Losing Cleveland Melvin Could be a Long Term Positive for DePaul

Posted by George Hershey on February 15th, 2014

Last week DePaul announced that senior forward Cleveland Melvin was no longer enrolled in school. Melvin had not played in two weeks because of a suspension and it appears that whatever he was supposed to do to become reinstated didn’t get done. He was undoubtedly the Blue Demons’ best player, leading the squad in scoring (16.7 PPG) and rebounds (6.4 PPG) this season. After starting off with a 2-3 Big East record, DePaul has struggled mightily since Melvin’s suspension, losing seven in a row. At this point, there are six more games to play and wins will be tough to find. Still, although the loss of Melvin hurts their chances of winning games this season, it is actually a huge positive for the team going forward.

Oliver Purnell will get a great look at his young players for the remainder of the year. (Getty)

Oliver Purnell will get a great look at his young players for the remainder of the year. (Getty)

Head coach Oliver Purnell needs to be focused on the future of his program for the remainder of the season. In the next six games, it would be smart to play the underclassmen who will gain valuable experience against some of the Big East’s best teams. Freshmen Billy Garrett Jr. and Tommy Hamilton have played major roles this year, both averaging more than 25 minutes per game. They need to continue getting major minutes as they will be the face of the program going forward. There is another group of players who need to see extended time over the next few weeks as well. R.J. Curington leads that list, as the freshman has gone from the end of the bench to a solid scorer and contributor in the past five games. He has plenty of confidence and can shoot the ball well, but needs more real game experience to become comfortable and a smarter player. He is sometimes overconfident in his abilities and sets his mind on scoring, even if the opportunities aren’t there.

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Morning Five: 02.11.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 11th, 2014

morning5

  1. Coming into the season we knew that the only thing that DePaul fans had to look forward to was debates over the proposal by Rahm Emanuel to build them a new stadium. What followed has been a 10-14 record overall and 2-9 in the Big East. To be fair they are tied with Butler and we suspect that any DePaul fan would have taken that part coming into the season. Now the Blue Demons will have to complete the rest of the season without Cleveland Melvin, who is no longer enrolled at the school. Melvin, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, has been suspended since January 25 for unspecified reasons so perhaps his departure should not be viewed as much of a surprise. We would suspect that Melvin’s next stop will be a trip to an international destination out of O’Hare.
  2. Toledo was dealt a huge blow in what should be a very big game in the Mid-American Conference as it announced that it had suspended Justin Drummond, its leading scorer, for one game after he was arrested for a DUI on Saturday night. Drummond will be held out of Wednesday night’s game against Ohio, which is in second in the Eastern Division of the MAC (Toledo is in first in the West). Drummond is averaging 14.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game. Toledo will still have a shot at winning the game particularly since it is at home and fortunately for the them they will still be in control of their destiny with regards to getting an automatic bid with a favorite seed for the MAC Tournament so hopefully Drummond can learn from this mistake.
  3. We have heard a lot of takes on the Marcus Smart incident. Many of them have been good. Some of them have been ridiculous, but we are not sure that we have heard one quite like Tom Izzo‘s where he puts part of the blame on social media. If you have seen our Twitter feed you should be aware that we are not against social media so our view might be slightly biased, but to pin (at the very least) some of the blame for the actions of Jeff Orr and Marcus Smart on social media is borderline ridiculous. Do people say dumb stuff online? Of course. They also say dumb stuff in person. Players today might get bombarded with more direct criticism via online access, but to use that as a crutch for Smart’s action(s) is really letting him and others who have behaved badly in the public eye off the hook way too easily.
  4. The long-awaited renovation to Rupp Arena was unveiled yesterday when Lexington mayor Jim Gray revealed plans for the $310 million renovation. Gray is defending the expense as a key piece of economic development for the city. One interesting aspect of the project is that the city still has not revealed how it intends to pay for it. While Big Blue Nation is certainly passionate about its basketball it is interesting to see how apprehensive the quoted residents are about the project and how it will be funded. Having said that we have not seen many municipalities reject a stadium being built or renovated, but the Lexington residents do have the benefit of the school not being able to move.
  5. We are just about a month away from fans starting to look at their rosters and try to figure out who is coming back. In general fans view a high percentage of returning players as a good thing and it certainly seems like sound logic, but as Dan Hanner points out experience is not a guarantee for success. Given the state of college basketball where most of the top programs lose players to the NBA after a year or two it should not be surprising that most of Hanner’s examples involve lesser-known programs, but it is still interesting to see how many teams have struggled despite returning so much from the previous season.
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Three Up, Three Down in the Big East

Posted by George Hershey on February 4th, 2014

There was plenty of action this past week in the Big East. Here is a look at three of the biggest improvements and three of the biggest regressions from the past week.

Three Up

Oliver Purnell might've found a gem in A. (Chicago Tribune)

Oliver Purnell might’ve found a gem in RJ Curington (Chicago Tribune)

  1. The rise of R.J. Curington – You might be wondering who this is, but Curington is a name that will become well-known around the league over the next three years. The DePaul freshman guard had played 24 total minutes in the entire season, with 12 games where he did not see any time at all. Yet with DePaul’s lineup decimated by suspensions and injuries to its key contributors, head coach Oliver Purnell has turned to Curington to play more minutes. In the last two games he has shown his promise, playing 23 and 30 minutes, respectively, in losses to Seton Hall and Providence. Against Seton Hall he helped keep the game respectable with 15 points and five rebounds, but on Saturday he blossomed, scoring 22 points to lead DePaul on a comeback that came up just short. The freshman was confident and did not back away from the pressure, taking 15 shots and going 3-of-8 from three with a clutch jumper to tie the game late. He also attacked the basket forcefully, getting to the line six times. Curington was not a big-time recruit and he barely played earlier this season, but he appears to be a very good offensive player who will complement fellow freshman Billy Garrett Jr. and Tommy Hamilton IV going forward.
  2. St. John’s getting on a roll – It was only three weeks ago when St. John’s was the laughingstock of the Big East, starting 0-5 including a loss to DePaul. Since then the Red Storm have gone 4-1, with the only loss coming on the road to Creighton, which needed a deep Doug McDermott three to win. The defense has hunkered down and they displayed it with a dominant performance over Marquette at Madison Square Garden over the weekend. Marquette could not get any good looks and the Golden Eagles’ frustration was evident all night. Steve Lavin’s offense has also played much better, showing a chemistry and cohesion that was not there before. Earlier in the season, the team was settling for too many contested jump shots, but they have begun to move the ball around better. D’Angelo Harrison hit six threes Saturday, and most of those were wide open because of better spacing and ball movement. This team’s talent has been well-publicized and criticized for its play thus far, but they have finally begun to fulfill the potential and just a few more wins will get them onto the bubble. Read the rest of this entry »
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Three Up, Three Down in the Big East

Posted by George Hershey on January 27th, 2014

Every Big East team played on Saturday. Some had impressive outing, while others fell flat and disappointed. Here we highlight some of the positives and negatives from the weekend’s action with Three Up, Three Down.

Three Up

The Providence Role Players, Including Denton, Are Stepping Up

The Providence Role Players, Including Denton, Are Stepping Up

  1. Providence’s Supporting Cast. Coming into the season the emphasis was placed on senior scoring machine Bryce Cotton. In the non-conference slate, the team fared well but started with a poor 0-2 mark in conference play with a bad home loss to Seton Hall and a blowout defeat to Villanova. In those early losses, players like LaDontae Henton, Kadeem Batts, Tyler Harris and Josh Fortune had rough performances. They turned the ball over too much — 15 from the starters vs. Villanova — played poor defense, and failed to make the key plays that win games. More recently, Providence has been on a roll and these players are the primary reason for the difference. In the Friars’ win on Saturday against Xavier, four starters had at least 10 points with Henton dropping 23, Harris and Batts scoring 12 each, and Fortune hitting a key three as he was fouled to stymie a Xavier run. Carson Desrosiers was also very impressive on the defensive end, with six blocks against the Musketeers. Providence has now won five in a row to move to 5-2 in league play, good for third place in the conference standings. Read the rest of this entry »
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Nate Lubick, Todd Mayo, Semaj Christon Lead Big East Players Who Need to Step Up

Posted by Jameson Fleming on December 28th, 2013

With the exception of Villanova and perhaps Butler, every Big East team at this point probably wishes its season was going a little better. Still, with the exceptions of Seton Hall and DePaul, the league’s teams as a whole have done enough to avoid resume-killing losses entering conference play, and therefore eight teams have a reasonable chance to dream about making the NCAA Tournament field in mid-March. But every team, including top 10 Villanova, has its weaknesses and struggling players, so here’s a look at who needs to step up on each squad if it hopes to achieve its postseason goals.

Villanova

Villanova (U.S. Presswire)

Villanova Has Had a Great Preconference Season – Can It Continue? (U.S. Presswire)

The Wildcats haven’t been shy about shooting the three-pointer this year. During the past six years, Jay Wright’s club has dedicated about 34 percent of its field goal attempts to the long ball. This year, that number has skyrocketed to 45.7 percent, seventh highest in the country. The problem? The Wildcats are shooting only 32.7 percent from three, 204th best nationally. Jay Wright has role players who are capable shooters – Josh Hart, Dylan Ennis, and Kris Jenkins each drills at least 38 percent of his attempts – but his top two volume shooters have struggled from beyond the arc. James Bell and Ryan Arcidiacono have taken a combined 140 three-pointers, but also hit just 28.5 percent of them. Overall, Bell and Arcidiacono have improved considerably from last season, but if Wright is going to continue to let those two bomb away from distance, they’ll need to at least improve their percentages to last year’s level (Bell at 36 percent; Arcidiacono at 33 percent).

Creighton

The Bluejays have become the new Gonzaga: All offense and little defense. The last time Creighton was a better defensive team than offensive one was 2008 when it ranked 70th in defensive efficiency and 106th in offensive efficiency under previous head coach, Dana Altman. This year is much of the same: Creighton ranks fourth offensively and 59th defensively. But to give the team some credit, this appears to be their best defensive team since 2007 when they ranked 37th nationally. However, that still won’t be good enough to make a deep run in March. Greg McDermott’s team doesn’t force many turnovers or block many shots. The guards need to interrupt passing lanes better, and the bigs, especially NPOY candidate Doug McDermott, who hasn’t blocked a shot the whole season, need to be a more imposing defensive force around the basket.

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Three Up, Three Down in Last Night’s Big East Action

Posted by George Hershey on November 20th, 2013

Last night three Big East teams played important non-conference games and all three escaped with wins. Here are three positives and three negatives from the Butler, St. John’s and DePaul on Tuesday evening.

Three Up:

Butler's Khyle Marshall Took Over the Game Last Night (KC Star)

Butler’s Khyle Marshall Took Over the Game Last Night (KC Star)

  1. Khyle Marshall down the stretch: Butler was able to beat Vanderbilt in large part to Marshall’s outstanding play in the last 10 minutes of that game. Marshall scored 16 of the Bulldogs final 23 points, including outscoring the Commodores by himself in overtime. Marshall took control of the game when his team needed him the most and it was truly stunning to watch him go to work. To begin overtime, he scored on a layup, using a nifty spin to get by his defender, then had two similar falling 10-footers, using his quickness and size to create the necessary separation. In a tight game against a solid SEC team, Marshall stepped up and was a joy to watch as he continually got into the lane and finished with eight made baskets around the rim.
  2. DePaul’s Seniors: Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young put on a clinic against Wisconsin-Milwaukee last night. They both played 36 minutes in a tightly contested game. Melvin shot the ball great all night, finishing with four made threes and 20 points. Young distributed the ball nicely as well, assisting on four three-pointers, and adding 19 points. Maybe most impressive was their contribution rebounding the ball. With an inexperienced front line, the seniors stepped up and constantly helped to rebound against a tough team, combining for 16 boards.  It was great to see the seniors give the extra effort on the glass to add to their usual offensive performances in order to come away with a win. Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC Big East Microsite Week in Review

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 18th, 2013

The 2013-14 college basketball season is off and running, and it was a really interesting week for the Big East conference, which saw a number of teams compete in big non-conference games.  Only half of the teams in the league remain unscathed, so there may be some shuffling in our power rankings this week.

Few players in the entire nation have had the start that Doug McDemott has this season.

Few players in the entire nation have had the start that Doug McDemott has this season.

Week One Power Rankings

  • 10.) DePaul (2-1), Last Week (10): The Blue Demons very nearly knocked off a Southern Miss team that many expect to be among the top squads in Conference USA, falling to the Golden Eagles, 75-68.  Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young are off to strong starts.
  • 9.) Butler (2-0), LW (9):  After handling Lamar, the Bulldogs had a close call with Princeton, knocking off the Tigers, 70-67.  Butler is getting even scoring across the board, with five players averaging at least nine points per game.
  • 8.) Seton Hall (2-1), LW (7): Things haven’t been easy for the Pirates.  After participating in the game that launched a thousand referenda on refereeing in 2013, Seton Hall edged by Kent State by two before dropping a game at Mercer in double overtime.  Fuquan Edwin and Sterling Gibbs look very good early, but with the Pirates sitting at 231st in the nation in assists at 11.7 per game, they need to do a better job of moving the ball.
  • 7.) Xavier (3-0), LW (8): Unsurprisingly, Semaj Christon is good at scoring the basketball.  The Musketeers are glad to have Dee Davis back after missing two games—the junior guard had a well-rounded game against Morehead State, scoring seven points, grabbing five rebounds, and doling out nine assists in 35 minutes.
  • 6.) Providence (3-0), LW (6): The Friars’ opening night win against Boston College doesn’t look quite as good with the Eagles going on to drop games to UMass and Toledo, but they’ll have chances to prove themselves with games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky rapidly approaching.  Providence has an array of scorers, headlined by the consistent Bryce Cotton, and as a team hits free throws at an 85 percent clip. Don’t foul these guys, America.
  • 5.) St. John’s (1-1), LW (5): The young Red Storm nearly came away with a big win against Wisconsin in their first game.  D’Angelo Harrison and JaKarr Sampson look very good through two games, while Steve Lavin and company are still waiting for freshman point guard Rysheed Jordan to put everything together.

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Introducing the RTC Big East Preseason Power Rankings

Posted by Dan Lyons (@Dan_Lyons76) on November 8th, 2013

College basketball is back! Seven Big East teams open their seasons tonight, including a few big match-ups like St. John’s vs. Wisconsin and Georgetown vs. Oregon. There is no better time to unveil the Big East microsite’s preseason rankings, with comments and analysis from our group of Big East writers:

Marquette Needs to Go Inside Against Davidson

Marquette tops Rush the Court’s preseason Big East rankings.

10. DePaul

  • Dan Lyons – With Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young heading into their senior years, this might be DePaul’s best chance to get out of the Big East basement, but I’m definitely taking a wait and see approach with the Blue Demons.
  • George Hershey - It’s DePaul… They have some talent in Melvin and Young, but they don’t play defense.
  • Todd Keryc - It doesn’t matter what league they play in or who else is in it, the poor Blue Demons are destined for the cellar almost every year.
 9. Butler
  • DL – With the injury to Roosevelt Jones, Butler is without a returning double-figure scorer this season. I’m not one to bet against the Bulldogs, with or without Brad Stevens, but this inaugural Big East campaign isn’t shaping up too well for this Cinderella.
  • GH - They lose many pieces from last year’s team. Roosevelt Jones’ injury really hurts, but they are Butler and they always surprise everyone. Expect Kellen Dunham to have a big year.
  • TK - Bad timing for the Bulldogs. They ride two straight national title appearances into two straight conference upgrades, only to see their boy wonder coach Brad Stevens leave for the NBA.

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Big East M5: 11.04.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 4th, 2013

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. Headlined by national player of the year candidate Doug McDermott, Creighton is probably the most intriguing new member of the Big East, and with the season fast approaching, they want everyone to know that they are not afraid of the spotlight.  Fox Sports‘ Reid Hargrave went in depth on the Bluejays, and their fit within the new-look conference, coming away under the impression that Creighton should fit in just fine: “Just watch these kids play, spreading the floor and using non-stop ball screens and attacking from the perimeter with deadly shooting and always looking for the extra pass. This isn’t grind-it-out Big East basketball. This is the finesse game you’re more likely to see in Europe… But there’s nothing traditional about this new Big East, a conference still searching for its basketball identity.” Hargrave believes that the team’s offensive prowess takes credit away from what should  be a sound defensive unit, even when stacked up against a deeper lineup of conference rivals than what they are accustomed to. The story also includes this note — which should terrify the rest of the league — from head coach Greg McDermott on his superstar son: “But being with him every day, there’s no question he’s getting that shot off quicker.”
  2. A lot of the questions surrounding Creighton have to do with the schedules that they’ve faced in the past.  Doug McDermott thinks that recent history shows that the Bluejays are not afraid of playing high major competition, and the league that they’re coming from had quality teams similar to what they will face this winter. McDermott cites a stat that Creighton’s only losses in 11 recent games against power conference foes have been to the likes of Duke and North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament. Omaha.com‘s piece also brings up 2013 Final Four participant, Wichita State – a team from the Missouri Valley with high-major type talent that Creighton faced annually. The major adjustment in schedules for Creighton, Butler and Xavier will come in the consistent talent and athleticism that they will face on the floor, even from lesser Big East competition like DePaul and Seton Hall.
  3. The new Big East is quite attractive because of the basketball focus of the league. While most schools would love to have remained in a conference with the Syracuses, Louisvilles and UConns of the world, getting away from the myriad of issues surrounding college football is a good thing for the basketball-focused Big East programs, and  the league’s coaches, like Georgetown’s John Thompson III, seem to agree: “The identity is basketball is our religion. It’s a basketball conference.”  The three schools joining the “Catholic Seven” –  Butler, Creighton, and Xavier – definitely share the sentiment, as evidenced by the environments in which they play. Creighton is a regular among top-10 attendance lists, as the Bluejay faithful pack CenturyLink Center, while Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse is one of the toughest places to play in the country. The Big East may not send 11 teams to the NCAA Tournament anymore, or have a handful of top 10 teams at any given moment, but it is back to being all about the hoops.
  4. There is a lot that is new about DePaul basketball this year. The school is in a new league, the staff has added two new coaches, and the roster features eight new players this season. This isn’t a bad thing, as the Blue Demons have struggled to get the program jump-started and have gone without an NCAA Tournament bid since 2004. Oliver Purnell returns a few established players in Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young who he hopes can guide a young roster back towards the pack in the Big East. Despite being chosen at the bottom of the conference, with two established star players returning, the Blue Demons may surprise some teams yet.
  5. Villanova blog VU Hoops took a look at recruiting in the Big East and how the 10 teams compare with one another and other power conferences across the nation. Seven of the programs have at least one four-star recruit verballed already, with schools like Georgetown, Marquette  and Seton Hall — who has arguably landed the biggest name in guard Isaiah Whitehead — controlling the coveted rankings. The article goes on to compare the Big East to the rest of the recruiting landscape: “When it all shakes out, the new conference will most likely trail the SEC, ACC and Big Ten in terms of the number of commits ranked in the top 150 but not by much. Considering the Big East has fewer teams than each of those conferences, I think the numbers are very impressive and a good sign as the conference moves into the future.”
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Big East M5: 10.23.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on October 23rd, 2013

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. Just weeks before the start of the 2013-14 season, Marquette forward Jameel McKay has decided to leave the Golden Eagles to pursue his college basketball career elsewhere. Marquette Tribune writer Patrick Leary was especially taken aback by the announcement, based on a conversation he had with McKay just days earlier, when he “raved about how excited he was to play for Buzz and the Golden Eagles.” McKay, a junior college transfer who did not log any time for Marquette last season, was expected to be behind forwards Davante Gardner, Chris Otule, and Jamil Wilson at the forward spots. Leary speculates that playing time may have been a concern for the junior, although time would have opened up next season when all three of those players will have graduated. There do not seem to be any hard feelings between McKay and the program, at least based on his Twitter feed where he stated: ““I appreciate the coaching staff and fans no hard feeling at all GoodLuck to them this year!” shortly after announcing the transfer.
  2. Another day,another transfer player is being held up in the vortex that is the office where the NCAA clears up these matters. Today, Georgetown awaits the fate of UCLA transfer Josh Smith. Coach John Thompson III acknowledges that waiting is, in fact, the hardest part: “It’s the nature of the beast. It’s the nature of the system. Would I prefer it not be this way? Probably. But at the same time, I understand it takes time.” Smith would be a big addition to a Hoyas frontcourt that is already without forward Greg Whittington, who tore his ACL this spring after missing most of last season with academic concerns. Like Smith, Thompson doesn’t have a substantive update on Whittington’s status: “Only God knows when Greg’s going to be able to play. I have no idea when he will be able to get back on the court.”
  3.  Even within a largely new conference, DePaul‘s status remains the same. The Blue Demons have once again been voted to finish last in the league, but the players are excited for what the future holds in the Windy City. The team returns two stalwart seniors who have averaged double figure points in each of their first three years in forward Cleveland Melvin and guard Brandon Young, and adds an exciting freshman class highlighted by guard Billy Garrett Jr. To his credit, Garrett looks forward to playing on the big stage: “Playing with expectations is something I’ve gotten used to. It’s something I don’t pay that much attention to because you have to go out there and perform.” While many bemoan the loss of former conference rivals to the AAC and ACC, DePaul and other members of the Big East who struggled against the UConns and Syracuses of the world may welcome the change simply because it makes things a bit more manageable. The new league, combined with a roster that features both stars of years past and new players who are not used to all the losing years that DePaul has experienced, could make for a fresh start for a once proud program.
  4. A new league means a new court for Providence, who is set to unveil Dave Gavitt Court this season. The Friars’ new hardwood moves away from the old design, which heavily featured black, with a cleaner silver and gray look around the perimeter, and is adorned by former Providence coach, athletic director, and first Big East commissioner Dave Gavitt’s name at center court.  With so many other programs installing crazy court designs in recent years, this sleek, streamlined design is much appreciated. Now if they can just do something about the total nightmare-fuel giant inflated Friar near the tunnel at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center…
  5. As a Syracuse fan, it was hard to get excited about Hilby the German Juggle Boy as the main source of extracurricular entertainment at this year’s Midnight Madness in the Carrier Dome. Take note, Syracuse, as Seton Hall has this Midnight Madness entertainment thing figured out. During this Friday night’s event in South Orange, head men’s coach Kevin Willard and women’s coach Tony Bozzella will participate in a hot dog eating contest against the infamous Kobayashi.  If you’re a Seton Hall fan, you too can compete by entering an Instagram contest describing why you should be given a shot against Willard, Bozzella, and Kobayashi. So good luck to you, intrepid Pirates fans. I am incredibly jealous that Jim Boeheim is not participating in this one.
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Season In Review: DePaul Blue Demons

Posted 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:

After Just Two Conference Wins, Oliver Purnell Finds Himself On The Hot Seat.

After Just Two Conference Wins, Oliver Purnell Finds Himself On The Hot Seat.

The Good

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.

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Big East M5: 02.28.13 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on February 28th, 2013

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. Everyone remembers the last two days when I was saying that UConn was going to come to play Wednesday right? Okay so maybe I wasn’t going out on a very big limb with that prediction, but the Huskies sure made me look good last night when they took highly ranked Georgetown to double overtime before losing a game they probably should have won in agonizing fashion. Yes, Otto Porter deserves some big-time credit for his late-game heroics and his general excellence at the game of basketball, but the Huskies’ perimeter defense for most of the second half was atrocious and their offensive possessions down the stretch were not great either. UConn deserves credit for continuing to play inspired basketball without a postseason to look forward to, and Georgetown has the look of a No. 1 seed after taking a tough conference opponent’s best shot on the road and still coming out with a win. The Hoyas are hardly a finished product and if some team can figure out how to stop or even slow down Porter, John Thompson III‘s bunch will be in big trouble. But, in case you didn’t notice, Porter is pretty difficult to stop and when the backcourt duo of D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Markel Starks get going, opposing teams don’t have a lot of success. It is way too early to say Georgetown has the inside shot at a No. 1 seed because an early exit in the Big East Tournament can dash those hopes quickly, but they are definitely in the conversation as of right now.
  2. Notre Dame is still clinging to hope at winning the Big East regular season crown and one of the ways to improve their chances would be to get the services of senior forward Scott Martin back sometime soon. Martin has returned to practice after battling knee issues for much of the season but the Fighting Irish still have no idea when he will return to the court or if he will be able to return at all. Coach Mike Brey gave Martin’s comeback a 50-50 shot and it seems like the best the team and Martin can hope for is that the pain won’t be a major issue and Martin can play limited minutes. Even in limited minutes, Martin’s basketball IQ, floor-spacing ability, and improved long-range shooting would be a boon for a Fighting Irish team trying to find some consistency. And on a more personal note, it would be just awful for Martin if his sixth-year of eligibility and his last shot at the NCAA Tournament were wasted because of recurring knee problems. The quotes Martin gave to Jeff Goodman are, unfortunately, rather sad, and positive thinking alone won’t resurrect Martin’s career. My guess is that Brey and the team will find a way to get Martin on the court, even for a minute, on Senior Night next Tuesday but I wouldn’t expect him to make a large impact on the rest of team’s season.
  3. Until I got a chance to read this article, I had forgotten that Miami‘s star point guard Shane Larkin was at one point supposed to be playing for DePaul and coach Oliver Purnell. Even Purnell was willing to wonder what life might have been with a budding star like Larkin running the show, but alas, the Blue Demons don’t have Larkin, who has gone on to bigger and better things, while the Blue Demons have continued to slump. The story is a good one, especially because it is penned by a Virginian-Pilot reporter who was familiar with Purnell from the coach’s time at Old Dominion. The jist is that Purnell came to Chicago with the reputation of a program fixer, something DePaul was in desperate need of, and things have not gone according to plan. Aside from Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young, the team is devoid of true Big East-caliber talent and the Blue Demons’ offense is so putrid at times that watching them play can be difficult. We have used this space before to wonder whether Purnell will get the axe at the end of this season, but I think at this point, the school is willing to let him have one more year to show some serious improvement before they kick him to the curb. Of course that extra season might have just as much to do with the fact that DePaul still owes Purnell a lot of money and they would like to try and recoup something of value from that investment. It’s hard to root against Purnell, who seems like such a nice guy, but Purnell’s coaching track record is not spotless, and unless he can turn things around out of the gate next season, the school may not even wait a full season to dump him.
  4. Hard to disagree with Cincinnati head honcho Mick Cronin‘s decision to make practice after the team’s blowout loss to Notre Dame light and fun. Nothing has been fun about the last few weeks for Cincinnati as they have watched themselves go from conference title contenders to bubble watchers in just six games and so Cronin’s decision to give the guys an “emotional break” seems like exactly what the doctor ordered for the team as they get ready to play UConn on Saturday. Of course that emotional break won’t help the Bearcats learn how to score, something they have not done a lot of in recent weeks. The game against the Huskies will be at home, and UConn is coming off their emotionally draining loss last night to Georgetown, so maybe the stars have aligned for Cincinnati to get back on track, or maybe the gritty Huskies will find a way to get up for this game as well and they will sink Cincinnati even lower. Maybe now, after their break, the team can relax, take some of the pressure off of themselves, and just play hard-nosed basketball. They better, because although they are safely in the tournament for now, the way they have played in the last six games, anything can happen before Selection Sunday.
  5. It is somewhat hard to follow Bud Poliquin‘s meandering, comma-filled article about Jim Boeheim‘s testy press conference after the team’s loss to Marquette but I think what the veteran columnist is trying to say is that people shouldn’t make a big deal of the fact that Boeheim got a bit snippy in a press conference because it happens all the time. Poliquin has a point. There are plenty of us who haven’t even been on Earth long enough to remember Boeheim’s first years at Syracuse and even we know that the legend likes to get combative and short when he doesn’t like the questions being asked. All of that said, Boeheim has been making plenty of news with his off-the-court remarks this season, and scolding a student reporter, or any reporter for that much, for asking pertinent questions about X’s and O’s and coaching decisions is a bit ridiculous. The questions that Boeheim didn’t like weren’t meant to question his coaching ability, they were questions that were being asked so they could get answers from the guy in the room with all of the coaching experience and ability. A question about why Boeheim didn’t use DaJuan Coleman against the Golden Eagles isn’t meant to criticize Boeheim’s decision-making, it is to learn more about his decision-making process. So yeah, let’s not make a big deal of the fact that Jim Boeheim got snarky in front of a microphone again, but only if Boeheim will agree to stop making innocent questions about a game such a big deal as well.
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