Season In Review: DePaul Blue DemonsPosted by mlemaire on April 25th, 2013
DePaul coach Oliver Purnell came to the school with the reputation as a rebuilder of programs, the only problem is that in three years at the helm in Chicago, the Blue Demons haven’t gotten any better. DePaul ended up at the bottom of the conference barrel, finishing the season 11-21 overall and just 2-16 in the Big East, which gives Purnell six conferences wins in three seasons and fans not a whole lot of hope for the immediate future. The Blue Demons showed flashes at times and proved they had legitimate talent on their roster in Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young, but their pedestrian offense, downright atrocious defense and lack of immediate depth were more than enough to torpedo any aspirations the team had about making a leap this season. Let’s go inside what exactly happened at DePaul this season:
In a program that has been full of turmoil and disappointment over the past five years, rising senior forward Cleveland Melvin continued to be a bright light in a dark place, improving his field-goal percentage, becoming a slightly more efficient offensive player, and racking up seven double-doubles en route to another successful all-conference season. Classmate Brandon Young led the team in scoring and proved himself to be a legitimate offensive star in the conference. I guess if we really wanted to stretch the definition of “good” we could count conference victories over Providence and Rutgers as part of the good and look on the bright side — at least the school hasn’t had to spend the early part of the offseason answering questions about why their coach, who isn’t winning, is verbally and physically abusing his players in practice. That is always a good thing, especially when your team stinks.
It got off to a rough start last offseason when the team’s best freshman, forward DeJuan Marrero, ripped up the ACL in his right knee and was lost for the year, and it didn’t get much better from there. Jamee Crockett — who had shown flashes of impressive basketball as a freshman — actually regressed thanks to poor shot selection and poor shooting in general, and nobody else on the team stepped up to help Young and Melvin provide some offense. Of course offense wasn’t even really the problem for the Blue Demons who finished the season ranked No. 234 in adjusted defensive efficiency. They weren’t big enough to play with the physical teams in the conference. They weren’t talented enough to run with the up-tempo teams (although they definitely tried). And they weren’t deep enough or experienced enough to close out games or stay the course as it got deeper and deeper into the year. There were a few games where the Blue Demons played inspired basketball and looked like they were capable of pulling off some influential conference upsets, but they almost always faded against better teams in the second half and really never were able to make an impact in the Big East at all this season.
The program’s future will be, at the very least, interesting to watch as DePaul joins the new, reconfigured “Big East” and tries to continue its rebuilding efforts. The good news is that they won’t have to play Louisville or Syracuse or Pittsburgh anymore, which should help make the strength of schedule a bit more manageable. The bad news is that even with a slightly easier schedule, the new “Big East” will still be a very competitive basketball conference and there might not be enough incoming or returning firepower in Purnell’s arsenal to help the Blue Demons climb out of the bottom third of the conference. The team will miss graduated point guard Worrell Clahar if only for his leadership and toughness, but they will probably be just fine without Moses Morgan or Jodan Price, both of whom are leaving the program. Melvin and Young will be back to lead the resurgence as seniors next season, and Purnell is bringing in a four-man recruiting class that is geared towards making an immediate impact. Junior college transfers Forrest Robinson and Greg Sequele are big bodies who have experience and will play right away, taking some of the frontcourt pressure off of Melvin, and prized guard recruit Billy Garrett Jr. has the potential to step in as the team’s starting point guard from the start of the season assuming he is as smart and savvy as advertised. There is little doubt that DePaul will be much improved next season, but how much they improve and how well they are coached will go a long way in determining whether Purnell gets to keep his job at the end of next season.