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DePaul Scouting Report: Blue Demons quick on O, slow on D

On the heels of its most impressive win of the season, Marquette looks to keep their hot shooting and Big East Championship hopes alive and well with a home matchup against DePaul tomorrow afternoon.

As is the case most years, it’s about finding silver linings and the small victories with the Blue Demons. Sitting at 1-8 in conference, Oliver Purnell’s group did take St. John’s (on the road) and Notre Dame (home) to overtime last week. Both were losses, but it showed resolve that hadn’t been there in a 93-55 loss at Pittsburgh on Jan. 26. But the Blue Demons have actually kept five of their conference losses within single-digits. The other three? 21, 28 and 23.

Two players who can’t take much responsibility for the paltry 10-14 record are small forward Cleveland Melvin and point guard Brandon Young. Both players average 30+ minutes and 16 points per game. Melvin, a long 6-foot-8 wing who excels inside, leads the team in rebounds (7.7) while Young, a former Marquette target, leads the team in assists (4.4) and steals (1.5). In fact, they are the only pair in the Big East to average 16+ points per game.

Chicago product Jamee Crockett has the same initials and hair-do as Jae Crowder, and plays third fiddle to Melvin and Young. He’s an inside threat but, at 6-foot-4, is best served on the perimeter. He’s playing his best basketball right now, scoring 13 or more in four of his last five games.

The offensive-minded Blue Demons do have a solid defender inside, 6-foot-9 junior Donnavan Kirk. He’s fifth in the Big East at 1.9 blocks and a solid interior scorer when DePaul does use him there. Charles McKinney, a friend of this program, rounds out the starting five. The 6-foot-3 shooting guard will make his mark on the defensive end but is no real threat to connect from outside (3-of-7 from beyond the ar in 20 games).

Young’s and Melvin’s backups, Worrel Clahar and Moses Morgan, are other names to watch. But realistically, the top two scorers are the ones to keep an eye on in this one.

Where the Blue Demons are good

Purnell’s group features two scorers who, combined, match up as well as any pair in the league. Melvin is a future NBAer and Young can score at will. The Blue Demons need to score plenty to win, so it’s a good thing they have a pair who work well with each other and are efficient.

It’s been a while since Marquette played in an up-tempo game, but they’ll do it tomorrow against the Blue Demons, whose 74.9 adjusted possessions are second-fastest in the country. They have played Big East games that included 84, 77 and 80 possessions. To compare, Marquette’s most possessions in a game was against Connecticut, 73 in overtime. Whether that helps the Blue Demons succeed is a different story, but they will push pace whenever possible.

Where the Blue Demons can be beat

— This is one of the worst defensive teams in the country, and they eye test does it justice. It goes beyond the statistics (Ken Pom has them as second worst in the Big East), as there is just very little effort on that end of the floor. It’s lazy and tough to watch, and Marquette should knife it up on paint touches and drives to the basket.

— If either of Melvin or Young get into foul trouble, this one will be over fast. Depth isn’t as bad as it had been the last few years, but there’s no question that their top two scorers keep them afloat in games. They are one or two ticky-tacky fouls away from being blown out on any given night.

Three keys to the game

1. Stay within the offense

DePaul’s defense is wretched, so most shots Marquette wants will be available. But that doesn’t change what the Golden Eagles do best (paint touches) and what they don’t do so well (3-point attempts). A quick start will mean high percentage looks and nothing crazy, even though it may be there.

2. Cadougan, lockdown defender

We broke down Junior Cadougan’s defense against South Florida, and he’ll need to be on his best against Young. With all due respect to Melvin, Young poses more of a threat, which means Cadougan and the slumping Derrick Wilson will need to shut him down. The rest of the Blue Demons will go with him.

3. No letdowns

It seems this has been a key a lot lately, but it’s worth noting. Coming off the most dominating win of the year is a perfect time to let your guard down at home against a team you should handle easily. My bet is Buzz Williams and the rest of the group has forgotten about the Bulls already.

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