Ten Games to Watch for DePaul Fans

DePaul fans should know by now that Jerry Wainwright is not afraid to play anybody. After playing an extremely tough schedule last season, and still managing to come away with 20 wins, the Blue Demons once again face many tough opponents. The Big East conference schedule has increased from 16 to 18 games for this season, leaving DePaul with two more brutal and important games.

Although every game is important, here are ten of the more interesting match-ups for the upcoming season.

1. at Kansas – December 8th - ESPN

How could DePaul fans forget the win against Kansas last season? Everyone had seemingly counted the Demons out for this game (and the season) and Sammy Mejia and company played an inspired second half to upset the Jayhawks. Although Mejia, and Wilson Chandler, two of DePaul's key players have moved on to the NBA, the Jayhawks lost Julian Wright, and could be playing without leading scorer Brandon Rush, who tore his ACL in May. Although Rush is expected back before December 1st, ACL injuries are never a sure thing and it will be interesting to see how he plays.

Although Rush may or may not be 100%, this is still a loaded roster. The backcourt features Russell Robinson, Mario Chalmers, and Sherron Collins, who are all three capable of turning in big games. The frontcourt features Sasha Kaun, Darrell Jackson, freshman Cole Aldrich, and Darrell Arthur, who could give the Demons a huge headache. Arthur especially could be poised for a huge year, and DePaul head coach Jerry Wainwright who coached Arthur this summer even called him, "the best player we had at the tryouts." All of that talent aside, Wainwright has given this Kansas program problems in the past. Not only did DePaul win the game last year, but Wainwright upset the Jayhawks in Lawrence in his first season at Richmond.

2. Vanderbilt – December 12th – ESPN Classic

Quick quiz: Name the two SEC teams to make the Sweet 16 twice in the last four years? Besides Florida, the obvious choice, Vanderbilt is that team. The Commodores aren't the most renowned opponent, but Coach Kevin Stallings has his team playing good basketball. This is a team that was one controversial call from beating Georgetown in last season's Sweet 16, and they are not to be taken lightly. They return three starters, headlined by the SEC's third-leading returning scorer Shan Foster. Foster can knock down three pointers in droves and is a player who needs to be watched at all times. Other returning starters include point guard Alex Gordon, whose assist to turnover ratio was good enough for fourth in the SEC, as well as being a scoring threat, and Ross Neltner, a 6-9 forward who rebounds, and can stretch the defense with his outside shooting.

Another guy to keep an eye on in this one is freshman big man Andrew Ogilvy. Ogilvy, the next big thing out of Australia, has drawn rave reviews from coaches and scouts alike for his abilities. Ogilvy had a big summer averaging 22.3 points and 9.8 rebounds while shooting 69 percent from the field and 78.8 percent from the foul line in nine games while representing Australia at the FIBA Under-19 World Championship. He is being considered a potential lottery pick by some scouts and will be a player to watch in this one.

3. Clemson – December 21st – San Juan, PR

Clemson started 17-0 last season, but managed to miss the NCAA Tournament. Considering they shot 57.8% from the line for the season (second to last in the nation!) it's not hard to decipher why. Shooting woes aside, this is one loaded Tiger bunch that is primed to make an NCAA run. They return many contributors including 6-9 big man James Mays, who could be one of the most underrated players in the ACC. Mays is a double-double threat and will be a load to stop inside. The backcourt is led by shooter K.C. Rivers, a reliable sixth man who will be asked to score this year as a starter, and Cliff Hammonds, who handles the ball well and can do a little bit of everything. Also inside the Tigers will look to Trevor Booker, and Jerai Grant, the nephew of former Chicago Bull Horace Grant. This will easily be the Blue Demons toughest game in their San Juan swing.

4. Georgetown – January 8th - ESPNU

A Final Four team that returns four starters and features two difference making freshman is one tough task. The Hoyas are no doubt a highly talented team, and are favored by many to win the Big East. They start up front with Roy Hibbert. Although the 7-2 Hibbert could have gone to the riches of the NBA he instead decided to terrorize the Big East once again with his ever improving abilities. If Hibbert's size wasn't bad enough, teams also have to contend with Patrick Ewing Jr., Vernon Macklin, and DeJuan Summers up front.

The Hoyas also have an experienced backcourt with Jessie Sapp and Jonathan Wallace. Couple that with freshman Chris Wright, a playmaking point guard who may or may not start, and wing Austin Freeman who gives the Hoyas a scoring boost and this is one loaded team. Georgetown also plays the Princeton style offense, which can test the patience of any opponent. DePaul however should be prepared for the Princeton offense as they schedule opponents like Northwestern to prepare for a team like Georgetown.

5. at Villanova – January 16th - ESPNU

Many Demons fans (myself included) still hate Scottie Reynolds and Curtis Sumpter as the two of them single handedly knocked DePaul out of the Big East tournament last season. Luckily Sumpter has graduated, but Reynolds is still around and will be complemented by a pair of freshman guards who can make plays. Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher are both immensely talented players, and should help Reynolds in Villanova's guard friendly motion offense. Fisher could very well be the primary handler which would give Reynolds and his NBA range the ability to have a free reign on the perimeter. Inside the Wildcats have Dante Cunningham, and Shane Clark two players who may not put up the best numbers, but they are important glue guys who know their role on the team and throw outlets to guards. DePaul plays Villanova twice this season, so game two in Philly should be a good one.

6. at Marquette – January 26th - ESPNU

Another guard orientated team we face is our rivals to the north the Marquette Warriors, (I mean), Gold, (shoot lets try this again), Golden Eagles. All joking aside, Marquette has some very talented guards led by Jerel McNeal. Although Dominic James gets the headlines, McNeal is a much more efficient and complete player who can take many guards out of their rhythm. James can score in bunches, but he is also extremely inconsistent in doing so as he shot 38.4% from the field last season. Wesley Matthews rounds out the trio along with transfer Maurice Acker, which gives Marquette arguably the best backcourt in the Big East.

While they Golden Eagles are deep in the backcourt, their frontcourt is very thin. Ousmane Barro, and Dan Fitzgerald return, but they are mere compliments to the guard run show. Barro has improved a great deal since his freshman year, but is not a huge threat scoring in the post. Fitzgerald is dangerous at times because of his ability to stretch the defense, but doesn't play particularly big. Marquette lost Trevor Mbakwe for the season, which limits them up front in terms of depth. Marquette's X-factor could be Lazar Hayward, a playmaking wing that can take it to the basket and finish with the best of them. He will need to play bigger and rebound more effectively if he is to get minutes. No matter the makeup of DePaul and Marquette, the Blue Demons always seem to have trouble at the Bradley Center and need to get over their road woes to win there.

7. Syracuse – January 30th – ESPN+

People seem to be all over the place when projecting Syracuse this season. They have tons of talent, and a Hall of Fame coach so they should not be counted out. Jim Boeheim will no doubt have the Orange ready, and their young talent will need to grow rapidly for them to handle the Big East. Although they lost their frontcourt, Paul Harris, and Donte Greene are two very talented and gifted players who could step in right away. Both are highly touted and young, but are capable of filling important roles. Greene in particular is offensively adept and has fantastic range for a 6-9 player. Arinze Onauku should step in at center. However talented this frontcourt could be, they must learn to play Boeheim's famous zone defense together by communicating, unless Boeheim utilizes their talents by switching to some man to man. For young players this can sometimes be tough and it will be interesting to see how Syracuse responds.

The backcourt consists of Eric Devendorf, and freshman point guard Johnny Flynn. Devendorf is a proven player, and will be expected to be a team leader, while Flynn will come into the program expected to run the offense and defend. Flynn is one of the best on-the-ball defenders in the freshman class and is also quite good at running an offense. The last time the Orange came to Allstate, Gerry McNamara and company were blown out, but it's doubtful that will happen in this game.

8. Louisville – February 12th – ESPN+

Louisville once again comes back strong and looking to make a deep NCAA run. They are led up front by seniors Juan Palacios and David Padgett. Both of them are capable of having big games and performing down low and it will be tough to stop both of them. The Cardinals have a solid backcourt in Edgar Sosa, who had a good NCAA tournament, and Jerry Smith who can light it up from the outside. Sosa in particular will be asked to lead this talented bunch, and it will take a good night defensively to shut him down.

Earl Clark and Terrence Williams play on the wings for Louisville and give the Cardinals versatility. Clark showed a lot of promise towards the end of the season and could be a big time player this season. Williams was the team's leading scorer but shot way too much and under 40%. If Louisville wants to be an elite team they need to find a scoring option more efficient then Williams. One that can step in and do that is Derrick Caracter. If Caracter can get his schooling and off the court matters together then he can be a big time force on the inside for Louisville.

9. at Connecticut – February 19th – ESPNU

There are no scholarship seniors playing for UConn, but that doesn't mean they can't be great. With their athleticism and coaching, the Huskies should once again make it to the NCAA's. Their defense in particular should be very good. 7-3 Hasheem Thabeet is a big and long center who changes the course of any shot that comes near him. Couple that size inside with athletic and hard nosed players like Jeff Adrien, Doug Wiggins, and A.J. Price and you have a defense capable of creating turnovers and creating fast breaks.

Offense was a problem for the Huskies last season, but another year of playing together should help them mesh. They will need A.J. Price to play with confidence so that he uses his ability to make plays. They also needs more help for Jerome Dyson, who was the team's best player last season. If UConn can establish more reliable scorers they can be quite a problem for the Demons.

10. at Pittsburgh – March 9th – ESPN+

Aaron Gray may be gone, but Pittsburgh still has many established players returning. They are led by the returning backcourt of Levance Fields and Ronald Ramon, who have performed in big games and can knock down big shots. Sam Young is extremely athletic and will help Pitt maintain their suffocating defense. Although the defense will probably be good again, the offense remains a question. With Aaron Gray gone, freshman DeJuan Blair will be expected to come in and score in the post. Blair is not as tall as Gray, but he is stocky and has been compared to Sean May in terms of the way he plays.

Blair will also be helped inside by Tyrell Biggs, who has two years experience. Pitt doesn't have anyone that stands out as a superstar but coach Jamie Dixon always puts a great team on the floor. Expect no different when DePaul closes the regular season at Pitt.

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