Ten Games to Watch for DePaul Fans in 2006-07

In this report, WeAreDePaul.com's Scott Phillips takes a look at the key match-ups for the Blue Demons men's basketball team this season…

Now that DePaul has finished the state school portion of a loaded schedule, there are many games left that make intriguing match-ups. Whether it's the Big East slate, games against familiar foes, or games against national powerhouses, DePaul's 2006-07 season will have plenty of games to look for. Here are 10 of the more interesting games on their schedule…

1. Maui Invitational – November 20-22

DePaul's first taste of national exposure this season comes at the loaded Maui Invitational field. DePaul will face Kentucky in the first round in a tournament that also features UCLA, Purdue, Memphis, Oklahoma, Georgia Tech, and host Chaminade. The trip will be a good experience for the Blue Demons as it gives them early season exposure to tournament play which could come in handy during the Big East tournament and beyond. The Blue Demons will have to play three opponents in three days in the Maui heat with little preparation in between games. If the program hopes to have a good season, then this will be a good early measuring stick.

2. Kansas – December 2nd

The first game DePaul plays after the Maui Invitational will be against national powerhouse Kansas; a team with Final Four aspirations. Although Kansas started the season in the Top 5 nationally, their recent home loss to Oral Roberts has doubters asking questions. Kansas has scary depth and talent, but at times losses focus as evidenced by two straight NCAA upset losses in the first round. Led by mainly young players, Kansas returns five starters and will be hungry to come to Allstate Arena as Julian Wright, and Sharron Collins make their Chicago homecoming. DePaul will have plenty of time to prepare for this contest and could be come out rusty, or energized. The game will be decided on which DePaul team, and which Kansas team decides to show up.

3. UAB – December 9th

UAB isn't the most glamorous name on the schedule, but the Demons former Conference USA foe has built a nice name for itself in recent years. Having reached the NCAA Tournament the last three seasons, UAB has played some close ones against DePaul in recent years with the last four contests between the teams being within four points. With new coach Mike Davis, UAB will be a tough out on the road for DePaul, as this game will be the first road contest for the team in nearly a month. DePaul will need to stop Wen Mukubu if they hope to win. Mukubu is currently averaging 18 points and 5 rebounds through four games this season.

4. St. John's – January 3rd

The Big East conference opener for DePaul has many implications. For one, this contest will be played in the world famous Madison Square Garden, and will be a homecoming for Karron Clarke, Sammy Mejia, and Cliff Clinkscales. St. John's is also a team on the rise in the Big East, and returns five starters from last season. St. John's will rely heavily on Daryll Hill to return from a knee injury that limited him to only 16 games last season. If Hill, a player who averaged 20.7 points per game two years ago, and the highly touted freshmen class can produce on the perimeter than St. John's will open up a post game that was limited last season. If opposing defenses are forced to guard the perimeter, then the big man combination of Aaron Spears and Lamont Hamilton could make a difference in this game. This is the first of two games for DePaul against St. John's this season.

5. Villanova – January 6th

DePaul will open the Big East season with consecutive road games. Although Villanova lost three terrific guards from last season, they return two starters and Curtis Sumpter, who missed last season with a torn ACL. Sumpter is a possible All-Big East player who is a match-up nightmare for opposing coaches. With his inside-outside game, and the experience of Mike Nardi, and Will Sheridan, Villanova will once again be a solid team. Point guard Scottie Reynolds, a former Oklahoma commitment, could very well be the key to Villanova's season. A McDonald's All American, Reynolds will saddle the burden of replacing some of what Kyle Lowry, Allen Ray, and Randy Foye brought to the team. If Reynolds can fit in quickly, and Sumpter remains healthy, Villanova could surprise some people this season.

6. Pittsburgh – January 10th

Note to DePaul fans; keep your Wednesday nights free this winter because DePaul has home games against three of the best teams in the Big East. Pittsburgh will be the first of these games, and are a team that has it all. With the return of center Aaron Gray, Pittsburgh has the most polished center in the Big East back for his senior season. Gray averaged a double-double last season and killed DePaul by putting up 20 points, 12 rebounds, and five blocks against them last season. Along with Gray is a talented core that includes Levon Kendall, Sam Young, Ronald Ramon, and Levance Fields. Pittsburgh may compete for the national title, but they must replace the leadership and big play capability of Carl Krauser, who graduated last year. DePaul kept it close last year when playing the Panthers, but will need a great effort up front to win this one.

7. UConn – January 31st

Although DePaul did not play UConn last season, you can expect the kind of team they will bring to the Allstate Arena. Although the Huskies lost six players who averaged at least 9.7 points per game last season, they have a loaded recruiting class that will help them reload. Also returning to the Huskies is forward Jeff Adrien, a fearless sophomore who could be the conference's best defender. Jim Calhoun will surely have his young nucleus ready to play, and will look to point guard A.J. Price to be his on court leader. Price has been with the program for three years now, but has never played due to a brain hemorrhage and off the court issues. Price could be the program's next big star, and has earned praise from Jim Calhoun. Although UConn is extremely young, they could be a great team by the time they come to DePaul in late January.

8. Syracuse – February 3rd

Every DePaul fan surely realizes that the highlight of last season was DePaul defeating Syracuse at home by 39 points. Unfortunately, Syracuse will also look at that loss as the low point of last season, and will serve as motivation for the Orange when DePaul visits the Carrier Dome. If DePaul can handle 33,000 screaming Orange fans, and one of the most balanced teams in the Big East, then they will have earned a hard fought win. Darryl Watkins, Terrence Roberts and Demetris Nichols form a solid front court. Eric Devendorf, a slasher who can do it all, returns in the backcourt, and could be paired up with Paul Harris, a highly touted freshman who has earned high praise for his defense. One thing is for sure, this game will be a lot closer this time around then it was last season.

9. Notre Dame – February 8th

Old rival Notre Dame is another team that DePaul faces twice in the Big East this season. The Fighting Irish are a team searching for it's identity in the front court. Rick Cornette and Torin Francis will surely be missed, and the Irish will need someone to step up to take their places. Although Luke Zeller has the height, he is more of a perimeter oriented player, and might be out of place down low. Rob Kurz also fits this mold, and it gives the Irish a bit of a dilemma. Notre Dame will need Kurz, Zeller, or freshman Luke Harangody to step up inside. One thing Notre Dame will not have to worry about is their guards. Although they lose Chris Quinn, Notre Dame returns Colin Falls, and Russell Carter. Quinn's replacement, Kyle McAlarney shot 43% from three point range last season and will be counted on to keep the Irish' perimeter game on par with last season. Fans can be sure that these two games will be close as most games in this rivalry usually end up that way.

10. Marquette – February 14th

Although DePaul faces rival Marquette on Valentine's Day this year, there will be little love between the teams. Marquette's three sophomore guards all played well last season, and will be counted on as the major contributors to the team now that Steve Novak has moved on to the NBA. Dominic James, Jerel McNeal, and Wesley Matthews all contribute on both ends of the court and can give opposing teams nightmares. Novak will be replaced by Dan Fitzgerald, and freshman Lazar Hayward. Both Fitzgerald, and Hayward can hit three pointers in bunches and should help stretch the defense as James, McNeal, and Matthews penetrate. Marquette is no doubt a good team, but will need to improve their play down low in order to make a run in March. Ousmane Barro is raw, but was promising towards the end of the season on the glass, and on defense. If Marquette can get any offense from him it is a plus. DePaul will need to have a better start in this game than last season, or else Marquette's shooters could bury them again.

The Blue Demons no doubt face some tough games. Although this list has some great teams, DePaul still has to play some other dangerous opponents including Louisville, Georgetown, and California. It will be an interesting season and DePaul's flashes of good play last season gives fans hope that they will return to the postseason this year. If DePaul can remain consistent there is no doubt they will be a team to watch in the Big East this season.

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