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Commentary: A non-conference review of DePaul men’s basketball

Matthew Paras

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Sitting at 8-5, there’s a certain familiarity surrounding DePaul men’s basketball after the team finished its non-conference schedule.

Despite a roster that was revamped over the summer, the record is eerily similar to the previous non-conference records posted under head coach Oliver Purnell. Purnell’s squads went 9-4 and 9-5 over the last two years before posting a combined 5-31 in the Big East.

Purnell previously told media that the team’s talent is significantly better. So far, that hasn’t translated into success.

“It’s been a little up and down,” Purnell said about the team’s non-conference play, following the Northwestern game.  “We weren’t as consistent as I would have liked. (The Northwestern game) was important to us. We wanted to build some confidence.”

Billy Garrett’s buzzer beater, which gave DePaul a 57-56 win on the road, could very well bring the Blue Demons together.  There were multiple times throughout the Northwestern game where DePaul couldn’t put the game away, but it’s an encouraging sign the team could rally together and get the job done in the end.

“(The game winner) shows we’re going, getting better,” Garrett said. “It gives us some momentum going into conference play.”

However, for every encouraging sign that DePaul has flashed, there are still plenty of reasons to worry.  The team was hardly competitive when they traveled to Kansas City, resulting in back-to-back blowouts against Wichita State and Texas.

Even more concerning, DePaul has either played down to, or is at, some of the lesser competition they scheduled. The team looked lethargic in a home loss to Southern Miss and struggled with Chicago State, who hasn’t beaten DePaul in 12 meetings.  On the road vs. Illinois State, the Blue Demons couldn’t hold onto a seven-point lead in the second half and lost to a team that didn’t have nearly the same amount of talent.

The Blue Demons have yet to earn an impressive win that can show they can compete in the Big East, buzzer beater aside.  

With six new players, DePaul is playing like a team adjusting to each other. Here’s a look, as well as an evaluation, of each player’s performance during DePaul’s non-conference play.

Starters

Brandon Young, senior, Guard

Notable Stats: 14.5 points per game, 49.6 FG%, 23.5% 3pFG, 4.3 rebounds per game and 4.1 assists per game

Grade: B+

Thoughts:  Young’s importance to this team showed when he missed the game against Arizona State and the Blue Demons lost 78-56. He’s one of the few players on this team that can create his own shot while also being a threat to create it for others.

That being said, Young’s decision making has to improve. His attempted game winning three pointer in the final seconds against Illinois State was unacceptable.  Often, Young tries a little too hard and forces the ball in spots where it’s not needed. He leads the team with 39 turnovers, averaging 3.25 a game. As a senior leader, he needs to display more discipline.

Billy Garrett Jr., freshman, Guard

Notable Stats: 10.6 points per game, 34.5 FG%, 26.1% 3pFG,  2.2 rebounds per game, 3.6 assists per game

Grade: A-

Thoughts: Garrett is the type of player DePaul’s offense desperately needed. His poise as a freshman allows the Blue Demons to slow down their offense and run plays.  His chemistry alongside Young gives DePaul a diverse backcourt.

He’s been, by far, DePaul’s most impressive player, earning three Big East Rookie of the Week honors and he also earned a starting role. If there is a knock on his game, it’s that he needs to find his range shooting. He’s only making 34.5 percent of his field goals.

Cleveland Melvin, senior, Forward

Notable Stats: 16.1 points per game, 46.9 FG%, 50 3pFG%, 7.1 rebounds per game, 1.3 blocks per game

Grade: B

Thoughts: If Garrett is DePaul’s most impressive player, Melvin is their most confusing.

At times, Melvin looks like an all-star. The move to the small forward looked brilliant early on as Melvin found his range and looked like the perfect stretch four. His three point percentage, making half of his attempts, almost doubled his previous career percentage.  He also had a great two-game stretch where he posted consecutive double-doubles.

There are games, however, where Melvin simply disappears. When the team needed him to step up in Brandon Young’s absence, the senior put forth one of his worst games as a Blue Demon. Likewise, he struggled against Northwestern and Illinois State.

Put it this way: late in the Illinois State game, Greg Sequele checked in off the bench  and the commentator wondered why Melvin wasn’t put in the game instead. Melvin had fouled out about four minutes earlier. He was a non-factor all game long.

Does Melvin just struggle against athletic teams? There’s a good player in there somewhere. The Blue Demons desperately need him going forward.

Tommy Hamilton IV, freshman, forward

Notable Stats: 9.8 points per game, 39.8 FG%, 38.1 3pFG% , 5.3 rebounds per game

Grade: C+

Thoughts: Hamilton is perhaps the team’s mot pleasant surprise.  He’s established himself as a threat in the post and provides a nice option as DePaul’s fourth leading scorer.  Still, Hamilton has a lot of room to grow. He appears to get easily discouraged and is a liability on defense. Also, Hamilton needs to improve his shot selection.  The freshman could be a lot more efficient of a scorer if he didn’t force three pointers and longer mid-range shots.

Sandi Marcius, senior, forward

Notable Stats: 6.2 points per game, 60 FG%, 5.2 rebounds per game, 1 block per game

Grade: C+

Thoughts: Marcius improved throughout non-conference play, which is encouraging. He had a nice game against Florida Atlantic and made two critical three point plays near the end of the Northwestern game.

Like many other Blue Demons, he struggles on defense. He’s often out of position and isn’t a defensive anchor. If his offensive game has improved, perhaps his defense will too. Time is ticking for a player in his final year.

Rotation

Charles McKinney, junior, Guard

Notable Stats: 4.3 points per game, 60.7 FG%, 1.1 steals per game

Grade: A-

Thoughts: McKinney was suspended for unspecified reasons and lost his starting role, but one would have never guessed it by the amount of effort he puts on the floor game in and game out.  McKinney is DePaul’s best defensive player and has been phenomenal as a spark off the bench.  Purnell has seemed to perfectly find his role.

Durrell McDonald, sophomore, Guard

Notable Stats: 5.5 points per game, 46.3 FG%, 45 3PgFG%, 1.3 steals per game

Grade: B+

Thoughts: McDonald is proving himself to be a very capable backup point guard. McDonald’s spotted a very nice pull up jumper and has a beautiful shot beyond the arc.  McDonald’s shown the ability to find his teammates as well, making the assist to Garrett for the game winner at Northwestern.

Jaime Crockett, junior, forward

Notable Stats: 4.2 points per game, 23.5 FG%, 34.5 3pFG%, 1.4 rebounds per game, 1.3 turnovers per game

Grade: C-

Thoughts: Crockett missed four games with a knee injury and it didn’t look like the Blue Demons missed him at all. Crockett can have success shooting from long range, but he is struggling with his shot overall. Crockett makes poor decisions constantly, going beyond turning it over. He hesitates with his shot, resulting in him taking poor shots or killing ball movement.  Crockett needs to only shoot when open.

Greg Sequele, junior, forward

Notable Stats: 1.8 points per game, 60 FG%, 1.8 rebounds per game

Grade: C

Thoughts: Sequele has been okay so far. This is his first year as a Blue Demon and he’s mostly been Hamilton’s backup. He hasn’t had much of an impact, but is used for his size. 

Peter Ryckbosch, sophomore, forward

Notable Stats: 1.5 points per game, 1.3 rebounds per game, 21.4 FG%

Grade: D-

Thoughts: Why does Ryckbosch get playing time instead of Forrest Robinson? Ryckbosch’s only positive is that he is a high-energy player and supports his teammates on the bench. However, he constantly commits fouls and looks lost.  He had an O.K. game at Northwestern, but besides that, there hasn’t been a lot to justify his playing time.

Other Bench Players

(Editor’s note: The following players haven’t logged enough playing time to be accessed individual grades.)

Of the remaining players, DeJuan Marreo, Forrest Robinson and R.J. Curington have shown enough in small doses that they should get more playing time.

The Case for DeJuan Marreo: His rebounding has been impressive for being undersized. He has shown he can score a little too. If Crockett works his way out of the rotation, Marrero should take some of his playing time.

The case for Forrest Robinson: Robinson seems like a great mid-range shooter. He’s flashed it in the small playing time he’s had. Instead of Purnell going to Ryckbosch, and maybe even Sequele, DePaul fans should want to see what Robinson can do. Robinson was sidelined with a high-ankle sprain early on. Let’s see if he can work his way back.

The case for R.J. Curington: Admittedly, the case for him isn’t that strong. However, Curington has a reputation for being a shooter. If the 2-3 zone continues to plague DePaul’s offense, Curington might be worth taking a look at.

Coach Purnell

Grade: C+

Thoughts:  Purnell and his team haven’t put together a consistent stretch of gameplay this season, even during a three-game win streak.  His teams often came out starting slow and have trouble putting away teams.

DePaul has improved in points per game offensively and defensively, averaging 74 points per game and allowing 71.2. Whether this holds up with conference play remains to be seen. The team finished last year scoring 71.4 points per game and giving up 75.3.

Purnell also seemed to find a reliable eight-man rotation. McKinney, McDonald and Sequele have all come off the bench to contribute in meaningful minutes. How Crockett, now that he’s healthy, fits back in needs to be figured out.  Limiting his playing time could actually be better for the team in the long run.

The big area DePaul needs to work on is finishing out games. The Blue Demons gave away too many close games last season and have again struggled.  Southern Mississippi, Wright State, Milwaukee, Chicago State, Illinois State and Northwestern were all games DePaul led but struggled keeping their opponent from coming back.  The Blue Demons came away went 4-2 in those games, but as Purnell said, need to be more consistent.

The Blue Demons are projected to go 5-13 in the Big East, according to the basketball analytic site Sevenovertimes.com.  That would lead them to another losing season at 13-18.

Historically, Purnell’s previously coached teams have made a leap in years three or four. With this being year four under Purnell, a lot is riding on the Blue Demons taking a much-needed step.

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The Student News Site of DePaul University
Commentary: A non-conference review of DePaul men’s basketball