When Xavier moved to the Big East it was to drastically improve the level of competition they would face on a regular basis once conference play started. No more Fordham, Duquesne, Charlotte, or teams you might beat 90-61 without breaking a sweat. The caveat to all of that was DePaul. The last time the Blue Demons had a winning record was 2007, the last time they made the tournament was 2004. In a conference filled with elite programs, even those having the occasional down season, DePaul stands out as the consistent bottom rung.
Last year Xavier somehow managed to lose to DePaul, but the Musketeers are 3-1 against them since joining the conference. Xavier is currently coming off an eight point victory over St. John's that was an exercise in frustration for the last 20+ minutes. DePaul is 0-4 in conference but two of those losses have come to Butler and Seton Hall by a grand total of nine points.
Offensively, DePaul is set up almost the opposite of teams that give Xavier trouble. They shoot the three both poorly and infrequently, and they don't get on the offensive glass well. The offense isn't terribly efficient, isn't fast, and turns the ball over on a mildly amazing 21% of DePaul's possessions. The Blue Demons are above average at getting to the line, but they only shoot 68%, well below average, when they get there.
But on defense... it's more of the same. DePaul doesn't pressure the ball and can be torched from deep. They don't turn teams over, get many steals, or block shots very well at all, but they still send opponents to the line more than all but 35 teams in the nation. The Blue Demons are only in the top 100 in one defensive category, and that's two point field goal defense. They're exactly 100th.
On a positive note, the Demons are tall, and they are deep. They're actually pretty experienced as well. How much that experience helps when it is predominantly experience losing is anyone's guess, but the Blue Demons flaws at least don't come from being to callow.
|Billy Garrett||Point Guard||Myles Davis|
|6'6", 210||Measurements||6'2", 188|
|If you know a single player on the DePaul roster, it is probably Garrett. He leads the team in basically every meaningful category and is the focal point of their offense. It will be interesting to see who he draws when X goes man, as his size and quickness may make him a problem for Myles.|
|Eli Cain||Shooting Guard||Remy Abell|
|6'6", 210||Measurements||6'4", 185|
|Cain got red hot from outside during December, but his shooting has gone way downhill since the start of conference play. Unfortunately, even at his best he really doesn't add anything else. He turns the ball over a lot and doesn't get to the glass that well. Whether he is a good shooter in a slump or a bad shooter who put up big numbers against Chicago State will likely determine his role going forward.|
|Myke Henry||Small Forward||Trevon Bluiett|
|6'6", 238||Measurements||6'6", 215|
|Henry is DePaul's best interior scorer, converting at a .623 clip inside the arc this year. Most of his value he owes to the fact that he gets offensive rebounds better than anyone else on DePaul. He likes to play physically, and there is certainly not a shortage of X players who will oblige him.|
|Tommy Hamilton||Power Forward||Jalen Reynolds|
|6'11", 262||Measurements||6'10", 238|
|Hamilton is the type of four that has tormented X for years, and did just that at Cintas last season with a 6-7/3-4/0-0 shooting line. He hasn't scored that well in the post this season and has turned the ball over at a very high rate, but is DePaul's best hope of keeping Farr and Reynolds off the offensive boards and can stretch the defense at the other end with his shooting.|
|Rashaun Stimage||Center||James Farr|
|6'9", 229||Measurements||6'10", 244|
|Stimage is mostly an afterthough for DePaul's offense when he is on the court. Stimage is a good offensive rebounder and an excellent shot blocker, but is frequently limited by his penchant for fouling. He has started the last two games but only played 16 minutes, which is kind of a head scratcher.|
The main threat off the bench for the Blue Demons is 5'11" guard Aaron Simpson, who prefers to work in an off the ball role. Simpson gets 7.9 points per game and does it with a .440/.481/.591 shooting line. Last year he was 5-9 from deep against Xavier of the course of the teams' two meetings. Next up would be Darrick Wood who gets 5.4/2.3/1.5. He is not nearly as efficient as Simpson, shooting .362/.250/.706, but has gone into double digits against South Carolina, Butler, and Georgetown this year. The only other player getting more than 10 minutes a game is Cypriot guard Erten Gazi, who really does not like to shoot the ball, lifting on less than 10% of the possessions he is present for. One can hardly blame him given his 1-17 performance from three thus far this season. He also struggles with turnovers and has only played 8 minutes over the past 3 games.
- Does Trevon break out today? Trevon Bluiett has been mired in a shooting slump which has the Xavier faithful worried. DePaul is the kind of team that a guy can re-find his stroke against, given that they are not very good on defense. Can Xavier's leading scorer get his jumpshot back today?
- Which Xavier shows up? Against Butler, Xavier was ruthless in the second half, putting the game away with execution and intensity at both ends of the floor. Against St. John's Xavier was pretty lackadaisical in the second half, frequently turning the ball over and nearly giving the game away. DePaul is much closer to the Johnnies level and Butler's, so will Coach Mack have to worry about X sleepwalking through this one?
- Wherefore art thou, Larry Austin? With Edmond Sumner still not in the frame, Xavier may need quality minutes from their backup point. Austin was singled out for praise against St. John's and seems to be on the upswing after a nightmarish December. DePaul is terrible at forcing turnovers, which has been Larry's downfall. Is this the game where we see what LAJ can do?
- Jump out early: DePaul is bad, Xavier is at home, and this is a matchup that, at least on paper, looks pretty one sided. The Musketeers need to replicate their fast start against St. John's, only this time keep their foot on the gas. The Blue Demons have proven that they will stick with teams that leave them in the game. Xavier needs to bury them early and put this thing out of reach.
- Contain Billy Garrett: It's hard not to feel bad for Garrett, who has been loyal to DePaul and consistently good since his arrival there. He's not a great shooter of the ball, but he's using the ball more than anyone else on the team and he keys the offense. He went for 20/8/4 against Seton Hall in a game that will mostly be remembered for the free throws he missed rather than the work he did to keep his team in the game. This could be a great chance for LAJ to prove some defensive worth.
- Take care of the ball: One way that bad teams stay in games with good teams is if the good team gets careless. Xavier went out of their way to prove that against the Red Storm in their last game, it would serve them well not to tonight. DePaul doesn't pressure and attack in an attempt to turn teams over, but that doesn't mean the Musketeers point guards can get lax. Control the ball and Xavier should control this game.