SCOUTING THE BLUE DEMONS
DePaul has a solid three starters in double figures, but lacks much of a bench or athletic punch overall. Dar Tucker (6-4, 210 lbs.) leads the team with 18.5 points per game and tallies five boards. The sophomore has a unique skill set in that he shoots three-pointers and foul shots left-handed and all else (jumpers, lay-ups, etc.) right-handed. That makes for an extremely difficult guard for foes, who must adjust to the forward according to where he is on the floor. That's almost impossible to do at game speed, though if forced to take away one side, WVU will need to favor the right. Tucker is far deadlier inside the arc – he shoots 39.5 percent overall, 27.5 from 3pt. range – than out, making his interior defense a must. Center Mac Koshwal (6-10, 240 lbs.) is nearing a double-double average at 13.4 points and 9.9 rebounds. The sophomore has the size and strength to bang inside, and he is deadly at 54 percent shooting. He makes just 57 percent from the line, however, so the Mountaineers will be able to foul intelligently as needed. His size gives him a great edge around the rim, but he does turn the ball over and his defensive ability isn't above average. The final inside starter, 6-10, 235-pound power forward Matija Poscic isn't a significant threat. Playing just 18 minutes per game, the senior is average on both ends and simply serves as another body for head coach Jerry Wainright. He will attack the defensive boards, however, meaning getting a body on him and forcing that size away from the hoop is key to avoiding second chances.
Guards Will Walker (6-0, 180 lbs.) and Jabari Currie (6-4, 215 lbs.) don't resemble the typical roles of a point and shooting guard, respectively. Walker is the prime ball handler and averages 13.2 points per game with a negligible rebounding effect. The junior plays a team-best 33.7 points per game and is a better shooter than Currie. Both have a similar – almost one-to-one – assist to turnover ratio, and Walker, with his athleticism, also takes contact and rebounds better. Currie, 5.3 points, 1.6 rebounds per game, hits just 26.7 percent from three-point range and has just five offensive rebounds all year. The reserve guards are both freshmen. Jeremiah Kelly (6-1, 175 lbs.) and Michael Bizoukas (6-1, 175 lbs.) play an average of 21 and 16 minutes per game, respectively. Kelly, a Chicago native, has started four times and is averaging four points per game. He isn't a great shooter (31.6 percent), but he has 24 steals and the best ratio of assists (61) and turnovers (25) on the team. Bizoukas shoots the same percentage (both are below that mark from three-point range), and though the two are maturing, the lack of ability around them and their own inexperience are combining to keep DePaul from playing anywhere near solid Big East basketball.
Backup forward Devin Hill (6-9, 210 lbs.) averages 3.4 points and 3.4 rebounds. The newcomer is decent inside, but can't extend his game beyond the perimeter. His 27.3 percentage from the line isn't a worry either. Getting a body on the player should be enough, as, frankly, the Blue Demons don't have enough punch on either end to do much harm. This is a team lacking talent and depth, and its players with the highest ceiling are all rookies. Wainright might be able to mold this group into something in a few seasons, but it looks as though he won't get that chance. This is still a young squad, but experience or no, it won't be favored in either of its final two games (at WVU and at Georgetown). It looks like a winless league season for DePaul, even as it faces the ninth place team in the conference tournament.
This is a question of how much, not if. DePaul is very likely go winless in the Big East and one-and-done in the conference tournament. This is a team with little ability, no major, surefire up and coming players, no emerging recruiting base and a coaching staff whose time had gone awhile ago. Losing by more than 20 points in a home game to St. John's – in a game selected as a ‘pick' in Vegas – was perhaps the low point of the year for the Demons. Now the squad is merely trying to play out a string of losses and end the season. The bags were packed long ago, and West Virginia should simply be able to play its regular game, then ready for a primetime game with Louisville. This is the closest thing to a gimmie since the Mountaineers were in former head coach Gale Catlett's last season.
|Wed. March. 4
7 p.m. EST
WVU 20-9, 9-7
DePaul 8-21, 0-16
West Virginia 2-1
Big East Network
WVU - 20
DePaul - 203
DePaul is lacking in rebounding, assists, ball movement, flow, and any semblance of playing together. It's also a team who is mentally shot, where a major run by the Mountaineers might finish the game less than 15 minutes in. But it is also a group who has nothing to lose, which makes it dangerous. West Virginia – and Huggins knows this – can't simply cakewalk this one. If WVU plays with passion and aggression, it should be fine. This is a needed win. Shut down the few shooters, move people off the blocks and challenge the youth and a win is almost assured. A loss, as pointed out, could begin to creep the Mountaineers toward that uncomfortable ninth slot and, perhaps with a total collapse, NCAA Tournament bubble status.
WVU: Joe Mazzulla, out (shoulder – will miss rest of season).
This is the penultimate home game for lone senior Alex Ruoff, who is just seven three pointers shy of setting the all-time school mark. He was named the Big East Weekly Honor Roll for the second consecutive week.
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WVU is 40-0 under Huggins when outshooting an opponent. It is 43-2 when attaining at least a 10-point lead.
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Devin Ebanks is averaging a double-double over the last five games. He was named the Big East Rookie of the Week three times this year, including two of the last three weeks. He is likely to be on all-freshman team, and is a Freshman of the Year candidate.
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The Mountaineers are winning home games by an average of 20 points under head coach Bob Huggins. Huggins ranks 26th on the NCAA men's basketball all-time wins list.
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DePaul has not won a game in 2009. It has lost 16 straight in league play this season. The Blue Demons are 1-9 in road games, including 0-7 in the league.
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This is just the fourth meeting in series history. West Virginia has won two of three, but lost the initial game in a 1945 NIT match-up. DePaul head coach Jerry Wainright is 0-2 against the Mountaineers. Huggins is 5-1 against Wainright and 27-8 all-time versus DePaul.