Bluejays; Blue Demons: Can DePaul cool off one of nation’s best 3-point shooting teams?


DePaul forward Paul Reed (4) shoots in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against St. John’s, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019, in New York. Mary Altaffer | AP

Blink and it’s the end of February and DePaul has three home games left.

That third to last home game for the DePaul Blue Demon men’s basketball team (13-11, 5-8) goes down tonight at 8 at Wintrust Arena against the Creighton Bluejays (13-13, 4-9). Fox Sports Network has television coverage, while WSCR 670 AM will broadcast the game over the airwaves. The Blue Demons have battled the Bluejays 34 other times, with the latter team clinging to an 18-16 advantage (DePaul hasn’t beaten Creighton in Chicago since 2005).

The Bluejays bring up the rear in a Big East Conference where only three games separate all but two of the teams. They come into Chicago on a four-game losing streak, although two of those games were overtime losses and seven points or less was the margin of defeat in all four games (they are 4-6 this season in games decided by seven or fewer points). They have blown late leads in three of their last four games and their 13-13 record puts them on their worse final record pace since 2014-2015, but in their defense they have played the 19th toughest schedule in the country this season.

In the mold of Doug McDermott and Kyle Korver led teams of years gone by, a big part of what makes the Bluejays dangerous is their  sharpshooting from outside. They’ve shot 40.3 percent from 3-point land this season, good for fifth in the nation. They have six players who have shot over 38 percent from 3-point land on at least one attempt per game. In 16 of their 26 games this season, they hit double-digit 3-point field goals. The Bluejays game-by-game 3-point field goal percentages have been a reliable barometer of their game results this season. Creighton is 1-9 when they’ve shot 36 percent or below from 3-point land and 12-4 when they’ve shot better than 36 percent. The potent outside shooting stems at least partly from good ball movement: the Bluejays average 16.1 assists per game which is 28th best in the nation.

The Bluejays are also deep at the guard position, with four guards averaging at least 10 points per game and seven guards averaging at least 10 minutes per game. This depth will challenge a Blue Demon team that goes two or three deep at this position right now (depending on how you want to label Max Strus) with players like Lyrik Schreiner and Flynn Cameron still trying to find their way.

At 7-foot even and 6-foot-11-inches respectively Samson Froling and Jacob Epperson are role players for the Bluejays, but nonetheless present challenges with their sizes given that the tallest Blue Demon players [Femi Olujobi, Paul Reed, and Jaylen Butz] are 6-foot-9-inches tall.

Sophomore guard Ty-Shon Alexander (16.5 points per game; 39.7 from 3-point land) leads a young Bluejays team that has accumulated four starts between their two seniors. The return of freshman point guard Marcus Zegarowski from a broken shooting hand gives Creighton a boost; he scored eight points and dished out four assists in a loss against Seton Hall on Sunday. He’s not 100 percent, but his playmaking and leadership helps this team out.

Since the current Big East was created in 2013, every team from the conference that has qualified for the National Invitation Tournament has finished the season with 8-10 conference wins. DePaul still has some work to do if they want to sniff postseason play for the first time since 2007.