My Big East Conference preview rolls on today with a look at the DePaul Blue Demons. I'm making the bold prediction and see the Blue Demons taking one giant leap out of the basement of the Big East into 9th place, primarily based on the fact that the team has senior leadership and you figure they have to play better at some point.
Last year: 11-21 (2-16) No postseason.
KenPom: 162nd Offense: 115th Defense: 234th Tempo: 4th
Projected starting lineup:
PG: Brandon Young SG: Billy Garrett Jr, SF: Jamee Crocket, PF: Cleveland Melvin, C: Sandi Marcius
Charles McKinney may start at SG instead of Billy Garrett Jr, but I'm going to pencil in the top 100 recruit who also happens to be the son of an assistant coach to get the start. Coach Prunell cleared house in the offseason, losing 5 players (and only one of those to graduation). DePaul will rely on a transfer and 2 JUCOs to shore up its front line.
DePaul's problem last year (and every year) under Purnell has been defense. This is a little surprising as Purnell's Clemson teams were all about defense. While Clemson enjoyed defenses rated in the top 50, most years at DePaul they haven't even cracked the top 200.
The Blue Demons will rely on their two go-to players in Brandon Young and Cleveland Melvin. This is their final season in the Windy City and hope to leave a positive mark in the once proud history of DePaul Basketball. Young is a dynamic PG who does a good job getting to the hole both to draw fouls and to drop dimes to the tune of 4.6 a game. He's not a proficient outside shooter, but he can knock down some shots to keep the defense honest. Melvin is an athletic four man that loves to crash the boards. He's tried to develop a more perimeter game with mixed results, but is still a very dangerous threat, especially close to the basket, and is a prospect to play professionally somewhere.
In addition to a porous defense, the other shortcoming of the Blue Demons has been shooting. DePaul ranked 319th in 3pt% and 231st in eFG%. They rely on their fast pace to put up offensive numbers. At this point you may be wondering why I didn't pick the Blue Demons to finish last. Well, despite only 2 Big East wins last season, the Demons weren't as bad as that record would indicate. They lost 3 Conference games in OT and 2 more games by single digits. They also had a rough schedule - only one game each against the bottom 3 worst teams besides them, and home and homes with UConn, St. John's, Notre Dame, and Pitt. The real key to keeping DePaul out of the basement is experience. Not only in terms of upperclassmen, but also in terms of the conference itself. DePaul has been through the grinder that is the Big East conference schedule. Butler has not.