DePaul has featured nine different starting lineups in its 21 games so far and 11 different players have started at least one game. Therefore, identifying a probable starting lineup is something of a crapshoot. The important factor arising from that situation, however, is versatility, as the Blue Demons are capable of adapting to different situations with a number of different lineups.
Guards Sammy Mejia, Will Walker and Jabari Currie figure to be the starters in the backcourt, with Mejia, a 6-6, 190-pound senior, providing most of the scoring punch. He averages 14 points and 6.9 rebounds per contest, and leads the team in both steals and assists. Walker (Fr., 6-0, 180 lbs.) averages just 4.6 points per outing, but handles playmaking duties adequately and knocks down a very good 81.8% of his free throw chances. Currie (So., 6-4, 200 lbs.) is also more of a distributor than a scorer, dishing out 59 assists against just 33 turnovers on the season. He averages just 3.3 points, and has only four steals on the season.
In the frontcourt, forward Wilson Chandler (So., 6-8, 230 lbs.) is the bell cow, totaling 14.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. He is a threat to score from anywhere on the court, and will likely operate along the baseline against WVU's 1-3-1 zone. Opposite number Karron Clarke (Jr., 6-6, 215 lbs.) is the best shooter on the team, making 53.6% of his shots, including 42.2% from distance. He averages 7.5 points per game, and adds 3.9 rebounds per outing.
Guard Draelon Burns (Jr., 6-4, 220 lbs.) is one of four substitutes that gets double digit playing time. He is third on the team in scoring, averaging 9.7 points in 21.9 minutes. A valuable contributor off the bench, he is another very good three-point threat that will have to be accounted for behind the line. Forward Marcus Head (sr., 6-7, 235 lbs.) likewise sees almost as much time as some of the starters, checking in with 6.6 points and 5.0 rebounds in 21.1 minutes of action.
Cliff Clinkscales (Jr., 6-1, 175 lbs.) provides even more depth in the backcourt, and takes care of the ball with 51 assists against just 21 turnovers, while center Wesley Green (Jr., 6-9, 295 lbs.) provides bulk along with 3.4 points and 2.6 rebounds per contest.
West Virginia could take a big step on its quest of getting an NCAA at-large bid with a win over the visiting Blue Demons, who likewise need a victory to get back to .500 in the league and get some breathing room in the race for New York.
|Sun Jan 28|
WVU 15-4, 4-3
DeP 12-9, 3-4
|Sirius Channel: 110|
WVU - 54
DeP - 64
The Blue Demons are similar to WVU in the respect that any of them are likely to launch a three-pointer, thus West Virginia will have to either extend its 1-3-1 or play its man to man to get out and contest shots. Nine different DePaul players have taken at least 11 three pointers, and five have 45 tries or more. They make enough (145-403 on the season, good for 36%) to force teams out of zones, which opens the way for players like Mejia to get to the basket. Only the lack of scoring and production from a big man keeps the Blue Demons from challenging for an upper division spot in the league.
While DePaul certainly isn't going to roll over for WVU, this is a game that the Mountaineers must win to keep on pace for an NCAA trip. With two more road games facing them following this rare Sunday game, they can't afford any more losses in winnable games, such as the one at Cincinnati, unless they are to make them up by knocking off a Top 25 team or two.
Watch for WVU to be more aggressive early in the game, especially if the Blue Demons try to apply defensive pressure. With its success in the second half of the Marshall game against such tactics, it must now take the next step and execute against them as a matter of course. That might be too much to expect in the very next game, but it has been interesting to watch them go through growing pains and see the lights come on as they did in the second half against the Herd. Of course, doing so against Big East foes is another matter entirely.
DePaul is the last remaining team that WVU has not faced as a Big East member. The Mountaineers will try to add the Blue Demons to a list of schools including Marquette, Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida, all of which lost in their first visit to the WVU Coliseum as members of the league.
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Sammy Mejia is one of the most versatile performers in DePaul history. He is just the second player in Blue Demon history to hold marks of 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 300 assists, 100 steals and 100 three-pointers. Tom Kleinschmidt is the only other DePaul player to accomplish that feat.
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It might be time to dust off a few more pick and pop sets for Jamie Smalligan. The big man is making 45.2% of his three-point attempts (14-31). Of course, part of the reason for his excellent percentage is that he doesn't force threes, so it wouldn't be advisable for him to start jacking up shots indiscriminately. However, I certainly wouldn't mind to see one or two more sets run with getting Smalligan free as a primary option.
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In an interesting note to phoneticists, DePaul welcomed transfer Adam Handler to the team in October. Handler, a walk-on, transferred to DePaul from, you might have guessed, DePauw.