Although they are 7-4, the DePaul Blue Demons are playing with fire currently. Sooner or later, they will get burned. So many times this season, DePaul has found itself in tough situations against teams they should beat handedly, but somehow come out with a win. That trend was evident against Southeast Missouri State when the Redhawks held a double-digit lead in the second half. But a huge run by the Blue Demons helped avoid what would be another massive letdown for Dave Leitato’s team. With conference play coming up soon, the Blue Demons are going to need to change a lot before they can become a semi-threat in the Big East. Here are five things the Blue Demons should wish for this holiday season
Finding a third scorer
Outside of Eli Cain and Billy Garrett Jr., a consistent third scorer has failed to step up for DePaul. This brings trouble when both are out of the game, although Leitao has done a great job trying to stagger both of their minutes. Yet when an all bench unit rolls out or when either of the two are having a bad game, the DePaul offense gets bogged down. They need someone else who can help relieve off the pressure of Cain and Garrett Jr. One candidate has been Tre’Darius McCallum, who has stepped up massively in the past two games. He has proven to be a beast on the boards and is starting to find his groove from the outside. Playing at the four, McCallum often finds himself in the favor of a mismatch against a big man that is not as quick or athletic as him. With this advantage along with his ability to somewhat stretch the floor, McCallum could be DePaul’s X-factor moving forward.
One other big man than Joe Hanel needs to step up
In his first year as a starter, Joe Hanel has proven to be the best big man on the roster (if you count McCallum as a forward). It’s clear that the coaching staff thinks so as well. Often times, Hanel finds himself racking up big time minutes and gassed at the end of games. DePaul has other options at the center position, with Levi Cook and Al Eichelberger being the two other main backups, and needs one of those two to start playing better to earn more minutes. Eichelberger had his best game as a Blue Demon against Chicago State last week but has proven to be inconsistent. Cook would be the best option at this point as he has been a constant presence in the post and paint on both ends of the court whenever he gets minutes. But DePaul need more help inside.
Better three-point shooting
To help with their inside game, DePaul needs to start shooting better to help open that up. Especially from three where they struggle mightily as a team. DePaul as a team shoots an average of 33.7% and have only two players that shoot greater than 40% from the field (Eli Cain and Darrick Wood). With only Cain being the only consistent threat from deep, teams can just pack the paint and wait for DePaul to drive to the hoop or take a heavily contested two. They need the likes of Garrett Jr. , R.J. Curington, Devin Gage and McCallum to start shooting better to help open up driving lanes and the floor in general.
More bench production
So far for the Blue Demons, their offense has been a majority of Eli Cain with Garrett Jr., Tre’Darius McCallum and some other guys sprinkled into it. But like I said earlier, when DePaul rolls out their bench lineup, it’s a challenge for them to put the ball into the basket. There may be questions about a more consistent rotation but one thing is very clear: DePaul needs someone on the bench to step up. Could be someone like Gage or Curington but it doesn’t really matter because they have nobody at the moment.
Not playing down to their competition
So far DePaul has played what has looked like a soft schedule on paper. But hasn’t looked that way on the court. DePaul has really struggled against some opponents they should be beating by double digits. There is some talent on this Blue Demon team but they are only using it when they absolutely have to. That kind of stuff won’t fly in conference play and it’s something they need to fix ASAP.