In recent memory, the DePaul Blue Demons have been the perennial Big East cellar dweller - a sure-victory for nearly anyone on their conference schedule.
But head coach Oliver Purnell continues to work hard at making DePaul a player again, almost a decade after its last NCAA Tournament appearance in 2004. He has slowly decorated his roster with more and more talent, yet the Blue Demons have yet to break through.
To tell us more about DePaul's expectations for 2013-14 and how the program might fit in the new Big East, Steve Newhouse of WeAreDePaul.com (@WeAreDepaul) has dropped by for our next installment of the Rumble's Big East Summer Q&A series.
Rumble In The Garden: Explain where the team you cover fits in the national hierarchy - imagine you're talking to a hoops newbie who knows Duke, Kentucky, and North Carolina exist, but the person doesn't watch the tournament or really know conferences' reputation. Who is DePaul? Think: "What is our team known for?" or "Why might someone have heard of the team?"
Steve Newhouse: It's been nine years since the Blue Demons were in the NCAA tournament when they advanced to the 2nd round. That team, coached by Dave Leitao, didn't feature any future NBA players, but was a scrappy bunch that was strong on rebounding and defense. Prior to that, DePaul was led to the tournament by Quentin Richardson and Bobby Simmons on a team that was coached by Pat Kennedy.
DePaul was a regular fixture in the NCAA tournament in the 1980's and had some teams in the heyday of the early 80's that were ranked #1 featuring All-Americans Mark Aguirre and Terry Cummings. Current Utah Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin played for the Blue Demons in the 80's, as did Rod Strickland, who went on to be a star point guard in the NBA.
RITG: Add a fun fact about the school or the program - something that would impress a person who is loosely familiar with the school.
SN: X-Files star Gillian Anderson and The Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek are both DePaul graduates.
RITG: How do you feel about the new Big East - being in the conference, worries about the future? What are you most excited about/ to see? What worries you?
SN: It's great that the new Big East will be a conference ruled by basketball and not pigskin. The league is made up of ten schools which appear to have a lot in common. The new TV contract with Fox Sports 1 is pretty exciting. What worries me is how the conference will be regarded by up and coming prospects. Will it be a high-major conference? Or will some see it as a step below the high-majors?
RITG: Which other Big East team are you most excited to see in action next year?
SN: I'm most interested in seeing the three new members - Xavier, Creighton and Butler. Especially Creighton, since they appear to be returning so many players from last year.
RITG: What does next season look like? Who leaves the program? Who is new? Who returns? Who is expected to be the on-court leader(s)?
SN: DePaul coach Oliver Purnell has turned over the roster quite a bit since last season. Only five players return who saw action last season - Cleveland Melvin, Brandon Young, Durrell McDonald, Jamee Crockett, and Charles McKinney. Gone are Donnavan Kirk, Moses Morgan, Derrell Robertson, Jodan Price, and Montray Clemons. Newcomers include 4-star prospect Billy Garrett Jr., Tommy Hamilton Jr., RJ Curington, Forrest Robinson, Greg Sequele, and Purdue transfer Sandi Marcius. Seniors Melvin and Young along with a few newcomers are expected to lead the Blue Demons in 2013-14.
RITG: In 100 words or less, explain your last season (or last three).
Last season was disappointing from the perspective that the Blue Demons were the worst defensive team in the Big East. It's disappointing and frustrating because, if the defensive effort had been better, the Blue Demons could have won a lot of close games last season. Rebounding was also a disappointment and a big source of frustration.
RITG: What's the big concern about next season?
SN: Again, the defense. The question becomes can Purnell and company make the necessary corrections to improve on the defensive end? Can DePaul's two best offensive players - Melvin and Young - finally learn to contribute defensively?
RITG: Bonus question: Give a reason to visit the area around the school's campus/ arena.
SN: Lincoln Park is one of the most fun neighborhoods to visit in the city of Chicago. If you're looking for bars, restaurants, and entertainment, Lincoln Park pretty much has it all. Plus, you have the Lincoln Park Zoo and access to a great beach on Lake Michigan.
Thank you to Steve for helping us out with our Big East Summer Q&A series. Will 2013-14 be the year DePaul makes a move out from the league's bottom?
More from Rumble In The Garden:
- Seton Hall 2013-14 preseason capsule
- Big East Summer Q&A: Seton Hall Pirates
- Morning Rumble: Garrett moving up, Big East hoops commitments, player accolades
- Recruiting update: who are the Johnnies following this summer?
- Recruiting update: Brewster's Jared Terrell receives offer from Red Storm
- Welcoming Metta World Peace, former St. John's star, back home to New York with the Knicks