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UConn men’s basketball 2022-23 opponent preview: DePaul

We begin our conference previews with the 11th-ranked team in the preseason coaches poll.

NCAA Basketball: Big East Conference Tournament-St. John vs DePaul Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Fast Facts

Head Coach: Tony Stubblefield (second season as head coach)

2021-22 Record: 15-16 (6-14 Big East)

2021-22 Big East finish: 10th

Final 2021-22 Ranking: No. 103

2022-23 Big East Coaches Poll Ranking: 11th

2022-23 KenPom Rating: No. 88

2021-22 in review

In the wake of Dave Leitao’s firing after the 2020-21 season, there was a lot of turnover within the Blue Demons. Of the 14 players on last season’s roster, eight were in their first season with the program, just one of which was a freshman. Though the team was 6-0 through November, just one game (Rutgers) was against top-175 competition and all seven contests were at home. Overall, DePaul was 9-1 in non-conference play, with its only loss on the road to Loyola Chicago. That defeat on Dec. 4 would foreshadow how the Big East would treat the Blue Demons.

Stubblefield’s team started 0-5 in its league games, three of which were by double-digits. An upset win at home against Seton Hall was followed by another four-game losing skid to close out January and the first half of the conference season, including an ugly loss to UConn in which DePaul led at the half. The end of the season provided some optimism, as the Blue Demons won three straight games against Georgetown, St. John’s, and Marquette, along with a win against a ranked Xavier team on the road, but also featured another four-game losing streak to finish 6-14 in Big East play. The team’s trip to the conference tournament also proved short, as St. John’s won by 19 points in the first round.

2022-23 preview

Despite all the new faces last season, Stubblefield will be dealing with a similar theme in Year 2. The team’s top three scorers have all departed and the team will be anchored by senior center Nick Ongenda, senior guard Philmon Gebrewhit and junior guard Jalen Terry as the only three returners with more than 500 minutes last season. At 6-foot-11, 230 pounds, Ongenda will be a disruptive force in the middle that had 52 blocks in 30 games last year, which led the team and was good for fifth in the conference in blocks per game. He also added 8.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.

Figuring to be one of the team’s primary ballhandlers this year, Terry led DePaul with 84 assists and was third in 3-point attempts, converting at a 32.4 percent clip. Meanwhile, the 6-foot-7 Gebrewhit started 19 games in 2021-22 and provides length on the wing, with 4.8 points and 2.2 rebounds per game last year.

As far as newcomers, Zion Cruz is the team’s only true freshman, a top-100 recruit that played at Donda Academy in California. He can create his own shot and has decent size at 6-foot-4. Stubblefield also landed Caleb Murphy, a junior guard that transferred from USF in the offseason with three years of eligibility remaining. He was the only member of the Bulls to start all 31 games and led the team in points and assists per game. Each should factor into the equation for DePaul throughout the year.

Bottom line

With so much turnover among important players for the second offseason in a row, DePaul will continue to experience growing pains. The Blue Demons are still considered a top-100 team by KenPom, but with six of the Big East’s 11 schools in the top 50, it’s likely to be tough sledding in conference play for yet another year. This, combined with a non-conference schedule that features road games against Minnesota and Loyola Chicago, a neutral site contest with Santa Clara, and a visit from Texas A&M, could result in a worse record than the 15-16 experienced last season. Like in 2021-22, UConn should win both games against what is likely to be a cellar dweller in the Big East.