Of all the teams in the Big East, DePaul is the one I think about the least. Never good enough to be interesting or threatening, never bad enough to be captivating in the way Georgetown is right now. They're like pigeons in that I know they exist and crap on things, I'm never thinking about them unless they're right in front of me, and people who spend a lot of time fixated on them are easy targets for derision but probably more deserving of pity.
The Blue Demons have by and large been themselves this year. Perpetually doomed to 10th in the Big East, they weren't even freed by the addition of an 11th because Georgetown started their death spiral. They've knocked off Nova at home (because everyone is picking on them while they're down) and Georgetown at home (because it would be more effort to lose to them), but they're 8-10 overall, 2-5 in conference, and 0-10 in Q1 and Q2. It would take a hot streak of mythic proportions to put them in the same time zone as the bubble.
That kind of hot streak is what Xavier is on right now. Having fought their opponents and occasionally themselves to a 4-3 start, they swore off losing for the festive season and haven't picked it back up in the new year. They've lain waste to everything in their path, picking up 7 wins in the top 2 quads and 10 overall since their last defeat. Last week was about maximizing gains. With at DePaul and home to Georgetown on the docket, this week is about shoring up the position.
They're good at free throws? Ninth in the nation at 79%, so, huzzah! Other than that, it's not great. They're 9th in the league in offense, powered by being 9th in OReb%, EFG%, and FT rate. They're 4th in TO rate, but they're not doing well at turning those saved possessions into anything of note. They shot well from deep in the non-con, but are hitting just 31.6% of their three in Big East games. Despite that, they take 40% of their shots from behind the arc.
On defense they are also not good, and by not good I mean worse. They're 10th in the league in defense. Like a weird parallel version of their offense, they're 2nd in the league with a defensive TO rate of 20.8% but 10th in each of the other four factors, to wit: DReb%, defensive EFG%, and defensive free throw rate. Teams shoot 42% from deep in league play against DePaul, which obviously isn't great (for them; it's awesome for their opponents). If they don't turn you over, they'll probably let you score.
|Umoja Gibson||Point Guard||Souley Boum|
|6'1", 173||Measurements||6'3", 175|
|Gibson does almost everything you'd want in a point guard. He's top 100 in the nation in assist rate, knocks down threes, and is deadly at the line. If he could finish inside he'd be genuinely excellent.|
|Philmon Gebrewhit||Shooting Guard||Adam Kunkel|
|6'7", 185||Measurements||6'4", 185|
|Gebrewhit has taken over this spot in the last couple games. He's a good shooter on very low usage but doesn't really get on the glass or do much else that shows up on a stat sheet.|
|Javan Johnson||Small Forward||Colby Jones|
|6'6", 198||Measurements||6'6", 205|
|Johnson is DePaul's leading scorer and as such spends a ton of time on the floor. He's an effective shooter and scorer, but is prone to the occasional turnover.|
|Eral Penn||Power Forward||Zach Freemantle|
|6'6", 201||Measurements||6'9", 225|
|Penn is the best rebounder on the sqaud and is decent on offense in low usage. He'll block his fair share of shots as well, and would be a good glue guy on a good team.|
|Yor Anei||Center||Jack Nunge|
|6'10", 228||Measurements||7'0" 245|
|Anei blocks shots and gets offensive rebounds. That's about it.|
Jalen Terry had started most of the games at the two guard spot before losing his grip on that and playing only 18 minutes over the last two games. He is, to put it kindly, awful on offense. Da’Sean Nelson is very good at the rim for a 6-8 guy and has been scoring in droves in conference play. This isn’t a deep team. Zion Cruz is the only other Blue Demon to appear in every game. He gets in there in what could be called the Tandy role, just a bit expanded. He’s expected to play defense and sort of stay out of the way.
-Who is the danger man? Center Da'Sean Nelson is averaging 13 PPG in conference play, but he was basically completely blanked against Ryan Kalkbrenner, a man who Xavier's Jack Nunge recently had the measure of. Umoja Gibson gobbles up possessions, but he's more likely to set up a bucket than to score one on his own. Philmon Gebrewhit has the team's highest ORtg in conference, but it comes in very limited usage. DePaul's offense lacks the kind of focal point that Xavier's boasts right now.
-Will Xavier start pulling? Against Marquette, the Muskies weren't very effective from three, and they more or less abandoned trying. They made just 5 threes all game and took less than a quarter of their shots from deep. DePaul has been stingy in three-point attempts but permissive by percentage; will this be the game that Xavier decides to try their luck more consistently from deep? There's room in the stats to support the idea that it should.
-Can anyone keep Jack Nunge off the offensive glass? Xavier's biggest of men was irrepressible last week, grabbing more offensive rebounds on his own than Xavier's opponents combined for as teams. DePaul has been a miserable defensive rebounding team all year. Their only regular over 6'8" is the 6'10" Yor Anei, and he's not a good defensive rebounder. The offensive glass is an effort game, and if Jack Nunge replicates his efforts from the last two games at Cintas, he'll be harvesting putbacks in Chicago.
- Get the W: This game cannot be a loss. By hook or by crook, Xavier has to win. This isn’t a game like last February where it could knock the Musketeers out of tournament contention, but there’s no surer way to shoot down the NET than to drop a game to a bad team. This, somewhat oddly, is Xavier’s first Q3 game of the season. Losing it would have a major impact.
- Take care of the ball: About the only clear way to see DePaul being in this game is if they can consistently turn Xavier over and get easy points. The one potential problem in Xavier’s offense is that they are 314th in the nation in steals against. The cost of playing fast can occasionally be turnovers. X needs to keep those down tonight.
- Get on the glass: DePaul is 319th in the nation in defensive rebounding rate. Xavier isn’t an incredible offensive rebounding team, but they are good enough to benefit from that. Jack Nunge, as mentioned above, has been a menace on the offensive glass. Jerome Hunter could also be key in keeping Xavier dominant.