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The Morning Dish – Monday, January 19, 2015

January 19, 2015 The Morning Dish No Comments
hoopguy-orange

If you have followed college basketball in recent years, it’s hard to believe that it was barely a generation ago that DePaul was a national power. The Blue Demons were once a team that were consistently in the national rankings and winning NCAA Tournament games. They produced All-Americans and NBA players.

Nowadays, DePaul is facing a constant uphill battle, especially since they joined the Big East. While the conference took off for several years when they were among a group of schools to join the conference, DePaul was not part of that. They instead mostly struggled, with a couple of high notes but mostly downers in recent times.

Oliver Purnell is the latest to try, after Jerry Wainwright failed, though he did win over 20 games once. Wainwright was a very good coach in a tough situation. Purnell is the same. While the Blue Demons showed occasional flashes of promise, then looked like they might turn a corner a couple of years ago, the bottom was already falling out when Purnell took over. In his four years, they have lost at least 20 games three times. There has been a lot of talk over the last calendar year about whether or not he is on borrowed time.

All of a sudden, the Blue Demons are winning games again. In fact, they won their first three Big East games, and on Sunday they came from 11 points down to knock off St. John’s 71-67 in overtime. With it, the Blue Demons have won four Big East games for the first time since Purnell took over – and we’re only a third of the way through the schedule.

This is a sudden change even from within the season. The Blue Demons lost their last six non-conference games, and it wasn’t exactly a Who’s Who of college basketball. While they lost to respectable teams like George Washington (road) and Colorado (in Hawaii), they also lost to Illinois State, were blown out at Oregon State by 31, lost by 21 to Ohio and were nipped by Loyola Marymount, the last two along with Colorado coming at the Diamond Head Classic.

DePaul is now 4-2 in the Big East, including Sunday’s win over St. John’s, a team many felt before the season would be an NCAA Tournament team this season. That puts them in a three-way tie for second behind Villanova, and they are 10-9 overall. It’s anyone’s guess if they will maintain this, with a lot of basketball left to play. Four of the six Big East games have come at home, so they’ll be on the road more, especially soon as their next three will be away from home.

Side Dishes

Indiana went into Illinois and rallied for an 80-74 win. Indiana closed out the game with a 17-7 run after Illinois had regained the lead with over six minutes left. Troy Williams led Indiana with 21 points and nine rebounds, and with this Illinois falls to 2-4 in Big Ten play.

North Carolina and Northern Iowa each took care of business at home. The Tar Heels moved to 4-1 in ACC play by beating Virginia Tech 68-53, while Northern Iowa built a 12-point halftime lead en route to a 60-46 win over Missouri State to go to 5-1 in Missouri Valley play.

Washington got back on track at home this week, finishing up with an 85-77 win over Oregon on Sunday. The Huskies had lost four straight prior to winning two at home over the Oregon Schools. This one didn’t come easily, though, as the Huskies needed a big second half to overcome a ten-point halftime deficit.

Other notable results on the day included Boise State going to New Mexico and beating the Lobos 69-59, Rider winning a showdown in the MAAC at Manhattan 82-79 in overtime, and Canisius beating Iona 78-74 behidn 24 points from Zach Lewis to make things a little tighter in the always-competitive MAAC. Three teams are 6-2 and two more are 5-3 atop the MAAC after Sunday.

Sunday wasn’t a good day for Michigan, as the school announced that Caris LeVert is done for the season due to a foot injury. The Wolverines have had a tough season, but this might seal the deal, as LeVert leads the team in a number of statistical categories including scoring (14.9 points), rebounding (4.9) and assists (3.7). Michigan is 11-7 overall and 4-2 in Big Ten play, but it’s been a real struggle at times for them and this won’t make that any easier.

A really nice story emerged on Sunday involving Miami head coach Jim Larranaga. Rather than try to sum it up in such a brief fashion, it’s best to link to it right here and recommend you read it in its entirety.

More coverage of the Spalding Hoophall Classic will be coming later as well, as Sunday was a busy day in Springfield.

Tonight’s Menu

On this holiday, a few of the games on a relatively light slate will be played in the afternoon, before it all picks up in the evening.

  • Early evening games of note include Pittsburgh traveling to play Duke, while TCU hosts Texas. Both home teams got back on track with wins on Saturday.
  • Later, Georgetown hosts Villanova and Kansas hosts Oklahoma, while Florida State travels to Clemson.
  • Today is also the final day of the Spalding Hoophall Classic, featuring five great matchups. More coverage will follow.

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