The DePaul Blue Demons begin their 2018-19 campaign on Wednesday night in Chicago. The Blue Demons will play host to the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats of the MEAC at Wintrust Arena, as they look to get off to a fast start.
Despite their overall lack of success, DePaul has fared well in openers in recent memory. Although they lost last year to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, that was their first loss in an opener since 2007. So they will look to do so against Bethune-Cookman, and it should be a feasible task for them. The Wildcats are ranked 293rd on KenPom to start the season and DePaul has a win probability of 95% as of writing. So they are a heavy favorite, as the Blue Demons start off ranked 76th. That’s their highest start since the 2013-14 season, when they began the year ranked 85th.
Although they had another rush of transfers in the offseason, the team looks pretty much like how it did last year. Max Strus and Eli Cain will be leading the charge this season alongside Devin Gage, Paul Reed and Jaylen Butz. The newcomers to the team will be intriguing to watch, as well. Illinois Fighting Illini transfer Jalen Coleman-Lands will be playing his first official game in blue and red, as will Femi Olujobi, who joined the team after playing for both the Oakland Golden Grizzlies and North Carolina A&T Aggies.
Bethune-Cookman comes into this season on the heels of an 18-14 campaign in 2017-18. Despite the fact that they won six of their last seven games and seven of their last nine, and posting a 12-4 conference record, they wound up losing in the first round of the MEAC Tournament to the Morgan State Bears. Much of last year’s team is returning and that’s a big reason why they were actually predicted to win the MEAC this season.
They are led by Preseason First Team All-MEAC selections Shawntrez Davis and Soufiyane Diakite. Also featured is Preseason Second Team All-MEAC selection Isaiah Bailey, the team’s leading returning scorer. Bailey averaged 16.1 points last season, second behind Brandon Tabb. Davis and Diakite are the team’s second- and third-leading scorers who return this season, and be sure to have your eye on Malik Maitland, who averaged double figures a year ago, too.
It’s plausible that Bethune-Cookman could be an NCAA Tournament team by season’s end. So despite the fact that DePaul should prevail in this one, they will likely be tested quite a bit.
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