CAA Preview: Delaware Blue Hens

Last Season: 17–16 (8–10 CAA, fifth place), lost in CAA semifinal

Head Coach: Martin Ingelsby (fourth season)

CAA Preseason Poll Finish: Fifth

Losses

  • G Ryan Johnson
  • G Connor Rufo
  • G Curtis Lochner
  • G Ithiel Horton
  • G Darian Bryant
  • F Matt Veretto
  • F Eric Carter

Additions

  • G Nate Darling
  • G Reggie Gardner
  • G John McCoy
  • G Ebby Asamoah
  • F Dylan Painter

By Michael Petillo

The 2018–19 season was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Delaware, but the Blue Hens cobbled together a respectable 8–10 conference record and finished fifth. They pulled off a mild upset by knocking off William & Mary in the second round of the CAA Tournament before falling in a close game against Hofstra.

This year’s Blue Hens will have to overcome the graduation of forward Eric Carter and the transfer of standout freshman guard Ithiel Horton to the University of Pittsburgh. Despite those losses, Delaware has the talent to compete in the CAA.

The height of their ceiling largely depends on whether junior guard Ryan Allen takes the next step. Allen established himself as a player to watch as a freshman, averaging 15 ppg while knocking down 39 percent of his three-pointers. It was hoped he’d reach the next level as a sophomore, but his scoring average improved only slightly, to 16 ppg, as he missed the beginning of the season due to injury.

Allen’s backcourt running mate, Kevin Anderson, is another player to watch. A 6’5” guard, Anderson is a long, rangy defender who also dished out 3.8 apg as a sophomore last year. If his shooting improves a bit, he’ll become the second option for head coach Martin Ingelsby. He sat out summer activities — including the team’s trip to the Bahamas — with an injury, but he appears to be back at full strength.

Adding to the backcourt mix is highly touted junior transfer Nate Darling, who averaged 10 ppg in his last season at UAB. The 6’5” Canadian is a knockdown three-point shooter (41 percent as a sophomore) who sat out last year after transferring to Delaware. As with previous CAA transfers (see Pusica, Vasa), Darling could outperform his previous stats after having a year to work on his game and learn Ingelsby’s system. His impact could elevate an otherwise middling team to an elite one, making him one of the conference’s most pivotal players. Though his role at UAB was spotting up from the perimeter, Ingelsby says he has diversified, even playing point guard in practice.

Delaware’s obvious weakness is the frontcourt, where they lack a top-end talent to replace Carter. Senior role players Jacob Cushing and Collin Goss will likely see a big uptick in playing time. Both are serviceable big men who can stretch the floor, which should open driving lanes for the guards. They will look to hold the fort down for the first half of the season, at which point Villanova mid-year transfer Dylan Painter will be eligible to play. Painter, a 6’10” redshirt junior, struggled to find playing time for the Wildcats but will look to find his niche with the Blue Hens; he could boost the team at the beginning of conference play.

Bottom Line: Delaware is a talented veteran team, but there are too many question marks to pencil them in now among the CAA’s elite. That could all change by conference season if Darling shines and Allen becomes a first-team all-conference type of player. Until that happens, however, the Blue Hens are a second-tier CAA team with first-tier potential.