For those who remember the last time these two teams met (and if you choose to forget, that's fine- so do I most of the time), you will remember that the Pirates entered the season's final game off a bad home loss in OT to Rutgers, needed a win, and came out flat, turning in a listless performance in a downright embarrassing loss to the Blue Demons.
This season, it would seem DePaul is doing DePaul things again, but as we all learned last year, you can't just show up and expect to beat them anymore. Here is what you should know about the Blue Demons:
2011-12 record: 12-19 (3-15 Big East, last place)
Key losses: Krys Faber, Jeremiah Kelly
Stylistically, there isn't much about DePaul that you don't already know. They push the pace to dramatic heights and look to get easy points in transition and early offense.
They are still led by the dynamic duo of Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young, and it's truly remarkable that no one has yet stepped up to be a true third fiddle to those guys. Jamee Crockett shows flashes, as does Moses Morgan, of being a capable shooter to compliment Young and Melvin, but this season, they've been pretty darn terrible in that regard (22% from deep for Crockett, barely 30% for Morgan).
And they are still bad on the defensive side of the ball. Aside from Melvin, who's averaging 8 REB, no one else has more than 4.7 REB..... and the player who averages that much is backup POINT GUARD Worrel Clahar. When your point guard is second on your team in rebounding, you know you have a huge problem.
Schedule-wise, the Blue Demons already have four losses, of which one is semi-acceptable (Wichita State on a neutral floor), one is probably not good (Western Kentucky on a neutral floor), and two are downright awful (Gardner-Webb and Loyola-Chicago on their HOME floor). They are allowing their opponents to shoot over 41% from the field on the year, and considering the opponents they have played, that's bad.
Their best win is on the road at Arizona State, but the Sun Devils don't exactly have James Harden roaming the perimeter for them anymore. Young and Melvin will likely get theirs, as both are having good seasons once again statistically. But for DePaul to beat a Big East conference team, they need that, plus at least one more good contribution from either Clahar, Morgan or Crockett, and so far that hasn't happened. It's a game the Pirates should win regardless of the location.
But we said that last season, too, so anything is possible.
Seton Hall will win if:
- They control tempo. Against LIU-Brooklyn, a team with a similar pace (albeit a less-talented roster overall), the Pirates were able to muzzle their opponents' transition game quite well after an early run of subpar play in that regard. Part of that was the ability to make shots on the offensive end, something they were successful at the rest of that game.
If DePaul's defense lives up to its billing, the Pirates should have no trouble scoring in this game, especially if Gene Teague can get going inside. I expect the Pirates to run judiciously- that is, run if they have the chance, but not look to push the ball as much as their opponents. With the way Seton Hall defends in the halfcourt, if it turns into a halfcourt game, DePaul will have a devil of a time winning this game.
- The PGs take care of the ball. The Blue Demons want to force turnovers and play fast. A strong game by the Hall's ballhandlers will make this difficult as well (in addition to the controlling-tempo thing). This will be Tom Maayan's first test against a Big East opponent, and it's a tough one to be sure. Aaron Cosby and/or Kyle Smyth can be of great help in this game because of their experience. If Maayan has a bad game, there's those two to fall back on. If he does, the Pirates should be on top by the end of the night.
DePaul will win if:
- They make threes. The Blue Demons really miss Jeremiah Kelly's three-point shooting this season, with a team percentage just above 30% and four out of their top five players in terms of attempts making under that mark. DePaul hasn't needed production from there against their lesser opponents, but if they don't get it against the Pirates, getting anything inside will be a chore indeed.
- They avoid turnovers. This has been another bane of Oliver Purnell's existence this season. Only two players (Young and Clahar) have more assists than turnovers this season, and those two players also have the most total turnovers of anyone on the roster. As a team, they have a sub-1.00 AST/TO ratio, and for a major conference team, that's just unacceptable. There is such a thing as playing too fast, and we've seen the Pirates exploit this in the past.
Seton Hall has to come out with energy in this one. We saw the consequences of the alternative last season, and it put the final nail in the Pirates' NCAA Tournament hopes. There are enough players left on the roster from that game to remember how badly that stung, so hopefully they did not forget it.
Happy Conference Play!