Tipping Off The Big East Countdown: #13 DePaulPosted by mlemaire on October 11th, 2012
Two down and 13 more to go in our preseason team previews as today we take a look at DePaul. The Blue Demons enter their third season with head coach Oliver Purnell at the helm and while they will likely be more competitive this season, they still don’t have the look of an NCAA Tournament contender. One of the youngest and most inexperienced teams in the conference last season, DePaul returns almost their entire rotation from last season and Purnell has worked hard to add depth and talent to the roster. There just doesn’t appear to be enough pieces in place for the Blue Demons to compete in the rugged Big East.
2011-12 Record: 12-18, 3-15
2011-12 Postseason: None
After a 2011 non-conference schedule that didn’t scare anyone, the 2012 non-conference slate should be slightly more impressive, even if it does feature many of the same patsies as last season. Road games against a talented Wichita State team, Auburn, and Arizona State should provide early litmus tests and a home date against Wisconsin-Milwaukee could have upset potential if Purnell doesn’t have his team ready to play. The conference schedule holds zero surprises, although the beginning of the schedule looks far more inviting than the end of it.
DePaul was once considered a lock to be the next destination for Illinois transfer Crandall Head but now it looks like the promising guard and brother of former Illini great Luther Head is looking elsewhere, leaving the Blue Demons with four not-so-ballyhooed incoming freshmen and one player returning from injury, most of whom may have trouble securing spots in an already-crowded rotation.
Baltimore native Montray Clemons missed all of last season with a ruptured patella tendon in his knee but he will be counted on to provide minutes in the frontcourt. Indiana product DeJuan Marrero is small but rugged forward who could see time because of his rebounding and defensive prowess. The other three newcomers are Jodon Price, Durrell McDonald, and Peter Ryckbosch all of whom will likely have a tough time cracking Purnell’s already-crowded rotation without additional seasoning first.
The good news is that the Blue Demons return most of last year’s contributors, except for second-leading assist man Jeremiah Kelly (8.6 PPG and 3.9 APG) and replaceable big body Krys Faber (4.0 PPG and 4.7 APG). The only other departure is junior forward Tony Freeland, who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury and transferred to be closer to his ailing grandmother.
No Faber leaves DePaul with only one true big man (sophomore Derrell Robertson, Jr.) and Kelly was a solid and reliable playmaker even if he didn’t scare opposing defenses and occasionally took ill-advised shots. Freeland was a solid contributor when he was healthy, but it is hard to miss someone who didn’t play at all last season. Overall, the Blue Demons shouldn’t experience much of a drop-off without the trio in the rotation and there is plenty of young talent champing at the bit to take their spots.
Who to Watch
The two biggest names and best players on the roster are juniors Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young and the Blue Demons will likely only make it as far as these Baltimore natives can take them. Melvin (17.5 PPG, 7.4 RPG) is a legitimate contender for conference player of the year honors and Young (14.5 PPG, 4.7 APG) is a talented scorer who could become even more dangerous if he improves his outside shooting.
Both players are fresh off a summer where they got to compete against the best the country had to offer at the LeBron James Skills academy and both are expected to do big things this season. The question is whether the Blue Demons have enough talent surrounding their two stars to keep the pressure off Melvin and Young. The all-around talent of Melvin will draw a lot of attention from opponents and Young will also play a major role in running the team’s offense, so the team will need teammates to step up around them.
The two candidates most likely to make the leap are forward Moses Morgan and guard Jamee Crockett. Morgan made just seven starts last season but still finished third on the team in scoring (9.0 PPG) and if he can improve his shot-selection, he could become an efficient inside-outside scoring threat. Crockett finished his freshman campaign averaging 8.6 PPG and 2.2 APG and the Chicago native has the size and the shooting touch to average double-figure points per game.
The Blue Demons are no longer a perennial frontrunner to finish last in the conference thanks to a solid nucleus of talent plus a young and deep pool of supporting players. But it still doesn’t look like the team has enough size or depth to maintain a high level of play over the course of the season. Make no mistake, this team will surprise some conference foes and it doesn’t take much of a leap to think they will get more than three conference wins. But the conference hasn’t gotten any easier yet and there are still a lot of question marks about how the team’s young players will mature and improve. So it’s clear that Purnell still has a long road ahead of him if he plans on returning the Blue Demons to the NCAA Tournament.