Northwestern-DePaul a flawed premise

Why, exactly, does Northwestern have any incentive to play DePaul?

Northwestern announced on Monday morning that it would schedule a five-year series with DePaul.

"As a Chicago native, I think it's terrific for basketball in the area to have Northwestern and DePaul play one another," Collins said.

For perspective, Oliver Purnell kept his job at DePaul this season despite complete ineptitude. He's 42-77 with the Blue Demons.

The series begins in 2015-16. But Purnell or not, the DePaul basketball program—at least in the first two seasons—will struggle to overcome its decline.

Northwestern's future seems much brighter; the series has more benefit for DePaul. Chris Collins recruited a strong first class and sold everyone, including prospects, on the idea of new success in Evanston.

At first glance, I viewed it as this: Five straight chances at résumé killing losses. In all likelihood, no one will be impressed if a better NU team crushes DePaul in future seasons. Worse, losing to the Blue Demons could set back any team fighting for NCAA Tournament contention.

This past year, when Northwestern raced out to a 5-5 Big Ten start, analysts had to explain why NU couldn't make the Tournament. Their first point: Bad non-conference losses, one of the worst of which was DePaul.

DePaul's lost its "history" card. They take the scraps in recruiting, with NU a more likely destination for elite prospects. The Wildcats have much more to offer. But the prime of "basketball in the area" is still Illinois.

The Illini landed two of the top players in Chicago, D.J. Williams and Aaron Jordan, for the 2015 recruiting class. NU pursued Jordan, but regardless, Illinois holds on to in-state talent—exactly what the Wildcats will start doing.

NU is ambitious under Chris Collins. They push expectations, future championships and a strong recruiting pitch. But calling DePaul a legit opponent? That's a true setback.

Northwestern's most important win last season was against Illinois. It proved that Collins could beat the rival.

The Illini are the standard—even after a tough 2013-14 season—because John Groce continues to compete for the same players in the same conference.

Of course, they'll play each other anyway. We can still cut the fake storyline of DePaul-NU. A team that wants to be better will make Illinois the standard. It's still taking a minute for everyone to adjust.


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