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DePaul kicks off conference play at Butler

The Blue Demons seek a 1-0 start in the Big East column

NCAA Basketball: DePaul at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

TV, Times, and Lines:

TV: FS1

Date: Wednesday, December 29

Time: 5:00 p.m. EST

Spread: Butler -2

Total: O/U 132


Preview:

On Wednesday evening, DePaul finally returns to game action. Their last three games have been cancelled due to COVID issues within their program. Wednesday will also be the Blue Demons’ first conference game of the season.

DePaul begins their 2021-2022 conference schedule in Indianapolis, IN against the Butler Bulldogs. Butler holds a 15-7 record against the Blue Demons in their all-time series. To find DePaul’s last win inside Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse, you have to go back to January 9th, 2014 where it took two overtimes for the Blue Demons to escape Indianapolis with a 99-94 win.

Another interesting history stat resides with what first year head coach Tony Stubblefield has accomplished. Coach Stubblefield is one of two coaches in DePaul history to start off their DePaul head coaching career with a 9-1 record in their first 10 games. The only other coach to do it was Ray Meyer in the 1942-1943 season. Meyer would lead the Blue Demons to the NCAA national semifinals before losing to Georgetown.

Butler, like DePaul, enters this game sitting at a 0-0 conference record. The Bulldogs on the other hand, boast one of the more impressive non-conference wins out of all of the Big East teams. Earlier in December, Butler beat the now 10-2 Oklahoma Sooners in Norman, OK. Despite this win, Butler accumulated four losses during their non-conference bout. The majority of their losses were blowouts, although they were all to good teams.

Henry’s 3 Keys:

This will be a new addition to each DePaul conference preview replacing the “Players to Watch” section. I think that this will give a better insight to each specific game, rather than listing 3 players.

1. Work the Glass

  • In games where the Blue Demons out rebound their opponents, they are 7-0. Rebounding for DePaul is a full team job. From Javon Freeman-Liberty to Nick Ongenda, all of the Blue Demons need to be on the boards. The best rebounder for the Bulldogs right now is Bryce Nze who is only averaging 5.5 REB/G. DePaul has three players who are averaging at least 1.5 REB/G more than Nze. The numbers are setting up for the Blue Demons to dominate the glass. If DePaul can follow through, the trends suggest that they will win.1

2. Be Aggressive

  • This key is mainly for senior star Javon Freeman-Liberty. JFL has struggled shooting from the field recently, but made up for that at the line last game against UIC. Freeman-Liberty is very talented around the rim, but does not use that to his advantage as often as he should be. In 8 of DePaul’s 10 games, they have attempted more free throws than their opponent. In those 8 games, they are 8-0. Look for JFL to be taking it to the rim a lot in this game, especially if his shooting woes continue.

3. Shoot the 3-Ball

  • Over the years, the three point shot has continuously grown in popularity around college basketball. This has been no different for the Blue Demons. The magic number for Wednesday is 7. There have been 5 games this season where DePaul has made 7 or more three pointers. The Blue Demons won all 5 of those games. This game is a great opportunity for Minnesota transfer Brandon Johnson to get back his stroke. Johnson is currently shooting 25.8% from three this season.

Prediction:

In the non-conference review, I said that DePaul’s first two conference games will determine how the rest of their season plays out. Although the Blue Demons started off the 2019-2020 season 9-1 before going 3-15 in conference play, I believe that Tony Stubblefield has brought a new attitude to Chicago in his first season. As long as DePaul can keep the game close to start, they will win.

DePaul wins, 71-63