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2018-19 Big East Men’s Basketball Summer Check-In: DePaul Blue Demons

Things are not going well for the Blue Demons, both on the court and at the box office.

DePaul v Connecticut Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty ImagesI

Team: DePaul Blue Demons

2017-18 Record: 11-20 overall, 4-14 Big East

2017-18 Big East Finish: Tied for 9th and/or last, depending on how you look at it.

Final 2017-18 KenPom Ranking: #99

Postseason? LOL, nope.

Key Departures: Marin Maric (senior, 13.6 points, 6.6 rebounds); Tre’Darius McCallum (senior, 10.0 points, 5.7 rebounds); Brandon Cyrus (7.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 21 starts, transferred to UC Santa Barbara); Justin Roberts (4.3 points, 1.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, transferred to Georgia State); Peter Ryckbosch (ok, look, he was a surprise return for a sixth year in 2017-18 on a medical redshirt, but he and the jokes about his fouls are definitely gone now)

Key Returners: Max Strus (16.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists); Eli Cain (11.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists), Pantelis Xidias (that dude on the bench, doesn’t get hyped, stays hyped)

Key Additions: Jalen Coleman-Lands (6’4” guard, transfer from Illinois, 9.1 points, 2.1 rebounds in 2 seasons); Femi Olujobi (6’8” forward, grad transfer from North Carolina A&T, led Aggies with 16.3 points & 7.7 rebounds last season, averaged 1.4 points and 1.5 rebounds in two years at Oakland); Flynn Cameron (6’3” point guard, #165 247 Sports Composite, joined DePaul at mid-semester last season but did not play); George Maslennikov (6’9” power forward, #179 247 Sports Composite)

Coach: Dave Leitao, in his fourth season, seventh total at DePaul, 13th overall (29-65 in this DePaul tenure, 87-99 total at DePaul, 172-194 overall)

Outlook: I’m going to start this section the exact same way I started it in last year’s check-in. Ready?

11, 9, 8, 7, 12, 11, 12, 12, 9, 9, 11. Those are DePaul’s win totals over the past 11 seasons.

Let’s expand on it a little bit. Across those 11 seasons, DePaul has never won more than six Big East games in a season. They’ve done that twice, and it hasn’t happened since Oliver Purnell’s final season before he resigned in the summer of 2015. (In case you hadn’t heard, Oliver Purnell has never been fired as a head coach.)

This coming year does not look to be much better for the Blue Demons, and you could make the argument that things are going to get an lot worse. Between eligibility ending and transfers, they’re losing four of their top six scorers or top seven, depending on how you want to consider Devin Gage after he blew out his Achilles tendon after just eight games. Of the five guys who started at least 20 games for Leitao last season, three of them are now gone.

And you thought Max Strus shot the ball an awful lot in his first season in Lincoln Park.

The overall consensus about the Big East for 2018-19 is that most of the teams are taking a step back due to graduations and entries into the professional ranks. Had DePaul managed to retain the guys who transferred out this offseason, you could make an argument that the Blue Demons could be poised to make some noise in the upcoming season, or at the very least, make things uncomfortable for some squads in the conference. Instead, they have just two reliable players coming back, and it’s not like anyone in their recruiting class or in their new transfers is setting the world on fire. DePaul is taking a step backwards just when everyone else in the league is doing that, too, and that does not bode well for the Blue Demons finding a way to finish at .500 either overall or even in league play.

The one thing we can say for Dave Leitao is that he has improved DePaul’s defense in each of his three seasons in this second go-round with the Blue Demons. They were in the top 50 in defensive efficiency last season, which had them in the top half of the Big East in that regard. If he can find a way to recapture that level of prowess on the defensive end, maybe DePaul can find a way to manufacture enough offense to be a threat on a regular basis.

We should probably talk about the impact of Wintrust Arena on the Blue Demons following their first season in the new building. As you can tell from the 11 wins, it wasn’t exactly a fortress for them. However, things are worse than that. The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, the official owners of the arena, had a study commissioned.... in 2013..... to determine the expected attendance for DePaul, and for whatever idiot reason, the study plotted average attendance at 9,500 people in the 10,387 seat building. A second economic impact report from MPEA in 2017 estimated attendance at 9,000 per game.

DePaul’s average attendance in their final year at the Rosemont Horizon? 4,923.

Why were people estimating attendance to nearly double? This was a massive mistake, as announced average attendance in Wintrust came in at just 6,147, while the ACTUAL turnstile attendance was waaaay down at just 3,142 per game. Notre Dame had over 7,000 people coming to see DePaul, while Villanova and Marquette were the only other two opponents to clear 6,000 in terms of actual turnstile attendees. Xavier cleared 5,000, but that was also for Senior Day.

Yeah, Wintrust might have caused DePaul to sell a few more tickets, but a lot of the people who have purchased tickets aren’t even showing up to games. The only thing worse for DePaul than being a lousy basketball team is being a lousy basketball team that’s missing its financial expectations in a taxpayer funded arena.