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Back to the Big East: DePaul

Catching up with UConn’s soon-to-be conference mates in the Big East. Next up: DePaul.

NCAA Basketball: Big East Tournament-Xavier vs DePaul
DePaul Blue Demons forward Paul Reed dunks against the Xavier Musketeers during the second half in the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden. (Brad Penner - USA Today)
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Our tour of UConn’s new home in the new Big East continues. We hit on Providence earlier this week, following heavyweights Xavier and Villanova. Now we’re turning our attention to our friends in Chicagoland, DePaul.

Quick Facts

Head Coach: Dave Leitao

2020 Record: 16-16, 3-15 in the Big East

NCAA Championships: None

Big East Tournament Championships: None

Big East Regular Season Titles: None

Home Court: Wintrust Arena at McCormick Square in Chicago, Illinois

Average Home Attendance: 5,965 in 2020

What UConn fans have missed

Not much. 2020 was the first time DePaul made it out of the first round of the Big East Tournament since the first year after UConn’s departure, when the Blue Demons lost in the second round to Creighton in 2013-14. They have finished above .500 just once, when they went 19-17 in 2018-19. There’s not much else to say, except, ouch.

Head Coach Dave Leitao

After being hired in 2015 for a second go-around with the Blue Demons, Leitao has been a bright spot for the program. He has taken them from a 10-win team to one not far from a 20-win season, having racked up 19 victories last year. It has not yet translated to postseason success, but they won their first Big East Tournament game in six years under him, so that’s something.

In return, the school extended his tenure back in April, so he will be at the helm of the Blue Demons through the 2023-24 season. His contract was set to expire after this past season.

Leitao served as an assistant head coach under Jim Calhoun for six seasons, including their 1999 national championship season. He was also an assistant coach at UConn for eight year before that, with a two-year stint as the head coach of Northeastern sandwiched in between. In total, he spent 14 years under Calhoun in Storrs.

Outlook for 2020-21

After finishing at the bottom of the Big East in 2020, the staff has produced the worst recruiting class in the conference, according to 247sports.com. They are also graduating three players and an additional five transferred out.

Despite the lack of standout talent in their recruiting class, the players they picked up have some absolutely phenomenal names. Their lone recruit out of high school is named Kobe Elvis – I am now his biggest fan – a three-star combo guard out of Ontario, Canada. They also picked up some potential high-impact transfers, in grad transfer Ray Salnave, Javon Freeman-Liberty and DII All-American, Courvoisier McCauley.

McCauley’s game is just as smooth as the cognac that bears his name – yes, I looked up a review of said cognac because I am not yet 21 years old and I do not have the funds to buy a $50-150 bottle of French alcohol. He was recruited to DI schools out of high school but did not have the SAT scores to qualify, according to the Indy Star. In 32 games last season, he averaged 20 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists for Lincoln Memorial. He also hit at 43.6% from beyond the arc.

Freeman-Liberty and Salnave both averaged double-digit points for Valparaiso and Monmouth, respectively.

Potential Starting Five

Senior guard Charlie Moore

Moore is the only player in the Big East to return to school after leading their team in scoring, as John Fanta pointed out. Moore transferred to DePaul last year from Kansas, his second career transfer after being recruited to Cal out of high school as a four-star.

The 5-foot-11 guard averaged 15.5 points, 6.1 assists and 3.3 rebounds in 32 games last season. He led the Big East in assists and was in the top-40 in the nation in assist rate, according to KenPom.com. He will be an essential member of their offense next season.

Junior guard Javon Freeman-Liberty

Since Freeman-Liberty is a transfer, he would require a waiver from NCAA to play next season. If the waiver is granted, he could be dangerous. Last season at Valparaiso, the 6-foot-4 guard averaged 19 points per game and even had a couple 30-bombs early on in the year – including a 30-piece against Cincinnati in overtime.

His 3-point shot isn’t great, finishing at just under 29%, but he still is a solid scorer. He also grabbed a pair of steals and a little over six rebounds per game for his former team.

Sophomore forward Romeo Weems

Weems, a Big East All-Freshman team member, started every game for the Blue Demons last year. He did not score the ball a ton, but did so enough to stay relevant with eight a game. Throughout the year, he even chipped in a couple double-doubles.

He struggled with his shooting at times in Big East competition, especially early on, but found his footing later on against Xavier and Georgetown specifically. With Paul Reed gone to the draft, Weems should get more looks. Despite the solid steals numbers, averaging 1.3 per game, he blocked just 3% of shots faced, according to KenPom.com.

Junior forward Darious Hall

After transferring from his native Arkansas for his sophomore year, Hall got some decent playing time – 18.3 minutes per game and three starts – but wasn’t spectacular. His shooting was less than stellar, converting just 56.8% of his free throws and 38.1% of his field goals. Throughout the year he also attempted 14 3-pointers and made just one. That’s actually worse than Ben Simmons’ career 3-point percentage, which I did not think was possible.

Hall is a solid rebounder, though, and projected over 36 minutes his play is not as bad as it seems. His 4.3 rebounds per game shoot up to about 8.4 playing in a starter’s load. If he can sure up his shooting a bit, then he’ll be a valuable contributor.

Senior forward Jaylen Butz

The 6-foot-9 Fort Wayne, Indiana native is third in program history in field goal percentage, with a 58.9% success rate. He is the only returning player on their roster to hit more than half of his shot attempts while taking more than a 100 on the year. In his three-year tenure with the Blue Demons, Butz has had 28 double-digit scoring efforts as well. This past season, he was one of four DePaul players to average at least 10 points per game. For a team that ranked 165th in KenPom.com’s adjusted offensive efficiency category, he is crucial for them.