Jordan Tucker looks for an open move during a game this season. Tucker and the Butler men’s basketball team play at DePaul on Jan. 18. Xan Korman / Collegian file photo.
CHRIS BROWN | SPORTS EDITOR | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Butler men’s basketball team will look to bounce back from a disappointing loss to Big East preseason favorite Seton Hall when it travels to Chicago to take on DePaul. The Bulldogs have defeated the Blue Demons in 11 straight matchups, and despite DePaul’s recent struggles, Butler can’t afford to take this game for granted. Here’s what you need to know heading into just Butler’s second game this season following a loss:
Who: No. 5 Butler (15-2, 3-1 Big East) vs. DePaul (12-5, 0-4 Big East)
When: Saturday, Jan. 18, 1 p.m. ET
Where: Wintrust Arena, Chicago, Illinois
How to watch/listen: FSN, 93.5FM/107.5FM/1070AM
- After a strong nonconference performance, DePaul has yet to find the win column in conference play. But it is still a team capable of an upset.
Less than three weeks ago, the Blue Demons were receiving votes in the AP Top 25 after finishing nonconference play 12-1. That slate included victories over Minnesota, Iowa and Texas Tech, all teams inside the KenPom top 40. Since then, the team has gone 0-4 in conference play and remains the only Big East team without a conference win. DePaul dropped home games to Seton Hall and Providence before falling to St. John’s and No. 14 Villanova on the road.
Against Villanova, DePaul came close to pulling off an upset, overcoming an 11-point deficit with just over two minutes remaining to take the Wildcats to overtime, where it fell 79-75. The Blue Demons have two top 10 scorers in the conference in junior guard Charlie Moore and junior forward Paul Reed, who are averaging 16.5 and 15.5 points, respectively. DePaul may be one of the worst teams in the Big East, but as their top non-league victories and game against Villanova show, the Blue Demons are capable of taking advantage of mistakes and won’t likely go down without a fight.
- Setting the tone early will be important for the Bulldogs.
Butler has only one other time this season been in the position it is now: looking to avoid a second straight loss. It was far from a devastating loss, of course, but in the Big East, one loss can turn into a losing streak in a hurry if a team doesn’t move on and move forward. After losing by one point at Baylor on Dec. 10, the Bulldogs returned to Hinkle Fieldhouse to face Southern in their next game. While the opponent has to be taken into consideration, the Butler team that took the court in the opening minutes of that game was locked in defensively and efficient offensively. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 16-3 lead in the first 10 minutes and never looked back.
In their game against Villanova, DePaul set the tone early, leaving Villanova with a sizeable hole to climb out of. Halfway through the first half of that game, the Blue Demons led 21-8 after holding the Wildcats to three-of-their-first-16 from the field. As Butler takes on DePaul in Chicago, the opening minutes will be extremely important. The Bulldogs need to put their first conference loss behind them quickly and come in focused from the jump, because if they don’t, they could be looking at a road deficit too steep to climb out of without near flawless execution.
- DePaul is simply struggling on both ends of the floor, with scoring depth being a key offensive issue. But the Blue Demons have capitalized well on second chance opportunities.
On the defensive end, the Blue Demons have struggled to contain Big East teams, particularly from beyond the arc, where conference opponents are shooting 37%. That’s the the ninth-worst 3-point field goal defense in the league. Seven DePaul opponents have scored over 70 points this season; for comparison, only Seton Hall has scored 70+ against the Bulldogs.
Offensively, DePaul has struggled to get much production beyond Moore and Reed in conference play. The Blue Demons have three other players averaging seven or more points per game – guards Jaylen Butz and Romeo Weems and forward Jalen Coleman-Lands – but in three of their four Big East games, only one other player besides Moore and Reed has reached double digits. And against the Wildcats, DePaul got just two points from non-starters. While they have high-volume scorers that can hurt opponents, without enough of them the Blue Demons haven’t been able to overcome their defensive weaknesses. DePaul is ninth during Big East action in offensive efficiency and 3-point percentage – they’re knocking down just under 27% of their 3-point attempts.
One of DePaul’s biggest strengths has been on the offensive glass. The Blue Demons are averaging nearly 13 offensive boards per game in conference play and have tallied 10 or more second-chance points in each of those games. DePaul is not a great shooting team, but give them extra chances and they’ve shown the ability to capitalize. Limiting those opportunities would undoubtedly go a long way in preventing the Blue Demons from gaining offensive momentum.