DePaul 2019 Record: 19-17, 7-11 Big East (lost to South Florida in CBI Finals)
2020 Returning Minutes percentage: 57.1%
Graduated Seniors: Femi Olujobi (F), Max Strus (G), Eli Cain (G)
Early departures/ transfers: Carte’Are Gordon (F), John Diener (G), George Maslennikov (F)
Incoming talent: Charlie Moore (junior transfer from Kansas, G), Darious Hall (junior transfer from Arkansas, W), Markeese Jacobs (G), Romeo Weems (F), Oscar Lopez, Jr (G), Nick Ongenda (C)
Likely top 6: Paul Reed (JR), Jaylen Butz (JR), Jalen Coleman-Lands (SR), Romeo Weems (FR), Devin Gage (SR), Charlie Moore (JR)
DePaul last season:
Some fans might joke, but DePaul getting to 15 wins was a solid positive, even if the wins were not spectacular; Penn State was likely the best win, and the Blue Demons beat Seton Hall twice.
Playing at a fast pace, the Demons packed in the defense and were a load inside, with Paul Reed emerging as an interior force and now-graduated Olujobi providing more interior heft. But with the dangerous shooters gone, can the Demons take another step? A lot rides on a combination of better defensive scheme and possibly talent, along with some players stepping up to make opponents pay for concentrating their defense inside.
We caught up with Dan Stack of WeAreDePaul.com to get the scoop on the Blue Demons.
Rumble: Many have come to know DePaul as a bottom-feeder in the Big East. Is this the worst team in the Big East? What is the ceiling for DePaul?
Not to make this an ‘I’m better than you’ thing, but I really believe at minimum we are better than St. John’s. This is the deepest DePaul has been in over a decade. While they lose Strus, Cain and Olujobi, they have an 8-man rotation that can match up with a lot of conference teams. I don’t envision them finishing in the top half, but top-6 to top-8 I think is within reach.
Rumble: Romeo Weems was the best player in the state of Michigan. He comes to DePaul as a highly regarded freshman. What do you expect his impact to be on the program as a whole?
Weems will pay a huge part in DePaul’s success.
He was sold on the vision of rebuilding DePaul. He is intense and plays hard every minute. While he is super athletic and long, his best attributes are his commitment to getting better and playing with an edge. He will impact the game on both ends of the floor, as the kid loves to get at it.
Rumble: What are the strengths and weaknesses of this Blue Demons team?
When you factor in Paul Reed, Jaylen Butz, Weems, Darious Hall, and Nick Ongenda, you have a freaky athletic frontcourt that is long and rangy. Remember DePaul led the conference in rebounding margin last year and that is the goal again. These guys play with so much energy and tenacity.
The major weakness I’m worried about is outside shooting, especially with the line being moved back.
Obviously, losing Max Strus, and to a lesser degree Eli Cain hurts big time. Jalen Coleman-Lands is back and he was supposed to be a great shooter (that he much was when he played at Illinois), but he struggled early on last season before heating up and then, unfortunately, missing the rest of the season after just nine games. He needs to give the team that spark.
Rumble: DePaul is currently on three-year probation from the NCAA. Explain to fans the resulting consequences of these sanctions.
The main takeaway is you got to follow the rules and I fully understand that. But the central issue is that a former low-level coach spent a good amount of personal time overseeing a recruit to make sure he passed his tests to become eligible. Now, the coach did not take the test or do anything to that level. He just spent too much time with the player to make sure he passed.
Bottom line is it is against the rules, but in my humble opinion, this was a harsh sentence. So many teams are doing more egregious violations and still recruiting well. Outside of some bad optics, I don’t see this hurting the program.
Rumble: Which player does DePaul most need to see development from?
Either Jaylen Butz or Jalen Coleman-Lands.
Butz is a great role player. He is one of the better rebounders in the league and plays good defense. He is your garbage-man type who cleans up all the messes. DePaul fans are hoping he can expand his game some. He’ll never be a great shooter or natural scorer, but after learning from the likes of Marin Maric and Femi Olujobi in the last two years, we’re hoping he can elevate his game.
And Coleman-Lands needs to give the program a boost beyond the arc. The Blue Demons have good slashers and big men, but DePaul has to keep teams honest with perimeter shooting and this is where Coleman-Lands will play a vital role.
Rumble: Do you have any win-total prediction for this year?
DePaul will play its hardest schedule in Leitao’s second stint with the Demons. DePaul will play six major challenges in Iowa, Minnesota, Texas Tech, Buffalo, Northwestern and Boston College.
If DePaul can at least split those game and win seven or eight conference games, the Demons will be on the precipice of a postseason bid. This is the most confident I have had in DePaul since their last real postseason bid when they made the NIT in 2007.
Prediction: 18-13 overall, 8-10 Big East.