1) Gibbs vs. Garrett Jr.
Big East fans are licking their chops for this battle between two of the best point guards in the conference. Sterling Gibbs is having an incredible start to his season. He is averaging 17.2 points per game, which ranks third in the Big East. Gibbs is coming off a 30-point performance against Butler and has scored at least 20 points in four of his last five games. If that's not enough for you, the junior has scored in double figures in 15 of 17 games this year. Gibbs is also leading the Pirates with 3.8 assists per game. All of this adds up to being an early frontrunner for conference player of the year.
Billy Garrett Jr. was the Big East Rookie of the Year a season ago and has been trying to take more of a leadership role for the Blue Demons this season. Lately, the sophomore has made important baskets in wins over St. John’s and Xavier. Garrett is averaging 13.3 points per game to go along with 3.7 assists per contest. With Garrett leading the way, DePaul finds themselves at 4-2 in the Big East and are a win away from a share of first place. Garrett is coming off a season-high 20-point performance against the Red Storm and will look to keep up his solid play in Newark.
2) What a difference a year makes
At the end of last season, the Pirates and Blue Demons had a combined nine regular season wins in the conference before the Big East tournament. That was good enough for eight and tenth in the conference respectively.
DePaul already has more wins in the Big East, four, than all of last season, which was unexpected to say the least. The Blue Demons could claim a share of first place in the conference with Georgetown if they are able to get the win over the Pirates.
In order for the Blue Demons to win, however, their defense and rebounding must improve. DePaul ranks 307th in the country for total rebounding per game, which is a sign that a player like Angel Delgado could have his way on the glass. Defensively, DePaul ranks 322nd in point allowed as they have conceded an average of 73.3 points per game. For the Blue Demons, there are things to work on, but coach Oliver Purnell has to be happy with how far this team has come from the last place team he had a season ago.
3) Important game for DePaul considering what is ahead
This game with Seton Hall is the first of a three-game road stretch for DePaul and it does not get any easier for them when they return home. The Pirates will be coming off of a nine-day break so they will likely be fresher and healthier coming into this game. Players like Delgado, Brandon Mobley and Desi Rodriguez have been battling down low for long stretches in games. They should feel much better after this longer break.
DePaul is coming off a good win over St. John’s, but this game is likely a must win for the Blue Demons, especially with games at Xavier, at Providence and home to Villanova upcoming. If DePaul has a rough road trip, they could go from battling for first place in the Big East to the cellar in a hurry. When this stretch is over, we will know if this early start by DePaul was legitimate or not. The Blue Demons have only played two true road games in the conference and five overall this season so they will be tested to say the least in the days to come.
Seton Hall and DePaul have been the two pleasant surprises to this point in the Big East season. For possibly the first time ever, they are facing off in an important game with high quality players on the floor. This game is just another in a long line of fun matchups that the Big East has given us this season.