Another last place finish shows the growing gap between DePaul and everyone else in the Big East

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Alexa Sandler

DePaul men’s basketball head coach Dave Leitao talks to junior forward Darious Hall during the Blue Demons’ game against Georgetown on Saturday at Wintrust Arena.

If the DePaul men’s basketball team was to have a motto, it would be “one step forward, two steps back.” For most teams, they are looking to take two steps forward and one step back — indicating a sign of progress throughout the season.

Not for DePaul. Following their 88-83 win over St. John’s on Feb. 20, the Blue Demons gave themselves a chance to climb out of last place in the Big East if they could win the final three regular season games.

In classic DePaul fashion, however, they got blitzed by Creighton on Wednesday for a 77-53 loss — sealing the Blue Demons’ spot in last place for the fifth consecutive season — and followed that up with a deflating 68-60 loss to Georgetown on Saturday at Wintrust Arena.

The win over St. John’s was DePaul’s best performance of the season. They played with a newfound energy and intensity that drove them on offense and defense. They scored a season-high 58 points in the paint, demonstrating the toughness and aggressiveness the Blue Demons played with. 

That win should have been a springboard for DePaul to use in the final three games, which could have generated them some momentum heading into the Big East Tournament in March. Instead, the two losses to Creighton and Georgetown showed that the performance against St. John’s is more of an anomaly rather than a season-building win.

“Aside from the fact that [Creighton is] very skilled and they base their offense on spreading the floor, making threes, you have got guys that understand each other, they understand coaching, they go through the highs and lows,” DePaul men’s basketball head coach Dave Leitao said. 

DePaul has now lost 14 consecutive games against Creighton. DePaul hasn’t beaten Villanova since Barack Obama was serving his last year as president. DePaul only has one win over Butler since 2015. They simply struggle to compete against the conference’s most elite programs. 

The gap between DePaul, who constantly sits at the bottom of the conference, and everyone else in the Big East is only growing in Leitao’s sixth season as head coach. 

When Leitao was asked following the loss on Saturday if his team, in year six, should be putting in performances against teams like Georgetown, he failed to answer the question. 

“To ask a general question and have a very specific answer is very difficult, because my determination on who we are and where we are is more day-to-day,” Leitao said. “It’s not holistic. I’m trying to win every day. I get our guys to do what we ask them to do a little bit better today than they did yesterday.”

The performances on the court, however, are not showing that. And the final results continue to go against DePaul. On Saturday, they allowed Georgetown to go on an 18-0 run in the second half that put the Hoyas up 19 and virtually sealed the win for them. This is a Georgetown team that was picked to finish in last place before the season started, and has a similar talent level to DePaul. 

“The effort wasn’t there today,” DePaul junior guard Charlie Moore said. “We didn’t have the best defensive effort in order to stop them from scoring.”

Georgetown is only 9-39 when scoring fewer than 80 points in the Big East under head coach Patrick Ewing. They had 19 turnovers on Saturday and barely shot above 40 percent from the field. Even a mediocre performance from DePaul would have been enough to beat Georgetown on that afternoon. 

But DePaul hasn’t reached the point yet where they can take any team for granted and expect to win. That’s why when they drop off a few levels for a couple of minutes in a game, a team like Georgetown can go on a 18-0 run. 

Losing to teams like Creighton and Villanova is one thing, but not having the effort or energy to compete against a mediocre Georgetown team speaks volumes about the coaching and preparation DePaul goes through. 

If DePaul loses its final regular season game on Tuesday against Marquette, they will finish with at least four fewer conference wins than any other team in the Big East. This isn’t the definition of progress or taking steps forward as a program — it’s a failure of leadership. 

The Blue Demons’ season is going to end in less than two weeks, and it will be the 17th consecutive season without an NCAA Tournament appearance. It will be the fifth consecutive season finishing in last place of the Big East, with no signs of progress.

DePaul only has one question to ask itself at the end of the season: Are we going in the right direction?