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Xavier @ DePaul: Preview, matchups, keys to the game

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Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

These are the kinds of games that trip good teams up. Xavier heads to Chicago at 18-2 and very much in the conversation for a number one seed in the NCAA tournament. The Musketeers only losses have come to an always excellent Villanova in a game marred by Edmond Sumner's injury, and to Georgetown in what is rapidly becoming a rivalry game. Other than that, Xavier has been a wrecking crew that has slapped aside some very good teams, most recently a top 10 Providence squad. What problem, then, should the 162nd ranked DePaul Blue Demons pose? Well, last year an even worse DePaul team beat a Xavier team ranked 25th in the KenPom in this fixture. Even bad teams in the Big East are not road pushovers.

And make no mistake, DePaul is bad. Whatever it was Dave Leitao was supposed to accomplish, he isn't doing it. Only because Chris Mullin has been so laughably bad is all the attention focused on a Blue Demons team that doesn't look any better than it did a year ago (or two years ago, or three years ago...) at this time. Only a one point win over Marquette keeps DePaul from being 0-8 in the conference. The Blue Demons have played some teams close, but they simply don't do the things even mediocre teams need to do to close things out.

Team fingerprint:

DePaul's offense is really hamstrung by an inability to hold onto the ball. They're an above-average - albeit marginally - shooting team from both inside and outside the arc, but they turn the ball over on 21.3% of their possessions, easily in the bottom 50 on the nation. Couple that with a below-average assist percentage and you're looking at a team that just doesn't know what to do with the basketball. They do okay on the offensive glass, but it's not enough to compensate for their profligacy elsewhere.

DePaul's defense is to defense basically what DePaul's offense is to offense. While their offensive efficiency is 172 in the country, their defensive efficiency is 161st. They again to well on the glass and also in defending the paint. They have a kind of horrible habit of conceding the arc, and they can't force turnovers very well at all. The cherry on top is that opponents shoot 74% from the line against them, which is a combination of bad luck and just being bad. Considering that DePaul sends teams to the line fairly consistently, this isn't a recipe for long-term success.


Starters:

Billy Garrett Point Guard Edmond Sumner
Junior Class Freshman
6'6", 210 Measurements 6'6", 183
13.5/3.2/3.9 Game Line 10.7/3.2/3.3
.409/.284/.840 Shooting Line .398/.340/.688
Garrett is suffering through a horrendous shooting slump that has seen him go 2-18 from three point range. Coupled with this, he is also posting the highest turnover rate of his career in the Big East, but he remains a threat if he can get driving to score and set his teammates up.
Eli Cain Shooting Guard Myles Davis
Freshman Class Junior
6'6", 201 Measurements 6'2", 188
8.5/3.1/1.6 Game Line 11.0/3.4/3.8
.418/.425/.577 Shooting Line .405/.378/.887
Cain is mostly a spot up shooter who runs hot and cold. His three point percentage is on .318 in conference play, but he did drop 21 points against Creighton. Cain has struggled to get his shot going in Big East play, and has an 88.8 Ortg as a result.
Myke Henry Small Forward Remy Abell
Senior Class Senior
6'6", 238 Measurements 6'4", 185
14.3/6.3/1.1 Game Line 6.4/1.6/2.0
.549/.333/.762 Shooting Line .404/.372/.744
Henry has done everything he possibly can for DePaul this season, in spite of the fact that it has frequently gone into losing efforts. At 6'6", he is the 4th best offensive rebounder in the conference, and has converted over half of his chances from inside the arc despite being undersized and one of only two actual offensive threats on his team. He has gone into double figures in every game since the Big East opener and led the way with 17 in their only win against Marquette.
Tommy Hamilton Power Forward Trevon Bluiett
Junior Class Sophomore
6'11", 262 Measurements 6'6", 215
9.2/6.3/0.8 Game Line 15.4/6.6/2.2
.465/.472/.745 Shooting Line .419/.393/.816
Hamilton has the shooting stats of a guy who would absolutely shred Xavier, but scored 3 points in the teams first meeting. In fact, despite the fact he has continued to shoot the ball well in conference play, Hamilton's usage rate has dipped to 17.1 against the Big East. He very rarely gets assists and turns the ball over frequently, so taking away his shooting chances seems to be the way to go against this guy.
Peter Ryckbosch Center Jalen Reynolds
Senior Class Junior
6'10", 235 Measurements 6'10", 238
1.1/2.2/0.2 Game Line 9.7/6.7/0.7
.300/.000/.615 Shooting Line .532/.400/.641
Ryckbosch took this spot over from the ineffective Rashaun Stimage, although it is hard to say that he has been in improvement. Ryckbosch is just not any good at offense in any facet of the game. He rebounds serviceably on the offensive end, but not very well at the defensive end. He also turns the ball over at a rate that honestly might befuddle his opponents.


Reserves:

The headliner in this group is guard Aaron Simpson, who gets 7.1 points a game mostly from his .467 mark from three. He does not do a lot else, but then neither did Tre Campbell. Recently deposed big man Rashaun Stimage has shot over 60% from the field in conference play, but still only gets 5.5 points per game and has 6 rebounds in his last 56 minutes, which is bad for a center. Obviously. Darrick Wood is a college basketball player, and I respect him for it. He is, however, not what one would call a good college basketball player, but the fact that a guy with an 89.4 ORtg gets 16 minutes a game may indicate that DePaul is not necessarily a good team.

Erten Gazi has seen his playing time all but dry up in conference play, garnering more than 10 minutes on only 3 occasions. He has scored a humble 6 points in his 44 minutes of Big East career so far. Getting just over 10 minutes a game is RJ Curington, who went for 11 points at the Cintas Center, his highest scoring game of the year. In fact, it is his only double digit effort other than against Chicago State, which puts us in unflattering company. Anyway, Curington can hurt a team from deep, which is what he did to X, going 3-6.



Three keys:

-Hound Billy Garrett. This is no secret, really. In wins, Garrett is averaging 17.4 points and 1.9 turnovers. In losses, he's averaging 11.4 points and 2.7 turnovers. When these two teams played on January 12th, Garrett scored just 5 points and turned the ball over twice on his way to an ORtg of 79 and a loss. A combination of the defensive stylings of Remy Abell and a dose of 1-3-1 zone took Garrett out of his game and gave the Blue Demons a loss. Only once this year has DePaul won a game in which Garrett posted an ORtg below 100, and that was a sincerely ugly 57-56 win over Marquette.

-Let it fly. In the game at Cintas, Xavier dropped a cool 12-26 on DePaul from behind the arc, culminating in Makinde London's back dribble into a corner three to bring the bench to its feet. DePaul's defense is stronger in the paint, and Xavier was not good inside the arc against them. The Blue Demons concede the arc and are susceptible to quick ball reversals; it wouldn't kill Xavier to go into the game knowing that the key to opening up the opponent is getting and converting clean looks from deep.

-Turn free possessions into points. The Blue Demons love to turn the ball over and don't force that many turnovers themselves. Xavier can go a long way towards keeping the home crowd out of it and making their own job a lot easier if they are able to convert the DePaul turnovers into baskets at the other end. Ed Sumner and Remy Abell in particular excel in getting out and going when possession changes, and one of them having a big game in transition would be a sign that things were going pretty well for X.