Recent history says DePaul can beat 11th-seeded Rutgers in Big East tournament
BY TONI GINNETTI firstname.lastname@example.org March 11, 2013 10:39PM
DePaul's Krys Faber (33) dunks in front of Rutgers' Austin Johnson (21) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Piscataway, N.J., Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012. DePaul won 69-64. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Updated: April 13, 2013 6:27AM
NEW YORK — The Big East tournament and Madison Square Garden will still be part of DePaul basketball in the coming years. But the trip to the tournament this week will provide closure of sorts for a bad chapter in the program’s history.
When the Blue Demons play Rutgers on Tuesday in the first round, they again will be at the bottom of the 14 eligible participants with Connecticut barred from postseason play for failing to meet minimum NCAA graduation requirements.
But DePaul’s matchup against No. 11 seed Rutgers (14-15) in the second game of the night could initiate some intrigue.
The Blue Demons (11-20) defeated the Scarlet Knights on Feb. 16 at home, a solid 75-69 victory that was one of their only two conference wins — the other came at Providence on Jan. 5.
It would begin a game of ‘‘ifs’’ for the Demons:
† If they beat Rutgers, they’d face No. 6 seed and rival Notre Dame (23-8) on Wednesday. The Demons played two of their better games against the Irish — both overtime losses.
† And if they could get past the Irish, they’d face their other historic rival, No. 3 seed Marquette (23-7), on Thursday.
Coach Oliver Purnell is of the ‘‘one game at a time’’ approach.
‘‘If we win, we advance,’’ he said. ‘‘We beat Rutgers earlier, but they’ve won lately.
‘‘They’re a team we match up with, but I still feel they’re a dangerous team.’’
Purnell is hopeful the conference tournament will renew his team’s spirits after a disappointing season that saw DePaul lose one fewer game in conference play than a year ago.
‘‘This is our NCAA tournament,’’ he said. ‘‘I think they’ll revive. We’ll work hard and talk about what conference-tournament basketball means, what an exciting time of the year this is and cast this as our NCAA tournament.
‘‘We’re a big underdog going into the tournament, but you can’t talk about winning it until you win the first game.
‘‘I think we do match up against them well, but the overriding factor is we beat them here in a close game, so we’ll probably have to be better to beat them [on a neutral floor].’’
There’s no clear tournament favorite with three teams finishing with a 14-4 record. The top seed went to Georgetown based on its head-to-head record against the other co-winners, Louisville and Marquette.
Louisville will be the No. 2 seed and Marquette the No. 3 with its first regular-season conference championship.
All three earned byes into the quarterfinals on Thursday.
Louisville will seek to repeat its tournament championship of last season, a run that propelled the Cardinals to the NCAA Final Four.
The winner of the conference tournament has reached the Final Four the last two seasons, with Connecticut winning the tournament as a No. 10 seed in 2011 and going on to win the national championship.