Team: DePaul Blue Demons
2018-19 Record: 19-17 overall, 7-11 Big East
2018-19 Big East Finish: Three-way tie for eighth and also last in the Big East. By way of tiebreakers, they ended up with the #10 seed, which is also known as dead last.
Final 2018-19 KenPom Ranking: #118, the only Big East team to finish outside the top 100.
Postseason? Qualified for the CBI, giving them something after the conference tournament for the first time since 2007. They beat Central Michigan, Longwood, and Coastal Carolina to reach the final, but lost a best of three series to South Florida, including a 77-65 home loss in Game #3.
Key Departures: Max Strus, Eli Cain, and Femi Olujobi were all seniors last season. Combined, they averaged 46.0 points, 14.4 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per game. Strus, Cain, and Olujobi were, in order, DePaul’s three leading scorers in 2018-19, and three of their top five rebounders. Cain and Strus were #2 and #3 on the team in assists, respectively.
Key Returners: Devin Gage (9.1 points, 3.0 rebounds, and a team high 3.9 assists) and Paul Reed (12.3 points, 8.5 rebounds) are, uh, really about it. Well, no. That’s unfair to Jalen Coleman-Lands, who chipped in 9.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.3 assists while starting in DePaul’s first nine games of the year. He then broke his hand and missed the rest of the season.
Key Additions: Well, believe it or not, DePaul has a top 40 recruiting class and the third best in the Big East. This is largely thanks to signing Romeo Weems, a top 60 power forward and the best player in the class from the state of Michigan. Yeah, that’ll help. Also helping: Markese Jacobs, a 5’11” point guard from right there in Chicago who comes in at #154 in the 247 Sports rankings. They also add Carte’Are Gordon at the semester break after he left Saint Louis at mid-year last year. Charlie Moore, a former Illinois Mr. Basketball, may also be eligible, but we’re waiting to see if the NCAA approves his hardship waiver after he left Kansas after leaving Cal. He played 2016-17 at Cal and 2018-19 at Kansas with a redshirt year in the middle. In theory he has two years of eligibility remaining, but if he doesn’t get the waiver, he’ll have just one year remaining in 2020-21.
Coach: Dave Leitao in his second stint in Lincoln Park. He has a career record of 191-211, an overall record of 106-116 at DePaul, and a record of 48-62 this time around with the Blue Demons. Last year was the seventh time in his 13 seasons as a head coach where he finished with a record over .500 and the first time in five seasons.
Outlook: For the first time since 2007, DePaul finished with a record over .500. For the first time since 2007, they won more than 13 games.
You’d like to say that Dave Leitao has things steered in an upright direction here. For the first time in over a decade, the Blue Demons were not a complete and total joke in 2018-19.
They still finished in dead last in the Big East.
They are losing 59% of their scoring, 39% of their rebounding, and 46% of their assists in their trio of seniors.
I think Paul Reed is really great. I think Carte’Are Gordon can provide a lot of pop when he gets eligible. Jalen Coleman-Lands will probably drop back into being at worst a useful rotation piece. Romeo Weems will likely get a chance to contribute right away and will probably have a pretty solid impact.
Is any and/or all of that enough to counter what DePaul lost and make them a better team than they were last year?
I really doubt it. They’ll probably still be a really tough out, just like they were in 2018-19. That’s fine. In fact, it’s probably good for the general health of the league. Is that going to get them to 9-9 in Big East play? Is that good enough to get them to the NIT? Is that good enough to make them compete for an NCAA tournament bid?
Then again.... will DePaul be a better better team, or at least a more dangerous team merely because Dave Leitao will have to draw up an end of game play that’s not Max Strus jacking up a contested 29 footer??