Commenter Main Line Mike put it briefly: "DePaul is beating Providence...and we lost to Providence..." Such is life in the Big East -- no team is too bad to score an upset win, and it is key to maintain focus in every game, regardless of whether an opponent is considered inferior.
DePaul has been epically bad in the Big East, but despite that, every year they have taken advantage of the one or two teams that overlook them. They may not have Big East level talent across the board like some of their conference foes, but they do have enough focus to take advantage of opportunities that are given to them.
According to KenPom, the three areas of DePaul's game where they have been above-average this season are turnover percentage (where they turn the ball over less than the national average and their opponents turn it over more), 3-point defense, and steal percentage (again, an area where they are strong on both offense and defense).
DePaul leads the Big East with the highest percentage of scoring coming from their freshmen. Oliver Purnell is clearly getting some production out of young guns like Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young. Those are the top-two scorers for the Blue Demons -- both freshmen -- and only one other player averages double-digit points, sophomore Tony Freeland.
Melvin is clearly the go-to guy in this offense, and the freshman forward averages 13.9 points per game as well as 5 rebounds. The guard, Young, records around 12.3 points per game as well as adding 3.7 assists, 2.6 rebounds and shooting about 33.3% from deep. Sophomore forward Freeland averages 10ppg and 4.6 rebounds
Neither Melvin, nor Freeland has attempted more than one shot from beyond the arc this season, and neither connected on their attempt.
Oliver Purnell is a coach with over 400 wins in his career -- if he can't build this DePaul team into something, nobody can.
Though it has been easier for opponents to score against DePaul from inside the arc this season, the 'Cats should make an effort to keep some shooters on the floor. By having a three-point threat on the court, you prevent the defense from collapsing into the paint and keep the inside scoring open. I like the idea of giving James Bell heavy minutes again in this match-up for that reason. Without Corey Stokes available, Bell is the best three-point threat on the team (over 40% from beyond the arc and absolutely deadly on Tuesday), and either he or Corey Fisher should be on the floor at all times.
Beyond that, the 'Cats will need to continue to see production from Mouph Yarou and Antonio Pena as well. Both have the potential to be tremendous scoring options, and Yarou is often the best option in the paint for this team. Against a team that been less-effective guarding the inside, it is important to take advantage of the opportunities.
Though Villanova overcame 20+ turnovers to beat Seton Hall on Tuesday night, they can't even allow that high rate of turnovers to continue. The 'Cats need much better play from the point guard position, to protect the ball and allow them to control the game.
The game will tip-off at NOON, eastern standard time from Chicago. Television coverage will be available locally on WPVI as well as ESPN3.com, and will be the Big East game of the week on SNY.
Don't forget to get your entries in for Closest to the Pin!
Also, check out my Q&A with Blue Demon's Lair and my answers for ChicagoNow.com.