Scouting DePaul!! Blue Demons Emerging??
Andy Mac Williams,
Xavier and DePaul did not play last season because of COVID cancellations so in my twisted Xavier-centric mind Muskies still should be lusting for revenge from 2020 when DU upset XU 71-67 at MSG in an irrelevant BIG EAST Tournament Play-in Game. College basketball shut down the next day w/ the pandemic surging, but it seemed a black day for XU hoops and the Blue Demons should pay for it, hopefully Wednesday(9 PM EST - Wintrust Arena in Chicago-TV FS1). DePaul basketball has rebooted. Coach Dave Leitao is gone. New AD Dwayne Peavy from Kentucky has brought in long time Dana Altman assistant Tony Stubblefield from Oregon(also worked for Mick at UC). The roster has done a 360 w/ new leadership and a easy access transfer portal.
One player remains from that painful 2020 game in NYC and he's pretty good( 6-11 rim protector Nick Ongenda) who had been starting until a hand injury forced him to miss a competitive 87-76 DU loss at Marquette. Ongenda did play off the bench in last Thursday's wild 96-92 DePaul home upset win over then Top 25 Seton Hall.
Stubblefield's new look Demons are 10-6 overall after a 9-1 non-conference-including notable wins over over Rutgers (Yes, they are in the Big Ten) and at Louisville. The only DU loss was 68-64 to NET Top 40 Loyola of Chicago. BIG EAST record currently is 1-5 after that track meet 96-92 NBA-esque "W" over SHU (10th BE-ahead of 0-3 Georgetown. But DU is better than their recent dismal past (last NCAA trip-2004 when they were in Conference USA w/ UC-one 20 win season in 18 years-just two seasons above .500-perennial BIG EAST cellar dwellers since joining the league in 2007-2008).
Leitao left Stubblefield some key pieces-BE scoring leader Javon Freeman Liberty(21.7 PPG). 6-4 all court rover and 2nd year Valpo transfer. He's more than a shot taking machine (7.4 rebounds-3 assists-2 steals-gets to FT line a lot-deep "3" range-much improved mid range game). JFL scored just 12 vs Seton Hall and played little after halftime aggravating a leg injury. He's had since last Thursday to recover. Expect him to start. Ongenda is a holdover (athletic-long-active).
Soph bulldozer wing David Jones(6-6, 200+) is a hard charger(15.5 PPG-7.8 rebounds-2 steals) a load to defend(down hill drives plus a pull-up jumper). Stubblefield added well w/ transfers. He brought PG Jalen Terry w/ him from Oregon. Top 60 2020 Class-Flint, Michigan Mr. Basketball. Terry has started the last 3 games (28 points vs Seton Hall-11-13 FTS to ice the win in crazy finish). He took over w/ Freeman Liberty hurt. If JFL can play, DU can free him up using Terry at PG w/ JFL off the ball and/or visa versa then attack w/ David Jones lurking on the wing. A very potent 3 guard attack w/ all 3 playing 30+ minutes.
DePaul is string inside also(+6 rebounding) w/ Minnesota transfer Brandon Johnson(11 PPG-7.4rebounds(6-8,220) and 6-10 Yor Anei(SMU and Oklahoma St veteran) who has played well vs SHU and at Marquette recently plus just eligible Iowa State transfer Javan Johnson(6-6) and JUCO Philmont Gebriwhit (6-7). DU now has some depth in back court and front court. Stubblefield has then playing a warp speed(#40 in tempo). They shoot a ton of FTs attacking the rim(36-45 in Seton Hall win.
The new coach also brings a match-up 2-3 zone from Oregon. DU still tends to forget about defensive stops and just trades baskets for long stretches. X is favored 81-72 by KenPom.
DU is scary though and explosive. They led Villanova by 6 at the half in Chicago before melting down. Then played decently at red hot Marquette. Then shocked Seton Hall last Thursday and SHU had everybody back from Covid pause. PG Terry must be a marked man. He plays a lot like Creighton Frosh PG Ryan Nembhard whom XU eventually wore out Saturday at Cintas. Excellent ball handler and driver-willing passer-smallish at 6-0 165 but hard to hit.
XU has to force him into survival mode-make it tough for him to see and force him to pick-up his dribble and/or give the ball up out of frustration. Freeman-Liberty will make wild shots from deep and in transition if healthy? No 30 point game for him. Colby Jones and Jerome Hunter hopefully can find and slow down David Jones who just dropped 24 on Seton Hall.
The Zach and Jack BIG line-up should work vs DePaul w/ maybe more zone on defense? Muskies do not want a full bore track meet. Open "3s" should be available so Nate Johnson and Adam Kunkel will get primo looks. As usual, Paul Scruggs iis pivotal. On the road he needs to avoid foul trouble and slow 1st halves both at DU Wednesday and at Marquette Sunday.
Muskies' NCAA NET is climbing (#16). 14-3, 4-2 BE would be nifty heading into an NET Quad 1 showdown at Marquette Sunday afternoon(2 PM EST-FS1). If XU is caught looking ahead to Milwaukee or taking a breath after the Creighton win, it could be curtains in Chicago. DePaul is better and tries to defend now. Scoring and rebounding are very good.
Marquette plays Wednesday at BE leader Villanova (8 PM-CBSSN).