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Who DePaul’s first opponent at its new arena should be

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The DePaulia’s basketball experts weigh in on who should be the first opponent when the new arena opens.

Northwestern

The opening of the new DePaul arena for the start of the 2017-18 season will be a momentous event in DePaul history.

Back when they played in Alumni Hall on campus, they were the pride of Chicago, and too big for a small on-campus arena. Unfortunately, the move to Rosemont and Allstate Arena has coincided with a drop in team quality and the team seems far removed from Chicago.

The first game should be a statement game for DePaul: not only that they are ready to win, but that they are Chicago’s team. For this scenario, I believe Northwestern to be the best opponent.

Northwestern and DePaul are the two most high-profile collegiate sports teams in Chicago, representing the Big 10 and the Big East respectively. Both teams have claims to be the top collegiate team in Chicago. Northwestern already has an advantage with their football team, but if DePaul basketball is easily accessible to city-living basketball fans and is a fun team to watch, then Chicago winters will become really fun watching the Blue Demons downtown.

It all starts with opening night, however. This game would be a statement game and it would surely draw a very large and excited crowd. Other big-name opponents, such as Notre Dame, Connecticut or Illinois would do this as well, but that also runs the risk of there being a divided crowd.

The first game should be 10,000 DePaul fans ready for a new era, ready to see their team return to the formal glory of DePaul men’s basketball. Northwestern provides a big-name appeal and a local rivalry while still allowing DePaul to control the fan flow and make it 10,000 screaming Blue Demons instead of a neutral court atmosphere. — Ben Gartland

University of Illinois

It’s been 21,358 days since the Blue Demons and the University of Illinois last played each other in a men’s basketball game. The two teams met on Dec. 7, 1957 and the Illini won 75-70.

There’s no better way to kickoff the new arena than having these two teams finally meet once again.

In 2014, it was announced that the Big East and the Big Ten, the conference Illinois plays in, would meet in an annual eight-game schedule near the start of the season. This gave the hope to both fanbases that Illinois and DePaul would meet.

So far, that has proved to be hopeful thinking as DePaul opened the series last season with Penn State (boring) and  for this upcoming year will play Rutgers (seriously?). Illinois, meanwhile, faced Providence and their upcoming Big East opponent has yet to be announced.

However, what better time for DePaul and Illinois to face off than with DePaul’s new arena? DePaul wants to show off its brand new facility and there needs to be significant intrigue on why people should come. There needs to be a marquee name besides DePaul to draw people in. With Illinois, DePaul will be getting a whole another fanbase to see its arena. Illinois, though, doesn’t have the fanbase that could necessarily drown out the DePaul faithful, which is why Notre Dame is ruled out in this scenario.

And if all goes to plan for both universities, Illinois and DePaul should be a great matchup. By the start of the 2016-17 season is ideally when both teams will have momentum to turn their programs around.

When you think of college basketball in Illinois, it’s usually between the Illini or the Blue Demons. It’s time to settle which team is better. Let’s do it on opening night. — Matthew Paras

University of Illinois – Chicago

DePaul is rebuilding. They have a new coach, new faces of the team,  new stadium and a new image. DePaul only gets one first game, one first impression: so they have to make it count.

Many consider “winning” to be an important part of growing a collegiate fanbase. Lack of sustained success in the past decade has depleted the Blue Demon fanbase, causing many to forget that DePaul was once a basketball powerhouse. That needs to change, and it starts with a win.

DePaul needs to crush its first opponent.

The University of Illinois at Chicago would be the perfect team to obliterate on opening night. Even with DePaul’s enigmatic play, they are leagues better than the Flames. UIC plays in the Horizon League, also featuring notable programs such as Cleveland State, Northern Kentucky and Youngstown State. DePaul might be near the bottom of the Big East, but that’s still demonstrably better than being the worst team in the Horizon League.

Despite the weaker competition level, the Flames still managed to get destroyed. In an average game, UIC got outscored by 11 points. They also only had one player who averaged more than 10 points per game. Also, in their one match-up against each other last year, DePaul walloped UIC 82-55. It would be a statement game for the Blue Demons and set up their confidence heading into the season.

This is the opening game DePaul needs. Next season will most likely come and go without a return to prominence in the Big East, but the team will be better. In this first game, we need to give the DePaul fans the experience and impression of excellence. That’s what going to make fans come back. — Ben Savage

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Who DePaul’s first opponent at its new arena should be