In the past few days, Blue Demon delirium has seemingly swept across the college basketball landscape. After defeating Creighton in Omaha, the Blue Demons vaulted up the Big East standings into sole possession of first place, ensuring that the entire nation would take note of their 3-0 Big East start, their first in history. In that time, the delirium has spread from headlines to Drake himself, who was seen wearing a DePaul Women's Basketball sweatshirt (a team that garners high rankings and prestige themselves).
It's incredibly nice to see DePaul commanding the respect of fans all around the country, even if it is just for the time being. The game on Wednesday night wowed all who watched, not simply because of the beat-down that DePaul gave to Creighton, but because of the manner in which it happened. The Blue Demons started the night on a 20-5 run after hitting 6 three pointers right out of the gates. It was an opening six minutes for the ages, something that was almost hypnotic to watch. I was addled by the performance that the Blue Demons were putting on. It was something I had not witnessed all season long.
Ultimately, Creighton seemed just as puzzled by DePaul's sudden shooting prowess as the viewers were. After all, DePaul couldn't possibly start out shooting 5/6 from three, could they? They could. Creighton has been one of the worst teams in the Big East all season long, but it was no doubt shocking to see DePaul win in this fashion, especially since KenPom had DePaul as an underdog against the Bluejays. The Blue Demons sure had their fair share of mistakes, but boy did they do a lot right.
What Went Right
I would be remiss to have a positives section that does not mention Forrest Robinson. The game against Creighton highlighted every skill set he contained, from his superb perimeter shooting to his ability to crash the boards with incredible toughness. Forrest Robinson completely took over this game. He began it by hitting five three-pointers without a single miss. He hasn't showcased his ability like this before, one reason why this game did surprise those watching. His shooting is something that is well-known among fans and coaches alike; a performance like the one he gave against Creighton not only gave the coaches something new to work into the gameplan, but also a reason to continue to give the green light on having him start in games.
DePaul also managed to do something in Wednesday's matchup that they hadn't done very well all season long: Rebound and dominate the paint. The Blue Demons have consistently been getting out-rebounded and beaten in the paint, something that has contributed to all seven of their losses. It's a sad fact, but it is good to finally see the Blue Demons come out and perform to the standard that their opponents have been setting against them. The rebounding attack was spread out among the entire team, it seemed, as each player that logged minutes on Wednesday grabbed at least two rebounds, with Rashaun Stimage being the lone exception. DePaul also managed to beat Creighton in both the points in the paint and second chance points categories, two areas that have been the Achilles heel for this Blue Demons team all year long. It is extremely promising to see this team doing so well in areas that have been their foibles this season, but God knows it is an incredibly difficult thing to keep up, especially with fifteen games left in the season.
Less than Desired
Perhaps the biggest disappointment in this game for the Blue Demons was DePaul's inability to hold their lead. Despite leading by as many as seventeen points, the Blue Demons let that lead slip often, leaving the win in question. It was extremely frustrating to watch, given the level of play that bad been employed by the Blue Demons. It is incontrovertible that, against a team of greater caliber than Creighton, DePaul would have lost that game given how they managed their lead. They have to learn to have smarter possessions when having the lead, as they certainly cannot expect to continually throw up threes, no matter how hot they have been prior to that point. Eventually they will go cold. Trying to shoot one's way out of a slump is not a sustainable method for a victory.
On an added note, Tommy Hamilton IV really struggled in this game. The DePaul center was 2/10 from the field, continuing to throw up shots, many of which were actually good looks. He has really struggled this season, especially in the games following his suspension. I'd really like to see work to get his game back because if he does, DePaul could have quite a lethal frontcourt with him, Myke Henry, and Forrest Robinson, who is beginning to see his game fully form.
What this Entails
In the end, this game really seemed to give some validity to a DePaul team that had been
joshed ridiculed by the media. Now some praise is being heaped onto this DePaul team. In fact, they are even predicted to be a 14 seed in Joe Lunardi's latest bracketology, but that is only due to the fact that they're currently in first place in the Big East, meaning they get the conference's automatic bid in the bracket. Nevertheless, they're looking great right now and people have finally taken notice. It's too soon to tell whether or not this is the rebirth of the DePaul program, but lets just enjoy this while we can.
Villanova is next in line on Saturday.