A look at DePaul, which plays USF in Game 1 of the CBI finals tonight at the Yuengling Center
Nickame: Blue Demons
Record: 18-15 (7-11 in Big East Conference)
Final NET ranking: 102
Common opponents with USF: The Blue Demons split with Georgetown in Big East play, while USF fell to the Hoyas, 76-73, in overtime in Jamaica in mid-November. Both teams also defeated Florida A&M in non-conference play.
Coach: Dave Leitao (fourth season at DePaul, 47-80; 13th season overall, 190-209)
The breakdown: Behind a veteran nucleus, Leitao has overseen a breakthrough in Year 4 of his second stint with the Blue Demons. Four of tonight’s projected starters are upperclassmen, including three seniors. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Blue Demons finished the regular season third in the Big East in rebounding (37.6 per game). The youngster of the group, 6-foot-9 sophomore (and Orlando native) Paul Reed, averages nearly a double-double (12.1 ppg, 8.2 rpg) and was named Big East Most Improved Player by league coaches. Reed is among five Blue Demons averaging at least 9.6 points. That balance has resulted in DePaul scoring at least 90 points six times in the last seven games. The top offensive threat, senior two-guard Max Strus (20.0 ppg), has hit a school season-record 105 3-pointers. It’s the other 3-point line where DePaul struggles; the Blue Demons finished the regular season 299th nationally in 3-point defense (36.6%).
Odds & ends: The Bulls are 12-15 all-time against the Blue Demons in a series dating to the 1982-83 season. ... In Leitao’s first stint at DePaul (2002-05), he led the Blue Demons to three postseason berths including an NCAA Tournament appearance. ... Strus has scored in double figures in 25 consecutive games.
Brian Gregory’s take: “They are a team that has grown men. You can’t go through the Big East without being really physical. One thing this tournament has shown is that there are a lot of good players in a lot of different conferences. Both teams are heading into this series having won three straight games, so both teams are going to be feeling pretty good heading into Monday night.”