#8 Villanova Wildcats (14-1) vs. DePaul Blue Demons (9-7)
When: Saturday, January 10, 4 p.m.
Where: The Pavilion
Coverage: CBS Sports Network
DePaul’s Previous Season Record: 12-21, Lost to Creighton in Quarter Finals of Big East Tournament
Key Players for DePaul: #5 Billy Garrett Jr. (6-6, 205) So., G; #2 Tommy Hamilton IV (6-10, 255) So., C; #4 Myke Henry (6-6, 226) Jr., F
Scouting Report: Are you watching now? The DePaul Blue Demons have finished last in the Big East for the past six seasons. They’ve been the butt of a few jokes along the way, but now they sit atop the conference. DePaul is the lone undefeated team in conference play. Their win over Creighton on the road improved their Big East record to 3-0. One of the reasons for their success so far is their sophomore class that has improved from last year. Tommy Hamilton IV was not always a scoring threat. However, this season, he has stepped up to become another option to put some points on the board. Hamilton IV has supplied double digit scoring in most of DePaul’s games this season. His 12.3 points per game has much better than last year’s average of 7.7. He is also the team’s leading rebounder with 6.9 boards per game. Since Big East play began, Hamilton IV has gotten a little cold, but he is still just as capable of pouring in some points. As much as he has improved, Billy Garrett Jr. continues to be the star of the show. Last year’s Big East Rookie of the Year was one of the bright spots for a struggling DePaul squad. This season, his scoring numbers have slightly improved, from 12.4 points per game to 13.1. More importantly, he has upped his efficiency. Garrett Jr. is smarter with the ball, taking better shots. As a result, his shooting percentages have improved from last season. He has made a respectable 43.8% (up from 31.9%) of his shots from long range and shoots 42.5% (up from 36.6%) overall. He’s very talented for a sophomore and there’s no doubt that coach Oliver Purnell looks to him to be a catalyst offensively and for the team as a whole. Fortunately for Garrett Jr., he doesn’t have to shoulder as big of a load as he did last year. This season, DePaul has better pieces around him. After sitting out last year due to NCAA transfer rules, Myke Henry has emerged as the team’s leading scorer. The transfer from Illinois has 13.4 points per game and is right behind Hamilton IV in rebounds, with 5.1 per game. Henry had a number of 20 point games to start the season, but like Hamilton IV, has gotten a little cold in Big East play. Henry has solid quickness, he uses this to his advantage as he drives to the basket. He has some great dribbling moves to go along with it. Henry can take and make the three, but prefers to drive and attack the basket. In being an effective slasher, one of the things you have to do is make your free throws when you get sent to the line. He has a bit of a hard time making his free throws, converting just under 70% of them. Also keep an eye out for Jamee Crockett and Forrest Robinson. Last season, Crockett missed out on a lot of playing time. He served a lengthy suspension and missed a large portion of the season. This year, he has been another scoring outlet. Crockett averages just under 12 points per game and can score from almost anywhere. He can occasionally knock down shots from long range and heat up. As for Robinson, the towering 6’10” forward, he loves to deceive opponents by taking shots from long range. In fact, 73 of his 95 shot attempts this season have come from beyond the arc. He has made 29 of them (39.7%). Robinson has been impressive in their last two games. He put up 17 points in the Xavier game and 20 against Creighton. During this stretch he is 10-for-18 from long range.
Outlook: DePaul is certainly going to be fired up. Despite sitting at 3-0 and first place in conference play, there are still some naysayers out there. There’s no better way to make a statement than to beat the defending regular season champs in their own house. While it’s great seeing the new and improved DePaul Blue Demons do their thing, they are not the favorites here. Villanova hasn’t lost at the Pavilion since the 2012-2013 season. More specifically, they haven’t lost to DePaul since the 2007-2008 season. The Blue Demons have some great size. They have three guys on their roster who stand in at 6’10” or taller. Despite having these big guys, DePaul is 315th in the nation when it comes to rebounding. With the way that Daniel Ochefu has played so far, he should excel over their big men. Ochefu might be forcing opposing teams to pay attention to him, but they can’t forget how lethal JayVaughn Pinkston can be in the paint. He’s still a good scorer at the end of the day and can deal some damage to opposing teams. Ochefu may be playing well, but they can’t forget about Pinkston. The backcourt is going to have to do their best to shut down the perimeter. DePaul has a number of guys who can take and make the three. St. John’s D’Angelo Harrison and Jamal Branch did well against Villanova from the perimeter and the high post. Villanova’s guards have to cut them off and shut down the outside. Offensively, it was good to see Dylan Ennis get his groove back. Darrun Hilliard had another solid performance. Ryan Arcidiacono is also coming off of another good game. While he only had nine points, he had 10 assists and no turnovers against St. John’s. This game will gauge how good DePaul truly is and where they stand amongst the Big East.