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Xavier v. DePaul: Preview, matchups, and keys to the game.

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This is one of those games where a win isn’t a good thing, it’s a relief.

NCAA Basketball: Marquette at DePaul
Billy Garrett actively regretting his recruiting choice.
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Is there any game in the Big East schedule that generates more trepidation than DePaul? No, not in terms of competition, but in terms of there being no really good outcome here. A win over the Blue Demons is the expectation, that win would have to approach a 35 point margin before even would even consider it something worth noting. A loss is, of course, the essential end of high seeding, momentum, and possibly the world. Ken Pomeroy has the chances of a Xavier win at 95%.

Of course, that overlooks the fact that DePaul’s 1-9 in the Big East (they’ve only beaten Providence and Great Coach Ed Cooley) has come in some really close games. Butler beat them by one in OT, Geaorgetown beat them by three, Nova only beat them by three, and St. John’s only beat them by six. Those are all losses even if they did throw scares into some good teams, and there have also been some routs mixed in. DePaul, everybody.

Team Fingerprint:

This may come as a shock, but DePaul isn’t very good on either side of the ball. Their offense ranks 180th in the nation. Literally the only thing they rank in the top 100 in the nation in is free throw percentage. They shoot poorly and they turn the ball over a lot. You can maybe live with those things if you grab half of your misses, but the Blue Demons offensive rebounding rate of 30% is 131st in the nation. Dave Leitao is supposed to be resurrecting this program, but the offense is worse this season than it was last.

Thankfully for DePaul the defense is...actually, it’s wretched too. The one thing that the Blue Demons do passingly well when they don’t have the ball is try to get it back. Their 20.3% TO rate is 83rd in the nation and is the highest that Quentin Goodin will have faced since taking over for Edmond Sumner after the St. John’s game. Concurrent with that is a relatively high steal rate. When it comes to everything else, literally everything else, DePaul is just flat out bad.

Starters:

We don’t have the usual fancy chart today, my apologies. Sometimes working on the road means forgetting the files that you need.

G- Billy Garret 6-6, 213 (15.7/2.7/3.3 .381/.372/.908)

Garret really deserved a better fate than this coming out of high school. He’s in his fourth season with DePaul now and remains a consistent performer that would be a brilliant bench weapon for a Big East power.

G- Eli Cain 6-6, 204 (16.5/4.3/2.6 .403/.377/.708)

Cain is an unrepentant gunner who actually passes the ball pretty well on the occasions he deigns to do so. If he gets rolling he can do some serious damage.

F- Tre’Darius McCallum 6-7, 209 (10.3/7.0/1.5 .451/.328/.833)

McCallum fits the cookie cutter mold from which Leitao seems to recruit, only he crushes the defensive glass. A forward by virtue of the rebounding and comparative dearth of three pointers lifted, Tre’Darius erases possessions both by stealing the ball and blocking shots.

F- Brandon Cyrus 6-5, 189 (5.5/4.2/1.0 .355/.188/.682)

Cyrus is DePaul’s glue guy. He doesn’t get the ball much, and he doesn’t do a great deal with it when he does.

F- Joe Hanel 6-7, 213 (5.0/5.1/0.8 .671/.000/.583)

The astute observer will notice that Hanel is one of only two starters shooting noticeably over 40% from the floor. He’s actually 11th in the nation in effective field goal percentage and is DePaul’s most efficient offensive player by a full 13 points. For that, he has the lowest usage rate of anyone on the team. Coaching!

Reserves:

When Dave Leitao goes to his bench it’s most likely for 5-11 Chris Harrison-Docks. Harrison Docks shoots a sterling 32.9% from the floor and turns the ball over at a 19% clip. After him comes the only bench player to have appeared in every game, 6-2 freshman Devin Gage who shoots well from inside the arc, but not from deep. Darrick Wood and Levi Cook fill in at the forward spots. Neither is likely to play more than ten minutes per game.

Three questions:

- Can Xavier keep focus? The game is at home, it’s against DePaul, and things are settling back in. Xavier no longer has the raw talent to simply roll over teams like these even if they play dreadfully. They’ll need to be engaged early and hope they can spend the last ten minutes watching Tim Stainbrook deputise as the point guard.

- What happened to Rashid Gaston? Gaston has posted a 17/16/5 line over the last three games. There’s not a lot of ways to divide that to make it seem palatable. The humiliation in the Shootout seems to have taken something out of him. He needs to get it back.

- Is the shooting finally coming around? 16-37 (43.2%) from behind the arc over the last two games is certainly a step in the right direction. JP Macura, Kaiser Gates, Trevon Bluiett, and Quentin Goodin have all knocked in at least three in or the other of those games.

Three keys:

- Protect the ball: DePaul is bad. Bad teams stay in games when either they get hot from deep or they keep getting more and more chances with the ball. The Blue Demons aren’t likely to get hot, but they will try to get at the ball. X can’t let that happen.

- 2G Service: That title was so awful and television “keys to the game” segment worthy that when I though of it, I had to use it. Sorry. Kaiser Gates has been a beast since the UC game, and Quentin Goodin is running the point in a way that kind of makes you wish he had been all year. Those two might be the future, and right now this season is increasingly falling on their shoulders.

- Feed Trevon: Goodin and Gates aren’t fully carrying the load right now though, because Trevon Bluiett is. Trevon has apparently realized that this is on him now, and he’s been in attack mode recently. Coach Mack must keep that going. Even when Tre is hot he can fade out of the offense at times. Xavier needs him going all game.