Northwestern (7-4) will look to complete a perfect 3-0 week this afternoon as the Wildcats make their first visit to Wintrust Arena to face DePaul (6-4).
The Wildcats have prevailed in the past two matchups with their Cook County neighbor, including a 80-64 victory in Evanston last year that saw Northwestern jump out to a 54-18 lead at halftime. The Blue Demons last registered a win in the series in 2013-14.
DePaul struggled against a tough schedule to open the season, losing to Notre Dame, Illinois, and Michigan State before taking Oregon to overtime in the PK80 consolation bracket before falling 89-79. Since starting the season 1-4, the Blue Demons have cruised to five straight wins over inferior competition, the most impressive victory coming over No. 227 UIC. Defensively, the Blue Demons have been strong inside the three-point line, despite lacking a prolific shot blocker. Instead, DePaul has been killed from outside against quality competition. Oregon hit 15 triples in its overtime win, while Michigan State canned 13 of 17 tries, a percentage that looks more like my left-handed layup proficiency than it does a three-point clip.
The Blue Demons feature four scorers averaging double figures per game, but the guy to watch is junior Max Strus. After sitting out a year following a transfer from Lewis University, a Division II program in Romeoville, Ill., the guard is leading the way for DePaul with 15.3 points per game. He’s a chucker, putting up 7.6 threes a game, though he has only hit at a rate of 31.6 percent thus far.
After starting point guard Devin Gage ruptured his Achilles tendon, junior Eli Cain has shifted into the distributor role. The leading scorer on last year’s team, Cain has seen a decline in scoring efficiency, but has notched an impressive eight assists per game since becoming the starting point guard. The big men to note are center Marin Maric, a grad transfer from Northern Illinois, and stretch four Tre’Darius McCallum, who both can stretch the floor with competent jump shots but don’t provide much rim protection.
Despite the Blue Demon winning streak, this is a DePaul team Northwestern should be able to put away. If the Wildcats can continue their hot shooting and make players other than Strus and Cain beat them, they should be in good shape.
Adjusted ranks (KenPom)
Game Time: 1 p.m. CT
TV: Fox Sports 1
Streaming: Fox Sports Go
Radio: WGN 720
KenPom prediction: 70-67 (61 percent chance to win)
Betting line: Northwestern -5.5