The last time the DePaul Blue Demons won an NCAA tournament game it was over a Dayton team led by Brian Gregory. That DePaul team was led by Delonte Holland and Quemont Greer and lost in the second round to the eventual national champ UConn featuring Ben Gordon, Emeka Okafor, and Charlie Villanueva. That was 2004 and it was the last time the DePaul even sniffed a bid. Two years later the Blue Demons joined the Big East and fell off the map.
This season DePaul may finally be back. The Blue Demons are 9-1 right now, with their only loss coming to a decent Buffalo team. Dave Leitao’s boys have knocked off Iowa and Minnesota away from home and then took down national finalist Texas Tech at home in overtime. Those are big wins for a team that hasn’t done anything even mildly significant in the non-conference since a win over Stanford in 2014.
Right now DePaul is 59th in the KenPom, 85th in Bart Torvik, 57th in ELO, and 62nd in live RPI. Those are not quite the numbers of an at-large team, but a deeper look shows reason for hope for the Blue Demons. Using Warren Nolan’s projections of the quadrants, DePaul is already 3-1 in Q1 games, 2-0 in Q3, and 3-0 in Q4. The last two only matter in that the only loss doesn’t land there. Using the quadrants (in projected NET), the loss to Buffalo isn’t a bad one.
DePaul has plenty more chances at good wins remaining as well, given they are a Big East team. They also have the added benefit of only having two more potentially awful losses (UIC and Cleveland State) left on the schedule. Avoid those and it’s into conference play with a real chance. Providence remains a looming bad loss for all, their RPI is currently 245th. If DePaul wins their last three non-conference games and then plays to their KenPom projection of 8-10 in the Big East (including a home win over Xavier) they are there for consideration on Selection Sunday.
Have the Demons done enough to merit at-large consideration yet? Likely not. But, for the first time in years, they’ve laid the non-conference foundations to actually matter in Big East play. With a conference that good there is always a chance. For once, DePaul won’t be a laughingstock come March.