It is no secret that the DePaul Blue Demons has not seen a considerable amount of success in recent seasons, having accumulated a record of 42-77 since Oliver Purnell took over as head coach (2010-present). Despite those numbers, the majority of DePaul's wins every season come in nonconference play, as they usually always schedule opponents weaker than their Big East foes, with a sprinkling of a few tough power conference teams dispersed throughout. This year is a bit different, with a few extra power conference teams coming into play, as well as the Diamond Head Classic being on the schedule*.
*NOTE: Only DePaul's first round match-up at the Diamond Head Classic (vs Colorado) will be included in this list, as the other opponents have obviously not yet been determined.
1. Stanford Cardinal (Sunday, November 30th; Chicago, Illinois) - Stanford squeaked into the NCAA Tournament last year with an at-large bid as a ten seed who finished at a relatively respectable 10-8 in PAC-12 play. However, the Cardinal were able to modestly surprise the college basketball world by beating the Kansas Jayhawks, a No. 2 seed led by Andrew Wiggins but lacking inside force Joel Embiid in order to advance to the Sweet 16. That victory bought Johnny Dawkins some job security as well as an excellent recruiting pitch, something that he most certainly used to improve his already successful team. Not only did Stanford manage to keep many top scorers from last season, such as Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown, but the Cardinal picked up a number of top recruits, including five-star power forward Reid Travis, who will help to make up for the loss of Dwight Powell down low.
2. Colorado Buffaloes (Monday, December 22nd; Honolulu, Hawaii) - DePaul kicks off their first game of the Diamond Head Classic with a meeting against one of the Pac 12 Conference's top performers from last season, Colorado. Tad Boyle has catapulted the Buffaloes back to national prominence and he looks to build on his successes next season. While he may have lost a contributor in Spencer Dinwiddie, he retained his 2nd, 3rd, and 4th best scorers from last season, Josh Scott, Askia Booker, and Xavier Johnson, respectively. That talent will also be bolstered by a four-star guard named Dominique Collier, who signed with the Buffs. The game will be held on a neutral court, but Colorado will have certainly gotten a feel for their team by the time this game rolls around and they may even be in the Top 25 by then.
3. George Washington Colonials (Thursday, December 11th; Washington D.C.) - Mike Lonergan's team caused much consternation at the beginning of last season when they started off hot and amassed a record of 10-1. They were plowing through their schedule and were doing so due to the point production from Indiana transfer Maurice Creek, who was leading the team. He ultimately ended up with 3rd Team All-A10 honors, an award he certainly deserved after leading the Colonials to a No. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament. This game will take place outside of Chicago and it will be a tough match-up for DePaul, as George Washington has proven to be one of the elite mid-majors who currently reside in the A10. This could be one of my favorite games of the year to watch.
4. Oregon State Beavers (Thursday, December 18th; Corvallis, Oregon) - It goes without saying that DePaul's nonconference schedule is stacked with PAC-12 teams next season. The Beavers may not be on the level of Stanford and Colorado, but they are certainly no pushovers. It will take some work for them to find a key group of players to step up and assume leadership roles, however, since their top three scorers from last season all graduated and Craig Robinson was replaced by Wayne Tinkle. This seems like a game that DePaul should be able to win, even on the road.
5. Milwaukee Panthers (Sunday, December 7th; Chicago, Illinois) - A Horizon League without Butler has opened up competition between many schools who were consistently sitting in top spots, but were unable to best the Bulldogs. Milwaukee wasn't able to have a great conference record this season (7-9), but they did manage to pull off a massive upset of Green Bay in the conference tournament, going on to clinch an NCAA tournament berth after defeating Wright State. Since that time, the Panthers have lost their two top scorers, but the juniors Matt Tiby and Austin Arians are certainly ready to step up, fill those shoes, and seek another Horizon League title.
6. Drake Bulldogs (Tuesday, November 18th; Chicago, Illinois) - With the exception of the nearly-perfect Wichita State Shockers, 2013 was a down season for the Missouri Valley Conference. In a league that normally has a few solid teams that can contend in the tournament, Wichita State was the only squad to impress. Drake hopes to change that next season. After a subpar season last year, Drake is bringing back Gary Ricks Jr. and Jordan Daniels, two of the top scorers from the previous season. Drake will need to improve its rebounding numbers if it is to contend against anyone, putting up dismal numbers when it comes to crashing the boards. This looks like a good match-up for the Blue Demons, who have brought in Ray Doby to add to the team's size.
7. Illinois State Redbirds (Sunday, December 14th; Chicago, Illinois) - The Redbirds are slowly but surely coming back into prominence in the MVC. After finishing last season with a record of 18-16, Illinois State has begun working on improving its top scorers from last year, Daishon Knight, Zach Lofton, and Bobby Hunter, all of whom are returning. Illinois State didn't recruit well last season, so they really are putting all of the weight on their upperclassmen to put up the points. This intrastate match-up will test how well DePaul does against a team whose core is built around skilled upperclassmen.
8. Northern Illinois Huskies (Tuesday, December 2nd; Chicago, Illinois) - One of the four intrastate match-ups that DePaul has on the docket for this season is against Northern Illinois, who is coming off of a less-than-mediocre 2013-2014 season. The Huskies were horrible offensively last season, shooting roughly 39 percent, leaving no question as to why their highest scorer was freshman Dontel Highsmith, who scored 10.5 points per game. NIU is a young team, so there's always a huge amount of room for improvement from year to year. If they do improve immensely, this game could be grossly misplaced on the rankings.
9. Lehigh Mountain Hawks (Wednesday, November 26th; Chicago, Illinois) - Yeah remember when they beat Duke? That was pretty sweet. But I digress . . . Lehigh hasn't been able to replicate the success they saw when CJ McCollum was on the court, but they have not been horrible by any means. They're a team stacked full of juniors and sophomores, meaning that improvement is inevitable. Also, on an added note, their defense isn't too shabby either. They hold their opponents to a modest amount of points and they crash the boards pretty well for a small conference team.
10. Chicago State Cougars (Thursday, December 4th; Chicago, Illinois) - This matchup of Chicago schools is surprisingly one I am not looking forward to watching. Chicago State has lost two of its best scorers from last season and their defense is simply abysmal, allowing opponents to put up an average of 76 points per game. If DePaul has trouble defeating the Cougars, the Blue Demons are in for a rough finish to the season.
11. Illinois-Chicago Flames (Friday, November 14th; Chicago, Illinois) - This is the season opener for DePaul and it is against Illinois-Chicago, a team that managed to only procure 6 wins last season, including one lone win in Horizon League play. Illinois-Chicago had eight underclassmen on their team last year, so one could easily point to that as a sign of their struggles. Either way, this game should be an easy win for DePaul to start the season. One interesting note about this contest is that it will not take place in the Allstate Arena, but rather in McGrath-Phillips Arena, the venue that the DePaul Women's Basketball and Volleyball teams call home.