Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.
The plight of long suffering Northwestern fans is no secret at this point, as the Wildcats have recently provided annual teases that, yes, this is finally the year for the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance. This epic drought should surely draw some empathy for Cats supporters, but they are not the only long-suffering Chicago college basketball fans. Across town, the DePaul Blue Demons have been slightly more frequent Tournament patrons, but have only made two appearances in the last two decades. This may make them March mainstays in the eyes of the Northwestern fan, but considering the program had made 13 of the 15 Tournaments before the drought, it must feel like anything but to the DePaul faithful. Recent years have been especially tough for the Blue Demons; their 11-79 Big East record over the past five seasons says all you need to know. An experienced nucleus, headed by juniors Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young, provided some hope that the 2012-13 season would see Oliver Purnell’s bunch make significant steps forward, and Wednesday’s beatdown of Arizona State did nothing to dispel that notion. For a program that has been mired in some dark, dark times, it is no exaggeration to say that this was the most significant Blue Demons victory in more than half a decade.
Back in 2010, Oliver Purnell’s decision to head to DePaul and the shores of Lake Michigan was met with a large degree of puzzlement within the college basketball community. Purnell had seemed comfortable at a Clemson program that was humming along rather nicely, having made three straight NCAA Tournaments. To leave that stability for a DePaul job that few viewed as a clear step up was a shock, and Purnell found a very bare cupboard in Chicago upon arrival. One thing that was in place for him at DePaul was the commitment of Young, and after Purnell secured a promise from the 6’8” forward Melvin in the late signing period, the cornerstones of the DePaul rebuild were in place.