NCAA Basketball

College Basketball Preview: DePaul vs. Louisville

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DePaul Blue Demons @ (13)Louisville Cardinals
KFC Yum! Center – Louisville, KY
Saturday, Feb. 5, 2011
Time: 8:02 pm EST
Series History: UofL leads 34-21

Two steps forward, one step back. Win two, lose one. That’s how the first three of Louisville’s three game BIG EAST segments have played out. The Cardinals have had three chances to sweep a three game set, failing each of the three times (at Villanova, at Providence and at Georgetown). If they TCB against DePaul, they then will need to win at Notre Dame to give themselves an opportunity to sweep a set at home against a slumping Syracuse squad.

To start the second half of the BIG EAST schedule, Louisville welcomes in the DePaul Blue Demons on Saturday night. The Cardinals will have had nearly a full week of rest following their Big Monday loss at Georgetown, while DePaul will have just one day of preparation coming off their loss on Thursday night to Notre Dame. The Blue Demons have now lost nine strait and that streak should reach 15-16 before they have a legitimate shot at winning a game (February 26th and March 2nd – home games against USF and Rutgers). Not only have they lost nine in a row overall, DePaul has dropped 22 (TWENTY TWO!) consecutive BIG EAST battles, which is one of the top three all-time streaks in the conference’s storied history.

DePaul has lost 43 of its last 45 conference games, with the only two victories a one-point win last year over Marquette and a 2008 first round ‘w’ over Cincinnati in the BIG EAST Championship. But… anything can happen and that’s why they play the games so on to previewin’ the atrocity that is DePaul men’s basketball. They don’t score (averaging 68.8 points a game – 194th in the country). They don’t rebound (averaging 31.8 a game – 307th in the country). They don’t play defense, ranking last in the conference in points allowed, giving up almost three points a game more than the next worst team and 17 more points a game that Cincinnati, the conference leader. They really don’t DO much of anything.

We don’t even get to see the always hilarious sideline antics of former Head Coach Jerry Wainwright on Saturday night…

… because the Blue Demons are led by first year head coach Oliver Purnell, and there is a glimmer of hope for the DePaul faithful as Purnell has what, on paper looks to be a very solid recruiting class coming in next year, along with Miami (FL) transfer Donovan Kirk. They will be playing alongside the Blue Demons’ young core, headlined by 6′ 8″, 210 pound freshman beast forward, and likely cornerstone of Purnell’s rebuilding process barring an early departure to the NBA, Cleveland Melvin. Melvin has scored in double figures in 14 strait games, including a career high 29 at Georgetown. The freshman leads DePaul in scoring (14.7) and blocked shots (1.7) and is second on the team in rebounding (4.7). He is also shooting 53 percent from the field and 71 percent from the charity stripe. Not to mention that since BIG EAST play has started Melvin is the conference’s third leading scorer at over 20 points per.

Melvin, who hails from Baltimore, Maryland, followed Purnell to DePaul along with his fellow freshman and the team’s second leading scorer at 11.7 points per scrap: Washington, DC’s own Brandon Young. Young also leads the Blue Demons in minutes (31.6), assists (3.8) and steals (1.3) per game. He is an explosive athlete who has shown flashes of brilliance so far in his ‘young’ career.

Sophomore forward Tony Freeland, out of Los Angeles, California is the third member of this DePaul club to average in double figures, pouring in 10.7 points per contest. Freeland does so in just 23.0 minutes a game, mainly due to his propensity to get, and stay in foul trouble. Freeland and Melvin provide a solid one-two punch on the low block, and they are complimented nicely in the middle by 6′ 11″ center Krys Faber, who leads the team in boards, pulling down 5.7 a game. Faber also contributes 8.3 points per contest and surprisingly is not a threat to block shots as he has rejected only six all season.

The Cards have already allowed one team (Providence, who ended a 17-game BIG EAST losing streak) to earn their first BIG EAST victory of the season against them, they won’t be letting that happen again – especially at home. Louisville wins big, as expected. I also expect in the years to come under Coach Purnell, these DePaul games will no longer be should-be gimmes. Louisville needs to take advantage of them while they still can.

Louisville 90, DePaul 69