With the No. 4 seed in the Big East tournament and a double-bye on the line, Syracuse will host DePaul at the Carrier Dome on Saturday.
An 84-70 St. John’s loss to Seton Hall on Thursday dropped the Red Storm into a tie with Syracuse in the standings for fourth place. The top-four finishers get a double-bye in next week’s Big East tournament while the five through eight seeds will receive a single-bye.
But SU owns the tie-breaker against the Red Storm because the Orange won its only matchup with St. John’s 76-59 on Jan. 12.
Saturday will also be Rick Jackson’s final game at the Carrier Dome. Jackson leaves on a high note as the Orange come into Saturday’s matchup winners of four straight, including a 58-51 win against Georgetown on Saturday. Scoop Jardine had 17 points and seven assists while Jackson added 12 points.
Meanwhile, the Blue Demons have only won one game in Big East play, and have endured injuries to three of its key contributors. DePaul will dress only nine scholarship players and two walk-ons.
Whom to watch for
This section would normally be filled with information about freshman forward Cleveland Melvin, who leads DePaul in scoring at 14.3 points per game on 52 percent shooting. But he will be out for the rest of the year after he sprained his left thumb in a 76-51 loss to St. John’s on Feb. 23.
With Melvin out, the leading role as fallen to freshmen point guard Brandon Young, who averages 12.7 points per game. In the two games that Melvin has been out, Young has played well. Young scored 23 points in a 86-76 loss to USF and 21 points in a 68-64 loss to Rutgers. Despite the losses, Young, a 33 percent shooter from beyond the arc, went 4-for-10 from downtown during those two games.
Another freshman to watch out for is Moses Morgan, who is averaging 13 points over the past two games. In the Rutgers game, Morgan came up huge down the stretch with a 3-point play that pulled DePaul to within a point with 30 seconds left. But his potential game-tying 3 rattled out as DePaul clinched the 16th seed for the third straight year.
DePaul will need another performance like that from Morgan to keep pace with Syracuse forward Rick Jackson. It won’t be easy as Jackson heads into the game as a viable candidate for Big East Player of the Year as he leads the conference in blocked shots, rebounding and double-doubles.
Regardless of what happens on Saturday afternoon, the DePaul team Syracuse faces will be completely unlike the team that suits up next season.
The Blue Demons will welcome Miami transfer Donnovan Kirk to campus in the fall. He’s an ultra athletic 6-for-10 redshirt freshman who will play a major role right away. They will also figure to return injured forwards Eric Wallace (broken leg) and Devin Hill (broken foot) along with Melvin in the fall.
Aside from that, DePaul also has a talented and deep recruiting class coming in. Five freshmen, headlined by Shane Larkin, who is rated No. 26 in his class among point guards, will join the team.
Syracuse is 7-4 all-time against DePaul. The Orange has won its last four games against the Blue Demons, including a narrow 59-57 escape in Chicago last year. Wesley Johnson led the way with 16 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists.