TV, Times, and Lines:
Date: Saturday, February 5th
Time: 2:00 p.m. EST
Spread: Xavier -13.5
Total: O/U 139
On Saturday afternoon, the (10-10) (1-9) DePaul Blue Demons are back in action after a week off against the (16-5) (6-4) Xavier Musketeers. This was the longest break for DePaul, since its two week COVID pause in the middle of December. Despite this week of rest, DePaul’s star player Javon Freeman-Liberty remains out for the 5th straight game.
The first game for the Blue Demons without Javon was at home against Xavier. In that game, DePaul completely outplayed the Musketeers, but fell just short, 68-67. This was the last game that we saw David Jones play to his true potential. In the loss, he had 26 points on 10-19 shooting, including 5 three pointers. If DePaul wants to have even a chance of beating Xavier today, we need to see that version of David Jones.
The low scoring games from David Jones recently, has been part of a bigger picture for the Blue Demons. There has not been one prolific scorer any game, since Javon Freeman-Liberty’s injury. Some teams are able to thrive with a balanced scoring attack, and not have just one player that will score 25 points each night. The issue for DePaul, is that it does not even have balanced scoring. In the last 3 games, the Blue Demons have only averaged 46.7 points per game.
Each game, the question has been posed of who will step up in the absence of Javon. I am not posing that question anymore. The scoring issues are clearly more than just one player struggling from the field. Everyone needs to step up.
With that being said, I think that DePaul’s last game against UConn was one of the best games it has played all season. Despite losing 57-50, the Blue Demons played great defense, limiting Adama Sanogo to 10 points. It was very impressive to see DePaul neutralize the best big man in the Big East. The Achilles’ heel for DePaul was RJ Cole. The senior guard scored almost 44% of all of UConn’s points. Every single time the Blue Demons began to close in on the Huskies, RJ Cole had an answer.
Although Jack Nunge was the top scorer the last time DePaul and Xavier met, the X-Factor was Colby Jones. Similar to RJ Cole, Colby Jones had an answer for every DePaul move. Jones is one of the most talented sophomores in the Big East, let alone the country. Along with Jones in Xavier’s backcourt is Paul Scruggs. In his 5th year with Xavier, Scruggs has seen a bit of a decline of usage. This is not due to his abilities, it is due to the level of talent on Xavier’s roster this year. Nonetheless, Scruggs has found a way to contribute on both ends of the court, translating some of his scoring to pure playmaking.
Outside of the backcourt, Xavier’s frontcourt is just as dangerous. The addition of Iowa transfer Jack Nunge has been even better than Musketeer fans could have expected. Nunge leads Xavier in points per game, and is 2nd in rebounds per game. Nunge’s backcourt partner this season has been junior Zach Freemantle. The 3rd year player can be just as dangerous as Nunge any given night. In his last 2 games, Freemantle has averaged 19.5 points per game, and 6 rebounds per game.
All in all, the Musketeers are one of the most talented teams in the Big East. Not to mention, they have solid depth with Adam Kunkel, Jerome Hunter, and Dwon Odom coming off of the bench. Although they do not have great chances of winning the Big East regular season title, the Musketeers have a great chance of going deep in the NCAA tournament.
Hopefully the Blue Demons will leave its struggling offense at Wintrust Arena, but bring their defense to the Cintas Center this afternoon. I think the key to this game, is three players scoring 15+ points for DePaul. If it can have that balanced scoring attack, along with a great defense, it will have a chance to win this game. Unfortunately, that is a very tall task to ask of this Blue Demons team. These are the games that Xavier needs to win to remain a high seed, and I think it will do just that. Expect a closer game than the line suggests, but still a Xavier win.
Xavier wins, 75-65