As an assistant on Mike Brey’s staff at Notre Dame, former Fighting Irish guard Martin Inglesby helped his alma mater reach the program’s first two Elite Eights since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64-plus teams.
Inglesby opted for another homecoming and pursuit of unprecedented success, taking his first head-coaching job 33 miles from his native Media, Pa. Entering his fourth season at the helm of Delaware basketball, Inglesby leads a veteran roster aiming to make the sixth NCAA Tournament appearance in program history.
The Fightin’ Blue Hens were one of five teams to receive first-place votes in the preseason Colonial Athletic Association poll. Their placement is a testament to the depth of the CAA in 2019-20, but also to the steady growth of Inglesby’s first three seasons.
Last year’s team was the first at Delaware to finish above .500 since the 2014 NCAA Tournament team, and averaged just 1.5 years of experience. With a bevy of meaningful minutes returning, Delaware may be the breakout dark horse in the Colonial’s open race.
Head Coach: Martin Inglesby (4th season at Delaware, 44-55 overall)
Assistant Coaches: Bill Phillips, Corey McCrae, Torrian Jones
2018 Record: 17-16 (8-10 CAA)
2019 Preseason Poll: 5th, 241 points (2 first-place votes)
Inglesby played a three-man backcourt with two sophomores and a freshman last year. All three of young trio of Kevin Anderson, Ryan Allen and Ithiel Horton averaged in double-figures scoring, paced by Allen’s team-high 16 points per game.
Allen earned preseason 2nd Team All-CAA recognition coming off a campaign in which he finished in the top 100 nationally in turnover rate and shot 37 percent from the 3-point line. With Horton knocking down 41.1 percent of his 3-pointers, Delaware could have one of the more dangerous deep tandems in the CAA.
Anderson joins Allen with preseason accolades, landing honorable mention. The talented distributor is one of the longer point guards in the conference, if not the nation, at 6-foot-5.
The backcourt has the potential to be one of the most productive in the Colonial, and will likely carry the bulk of responsibility. The highest returning scorers among the frontcourt players are Collin Goss, who posted 3.1 points per game; and Jacob Cushing, who notched 3.9. Cushing could be primed for a breakout campaign, having started at the end of last regular season.
His ability to step out and shoot from deep adds another option to extend defenses across the half-court.
Forward Eric Carter was one of the best post presence in the CAA a season ago, averaging a shade below a double-double: 15.8 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. Having an interior threat the caliber of Carter helped to draw in defenses and open the floor for Delaware’s perimeter plays; replicating that will be one of, if not the defining challenge ahead of the 2019-20 Blue Hens.
Promising freshman Matt Verretto is also gone, transferring after he provided pop off the bench a season ago. Verretto shot 40 percent from behind the arc. Gone as well are role-player guards Ryan Johnson and Darian Bryant.
Reinforcements arrive to help fill some of the void Carter left on the interior. Villanova transfer Dylan Painter, who started one game for the Big East powerhouse last season, gains eligibility just before CAA competition.
Justyn Mutts, a transfer from High Point, could factor into the frontcourt rotation. Mutts was a Big South All-Freshman honoree in 2017-18 and adds a rangy defensive presence to a squad that needs it; Delaware ranked No. 328 in adjusted defensive efficiency last season, per KenPom.com metrics.
Another shooter joins the backcourt rotation with UAB transfer Nate Darling eligible this season. Darling made 61 3-pointers, shooting a shade below 41 percent from deep for the Blazers in 2017-18.
Mark Your Calendar
Nov. 8-10, Sunshine Slam: The season-opening tournament in Kissimmee, Florida, pits Delaware against Oakland University, a regular contender in the Horizon League under coach Greg Kampe; and KenPom Top 150 opponent UTSA.
Dec. 2 vs. Columbia: Columbia could be a dark horse in the surprisingly loaded Ivy League, and checks in at No. 151 nationally in the preseason KenPom rankings.
Dec. 14 at Villanova: The Battle of the Blue football rivalry takes to the hardwood. Winner of two of the past four national championships, Villanova provides Delaware quite the measuring stick ahead of CAA competition.
Dec. 30 vs. Charleston: Delaware draws its first two CAA games at home, and the second provides an opportunity to make a resounding statement. The matchup of Charleston’s backcourt and preseason CAA Player of the Year Grant Riller against the talented Blue Hens perimeter will be one to watch.
Jan. 9 at James Madison: The middle leg of a three-game road swing pits Delaware against a James Madison team picked one spot ahead of the Blue Hens in the preseason poll.
Jan. 16 vs. William & Mary: Delaware’s new-look frontcourt gets its first look at outstanding Tribe big man, Nathan Knight.
Jan. 23 at Hofstra and Jan. 25 at Northeastern: The Blue Hens face the 2019 regular-season CAA champion (and preseason favorite), and 2019 CAA Tournament winner in back-to-back road dates.
Feb. 29 at UNC Wilmington: The last date of the regular season could carry important CAA Tournament implications.