This edition of Walk the Plank features our friend John Templon at Chicago Now's, Chicago College Basketball, a blog that features the five local colleges out of the Windy City. We hit John with five questions about tonight's matchup between the Pirates and Blue Demons at the Allstate Arena to gain some insight on his thoughts regarding the game.
Without further ado, Chicago College Basketball Walks the Plank:
SOJ: I drafted Brandon Young late in my all-BIG EAST fantasy league, I had a good feeling about him and averging 12.5PTS/3REB/4AST/1.6STL, he hasn't disappointed. He turns the ball over too much, but what do you like about his game? Considering he's only a freshman, it's got to be really exciting watching him play at DePaul.
CCB: Well, the thing I like the most is that Young has been able to easily transition to playing at the college level. He's come in and been a solid contributor from the beginning. He seems to have a good feel for the game as well. When teams are guarding him tight he's more than content, sometimes too content, to dish it off for the assist and get his teammates involved. Also, he's not shy about taking it to the rim. That's really nice to see in a freshman guard.
SOJ: The Blue Demons don't have a player on their roster that averages more than 5.5REBS per game and as the 311st rebounding squad in the nation, they seem to be overmatched against the Pirates. Do Melvin, Faber and Freeland have the potential to keep the windex away from Pope and Robinson?
CBB: Rebounding is DePaul's Achilles heel. Well, rebounding and three-point shooting. Nobody on this team is a particularly good rebounder. Krys Faber can get to the boards and is a big body, but he's also prone to foul trouble and bouts of inconsistency. If there's one facet of Cleveland Melvin's game that really needs to develop its his defensive rebounding. Part of that is because he's the shooter so often, but he also just doesn't go to the glass enough. Tony Freeland is a good offensive rebounder, but he's a little undersized to bang down low and grab boards. Oliver Purnell has talked all season about how this team has to gang rebound in order to be effective. You'll see a lot of guards - especially Mike Stovall and Jimmy Drew - going to the glass to help out.
Hit the jump for a further look at what the Blue Demons run on both ends, Oliver Purnell and his choice of coaching attire.
SOJ: Seton Hall and DePaul are the 14th and 16th worst 3PT shooting teams in the conference, respectively. The Pirates will likely stay in their 2-3 zone all night and challenge DePaul to shoot the long ball. What do the Blue Demonds run on defense? Will they also pack the paint and force the Pirates to try their luck from beyond the arc? To note, the Pirates opened up against Syracuse missing 17 consecutive bricks from the great beyond.
CBB: DePaul runs almost all pressure sets. They win by forcing turnovers and getting easy points in transition. Those defenses can then transition into man or zone in the half court and I figure, considering Seton Hall's shooting deficiencies, we'll see a lot of the latter. But in an ideal world in Purnell's system those shots never go up because the Blue Demons are able to take the ball away or disrupt your offense well before you get into the half court. Of course that leaves a lot of odd-man rushes as well. Those can be problematic and typically lead to good opportunities near the basket. Still, this team is very good about getting out to the perimeter, so I don't expect for Seton Hall to shoot any better than they typically do from there.
Then on the offensive side, well, it's been a struggle. DePaul is much better off sending the ball into the paint for Freeland and Melvin instead of launching up threes. They'll look to attack the gaps in the zone and drive into it. Freeland and Young are especially good at drawing fouls in those situations, so expect to see them slashing to the hoop. Both Drew and Young will take the open three if they get it, but no one else should, except for possibly freshman Moses Morgan. He struggled with his shot early in the season, but it's looked a little better lately when he's on the court.
SOJ: Oliver Purnell famously stated, "DePaul belongs in the elite of college basketball." Well, he'll likely be at the helm for seven years, so he'll have plenty of time to bring them there. What is the feeling around Purnell? Is he getting the job done on the recruiting trail?
CBB: DePaul is very excited for the Purnell era. He brings a fun style of basketball to Chicago and players want to play for him. What has been the most impressive part of this opening season is how quickly he's changed the attitude of the team. At times last season they seemed content with losing, that's not the case anymore. It really shows up in free throw shooting, where a team that hit a NCAA Division I worst 58.2 percent last season has improved to 69.6 percent, which is middle of the pack. The roster is also in the middle of a huge overhaul. The Blue Demons got a midseason transfer from Miami's Donnavan Kirk and have six new recruits coming in next season. Initially some fans were worried that Purnell wouldn't be able to recruit Chicago, but that hasn't been the case thus far. While the class might not have the name power of Mike Rice's or Steve Lavin's incoming classes, it follows the pattern that Purnell has used to build other programs in the past and looks to include players that will be excellent fits for his system.
SOJ: Sticking with Purnell, I remember that he wore some ridiculous outfits with Clemson. Now with Depaul, did I recently see him wearing a zippered down vest? Tell me the unzipped vest has become his standard with the Blue Demons? If so, I'm rather disappointed that I missed the vest vs. sweatsuit matchup with Huggins' Mountaineers.
CBB: Purnell's choice of attire seems to vary from game to game. The zippered vest came out for the 76 Classic, but he seems to have gone much more traditional, with the suits during Big East play. He can be a sharp dresser when he wants to be. Of course he can no longer where the trademark orange that he wore at Clemson, so you'll find him dressed more like this:
http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/basketball/teams/dal/photos?slug=ap-1ce023119b824a5998422d12daaedb06Thanks and good luck tonight!
A big thanks to the folks over at Chicago College Basketball. Head over there to check out all things DePaul Blue Demons AND the other four local college programs. I answered 5Qs for them covering the difference in Willard's system in comparison to Gonzo, Hazell's injury, Seton Hall's offense, message boards and the possibility of DePaul knocking off the Pirates tonight, so be sure to check that out!