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#16 Marquette Men’s Basketball Big East Preview Primer: at DePaul

The Golden Eagles make their shortest road trip of the season to face an extremely dangerous Blue Demons squad.

Big East Basketball Tournament - First Round Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

#16 Marquette Golden Eagles (16-5, 8-2 Big East) at DePaul Blue Demons (9-12, 3-7 Big East)

Date: Saturday, January 28, 2023
Time: 1pm Central
Location: A sold out Wintrust Arena, Chicago, Illinois

Marquette Stats Leaders

Points: Kam Jones, 16.4 ppg
Rebounds: Oso Ighodaro, 6.3 rpg
Assists: Tyler Kolek, 7.9 apg

DePaul Stats Leaders

Points: Umoja Gibson, 15.8 ppg
Rebounds: Eral Penn, 7.6 rpg
Assists: Umoja Gibson, 5.0 apg Rankings

Marquette: #8
DePaul: #135
Game Projection: Marquette has an 82% chance of victory, with a predicted score of 83-72.
Game Projection Note: Xavier had an 83% chance of victory when they tipped off at Wintrust against DePaul.

So Far This Season: DePaul men’s basketball has been a land of contrasts. After starting off the season with three straight wins, including a road win over Minnesota, they went to their Feast Week event and lost both games. Then they came home and lost by 16 to a Texas A&M team that then spent the next month of the season lighting their goodwill on fire before figuring out how to basketball once SEC play started.

Since then, DePaul hasn’t won a game outside of Chicago. I can’t say at home, because they have an overtime “road” win over Loyola Chicago, and before you get excited about that because you remember LUC in the Final Four: 1) that was five years ago, and 2) Loyola is 1-6 in the Atlantic 10 right now. This means that yes, DePaul lost on the road by 11 at Duquesne, just like they have lost every other away game since beating Loyola Chicago. That includes a “road” game against Northwestern, and that was not close with a final of 83-45.

Since Big East play started, things have not been going well, but that’s what you expect from a DePaul team that went 6-5 in non-conference play. All of their road games are losses, and they have home losses to Providence and Seton Hall as well. But they do have three wins, and that’s where we get into the “extremely dangerous” note from the top of the page. They beat Georgetown at home, they beat Villanova at home, and finally, they beat Xavier at Wintrust Arena. Yes, the only loss that the Musketeers have taken in Big East play so far is on the road against DePaul, just like Marquette is doing in this game.

That’s one half of the “extremely dangerous” thing. This is the other half: On Tuesday night, DePaul became the first Big East team to lose to Georgetown since March 2021. Georgetown’s record breaking losing streak in conference play came to an end with an 81-76 victory over the Blue Demons in Washington, D.C. That gives DePaul the combination of “we know we can beat a Big East championship caliber team at home” and “we are mad about losing to that very awful Georgetown team in our most recent game.” As I said, dangerous.

Tempo Free Fun: We could go with the standard issue “here is what MU is good/bad at, can DePaul counter/attack it?” preview stuff for this section, but I think that there’s a couple of things that are more instructive for our purposes. Most notably, we have to take a look at how introducing Caleb Murphy to the lineup has affected the Blue Demons. Murphy is a 6’4”, 185 pound guard who transferred from South Florida to DePaul for this season.... and then missed the Blue Demons’ first 18 games with a wrist injury that required surgery right before the season started. He made his season debut for DePaul..... you guessed it, for the Xavier game, their biggest win of the season.

From the start of the season through January 17th, says that DePaul was playing like the #181 team in the country with a not particularly good (#141) offense and a kind of actively bad (#215) defense. That’s 18 games worth of data, so it’s a nice strong sample size. We can’t say the same thing about the three games that Murphy has played, but it is three games, so there is a certain amount of triangulation going on. In the last three games, since January 18th, DePaul has been playing like the #126 team in the country. The offense has gone a little downhill at #169, but the defense has gotten miles better, ranking at #113 in the country over the last eight days. They’re defending shots a little bit better, holding opponents to an effective field goal percentage of just 47.3% in the last three games, down from 51.1% without Murphy in the lineup. For whatever reason, the Blue Demons have almost stopped forcing turnovers in the last week while the defense has been better. Only 13.9% of defensive possessions have ended with a takeaway in that time, down from 19.5% in their first 18 games.

That’s big picture stuff, or at the very least as big of a picture that you can take with three games worth of information. We’re going to go even more granular now.

Item #1: How did they beat Xavier?

As you might recall, when I previewed Xavier for MU’s visit to Cincinnati, I called XU and MU the Pointing Spider-Mans meme because of how very similar the two teams are in the kind of statistics they produce. Figuring out what went right for DePaul in that game and/or wrong for the Musketeers could be very instructive for Marquette’s activity in Saturday’s game.

First of all, this wasn’t a game that DePaul had some kind of furious comeback and won at the last second. They went on a 13-2 run in the first half to take a 25-19 lead and then controlled the game from there, including holding a 64-57 lead with seven minutes left to go. Xavier immediately wiped that lead out though, turning the game into a duel for the final five minutes. DePaul won it because Da’Sean Nelson got into the lane to score in the final minute to break a tie and Xavier couldn’t answer on the other end, even with a Souley Boum steal giving XU a final chance at it.

In terms of stats from that game, there’s some pretty obvious standout reasons, and it’s really just one reason but looking at it from both ends of the court. Xavier couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn from behind the arc, going 4-for-20 (20%), but things went absolutely the other direction for DePaul. No matter who you are, no matter what the Associated Press poll says you are, you’re going to have a hard time winning when you let the other guys shoot 45% on three-pointers as a team. Umoja Gibson was 5-for-10 and Javan Johnson was 3-for-6. That’s a really bad job by Xavier defending them, as they’re both 40% long range shooters and they’re also the only Blue Demons with more than 75 long range attempts on the year. You knew what they were, especially Gibson who has attempted more three-pointers than two-pointers this season, but you let them run wild anyway.

The weird thing about all those threes? That was actually DePaul’s worst offensive performance in a win this season. Before that game, if you could hold DePaul under 106 points per 100 possessions, you won. You didn’t even have to play really great defense to beat them. This one? 99.5 for the Blue Demons per 100 possessions.

Item #2: How did they lose to Georgetown?

No, seriously, HOW did this happen? How did DePaul become the first Big East team to lose to Georgetown since March 2021 and the first high major team to lose to Georgetown since December 2021?

From a “how did the game play out?” perspective, DePaul lost this game the same way they beat Xavier. DePaul never went away against the Musketeers, Georgetown never went away against the Blue Demons. 37-36 DePaul at halftime, 47-43 Georgetown with 15 minutes to go, DePaul needed a 12-2 run to take a 58-57 lead with less than nine minutes left. Georgetown led 65-63 with five minutes left.... and then went on a 10-0 run. 75-63 Hoyas. Did it get borderline stupid from there? Did DePaul kiiiiind of have a chance to win if Georgetown missed their free throws in the final 30 seconds? Yep, that happened! But much like DePaul never let Xavier get away from them, Georgetown never let DePaul get away from them and the late run sealed it.

A minute ago, I said “you’re going to have a hard time winning when you let the other guys shot 45% on three-pointers as a team.” Apparently that DOES NOT APPLY TO GEORGETOWN, as DePaul connected on 47% (!!) of their threes against the Hoyas. Georgetown held them to only 15 instead of 20 against Xavier, so that means they shot a higher percentage but had two fewer buckets.

The two things that helped the Hoya win were 1) two-point shooting and 2) offensive rebounding. Georgetown connected on 51% of their shots inside the arc, including Primo Spears Primo Spears-ing DePaul to death. DePaul is a passable two-point shooting defense and actually kind of good at it in Big East action, so — I can’t believe I’m going to say this — if there’s something to learn from how the Hoyas attacked the Blue Demon defense, Marquette should absolutely take advantage of it. The Golden Eagles’ offense is designed to get easy shots at the rim, and while I suspect that part of the problem was merely Primo Spears activating his mid-range game which is not helpful to Marquette’s plans, anything that helps get an extra dunk or layup to the proceedings is always helpful.

Much like Marquette, DePaul is not a good rebounding team on either end of the court. Much like Marquette, DePaul is especially bad at defensive rebounding. They had a below average night against the Hoyas, giving up 35% of GU’s misses to a second chance. By nature, this is not something that Marquette is going to exploit merely by existing and playing the way they normally play, and Georgetown is a decent to good offensive rebounding team. They were just doing what they do. Is it worth it for MU to crash the glass a little harder on missed shots because they might be easier than normal to get to, or are the Golden Eagles better off focusing on getting stops against the Blue Demons? Xavier got stops, or at least more stops than anyone else who has lost to DePaul this season, and that didn’t help them.

Stat Watch: After six assists last weekend against Seton Hall, Tyler Kolek is nine assists away from tying and ten away from passing Aaron Hutchins for the 5th most assists by a Marquette junior. Kolek would need 20 to catch Junior Cadougan for fourth place, so that’s probably not going to happen in this game. Probably.

Stat Watch #2: Oso Ighodaro stands alone with the 10th most rejections by a Marquette junior. One more will catch Scott Merritt in ninth, and two more will catch Walter Downing in eighth. Ighodaro is five away from Dwyane Wade in seventh place, which feels unlikely but also not impossible.

Stat Watch #3: Kam Jones has the 9th most made triples by a Marquette sophomore. He needs eight to catch and nine to pass Robb Logterman and Travis Diener in a tie for seventh. I’m not saying he can’t do that in this game, just that he probably won’t. Imagine if he did, though!

Marquette Last 10 Games: 8-2, with wins in two straight games and seven of the last eight.

DePaul Last 10 Games: 3-7, with losses in their last two and three of the last four.

All-Time Series: Marquette leads, 81-50.

Current Streak: DePaul won in Chicago last year, so they have the active streak. Marquette had won the last two meeting previous to that.

Follow Along On Twitter

@AnonymousEagle - Hey, that’s us!
@MarquetteMBB - Official MU account
@DePaulHoops - Official DePaul account
@BenSteeleMJS - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel MU beat writer