The DePaulia

2017 Big East tournament preview: DePaul men’s basketball vs. Xavier

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Billy Garrett Jr. (right) will be a key factor in tonight's DePaul game against Xavier in the Big East tournament. 

(Josh Leff/The DePaulia)

Billy Garrett Jr. (right) will be a key factor in tonight's DePaul game against Xavier in the Big East tournament. (Josh Leff/The DePaulia)

Josh Leff

Josh Leff

Billy Garrett Jr. (right) will be a key factor in tonight's DePaul game against Xavier in the Big East tournament. (Josh Leff/The DePaulia)

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NEW YORK — DePaul men’s basketball plays in the opening round of the Big East tournament tonight as they play Xavier, a team they’ve lost to twice this season.

The Facts

Who: No. 10 DePaul vs. No. 7 Xavier

What: First round of the 2017 Big East men’s basketball tournament

When: Wednesday, March 8. 8:30 p.m. CST.

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York City

How to Watch: Fox Sports 1

About the Teams

DePaul

In Dave Leitao’s second season DePaul has not shown much improvement record-wise this season from last. The Blue Demons (9-20, 2-16 Big East) only won two conference games this year, although they have taken the top two seeds in the tournament to the limit this year in close losses. The Blue Demons are last in conference offense and second to last in defense as they claim the No. 10 seed in this year’s tournament. They don’t score a lot and they don’t shut down opposing offenses enough to make up for it, giving them the worst scoring margin in the conference.

Xavier

Xavier (19-12, 9-9) has been in a free fall the past couple of months. After they lost Edmond Sumner to a torn ACL on January 29, they started dropping games. They’ve dropped six of their last eight games with their only two wins coming against DePaul. They’re ranked sixth and seventh in conference offense and defense respectively and have fallen way off the standard they were on during non-conference play, where it looked like they might be a very high seed in the NCAA tournament. They likely need to win this game to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive.

Who to Watch

DePaul — Billy Garrett Jr.

Garrett has been a DePaul starter for four years and, in what may be his final game, has a chance to lead the Blue Demons to an upset. The senior point guard has averaged 14.9 points per game in the best season of his career and he’ll need to help the Blue Demons put points on the board. Xavier has struggled offensively without Sumner so if Garrett can have a good night offensively, he might be able to put the Blue Demons on top.

Xavier — Trevon Bluiett

The junior guard is the star of the Musketeers, averaging 18 points per game this season. He put up 24 points in the season finale against DePaul and seems to be recovered from the leg injuries that sidelined him for a couple of games in mid-February. He’ll be the most important offensive outlet for the Musketeers.

What’s at Stake

For the Blue Demons, the only way they’ll be playing in another postseason tournament is if they go all the way and win the Big East, otherwise it’ll be another long offseason for DePaul. For Xavier, they might be going to the NIT without a strong performance in the Big East tournament, so a win over DePaul would go a long ways in helping. The winner of this game plays No. 2 seed Butler tomorrow night in the quarterfinals.

Prediction

Xavier 82 DePaul 74

Xavier has beaten DePaul twice this season and it hasn’t been too close either time. The Musketeers should have the advantage tonight.

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2017 Big East tournament preview: DePaul men’s basketball vs. Xavier