After something of a necessary five-day basketball break (smashing things in our collective living room was getting tiresome), the Huskies return to action tonight against DePaul (Gampel Pavilion, 8:00, MyTV9/SNY). Jim Calhoun remains away in his stress-free lair somewhere in northeastern Connecticut. But UConn comes in having lost three straight, of course, and a loss tonight means they may never win another game ever. So the stakes are relatively high for a game between teams with Big East records of 3-6 and 1-8.
In advance of tonight's game, we got to know a little bit about the Blue Demons, with help from John Templon of Chicago College Basketball, a site that covers all five of the city's Division I teams. John also asked me some questions about UConn (including an interesting one on the legacy of the senior class), and you can check out my responses over there.
On with the Q&A:
TheUConnBlog: For those of us who haven't seen DePaul play too much, tell us a little bit about Will Walker and Mac Koshwal. What kind of game can we expect from them?
JT: Will Walker is a crafty senior guard that has learned a lot during his four seasons in the Big East. He's not the biggest, fastest or most athletic guy, but he works very hard and has a great shot. If you give him an open look he'll make you pay. For someone that uses so many minutes and takes so many shots he's also really good at not turning the ball over, which is something coaches love about him. He's a bit undersized for a two-guard at 6'0", but he's certainly not a point guard.
Koshwal on the other hand has Big East size and athleticism. He's big presence in the middle and an excellent rebounder. He has outplayed bigger names head-to-head, but DePaul hasn't come out on top. I'd like to see Koshwal be more assertive in the post and get easier opportunities around the basket.
TUB: Which other DePaul player might put up a career scoring night against UConn? (Believe us, it happens a lot.)
JT: The thing about DePaul right now is that the Blue Demons really don't have that third guy. Against Marquette it was Mike Stovall that went off, but he's been inconsistent even when given more playing time. This might sound strange, but I'm going to go with Krys Faber, a guy who played just 4 minutes in the loss to Marquette.
Tracy Webster likes to play match-ups a lot and he seems to like Faber more than Jerry Wainwright did. I think he'll get some significant playing time against UConn in the post and he could put up some impressive numbers if the Huskies' attention is all on Koshwal.
TUB: What's the consensus among DePaul fans on Jerry Wainwright's firing? Sad to see him go, or did all Blue Demon fans hold an equal share of stock in FireJerryWainwright.com? Who is DePaul looking at to replace him permanently?
JT: Everyone in Chicago except DePaul athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto thought it was time for Wainwright to leave at the end of last season. He actually got the team off the decent start this season, but things began to unravel pretty quickly. The school desperately needed a change as it has become obvious over the past few seasons that Wainwright can't consistently recruit elite Big East talent. He's a very good x's and o's guy and a great person, but he wasn't the man to lead DePaul back to the top of the Big East.
The change to Webster has given the program a breath of fresh air and he's brought some new perspectives and rotations to the personnel. Fans want DePaul to hire a big name - think Chicago native Mike Krzyzewski, but that's obviously a pipe-dream. Some more realistic names include: Southern Illinois' Chris Lowery, former players or maybe Detroit's Ray McCallum. There has also been some talk about Craig Robinson at Oregon State, but he's a very green coach, and it looks like St. Louis' Rick Majerus would take the job, but is he a good fit? It's going to be a very interesting off-season.
4) Does DePaul have any incoming recruits or recruiting prospects that could pull the Blue Demons out of their rut?
Brandon Young, a point guard of Washington, D.C., is the most exciting prospect currently committed to DePaul for next season. He's probably the best they've got going for them. Moses Morgan, a 6'5" small forward, and Walter Pitchford, a 6'9" post player, complete the signees. None are particularly inspiring. They're all good talents, but are they game-changers as freshman? Certainly not.
DePaul is in the mix with a bunch of other schools for Amir Williams, one of the top centers of the class of 2011, but it's really going to depend who the next coach is. There is some tremendous talent in the Chicago area, but it all leaves the city. Illinois gobbles up a ton - which is one of the reasons they play at the United Center every season - and the rest are leaving for places like California, Notre Dame, Dayton and Michigan State.
5) DePaul came this close to beating Syracuse last weekend (and we would have loved you for it). Were you disappointed with the way DePaul finished that game? Satisfied with a moral victory? Hopeful for days to come?
What the Syracuse game showed is that DePaul can play even with the elite teams, but the Blue Demons have to play their best basketball and their opponents have to have an off night. For most of the game against the Orange that was the case and then one player - Wes Johnson - basically changed the entire game. DePaul doesn't have a guy to match the Johnsons or even Jerome Dysons of the Big East.
Will Walker scored 21 points in that game, but no other Blue Demon scored in double-figures. Moral victories are nice, but fans around here would certainly prefer the kind that adds one to the left-hand side of the record. I think DePaul is going to get a few more wins in the Big East this season. When they'll come though is anyone's guess.
Thanks to John for his help this week. You should check out Chicago College Basketball for more DePaul news or anything related to Chi-town (like if you are fascinated that Chicago State vs. New Jersey Tech is a league game in a conference called the "Great West".)