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Johnson: Odds seem stacked against Delaware, Anderson

Published: Monday, March 17, 2014 9:36 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, March 17, 2014 11:40 p.m. CDT
(Mark Campbell for Shaw Media)
Kyle Anderson, a Newark native, brings the ball up the court for the University of Delaware men's basketball team during a game this season. Anderson and the Blue Hens will face Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament this Thursday.

It figures that the team with the local kid would run into the trendy national champion pick in its first game of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

Newark’s Kyle Anderson and the rest of the Delaware Blue Hens have their hands full Thursday. Though Michigan State is a four seed, each of the five analysts on ESPN’s Bracketology special picked it to win the title Sunday night. Three CBS panelists all put Michigan State in the Final Four during the Selection Show earlier that evening.

I was fully prepared to jump on the Michigan State bandwagon myself, until I realized that everyone else was already on board. I like the Spartans, but picking them and being right won’t ensure me a thing in any of my pools if everyone else picks them as well. They’re as dangerous as anyone out there, but they’re not so good that they’re any kind of a lock to win six straight games.

Plenty of people in our readership area, and particularly in the northwest corner of it, are hoping State doesn’t win one game. Delaware pulling off the upset certainly isn’t impossible – per Esquire, 13 seeds defeat fours 22 percent of the time – but beyond the fact that Michigan State is healthier than it’s been all season and playing great, the Blue Hens face a mountain of historical evidence that suggests they’re a massive underdog.

Delaware is making its fifth tournament appearance and its first since 1999. It lost in the opening round in each of its first four appearances. In fact, the Blue Hens have never won a postseason game.

Their tournament success, or lack thereof, contrasts starkly with Michigan State’s. The Spartans will be making their 28th appearance in the tournament and their 17th straight. They’ve made eight Final Fours and won two national championships.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for us to be back in the NCAA tournament,” Delaware coach Monté Ross said in a news release. “Playing a tournament-tested team like Michigan State with a Hall of Fame caliber coach in Tom Izzo is an exciting opportunity for our program. We will embrace that opportunity and will be ready for the challenge.”

I’ve been trying to come up with a silver lining for Delaware’s draw. The best I can come up with is this: For Delaware to win, it’s probably going to need something fluky to happen. A great 3-point shooting performance would qualify. Anderson’s 85 made 3-pointers and 38.6 shooting percentage on 3s are both team highs. If Delaware pulls off the upset, there’s a pretty good chance Anderson will have a big hand in it.

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