Providence comes into the Allstate Arena with hopes of a win to get them one step closer to a regular season Top-4 finish and a near-locked NCAA tournament bid. DePaul has dropped five of their last six games as their redemption season seems to be slipping away.
With the Big East remaining tight for the majority of the season, DePaul should be cautious of slipping back into the basement of the conference. During he first meeting of the two schools, the Friars absolutely dismantled the Blue Demons in the transition game back on Jan 29th. They hung around, but could never contain Kris Dunn who recorded the first triple-double for Providence in nine years, as the Friars won 83-72.
1. DePaul has to play a full 40 minutes and needs an early lead
The Blue Demons need to get up and down the floor quickly against a fast Providence team. Sloppy, individual offense was punished back in late January when the Blue Demons beat themselves turning the ball over consistently throughout the first half. Billy Garrett Jr. is going to need a huge game spreading the floor and getting to the free throw line. DePaul relies on the 3-point shot to climb back into games or to stretch their lead when ahead. An early lead can provide DePaul with the advantage to slow down pace but require trust fresh bench players to hold their lead.
2. Providence's Kris Dunn is healthy and one of the nation's best
Kris Dunn has made big waves in success yet short career at PC. He is projected to be drafted in the first round of the 2015 NBA draft, coming in at a projected 26th overall. Only a sophomore, Dunn is averaging 15.4 points a game, 7.6 assists, and is considered one of the best point guards in the country. It has not come easy however; Dunn has been battling shoulder injuries throughout high school and most of his college career. Billy Garrett Jr. will have his hands full covering the versatile guard who has been shooting 56 percent from the field all year long. Look for memorable duel from two of the best point guards in the Big East.
3. Prediction and final thoughts
DePaul is still fighting for progress for the program's long-term goals. Finishing anywhere but last will be an improvement but middle of the pack should be desired. Mid-February last year, the wheels had fallen off until DePaul snuck out a win against Georgetown in the Big East Tournament. This gave them something to build off of headed into this year. DePaul has certainly exceeded expectations up to this point but these final 5 games carry weight beyond the 2014-15 campaign.
It gives Oliver Purnell and Co. a chance to save their jobs and continue to progress to a new era of Blue Demon basketball. The new stadium for DePaul can't directly influence the score of games, but it will allow DePaul to recruit properly once again.
As for the Friars, this can mark the start of an amazing run. The Big East has beaten each other up all season long and taking care of business tonight can get the ball rolling right into March for Providence. This Blue Demon team has displayed resilience on their home court in conference play. A win amongst the Top-4 for the Big East will give the Blue Demons something to smile about.
A close one to the final buzzer, DePaul hangs on 72-71.