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April 8, 2009Well, I can't imagine that Jerry Wainwright and the Blue Demons made a New Year's Resolution to go winless during conference play; unfortunately for DePaul, they did just that.
At around 9:00 PM on December 31, 2008, DePaul suffered its first Big East loss against Notre Dame in what would lead to a stretch of eighteen straight defeats. In so doing, DePaul became only the third Big East team to go the entire season without a conference win. Still, the Demons did not open the non-conference schedule as poorly as they ended it.
Starting 4-0, Demons fans were cautiously hoping for indications that the team was ready to compete in its fourth year under Wainwright. A sobering defeat at Cal, followed by embarrassing losses to Northwestern and Morgan State quickly dashed any hopes these fans may have had.
With an out of conference record of 8-5, DePaul was ready to start the Big East Season. Expectations for the squad were admittedly not high. The coaches of the Big East had placed the demons at 15th and many other media outlets were not much gentler, but surely they weren't prepared for an 0-fer' season. Losses piled up against the front-runners just as quickly as they did against the cellar-dwellers. A second loss against USF in late January seemed to take the wind out of their sails and they never recovered.
An absolutely brutal string of February games, including two against Pittsburgh, saw the Demons go 0-7 and lose by an average of 21 points per game. The season would not end there however, as this years conference tournament included all sixteen teams.
With a renewed vigor, the DePaul team that had not won a game since 2008 went on to beat Cincinnati and run Providence to the final minute. If anything, Wainwright's crew had managed to salvage a bit of pride. With the season recap in hand, let's give out the grades for the team.
Jeremiah Kelly - With a stretch in the middle of the year in which he did not receive much playing time, Kelly finally hit his stride near the end of the season. He developed an ability to create shots for himself both in the lane and around the perimeter. A 2.45 assist-turnover ratio for a freshman is nothing to scoff at either. He is the freshman I look forward to watching the most next year.
GRADE - B-
Michael Bizoukas - After red shirting last year, Mikey B lived up to his expectations as the gym rat from Indiana. Still, without an outside shot, he was not able to do much offensively for the Blue Demons. Defenders slacked off of him outside the arc, and any flow to the offense was shattered.
GRADE - C-
Devin Hill - He showed glimpses of what could be, but put out an entire reel on what was not. Devin Hill displayed great timing on the defensive end, collecting 38 blocks in limited playing time. Ill-advised three's were his bane, hitting on only 8 of his 48 attempts (16%). He needs to better use his height to his advantage on both ends of the floor.
GRADE - C
Krys Faber - The majority of folks I had talked to thought Krys would have the biggest impact of the freshmen bunch; yet he was never able to get into a rhythm throughout the season. He is a definite presence who just needs to add a little more athleticism around the basket and a lot more time on the floor to showcase his talents.
GRADE - C
Kene Obi - The 7'2" center was not the most graceful player on the court, but he quickly became a fan favorite, in part because of his height. Still raw, you can see he has some potential, but he has to stop thinking about the next move and simply start playing basketball. The wheels are turning too much when he is on the court, but that should improve with more playing time. He was redshirted however, and if this was the product of two years, it may mean much more time is needed for Obi. Time DePaul does not have.
GRADE - D+ but very much incomplete.
Dar Tucker - The phenom that was Dar Tucker improved... in some statistics. While he was Mr. Everything on the court, he at times looked undisciplined in his play. Even though Tucker took 48 more threes than last year, he only managed to hit 8 more from beyond the arc. His FG% and his 3pt% decreased from last year, largely due to his reliance on the long-ball. Working within an offense, Tucker has NBA potential just waiting to be unleashed.
GRADE - B
Mac Koshwal - The "young veteran", Koshwal has been called on to lead this team from day one. It was obvious that the constant burden took a toll on him. He was matched up against the best the Big East had to offer, and day in and day out took the beating. Still, Mac put up great numbers, nearly averaging a double-double. The last four games, however, show that this guy needed a break. He only managed 4ppg and 3.25rpg in that stretch.
Will Walker - Three games with thirty or more points tells the story for the lone junior on the squad. Also the blue demons lone outside threat, Walker never gave up on this season. He was the heart of the squad. He found his outside stroke about mid-way through the year and never looked back. His hustle and tenacity will take him a long way next year. The only knock was a drop off in his FT%. That should improve.
Matija Poscic - While he improved a bit from last year, his impact was not what you would like from a 6'10" senior. A second threat on the inside was sorely missing from the demons line-up, and Poscic could not answer the call. He had a few solid games on the glass, but simply could not contend with the quicker more agile big men of the Big East.
Jabari Currie - His unbridled athleticism led to his demise. Often Currie's athleticism allowed him to get into the lane, only to lead to a wild shot or a charge. Currie's career was often uncertain, and his position on the team was never set in stone. Currie switched from two-guard to point guard with regularity, and had a very spotty outside game. When it was on, he was exactly what the team needed, when it was off, Currie's over reliance on the drive hurt him.
Jerry and Co. - There are not many good things to say about a coach after an 0-18 season. The constant ups and downs of the team made it hard for anyone, including the fans, to get into any sort of rhythm. As Jerry is readying himself for another year, he has one word to fulfill, consistency. Here is an eye-opening statistic. DePaul was outscored in the second half in 22 of their games. Half-time adjustments are often a telling sign.
The flashes, albeit brief, of good team basketball illustrate that this team is better than their record might lead you to believe. How much better has yet to be determined. The Demons need to get consistent and move on to next year.