The Friars (11-6, 2-2) are back in action tonight as they are on the road in Chicago to take on the DePaul Blue Demons. DePaul (8-8, 1-3) is led in scoring by junior G/F Max Strus (18.8 PPG) and in rebounding by senior F Tre’Darius McCallum (6.3 RPG). The game tonight will be broadcasted without commercials and provide full access to each team with Coach Ed Cooley and Dave Leitao mic’d up for the contest. The Friars are coming off their best victory of the season a 82-71 win over then ranked #5 Xavier Musketeers, while DePaul is coming off a blowout win at St. Johns 91-74. PC will look to continue to ride the wave of momentum in beating Xavier and get a road win tonight and with that let’s get to the keys to the game.
Crier’s Keys to the Game
Contain Max Strus
Max Strus has come out of nowhere to lead the Blue Demon attack this season. Two years ago Max was the star player for the DII Lewis University Flyers in Romeoville, IL. The 6’6″ guard/forward is a native of Hickory Hills, IL and transferred to DePaul last season, but had to sit out the year due to NCAA transfer rules. I’m unsure how this kid got overlooked in recruiting because he can absolutely ball.
In his first season of D1 college basketball Strus has made a seamless transition averaging a team high 18.8 points per game and has since ramped it up to 23.5 per game since the start of Big East play. In the win over Xavier the Friars did an excellent job on Trevon Bluiett limiting him to only 12 points (0 in the 2nd half) and they will look to do the same against Strus. I think the Friars with Jaylen Lindsey, Isaiah Jackson, and Alpha Diallo are built to stop guys like Strus because they can bother him with their length. Its the smaller scoring guards that the Friars have a lot of trouble defending. So while I think Friartown should be aware of Strus’ playmaking capabilities I think the Friars will ultimately contain him.
Attack the Basket
PC is going to want to look to attack the basket against a DePaul team that doesn’t provide much rim protection, averaging only 3.1 blocks per game which ranks 216th nationally. NIU transfer Marin Maric is the only player for the Blue Demons that gets serious minutes and is above 6’7″. The Croatian center is 6’11” but isn’t much of a rim protector as he only averages .4 blocks per contest. Kyron Cartwright should look to be in attack mode all night as he should have no problem getting to the rim. The Friars should also look for Isaiah Jackson and Alpha Diallo to continue to be aggressive taking the ball to the rim. If the Friars are successfully attacking the basket it should lead to my final key of the game.
Burn DePaul from Deep
The biggest problem for DePaul all season has been their 3-point defense and they should be concerned with a team like Providence coming to town. The Blue Demons rank a horrific 301st in the country in 3-point defense, yielding opponents to a 37.5% conversion rate from downtown. In 5 of DePaul’s 8 loses, they have given up at least 10 3-point field goals to their opponents, including twice giving up 15 three-pointers. The Friars are ranked 66th in the country in 3-point percentage 38.1% and if you threw out the Creighton game where they shot 3/23 the Friars would be over 40% which would put them in the top-20 nationally. The Friars will want to look to make at least 10 three pointers against a porous DePaul perimeter defense.
When the Friars lost the heartbreaker to Marquette over a week ago things were looking bleak in Friartown. The Friars were sitting at 10-6 overall with a 1-2 record in conference with a bunch of tough games in their future. The Crier felt like the team would need to rattle off the next four games in order to be back in serious consideration for an at-large bid and their 5th consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. The reasoning behind them winning the next four was because after that the Friars go on a three game road trip that features games at Villanova, Seton Hall and Marquette. The biggest test of the four game stretch was the first game against then #5 Xavier and the Friars passed with flying colors. With a roster that’s finally getting close to fully healthy the Friars used a well balanced attack to beat Xavier, with five players scoring in double figures. This brings us to the second leg of this four-game stretch and it’s on the road against DePaul. This DePaul team isn’t your typical one as they seem to have more weapons to score offensively than usual. The Blue Demons will keep this game close, but ultimately their lack of perimeter defense will get the Friars their second straight victory.
Friars 77 DePaul 72