DePaul Getting Ready for Big East Tournament

The DePaul Blue Demons spent time preparing on Sunday and Monday before departing Monday for O'Hare Airport to hop their flight to the Big Apple and the Big East tournament.

DePaul is preparing for their first round matchup with Villanova in the Big East tournament on Wednesday at Noon Eastern time (ESPN). The Blue Demons and Wildcats finished with identical 9-7 records in conference play. Due to their win over Villanova in January, DePaul received the eighth seed while Villanova got the ninth seed for this week's tournament at Madison Square Garden.

The Blue Demons are excited about their opportunity to play in the conference tournament after narrowly missing last year's tourney with a 13th place finish in the league. "I really think in a lot of ways it's even more exciting for them, because of last year," said DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright. "It's like when you miss a Christmas, or you get a piece of coal for Christmas, it's a lot better the following year."

There was an air of excitement and anticipation at McGrath Arena as the Blue Demons prepared for Villanova and a possible second round matchup with Georgetown on Thursday. "We've won five of our last six, I don't think many teams in the Big East have had that kind of record to close out the season," said senior guard Sammy Mejia. "We're excited about the opportunity and we're excited going into the Big East tournament."

Yet the Blue Demons ultimate goal isn't New York, it's to earn the right to have their name called on Selection Sunday. ""In all honesty the kids worked really hard to get to this point," Wainwright said. " I think they're excited about the opportunity to get beyond the Big East tournament. We can win some games and get some national recognition and we've done enough up to this point to get on somebody's radar screen, now we just have to enhance our position."

Wainwright isn't at all shy about taking on the Wildcats. "I feel good about the bracket we're in, because we've got a great opportunity to get recognition," Jerry said. "I would rather play a team right off the get go where it's all on the line, because if you're ever going to advance in a tournament like the Big East tournament, you're better off facing a team like Villanova."

The early start time on Wednesday wasn't a concern to Coach Wainwright. "I think that it's great we're playing at noon, we've playing early games the last two games, one was at 11 a.m. and the other was at 1 p.m. I think our kids are in a rhythm of playing at that time of day to tell you the truth. We all know that their clock starts at about 10:30."

What then does DePaul need to do to win in the Garden? "For us to be successful, we've got to catch a little fire offensively," Wainwright observed. "I think when we've really played well and beat some of the best teams in the country, it's because guys make shots. We've been very erratic shooting the basketball. Chandler, Burns, & Mejia, if they make some jump shots, it really opens up our attack and I think it makes us a tough team to play."

As many college hoops fans know, anything can happen in the Big East tournament. Eighth seeded DePaul need look no further than ninth-seeded Syracuse from last season for a model to follow. "Last year alone was the perfect example, with a team like Syracuse," said Mejia. "They were able to win four games in four days against pretty good teams last year. Mentally and physically you got to be ready to give what you got to get a win."

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