The DePaul Blue Demons opened up the 2017-18 season with a close loss at home against 13th ranked Notre Dame. Down just four at half to the Irish, a hot shooting performance from behind the arc built the lead to 13 for Notre Dame who never looked back.
A team that returns four of five starters from last year, the Blue Demons can present some problems for the Illini tomorrow night. Here’s who to watch for:
The senior transfer from Indian Hills Community College started all 32 games for the Blue Demons last season. He’s averaging 15.5 points and six rebounds per game through the first two games of the season. McCallum can shoot the ball from deep too, as he’s 5-9 through the first couple contests.
Another standout transfer for the Blue Demons this season, Max Strus is averaging 13 points and five boards a game. Strus played for DII Lewis University his freshman and sophomore year before sitting out last season with DePaul. At Lewis, he earned All-American honors with averages of 20.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. He’s another big guard for head coach Dave Leitao, and he will be another guy to keep an eye on tomorrow night.
The 6-foot-6, junior guard has started 61 of 63 games through his first two seasons. He was named to the All-Big East Freshman Team after averaging 10.3 points per game and 42.5 percent shooting from behind the arc. He’s averaging 12.5 points per game and 6.5 rebounds per game so far this season, but oddly enough has only taken 2 shots from deep.
This will be the first true test for Illinois this season. These are the guys the Fighting Illini will to turn to:
Far and away the best Illini through two games thus far. Leron’s midrange jump shot is flourishing in coach Brad Underwood’s offense. Black is averaging 18.5 points so far this season and seven boards. We all knew he could rebound, but the offensive production has been a pleasant surprise. He’s shooting 90 percent from the line and 67 percent from the field. And he’s even dishing out 3.5 assists per contest.
Michael Finke has also been instrumental in the Illini’s first two wins of the season. He’s poured in 12 points in both games this year, but he’s also held onto the ball. His assist to turnover ratio right now is 4:1. Any coach across the country would take that type of ball security from a big. Granted the first two opponents for the Illini this year, both Finke and Black have been great about not committing turnovers. Michael Finke hasn’t even started doing what Michael Finke does best, which is shoot the ball from three. He shot 41 percent from deep last season and is just 1-5 so far. Look for him to find his stroke against the Blue Demons.
The biggest surprise through the first two games though is junior Aaron Jordan. A guy who saw limited minutes in limited action last season, he is making the most of his opportunity this year. Brad Underwood said Jordan probably deserved more playing time and rightfully so. Jordan has scored 27 points in just 34 minutes this season, and he’s been the only threat from deep for the Illini. Following his outing this past Sunday, don’t be shocked if Jordan cracks the lineup for the first time this season.