the No. 13-ranked offense and the No. 113-ranked defense.
There’s lots of basketball still to be played, and it would certainly be better for the Blue Hens to face a more pedestrian team in the first round — if they make it into the tournament. In the meantime, there’s Wednesday’s matchup with the Charleston Cougars (12-11 straight up, 8-12 against the spread), who have opened as seven-point road dogs. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.
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