We are a couple of days from college basketball being back and soon we will be watching all the nonconference matchups we can handle. Nonconference season is a fun time and a good stretch during these slate of games can often give programs momentum heading into the buzzsaw of conference play. This especially applies to the DePaul Blue Demons. It’s going to be another tough year for DePaul and with the Big East getting even better, they need to have a good stretch of play in their nonconference games.
Bethune-Cookman @ DePaul
The Bethune-Cookman Wildcats will be the first opponent DePaul will face this year. Although they aren’t that well known, the Wildcats had a pretty good 2017-18 season. They finished 18-14 on the year, with a 12-4 record in the MEAC. That was good enough to earn them a second seed in the conference tournament as well as a share of the MEAC title. However, their chances of getting a automatic bid into the NCAA tournament were cut short as they lost to 7th seed Morgan State in the final minutes.
It’s a very experienced team with a lot of juniors and seniors on the roster. They play on offense like they’ve been playing together for a while. Last year Bethune-Cookman were a very solid team offensively, finishing 25th in the country at 81.9 points per game. They finished in the top 50 in assists per game with 15.7. This will be an early test for the DePaul defense and front court. An inexperience front court will have to play against a BCU team which averaged 42.1 rebounds per game, good for second in the country.
Morgan State @ DePaul
Speaking of Morgan State, DePaul gets an early MEAC doubleheader to kick off nonconference play. Morgan State finished with a regular season record of 13-19 and 7-9 in MEAC play. Their season ended in the semi-finals of the MEAC tournament against North Carolina Central. It ended a two game streak in the tournament which saw the Bears win both two close games.
Like BCU, Morgan State will be a lot to handle on the glass. They averaged 37.7 rebounds per game, good for 37th in the country. For the likes of Paul Reed, he will have to make sure to control the boards if DePaul wants to win this game. Their offense should have success against Morgan State but they need to control tempo.
Penn State @ DePaul
This will be the first real test for DePaul as they welcome the Penn State Nittany Lions to Wintrust Arena. Penn State will be the first of two Big Ten teams DePaul will play in this stretch of games. They had a winning record in 2017-18, going 21-13 overall and .500 in Big Ten play. Penn State finished 7th in a tough conference where six teams had more than 20 wins. Although they didn’t make the NCAA tournament, they ended up winning the NIT Championship after routing Mississippi State and Utah State in the semi-final and final respectively. So overall, it was a very good year for Penn State.
They will have to recover from the loss of Tony Carr declaring for the NBA draft. Losing Carr was one of their top scorers for them and they are going to look elsewhere to make up for his offense. Overall, this should be a very solid test for DePaul and a measuring stick of just how good this roster will be. The Penn State defense was solid last season and they are well drilled. They gave up an average of 66.7 points per game, 42nd fewest in the country. It will take some big performances from Eli Cain and Max Strus to unlock the PSU defense. If DePaul can get a win against one of the more decent teams in the Big Ten, it would be huge.
DePaul @ Notre Dame
Right after the Penn State game, the Blue Demons face their toughest opponent when they go to South Bend to play the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Last year ND visited Wintrust and walked out with a win. It was certainly one of DePaul’s best performances last season and we saw some real energy from this team. The Fighting Irish last year finished up in the NIT, losing to eventual winners Penn State 73-63. It was a solid year for the Irish, with them finishing 26-10 and 12-6 in ACC play. That was good enough for fourth in the conference, a very impressive standing.
This is going to be a much tougher matchup for DePaul. We obviously know how good Notre Dame is and given it’s on the road, DePaul will have a mountain to climb. These are one of those games where even making it close can feel like a moral victory. They will need to pull off a miracle performance to get a win. The defense for the Irish is once again a strong point for them. Mike Brey has this team well coached and they only gave up 68.6 points per game last year.
Cleveland State @ DePaul
DePaul gets a little easier of a game when they play against Cleveland State. The Vikings were one of the lower tier teams in the Horizon League, finishing 8th in the conference with an overall record of 12-23. Their conference record was a bit at 6-12 but they made up for it by making some noise in the Horizon League tournament. The Vikings made it all the way to the title game of the tournament before losing to Wright State. It would have been a real shocker if Cleveland State would have made the tournament and they nearly did it.
The Vikings will have to make up for Kenny Carpenter, who was one of their top scorers last year. He was their leading scorer at 13.3 points per game but they have a solid replacement lined up. Sophomore Tyree Appleby was their second leading scorer last year and will take the torch of being the offensive focal point this season. DePaul will likely win this game but Appleby will be someone to focus on for the Blue Demons defense.
Florida A&M @ DePaul
Playing the MEAC seems to be the theme this year as the Blue Demons play a 3rd team from that conference in the Florida A&M Rattlers. It was a tough 2017-18 season for the Rattlers as they had less than 10 wins overall at 9-25. A majority of them came in MEAC play so this year around they will be looking to have a much stronger start to the season in non-conference play. They won a game in the conference tourney before falling to top seeded Hampton.
Florida A&M will have a tall task on their hands with two of their top scorers now gone. Both Desmond Williams (18.1 PPG) and Marcus Barham (17 PPG) will have their absences felt and the Rattlers will surely struggle to find an offensive pecking order to begin the season. DePaul should win this one.
DePaul @ Northwestern
Finally we get an in-state opponent for DePaul as they travel to Evanston to play Northwestern. In their renovated stadium, the Northwestern Wildcats will be surely to draw a big crowd and it will be another road test for DePaul. After making the NCAA Tournament two years ago, they took a step back last season. Northwestern finished near the bottom of the Big Ten with an overall record of 15-17 and a conference record of 6-12. It was a very poor finish to season as they lost seven straight games to end the season and lost to an upstart Penn State team in the Big Ten tournament.
Northwestern got an interesting incoming transfer as Ryan Taylor coming in. He is coming in as a graduate transfer and was the leading scorer for Evansville last season. It will be interesting to see how he fits with a team that certainly has the talent to be quality but came up very short last year. Taylor will surely try to make up for the losses of Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsey, two of Northwestern’s top three scorers last year. Vic Law does come back this year though and he averaged 12 points per game in 2017-18. Law is an exceptional three-point shooter, hitting 38.3 percent of his attempts from downtown last season. DePaul will have to keep an eye on him and make sure their defense has him covered at all times. The last time these two teams played it was in December of last year and Northwestern squeaked out a 92-90 win despite Strus dropping 33 for the Blue Demons.
Chicago State @ DePaul
This begins the final stretch of four straight home games to end the no-conference slate for DePaul. Again it’s another in-state opponent in the Chicago State Cougars. The Cougars, who surprisingly play in the WAC (college conferences get really weird if you dive into it), were in the cellar of the standings. They went 1-13 in conference play and went 3-29 for the overall season. That’s a winning percentage of .094. To make matters worse, they had an extensively long search for a new head coach. They finally made a hire in August, selecting Lance Irvin to be the next leader for their men’s basketball program. He previously worked at DePaul back in the 90’s and was most recently at Morgan Park High School in the city.
As with a new head coach, it will be a complete change of the program. Things won’t be any easier for Chicago State as they lost their top three scorers from last season. Even though there are a lot of juniors and seniors on the roster, you don’t know who is going to step up. Irvin is going to have a lot on his plate to make this team competitive. DePaul should easily win this game.
UIC @ DePaul
This will be an interesting game as DePaul plays an upstart UIC Flames team. Last season the Flames finished 3rd in the Horizon League, a surprising feat for such a young team. They went 20-16 overall and had a good conference record of 12-6. They lost in the quarterfinals of the Horizon League tournament, falling to 6th seeded Milwaukee 80-75 in Chicago. But they did make a really good run in the CIT, getting all the way to the championship game before losing to Northern Colorado 76-71. It was a hard fought game and it was a big improvement from UIC as Steve McClain has made the Flames competitive in his 3rd season.
They have a lot to make up for as they lose starters Tai Odiase and Dikembe Dixon. Both were integral parts of the team, especially Odiase who was the man in the middle for the Flames. They do however, bring back two of their top scorers in Marcus Ottey and Tarkus Ferguson. The guard duo both averaged over double digits in points last season with Ferguson averaging 5.5 assists and 5 rebounds per game as well. They will be something to watch for as the Blue Demons take on a team who doesn’t have to travel far to play them. DePaul should win this one but the Flames will make it interesting.
Incarnate Word @ DePaul
It’s funny with this matchup as both DePaul and the Incarnate Word Cardinals will be coming into this having just played UIC in their previous fixture. The Cardinals had a rough 2017-18 season, finishing near the bottom of the Southland at an overall record of 7-21.
Charles Brown III will be the main man for the Cardinals again. He was their leading scorer last year at around 13 points per game. He is the one who they flow the offense through and should be the one doing most of the work on that end of the court. DePaul wins this one.
Boston College @ DePaul
DePaul ends their nonconference slate by playing another ACC opponent and at home, which is nice. Despite having a winning record overall at 19-16, the Boston College Golden Eagles finished near the bottom of the ACC, much thanks to conference play. They went 7-11 in a very tough conference and it was quite impressive. Any time you can get 7 wins in a conference where 11 teams had 20 or more wins, that’s pretty good for Boston College. They made it to the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament before falling to Clemson. In the NIT they lost in their opening game to Western Kentucky 79-62.
BC are going to be a much different team without their lead guard in Jerome Robinson. He led the team in scoring last year, averaging 20.7 points per game. Robinson declared for the draft and ended up being a lottery pick by the Los Angeles Clippers. They nearly lost their second leading scorer in Ky Brown (17.6 PPG) but he decided to return to school after initially declaring for the draft. It would be assumed he slides into that role of being the guy for the Golden Eagles moving forward.
This will be the final test for DePaul and it’s against a quality opponent. It will also represent their last chance at getting a sturdy footing before heading into the buzzsaw of conference play. Boston College is a strong opponent and before they play Villanova in the game after, the Blue Demons will be itching for a win.