Big East Burning Questions: DePaul & Georgetown

Posted by Brad Cavallaro on October 22nd, 2018

The NBA season tipped off last week, which makes it the perfect time to roll out some new Big East content to drown out the monotony of early-season professional basketball. Over the coming weeks, the Big East microsite will be previewing all the teams, players and key storylines to watch as we approach tip-off. Be sure to follow @RTCBigEast and its contributors Justin Kundrat and Brad Cavallaro to get your fix. In the spotlight today will be (alphabetically) DePaul and Georgetown.

DePaul: Have the Blue Demons improved their overall talent level enough to climb the standings?

Dave Leitao Has Done a Nice Job at DePaul So Far (USA Today Images)

DePaul has undoubtedly improved during Dave Leitao‘s second tenure at the school. In 2016-17, the Blue Demons finished 183rd in KenPom and they ascended all the way to 99th a season ago. Although it was a remarkable improvement — most notably on the defensive end of the floor — it was not enough to change position in the Big East standings (last in both seasons). The Blue Demons have talented players like Max Strus (16.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG) and Eli Cain (11.7 PPG, 4.7 APG) returning, but will the additions a pair of quality transfers in sharp-shooting guard Jalen Coleman-Lands and skilled big man Femi Olujobi be enough to compensate for the losses of former starters Tre’Darius McCallum and Marin Macic?

Improvements from sophomores Paul Reed and Jaylen Butz in the frontcourt should also be expected, but for DePaul to be in position to jump to ninth or higher in the league standings, the team will need to shore up the point guard position. Cain suitably filled the role last year despite it not being his natural position, but if redshirt sophomore Devin Gage or freshman Flynn Cameron shows promise, Leitao’s group might be poised to finally rise out of the Big East cellar. Don’t count on it, however. This group of point guard candidates does not inspire much confidence and the Big East is simply too tough on a nightly basis for a key leadership position to be so shaky. Still, Leitao should be commended for making the Blue Demons competitive and all indications are that his team could again rank among the top 100 nationally despite finishing in last place in the league standings.

Georgetown: Will the Hoyas’ pair of freshman guards emerge as capable point guards?

Patrick Ewing Moves Into His Second Year Leading the Proud Hoyas Program (USA Today Images)

Georgetown has a history of assembling talented rosters even when the Hoyas failed to mesh and make the NCAA Tournament. In John Thompson, III’s final season (5-14 Big East), for example, the Hoyas had two excellent wings in LJ Peak and Rodney Pryor along with two skilled big men in Marcus Derrickson and Jessie Govan. Last season, the latter duo took major steps toward becoming two of the best players in the Big East. This season is no exception as head coach Patrick Ewing has constructed another strong roster. Govan (17.9 PPG, 10.0 RPG) has returned for his senior season, while senior wing Kaleb Johnson and standout sophomores JaMorko Pickett and Jahvon Blair should be capable starters.

The challenge with most of these recent disappointing Georgetown teams has been in poor point guard play. Departed seniors Jonathan Mulmore and Trey Dickerson have moved on and that means two freshman guards will be asked to produce high-major results immediately. James Akinjo is a flashy lead guard who is known for his quickness and his court vision, while Youtube sensation Mac McClung is known for his athleticism and highlight reel dunks. Junior combo guard Jagan Mosely could also step into the role but he was mostly ineffective during his stint at the position two years ago. If Akinjo and McClung can provide competent minutes and prove that they are the missing pieces in Ewing’s rotation, then Georgetown appears to be poised to make a move up the standings. Still, giving a pair of freshmen the keys to an offense that ranked 282nd in turnover percentage last year could be an especially risky proposition.

Brad Cavallaro (16 Posts)

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