Game Preview: DePaul vs. Creighton

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

After dropping their first two Big East match-ups, DePaul returns to the Allstate Arena to greet All-American Doug McDermott and Big East newcomer Creighton.

DePaul went 1-3 on their four-game road trip, including losing their last two games against Big East opponents Georgetown and Marquette. Despite staying in both games late, the Blue Demons could not overcome offensive struggles in order to capture a win. It gets no easier on Tuesday, as they return to the Allstate Arena to face the Creighton Bluejays, and arguably the best college basketball player in the nation, forward Doug McDermott.

DePaul (8-7) vs. Creighton (12-2)

Tuesday, Jan. 7th, 9 P.M. EST
Allstate Arena, Rosemont, IL
TV: FOX Sports 1
Radio: WSCR 670 AM (DePaul), 1620 KZON-AM (Creighton)

BIG East Woes

DePaul has dropped their last nine Big East contests (including the Big East tournament) after falling to both Georgetown and Marquette on the road last week.

In their defense, the Blue Demons have exceeded expectations in both games before faltering down the stretch. DePaul made a 15-2 run on the Hoyas in the first half and led by as much as seven before relinquishing the lead and failing to stick around. Against Marquette, DePaul led throughout until a little past the midway point of the second half before the Golden Eagles finished on a 20-9 run to put away the Blue Demons.

Now they welcome 12-2 Creighton, newcomers to the Big East. Unlike DePaul back in 2005, Creighton is worthy of the challenge of competing for a Big East championship. That will happen when the nation's best senior in Doug McDermott is on your team.

McDermott's legend has been compared to a modern-day Larry Bird at Indiana State. He was the mid-major college basketball force that who racked up accolade after accolade (2x Consensus first-team All-American) while making NBA scouts salivate. Choosing not to enter the 2013 NBA Draft, McDermott returned to his senior season for the chance to win a Big East championship. At the rate he and the Blue Jays are going, he just might get that opportunity.

Oliver Purnell hasn't been able to solve the Big East just yet, but he seems to be on the edge of doing so. Is it a long shot to happen against Creighton? Likely. However, if it is to happen Tuesday, Purnell knows the primary game plan in order to make that happen is stopping Doug McDermott.

New Kids on the Block

After years of being one of the premiere mid-major programs in college basketball, Creighton enters Allstate Arena on Tuesday with a 12-2 record and double-digit victories against Big East opponents Marquette and Seton Hall. Few teams in the Big East are better than the Bluejays at this point in the season.

Few teams have a consensus All-American and the returning leading scorer in the nation on their team.

But Doug McDermott isn't the only Blue Jay that can put the ball through the net. Senior forward Ethan Wragge is the one player on the Jays that can be considered a better shooter (if that's possible) than McDermott. Starting half of Creighton's 14 games, Wragge has shot 48 percent from the field, and is a three-point specialist, converting nearly half of his three-point attempts.

Off the bench for Creighton is Devin Brooks, who provided a big spark in the first half Saturday against Seton Hall. Brooks, who had 11 in the game, is a guard that has been making the most of his minutes following a recent spell of bad play. The JUCO transfer can score at will, and will cause problems for the DePaul backcourt.

Four Factors

DePaul Creighton
Scoring Offense 71.5 81.5
Scoring Defense 70.1 63.9
Field Goal Pct. .431 .483
Turnovers Per Game 14.5 10.4

Offense (not surprisingly) will be the name of the game in this match-up. Creighton averages a full 10 points more than DePaul, and wins most of their games by close to 20 points. They're a team full of shooters, but they can also play defense, holding opponents to 40 percent shooting.

This can present a problem for DePaul, who has found themselves falling victim to poor shooting streaks in recent games. Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young have been hot and cold as of late, and despite his potential, Billy Garrett has seen his fair share of struggles in his freshman year. If DePaul can't get shots to fall and they continue to turn the ball over at the pace they have been, the Bluejays will capitalize.

Prediction

Although the Blue Demons have been playing better than many thought they would through the first two games of Big East play, Creighton is just that much of an offensive force for DePaul to stop. Melvin will face the unfortunate task of stopping McDermott, and stopping a man averaging 25 PPG won't be easy.

Coaching, Greg McDermott, Doug's father, has been a much better game manager than Oliver Purnell. Granted, it's a little easy to do when your team performs at an exceptional level. Creighton was able to roll past Seton Hall by an easy 13 points. Purnell has struggled, not only this season, but throughout his tenure at DePaul. Even though they have performed better recently, his tenure might not last much longer.

Tuesday presents an opportunity for DePaul's Sandi Marcius and Tommy Hamilton to have breakout games. Both, however, saw their minutes drastically diminished Saturday, combining for zero points and four assists, all from Marcius. Both have failed to find a consistent rhythm for DePaul and, quite possibly, are their achilles heel. Melvin, Young and Garrett will have to make up for their lack of offense, but it won't be enough.

Creighton 83, DePaul 64

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