Those that know me well, know that I have an unhealthy obsession with college basketball. That being said, the basketball season is fast approaching and I’m giddy. To celebrate, I’m going to preview the Big East conference while making my predictions. I’ll start with my #16 team in this post and work my way down to #1 (hopefully before the season starts). I’ll look into key players on the team, what kind of ball they’ll play this year, and how I think they’ll do. Enjoy!
#16 DePaul Blue Demons
Last Year In A Nutshell:
9-24 (0-18 Big East)
No Postseason Play
Coach: Jerry Wainwright
If I Were Coach Wainwright I Would Start:
Mac Koshwal (F/C, Jr.) – Really strong guy in the post. Tough. Great rebounder. Tested the pro waters in the offseason.
Will Walker (G, Sr.) – Prolific scorer. Went over 30 points a few games last year and averaged 19.8. Can shoot or drive the lane, but isn’t a great ball handler. He and Koshwal are the far and away best players on the team.
Michael Bizoukas (G, So.) – Will play the point when he’s in. Fantastic handle on the ball and sees the court well. He’s a true point man who distributes the ball, but can also drive the lane if you give it to him.
Devin Hill (F, So.) – He’s extremely long and athletic. He’s 6’9″, but can really run the floor well and can shoot, too. Pretty good shot blocker.
Eric Wallace (F/G, So.) – Extremely athletic. Loves to take his man off the dribble. Decent rebounder for his size.
Other Key contributors:
Jeremiah Kelly (G, So.) – Another true point guard who will split time with Bizoukas.
Mario Stula (F, Jr.) – Sharpshooter who’s been getting some more playing time at the tail end of last year.
The Big East obviously brough in DePaul to get a foothold in the Chicago market. Well, DePaul’s been pretty bad at getting the city’s attention. I think the general sentiment is “well, they need to recruit well locally and the talent in Chicago will take care of the rest”. Even coach Wainright went out and got two assistants over the off-season with strong ties to the local high schools. I think DePaul needs to look around. There are a lot of traditional urban catholic school powers that have fallen on hard times: St. John’s, LaSalle, Fordham, etc. Why has that been? Well, the way I see it there are two reasons. One in money. College basketball became a business in the last 20-30 years or so. Players will go anywhere with exposure and facilities. That means big time state schools with large fan bases (that attract TV coverage) and lots of money (from big football games in the fall). Wonder why Oklahoma and Texas are now premier programs with little to no history and without a fertile recruiting ground around them? Wonder why Florida won two championships in a state that considers basketball a diversion in the football offseason? They have money. The urban catholic schools don’t. The second reason is that kids from the city don’t want to stay close to home so mom/dad can watch them play anymore. On the contrary. A lot of kids from the urban areas grow up around a lot of negative influences. And their smart enough to see college as a way away from those influences. Being in a kids back yard is now a disqualification, not a benefit. Look at the schools that have had success in the city. Villanova has two kids from Philly on its roster (two kids from the entire state of Pennsylvania, in fact). Georgetown has one kid from Metro DC on their roster (with a few kids from the suburbs). They’re not asking kids to stay home, they’re selling the city to kids from other places.
Okay. That was a little off topic, but I’ll get back to DePaul now. You can see the problems right away if you read to descriptions of the players up there. First of all, I said ‘athletic’ a lot. That’s isn’t a bad thing, but it is for DePaul. They’re focused too much on athleticism, and not enough on the physical game that the rest of the league plays. Consequently, they get murdered in the conference slate. They consistently get pounded on the boards, and their defense is less than stellar. Most of their guys are more interested in scoring 40 than playing good D, and it shows. They ranked 281st in the country in scoring defense last year. That won’t work in the Big East.
Another problem with the team is their lack of depth and experience. I really had to stretch to come up with some bench players who will contribute. Actually, most of the starters won’t do much besides Koshwal and Walker. It’s really a two man team. Walker is the only senior on the team, as well. They keep having players leave early, including Dar Tucker this offseason. They’re young, and there will probably be some growing pains. Speaking of Dar Tucker, he was a monster scorer that they will miss, but there is a sentiment that he was a ball hog and it may be addition by subtraction. I don’t buy it. Tucker WAS a ball hog, and he DID take defensive plays off, but so does everyone else on the team and so will his replacement.
Overall, I really like Jerry Wainwright. He’s a great guy and really funny to boot. I’m rooting for him this season. But, he’s on the hot seat this year, and I don’t see him really saving his job. Not with this team in this league. He loves long athletic guys who can really score the basketball, but you need some grit to win in the Big East. He’d do well in the SEC or the ACC or the Atlantic 10 (he did, actually, at Richmond for a number of years). But the Big East doesn’t fit his coaching style. Best of luck in your job hunt, Jerry.