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Big East 2015-16 Season Preview: DePaul Blue Demons

In typical fashion for fans of blue and red clad Chicago teams, hope springs eternal for DePaul.

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The past ten years for DePaul have been, not to mince words, a struggle. Since their last NCAA Tournament appearance in 2004, DePaul's registered just two 20 win seasons (2004-05, 20-11, and 2006-07, 20-14). In the same timeframe, they've won fewer than ten games on three separate occasions, and have never won more than 12 games.

Luckily for the Blue Demons, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. Armed with a new coach, new arena (eventually), and solid offensive core, the Blue Demons may be able to reverse their previous bad fortunes a bit.

Here's everything you need to know about the 2015-16 DePaul Blue Demons.

Notable Returnees

Billy Garrett, Jr (12.3 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 3.9 APG, 30.0 MPG)

Myke Henry (12.0 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.2 APG, 28.1 MPG)

Tommy Hamilton IV (10.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.0 APG, 25.8 MPG)

Aaron Simpson (4.8 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.1 APG, 17.0 MPG)

Rashaun Stimage (4.6 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 0.0 APG, 14.7 MPG)

Darrick Wood (4.3 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 1.1 APG, 13.5 MPG)

RJ Currington (2.5 PPG, 0.7 RPG, 0.2 APG, 5.9 MPG)

Peter Ryckbosch (Missed 2014-15 with torn ACL)

Notable Departures

Forrest Robinson (Graduation)

Jamee Crockett (Graduation)

Greg Sequele (Graduation)

Durrell McDonald (Transfer)

Notable Additions

Elijah Cain (3* Guard, Medford, NJ)

Develle Phillips (3* Power Forward, Upper Marlboro, MD)

Oumar Berry (3* Center, Camp Springs, MD)

Frederick Scott (2* Forward, Munster, IN)

Erten Gatz (2* guard, Istanbul, Turkey)

Get to Know DePaul's Incoming Recruits: Develle Phillips Elijah Cain Oumar Barry Frederick Scott Erten Gazi


New Arena (Eventually)

With the start of a new year comes the omnipresent hope that DePaul will be one year closer to moving out of the Rosemont Horizon and into their shiny new (in pictures, at least) arena on Chicago's lakefront.

When the arena will be ready, though, remains to be seen.

Originally set to open for the 2016-17 season, there's yet to even be a groundbreaking ceremony for the arena.

Everyone can agree DePaul needs to move out of the suburbs and into the city, as they draw just over 2,000 fans a game, but it remains a mystery as to when they'll be able to do that.

Henry, Garrett, and Hamilton

One of the best offensive triumvirates in the Big East wears royal blue and scarlet. Billy Garrett, Jr. led DePaul in scoring last season at 12.3 points per game, Myke Henry was second with 12.0 points and led the team with 5.4 rebounds per game, and Tommy Hamilton finished fourth in scoring (third amongst returning players) with 10.0 points per game, and second in rebounding with 5.3

Those three all being back is huge for the Demons.

Henry will look to close out his college career with a bang, while Garrett and Hamilton will look to continue their careers, and possibly raise their draft stocks.

Frontcourt experience and depth

DePaul is one of the taller teams in the Big East. They have five scholarship players that are six-foot-eight or taller. The issue for the Blue Demons? Aside from Rashaun Stimage, who missed two months with a foot injury, and Tommy Hamilton, none of DePaul's three other big men were on the roster last season.

Oumar Berry and Develle Phillips come in as freshmen. Stimage and Hamilton won't be playing 40 minutes a game, so those youngsters guys are going to have to quickly adapt and adjust to a level of play they haven't previously experienced.

3 reasons for optimism

1. (Old) New Blood: Oliver Purnell was a dark cloud over the Chicago campus for years. The return of Dave Leitao to the fold not only brings upon fond memories of DePaul's best post-Ray Meyer era, but a breath of fresh air on the recruiting circuit and for the development of DePaul's young stars.

2. Billy Garrett projects to ball out in Year 3: The bright light on dim DePaul teams over the last two years, Garrett continued with his progression last season, shooting less with more efficiency, and netting an offensive rating of 109.2.

He didn't ascend into the top level of Big East players as some expected, but there's no sign this year won't be his breakout campaign. He's entering a crucial Junior season, one where if all the cards land in his favor, he could declare for the NBA Draft in 2016.

The offense will run through Garrett. His aggressiveness with the ball in his hand will determine if DePaul is middle-of-the-pack or bottom of the barrel.

3. Last year showed signs of improvement: DePaul was 12-12 in early February before eight straight losses to finish the year. Still, six conference wins is a vast improvement from the usual two or three wins of years past.

They bring back their returning core of Garrett, Tommy Hamilton and Myke Henry, and with a more intense defensive philosophy under Leitao, they should be able to keep games close and steal some wins in the Big East.

3 reasons for pessimism

1. Dave Leitao is kind of a retread: Before DePaul opened up their coaching search, I told myself, "You know what? It wouldn't shock me in the least if Dave Leitao was coaching this team in November." I'm not saying I'm an oracle. I'm just saying. Anywho, it does scare me that DePaul went to the Ghosts of Coaches Past to rebuild what's become a moribund program. Only time will tell if it's the right move.

2. Contrary to popular belief, the Big East is GOOD: Taking a look at the Big East: Villanova has the most complete lineup in the conference, Marquette brings in a heralded recruit in Henry Ellenson which could propel them to the top of the conference, Butler, Georgetown and Xavier all return a mix of veteran leadership and stud underclassmen, and Providence has Kris Dunn. Nuff said. It's gonna be really tough for DePaul to get through that slate.

3. It's DePaul: Self-explanatory, right? Some programs are meant to thrive atop the card (Villanova, Georgetown) and others are the NCAA equivalent of the Brooklyn Brawler. DePaul has played the role of Abe "Knuckleball" Schwartz for a while, and we'll need to see continued improvement if DePaul wants to rise above jobber status in the Big East.

Best Case Scenario

The players respond favorably to a new voice, improving on defense and in the locker room. Billy Garrett breaks out as one of the top 5 players in the Big East, Tommy Hamilton becomes the bully we imagined he'd be coming into DePaul, and Dave Leitao leads the Blue Demons to 6+ conference wins in 2016.

Worst Case Scenario

Same old stuff - defensive lapses lead to plenty of blowouts in conference. Injuries and suspensions continue under the Leitao regime, as they were constants under Oliver Purnell. Billy Garrett is forced to do it almost solo as DePaul struggles to stay out of the bottom of the Big East.