Too Busy for the Details?
The confusion and uncertainty of the Jerry Wainwright Era gave way to the confusion and uncertainty of the Oliver Purnell Era. Long critical of Wainwright's lack of effort to recruit from the local AAU teams, some of those same critics greeted AD Jean Ponsetti introduction of Clemson's Head Coach Oliver Purnell as the new pilot of the Blue Demon program with groans of disappointment and veiled threats to "limit access" to local players. Hardly an auspicious beginning, but DePaul's new coach, whose reputation as a program builder sealed the deal with DePaul's administration, plunged ahead with phone calls to the local PTBs and followed that with an energetic round of recruiting. If he was unable to convince 6-8 power forward Walter Pitchford to to honor his NLI after a good faith effort, he released the Michigan player before the situation metastasized ala Providence. With renewed energy and three recruits for the roster, the Blue Demons head into the 2011 season with modest expectations. Winning more games in 2011 than they did in 2009 and 2010 would be a start. They will do that, but a longer term rebuilding process will take longer. Prognosis -- A 4th quartile finish.
3 Years At a Glance
The difference between returning minutes and returning points suggests the Blue Demons a roster full of Indians, but very few chiefs. With Mac Koshwal's departure I would expect to see a smaller percentage of returning rebounds, but defense is often the starting point when a team rebuilds.
|According to Pomeroy...|
Whether it is a pro team or college team one thing Dean Oliver and Ken Pomeroy (and just about everyone else) agree on is that efficient conversion of shots (FGAs) to points is the most significant factor in determining the success (and record) of the team. DePaul is Exhibit A. Note that with middle of the conference offensive shooting in 2008 the Blue Demons managed six conference wins (below), despite non-existent shot defense. When the Demons could no longer convert efficiently, their standing crashed. A -25.0 efficiency differential says more about team morale than talent. DePaul mailed in the 2009 Big East season. Tracy Webster had the team play better defense than they had in the two previous seasons, and that probably accounts for their win in 2010. Installing an effective defense is a priority for the new coaching staff, but finding a scorer or two will put DePaul back on a winning track.
|For the Record...|
|Post Season?||BET Rnd #1||BET Rnd #2||NA|
The Blue Demon's Nucleus
Coach Purnell has some very good players in the pipeline for 2011, but working with the entering freshmen (class of 2014) and the returning members of the 2010 squad will be a challenge. If Coach Purnell's approach at DePaul is the same as he took at Clemson, expect an uptempo -- more possessions per game -- offense immediately. Purnell's teams also showed an almost immediate improvement on defense as well, as the coach tends to recruit athletic (though not always skilled) players who show length and speed. I would not be surprised to learn the Blue Demon squad has been on a conditioning program all summer.
As the table above illutrates, Mike Stovall (a 6-5 senior wing) and Eric Wallace (a 6-6 junior forward) aside, the returning roster is largely made up of role players, who will be good for an assist, a putback and an occasional FGA, but not the players who will start up the fireworks, or put the team on their back when things get rough. The good news is the scoring will probably be more evenly distributed than it has in the past. The bad news is there is no reliable veteran who can kick things off.
Coach Purnell, despite a few early grumbles from local coaches, managed to sign three prototypic "Oliver Purnell" type players for the 2011 season. Of the three 6-3, 175 pound point guard Brandon Young will probably see action early and often. He will be molded with an eye to the next two or so seasons. Purnell also signed 6-5 wing Moses Morgan out of Las Vegas, Nevada and 6-8 Cleveland Melvin, a #4 from Baltimore Maryland. I will save the reader twelve sentences by describing all three as "athletic and speedy", and best at "...running and finishing in transition...". Each needs to bulk up to play in the Big East, but will most likely see minutes as the staff looks for defenders who can score. Coach Purnell's entering class for 2012 includes (at this time) two Chicago area standouts. Help is on the way.
"Explosion" and "breakout" are relative when discussing DePaul. The Blue Demon post season will consist of a trip to New York City and a game, maybe two in the Big East Conference Tournament. Two, maybe three wins would be reasonable progress. An explosion might be a 6-12 conference record and a #13 seed in the conference tournament. For six conference wins the freshmen would have to be much better than projected right now. As for the veterans, they must unlearn two-to-three seasons of bad habits. The absence of turmoil and staff-centered animousity and speculation will help, but a month of practice and six weeks of out of conference games (even with relatively modest competition) is a short timeframe for a complete turnaround.
See Explode If... above. Define implosion for a program that went 1-31 in conference play over the last two seasons. The freshmen have to make progress. Injuries to any of those three would be a problem. Check John Gasaway's conference differentials over at Basketball Prospectus every now and again to track DePaul's relative distance from the other fourth quartile programs, and the rest of the conference. John Gasaway expresses offensive and defensive efficieny as points per possession, so my -25.0 differential from 2009 would be -0.25 by the writer formerly known as "The Big Ten Geek". If DePaul's differential slides into that territory, Coach Purnell probably has to deal with a morale crisis (among the administration and fan-base as much as the team), and a far more complicated rebuilding job.
Crucial Run/Bellweather Games
The Blue Demons leave their haunts at the Allstate Arena and McGrath Arena only twice during the out of conference (OOC) portion of their schedule. The first is a run to California to participate in the 76 Classic, which features an opening round game against Travis Ford's Oklahoma State squad. The Cowboys are projected to finish in the middle of the Big 12, and pick up a Dance bid in March 2011, so a win (or competitive game) would be a good omen for the DePaul faithful. The next two rounds in Anaheim, CA could be a Virginia Tech (or Cal State Northbridge) matchup, followed by one from a pool of Murray State, Stanford, Tulsa and UNLV to close out the third round. Someone will finish the weekend 0-3, Coach Purnell's objective will be to insure DePaul is not that team. The second road trip, in early December, will be to Terre Haute to face Indiana State of the Missori Valley Conference (DePaul always seems to schedule one or two MVC teams each season). The Sycamores are projected to finish (in the middle of) the lower half of the MVC, so played under road conditions, this one should tell the fans and staff if the team is making progress. A 9-3 OOC record heading into Big East play would be good, but 8-4/7-5 is probably more reasonable.
DePaul is mirrored with Cincinnati, South Florida and West Virginia. Logging two wins out of the six games would double the Blue Demons' win haul from the two preceeding seasons. Looking at conference home games (mirrors aside), best opportunities seem to be Connecticut (1/15), Notre Dame (2/3) and Rutgers (3/2). A careless Seton Hall team (1/12) is also a possibility. Among road-only oppponents, Providence (2/17) offers the best opportunity as the Friars, like the Blue Demons, will struggle with an undersized squad. A six win conference record would move DePaul out of the Fourth Quartile. Not likely, but Coach Purnell is good enough to find three, maybe four wins with one coming as a surprise. And that would move them out of the conference cellar.