Blue Demons to battle Bulldogs in “Pink Game”


Brandon Cyrus averaged 7.2 points this past season in his second year with the program. (Photo courtesy of DePaul Athletics)

This isn’t the Brad Stevens-led Butler Bulldogs that went 166-49 across six seasons from 2007 until 2013 that included five NCAA Tournament appearances and two trips to the Final Four.

But the current iteration of the Butler Bulldogs (13-7; 3-4 Big East) is still pretty good. Under the guidance of first-year head coach LaVall Jordan, the Bulldogs have been competitive in every Big East contest this season and have a signature 101-93 win against No. 1 Villanova to their name, which remains the only blemish of the season for the Wildcats. If the DePaul Blue Demons (8-10; 1-5 Big East) have learned anything this season, it’s that every game in the Big East is going to be difficult.

For the first and only time this season, the Bulldogs visit Chicago to take on the Blue Demons at Wintrust Arena on Saturday. Tipoff is at 1 p.m. and the DePaul athletic department has designated this contest as the “pink game” to help raise awareness for breast cancer research. The first 5,000 fans in attendance will receive a pink T-shirt.

The Bulldogs bring a solid offense (52nd in the country in offensive efficiency)  into Wintrust. Unlike other efficient offenses, they don’t get the job done with great 3-point shooting. The Bulldogs shoot 34.4 percent from 3-point land which is 244th best in the country and seventh best in the Big East. This is a welcomed change for a Blue Demons squad that has been vulnerable all season against teams that shoot the ball well from deep.

Butler does a lot of things fairly well offensively, but they don’t really do anything super well. They attack the basket (13th most two-point field goal attempts in the NCAA) which is great, but shoot 54.5 percent on two-point field goals which is 51st-best in the nation. They share the ball (88th in the NCAA), don’t turn it over (78th in the NCAA), and shoot the ball from the free-throw line well too; 75.6 percent as a team which is the 39th-best percentage in the nation.

A pair of small guards and a 6-foot-6-inch forward lead the Bulldogs. Senior forward Kelan Martin averages 19.4 points per game (fourth in the Big East) and 6.7 rebounds per game (ninth in the Big East) and is the reigning Big East Player of the Week. Guards Kamar Baldwin and Paul Jorgensen average 15.9 and 11.7 points per game respectively while senior forward Tyler Wideman chips in 9.5 points per contest. For the second-straight game, the Blue Demons will have a decided size advantage against the opposing guards although the 6-foot-6-inch Eli Cain and the 6-foot-5-inch Brandon Cyrus weren’t able to utilize their size advantage against Marquette on Monday.

After winning their first two Big East contests, the Bulldogs have skidded lately losing four of their last five games in conference play. The Blue Demons come off an uncompetitive loss against the Marquette Golden Eagles on Monday where they shot 29.9 percent from the field and turned the ball over 17 times en route to a 70-52 loss that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated (as crazy as that sounds).

The Blue Demons hope that their leading scorer Max Strus can get back on track offensively. He’s averaged nine points and shot the ball 24 percent from the field in the Blue Demons last two contests, both of which were losses. For the second game in a row, Strus and the rest of head coach Dave Leitao’s squad will have a chance to rectify the offense against a porous defense that ranks near the bottom of the Big East in opponent points (72.7 points per game; eighth) and opponent field goal percentage (45.1 percent; ninth).

The loss against Marquette on Monday was really the first wire-to-wire uncompetitive game we’ve seen from the Blue Demons this season. Don’t expect a similar storyline to unfold on Saturday.