Joining Hustle Belt for this little chat were Robert O'Neill and Pierce Roberson from our sister blog, Big East Coast Bias. DePaul finished last year 12-20, but we want to know more about what makes this squad tick.
Hustle Belt: You're returning three of your top four scorers this year - Garret, Henry, and Hamilton - and they're evenly distributed at guard, forward, and center, respectively. Is it safe to assume that the DePaul offense is a pretty balanced attack? Or do you rely on a particular player to generate scoring opportunities?
Pierce: Each star will get opportunities with the rock - Myke Henry was an efficient scorer in his first year after transferring in from Illinois, and I fully expect Tommy Hamilton to grow into the low-post presence - but the offense will only go as far as Billy Garrett takes it. His line doesn't show it, but Garrett can score in a multitude of ways. A capable shooter with a knack for attacking the rim, Garrett has the potential to have the kind of breakout season Kris Dunn had in 2015, albeit on a team with low expectations.
Hustle Belt: You've gone back to head coach Dave Leitao after he coached DePaul from 2002 to 2005. There's usually a bit of a stutter for teams with new coaches. Do you think that will affect the Blue Demons early in the season here?
Robert: I think there definitely could be a bit of a stumble for DePaul in the first couple weeks/months. Leitao runs a very distinct offense and defense, and DePaul's roster doesn't really match up too well with how Leitao played at Virginia or at DePaul last time. It also doesn't help that the only assistant coach DePaul retained was Billy Garrett, Sr. It's going to be very touch and go for the Blue Demons in the early going.
Hustle Belt: This early in the year it's tough for opposing teams to get a sense of how to defend an opponent. Is there a freshman on the squad you think will have an immediate impact and that the Broncos should be particularly concerned about?
Pierce: Develle Phillips will get plenty of opportunities in a thin frontcourt. He has a ton of raw potential, but this kid is a highlight reel. He put 7-foot NBA prospect Thon Maker on a poster in AAU ball! Athletic, can score, and crash the boards. He has a chance to break into the starting lineup this year.
Hustle Belt: Western's team this year looks like it will rely more on speed and agility than size this year with starting sophomore point guard Thomas Wilder at the helm. How does DePaul match up with a quick-strike offense like that?
Robert: Speed and agility is kind of what DePaul will be doing in the beginning of the year, because that was the type of offense Oliver Purnell ran, and that's the personnel DePaul is left with. I think WMU would have been better off in this matchup if they did rely more on some of their bigger guys, because DePaul doesn't have a whole ton of size.
Hustle Belt: Alright, how does this one shake out? What's your prediction?
Robert: I think I have to give DePaul the edge, but it'll be close. Call it a 5 point game in the 68-63 neighborhood.
Pierce: DePaul 67, WMU 62
A big thanks to Robert and Pierce for talking with us. The Broncos tip off at 9:00 PM ET at McGrath-Phillips Arena in Chicago. The game can been heard on the Bronco Radio Network and can be seen on regional Fox Sports Networks, including The U Too locally in Chicago.