DePaul Blue Demons
| MESSAGE BOARD
REGION: Midwest SEED: 9
COACH: Doug Bruno CONFERENCE: Big East
Road to the Final Four ...................................................................................
Earlier this season we noted that DePaul passes the ball nearly as well as UConn. The Blue Demons' outlet pass is especially eye-opening -- it's almost to half court. As a result, DePaul is always just one or two passes away from breaking down the opponent. The Blue Demons constantly push the ball but also have the ability to vary up the offense when it's not on. Specifically, if they push numbers but can't get the fastbreak to work, they have the knowledge and confidence to flow right into their second option. Like Houston and TCU, this is another C-USA team that is hard to outscore. DePaul is actually better off playing teams that average 80 or so points a game because they can match those opponents bucket for bucket.
|PLAYER TO WATCH|
One of just two players to rank in the nation's top 11 in scoring (20.8 points per game), rebounding (11.9) and field-goal percentage (61.2), Smith's numbers have been attracting attention all season long, earning her a spot among the 16 finalists for the Wooden Award alongside marquee names such as Taurasi, Beard and Mazzante. Smith, a 6-foot-2 sophomore who already has topped the 1,000-point milestone, also tallies 2.9 steals and has a league-best 20 double-doubles on the season so far. Khara and her cousin, junior guard/forward Charlene Smith, account for 45 percent of DePaul's 85.3 scoring average.
ANALYSIS BY ESPN'S STACEY DALES-SCHUMAN
Since the beginning of the season, Doug Bruno and his high-octane club have led the entire country in both scoring and steals. The Blue Demons push tempo as well as anybody in America because they have bright, able-bodied speedsters who have given fans a refreshing outlook on women's basketball.
What makes them particularly unique is their ability to play at a seemingly frenzied pace while remaining in complete control. They have steadily averaged a sound 18 assists per game to just 14 turnovers. One might attribute this consistency to having two senior guards commanding the backcourt in Ashley Luke and Sarah Kustok. These young ladies complement the speed of this team especially well because they provide lethal accuracy from the arc. Essentially, they stretch the defense and leave room for the big girls and roadrunners to pay their bills.
Standing at 6 feet 2, sophomore power center Khara Smith might remind you of a graceful Tasmanian devil -- if that's possible. Few individuals possess her strength and size. Using her dynamic athleticism, Smith has the capacity to challenge passing lanes and immediately turn around to kick start the 94-foot dash. With more than 20 double-doubles this season, Smith has also become a sneaky crook, averaging nearly three steals per game. With a fast getaway car to boot, it's no wonder DePaul has sped to great heights this season.
Junior guards Jenni Dant and Charlene Smith give their rivals all they can ask for, and just a little bit more from the wing/forward positions. While Khara and Charlene Smith -- who are cousins -- account for 44 percent of the team's overall scoring, Dant chips in the third-best scoring total and a team-leading three steals per game. Without a doubt, DePaul is a transition nightmare for any defense to handle.
Though it's tough to label this a problem, it should be noted that the Blue Demons haven't defeated any top 25 teams yet this season. They've played well, and taken challenging games to the wire, but they haven't prevailed. Therefore, one wonders how they will fare against supreme opponents in the tournament? Instinct tells us they'll be just fine because of their impressive depth and unparalleled quickness. And if they can play in their comfort zone -- attacking the open court and executing freelance basketball -- they can definitely shock the world.