For the third time in seven years, our Wrens stand one step away from W&M's first-ever NCAA Tourney bid. And once again, the step is a big one.
The Tribe takes on CAA regular season champion Delaware in tonight's conference final. The Hens are explosive, athletic, and very talented. Tony Shaver called them the best offensive team he's seen in his tenure at William and Mary. They've got a pair of first-team All-CAA guards in Devon Saddler and Davon Usher, and three other players who average more than 10 points per game. Delaware beat the Tribe in both of the teams' meetings this season, including an emphatic 89-72 decision in Williamsburg at the end of January.
To paraphrase Shaver's comments regarding Towson, Delaware is a very good team. But so are we. I look forward to the opportunity.
Today, the Tribe did what we said they needed to do. They made shots. W&M connected on 55.1% of its shots, 50% from the three-point line. After allowing Towson to creep out to a 6-point lead towards the end of the first half, first Julian Boatner and then Marcus Thornton hit three-pointers. W&M was on the precipice, and those two jumpers were a big part of the reason the Tribe went into the break dead even with the Tigers. And they never trailed in a seriously entertaining second half. Thornton was superb, as was Brandon Britt, but Kyle Gaillard and Terry Tarpey were terrific in defending two-time CAA Player of the Year Jerelle Benimon, and after getting smoked on the boards in the first half, the Tribe held their own in the second.
We've said the same thing all tournament about the most important factor for W&M, and no less of an expert than Shaver agrees. In the postgame presser (video above), he offered his take on the key to tonight's matchup. "We have to make shots", said the Tribe head man. Delaware is so good offensively, that Shaver doesn't expect his team to slow the Hens down. Instead, they'll have to outscore the top seed.
But Shaver likes his team. After the win, he was visibly moved by the Tribe's performance, and spoke about their toughness and effort. He also said this, in response to a question about W&M's NCAA Tournament drought, "(Never going to the tournament) isn't this team's burden. They haven't been playing for 200 years". We're going to be nervous as all hell tonight, but something tells me that the kids in green and gold won't be.
It's a simple game. God willing and the shots are falling, we'll be movin' right along tomorrow night to a destination we've never visited.