It’s been a rough go in conference play for Xavier, but tonight we finally get our home game against DePaul. Currently the Demons are last in the conference, and hopefully should not put up a big hassle at the Cintas Center. To get ready for the game, we talked to Dan Stack, who is a senior writer at WeAreDePaul.com and a college basketball columnist for Fan Rag Sports. Let’s see what he had to say.
1.) Halfway through conference play and we finally meet! How are things going for DePaul this season?
Well, as a wise man once said, “you are what your record says you are” and as you can clearly see, it's been another unsuccessful attempt to get back towards relevancy. The struggle is all still too real.
That said, DePaul to its credit is scrappy, plays hard and battles to the last minute despite its talent discrepancy. Still, better talent is headed our way soon. DePaul has 4-star point guard Justin Roberts, Ohio State transfer Austin Grandstaff, D2 all-American transfer Max Strus (who BTW, and you probably know this, Xavier wanted) and two other high-upside players (specifically Jaylen Butz) joining the program.
With four other starters returning as well, it was all about the 2017-18 season being the year where we saw tangible progress. Then again the fan base was hoping for few conference wins (say 4 or 5 conference wins), but that seems very unlikely.
2.) Early this season DePaul scared the entire league and almost beat Villanova. What happened that night and what are the warning signs that we need to be aware of?
Well, it was two things.
First, I have to admit upfront that Villanova likely played its worst game of the season. They took a lot of bad shots, were playing a tad selfish and did take DePaul a little too lightly.
Secondly, the Demons played their smartest and most cohesive game. The Demons had only seven turnovers and played some great defense and did make Villanova work for most shots.
Even if it resulted in a loss, it was the most proud I was this season as a die-hard fan.
So if you see a lot of assists, minimal amount of turnovers and if DePaul can keep the rebounding battle close, the Demons will be in the game.
3.) Billy Garrett Jr is a pretty known commodity at this point, but Xavier fans are not quite as familiar with your sophomore Eli Cain. What makes his game so good?
Well, let's start by first addressing that Cain is in a major rut. While he is still getting his points, he is shooting just 30 percent from the floor in his last 12 games. Cain be wildly inconsistent, as he has scored more than 30 points twice this season but less than 10 points in six other games.
That said, this is the same player that shot a respectable 43.4 percent from the field last season and an even more impressive 42.5 percent from three-point range. Cain is a confident player and maybe he is playing too confident this season. As a result he is pressing trying to carry a big load.
He is great at attacking the basket and using the glass well on finishes, and when he is on, he can catch fire from deep. To sum it up, he is doing a good job (after all, he does lead the team in scoring) but he has suffered a bit from a sophomore slump.
4.) How excited are you for the new arena, and will you miss the Allstate Arena?
Funny you bring that up. I'm headed to Allstate Arena for the last game against Xavier on March 4.
The place was home to many memories, especially games played in the 80s and early 90s, and I am as nostalgic and sentimental as the next Demon fan. Still, I'm super psyched about the new arena, which will be called Wintrust Arena.
It won't magically make our dismal attendance numbers spike exponentially, but it fixes two major problems: A) it is actually in the confines of the city of Chicago and B) the arena will not bee so vast and expansive like the airplane hangar that Allstate is. It will provide a more cozy and vibrant home-court feel.
Put simply, it's long overdue.
5.) Score Prediction?
Looks like Xavier is responding quite well without Sumner and the Musketeers can ill afford a home loss to DePaul. I got Xavier 73, DePaul 58.