Blackhawks

DePaul picked 13th in Big East, Melvin earns second team honors

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DePaul picked 13th in Big East, Melvin earns second team honors

DePaul may not have a winning record or NCAA Tournament berths in the past two seasons to prove it, but people are beginning to take notice of the Blue Demons' improvement under head coach Oliver Purnell.
The Big East Preseason Coaches Poll was released today, and the Blue Demons were picked to finish 13th, in front of Seton Hall and Providence.
It may not be much, but it's the highest the Blue Demons have been picked in a preseason poll since Purnell took over in 2010. Last year DePaul was picked 15th, in 2010 and 2009 were picked dead last and in 2008, picked 15th in the preseason poll.
It may not signal the start of potential postseason tournaments, but it's a step in the right direction for Purnell, who took over a job needing plenty of roster turnover and, more important, a philosophy makeover.
"First couple days have been good," Purnell told CSNChicago.com. "Obviously I'm optimistic because of our core guys returning; that leadership group of Moses Morgan, Brandon Young and Cleveland Melvin."
The Blue Demons finished last in the Big East a year ago with a 3-15 record, but even that was improvement from the last two seasons, when Purnell's groups won just two conference games combined. In 2008-09, the Blue Demons went winless before upsetting Cincinnati in the first round of the Big East Tournament.
But this year's preseason slotting, 13th out of 15 (West Virginia is now in the ACC), is indicative of a DePaul team returning its top four scorers, including junior Cleveland Melvin, who was selected as a second team All-Big East member.
Melvin averaged 17.5 points and 7.4 rebounds for the Blue Demons last year. He is the high scorer and fifth best rebounder returning to the Big East this season.
Melvin was the key piece to Purnell's first recruiting class, but his supporting cast has been almost as good.
Point guard Brandon Young and forward Moses Morgan, both of whom joined Melvin in the 2010 class, return as the Blue Demons' second and third leading scorers. Jamee Crockett, the team's fourth leading scorer a year ago, returns for his sophomore season as well.
"We feel like offensively we're going to be good. We feel like our pressure will be even better because of the experience we have, but we've got to make our half court defense a staple," Purnell said. "We've got to guard penetration, which can lead to teams really hurting you on the offensive glass which happened last year."
Last year the Blue Demons ranked second in the Big East in scoring offense (74.1 points) but ranked last in scoring defense (76.7 points). Young, who was in New York City this morning with Melvin, Morgan and Purnell, said the team understands their defensive struggles and has focused on improving it early in team practices.
"Coach has been stressing defense, defense, defense," he said. "And the first couple days of practice we had defensive mini-camp, everything is straight defense. So we're just trying to make sure our defense is much better this year."
One player Purnell noted would help on the defensive end was point guard Worrel Clahar, saying "what he gives us in addition to shooting is a lot of toughness defensively."
Purnell also gave his thoughts on incoming freshman forward DeJuan Marrero, who should be part of the rotation from Day 1: "He's part of the core of freshmen we've got. He has to give us some depth."
Purnell is confident that if the team can improve their defense and penetration, combined with the returning core, the Blue Demons will prove their voters right and be out of the cellar in the Big East standings.
"We've got to correct those 2 areas. If we do that, automatically we're a much better basketball team," Purnell said. "And in Year 3, we're really looking to make a jump."
Here are how the coaches voted on preseason polls and awards from this morning.
2012-13 Preseason Coaches Poll 1. Louisville (14) - 196 points 2. Syracuse - 175 3. Notre Dame (1) - 166 4. Cincinnati - 152 5. Georgetown - 136 6. Pittsburgh - 132 7. Marquette - 121 8. USF - 96 9. Connecticut - 83 10. St. Johns - 73 11. Rutgers - 63 12. Villanova - 61 13. DePaul - 48 14. Seton Hall - 42 15. Providence - 31 (First-place votes in parentheses)  2012-13 BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year Peyton Siva, Louisville   2012-13 BIG EAST Preseason Rookie of the Year Steven Adams, Pittsburgh   2012-13 Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati, G, Jr., 6-4, 221, White Plains, N.Y. Otto Porter, Georgetown, F, So., 6-8, 205, Sikeston, Mo. Gorgui Dieng, Louisville, C, Jr., 6-10, 225, Dakar, Senegal Jack Cooley, Notre Dame, F, Sr., 6-9, 244, Glenview, Ill. Vincent Council, Providence, G, Sr., 6-2, 180, Brooklyn, N.Y.   2012-13 Preseason All-BIG EAST Second Team Shabazz Napier, Connecticut, G, Jr., 6-1, 171, Roxbury, Mass. Cleveland Melvin, DePaul, F, Jr., 6-8, 208, Baltimore, Md. DAngelo Harrison, St. Johns, G, So., 6-3, 202, Missouri City, Texas Anthony Collins, USF, So., G, 6-1, 175, Houston, Texas Brandon Triche, Syracuse, G, Sr., 6-4, 205, Jamesville, N.Y.   2012-13 Preseason BIG EAST Honorable Mention Chane Behanan, Louisville, F, So., 6-7, 250, Cincinnati, Ohio Jerian Grant, Notre Dame, G, Jr., 6-5, 185, Bowie, Md. Tray Woodall, Pittsburgh, G, Sr., 5-11, 190, Brooklyn, N.Y. C.J. Fair, Syracuse, F, Jr., 6-8, 212, Baltimore, Md.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime loss to Lightning: Missed opportunities and one too many penalties

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime loss to Lightning: Missed opportunities and one too many penalties

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night:
 
1. One too many penalties.

The Blackhawks flirted with danger in the first period when they handed the Lightning three straight continuous power plays, a four-minute double minor high-sticking penalty from John Hayden and a Jonathan Toews hooking call that resulted in a 5-on-3 opportunity for Tampa Bay for 43 seconds. 

The penalty kill unit that ranked fourth in the league entering the matchup, however, killed off all three of those penalties against the NHL's top-ranked power play, and did so in commanding fashion.

The Blackhawks went 5-for-5 on the penalty kill in regulation, but couldn't stop the sixth one — a questionable slashing call on Nick Schmaltz —  in overtime when Brayden Point buried the winner on a 4-on-3 opportunity.

It was also interesting that Jon Cooper elected to go with four forwards (Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Point and Steven Stamkos) and zero defensemen during that man advantage, putting all of his offensive weapons out on the ice. It's something more teams should do in that situation.

2. Patrick Kane gets going.

After scoring just one goal in his previous 10 games, Kane found the back of the net twice in the opening frame against Tampa Bay and stayed hot against a team he historically plays well against. And he nearly netted a hat trick in overtime but couldn't cash in on a breakaway opportunity.

Kane has 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 14 career regular-season games against the Lightning, and extended his point streak to five games. He has three goals and four assists over that stretch.

We wrote about how important it is for the Blackhawks' superstars to get going again with the offensive contributions mainly coming from role players as of late, and Kane getting into a groove is a perfect step in that direction.

3. How about that goaltending battle?

Corey Crawford and Andrei Vasilevskiy showed us exactly why they belong in the Vezina Trophy discussion, and as of this moment, it's hard not to include both of them as finalists. They put on a goaltending clinic, seemingly topping the other as the game went on.

The two teams combined for 71 scoring chances, and Crawford and Vasilevskiy came up big when their teams need them the most.

Crawford finished with 35 saves on 38 shots (.921 save percentage) in the loss while Vasilevskiy stopped 29 of 31 (.935 save percentage), and improved to 15-2-1 on the season. 

4. Missed opportunities.

You couldn't have asked for a better start for the Blackhawks. They scored the first goal 3:49 into the game and the second on the power play at 15:54, killed off three penalties, including a 5-on-3, had 24 shot attempts (13 on goal) compared to the Lightning's 16 attempts (11 on goal) and led in even-strength scoring chances 9-6.

It was a different story the rest of the way.

The Blackhawks took their foot off the gas pedal a bit and let the Lightning back in the game by getting away from what they do best, and that's control the puck. Obviously, you expected the league's best offense to push back and it's certainly not an easy task to keep them off the scoresheet all together. 

But the Blackhawks had their chances to stay in front or retake the lead and just couldn't bury them. Tampa Bay had 50 shot attempts from the second period on while the Blackhawks had only 32, and finished with 44 scoring chances compared to Chicago's 27.

5. Richard Panik in the doghouse?

Joel Quenneville didn't go to his line blender in this one, but he did shorten some leashes. Panik, most notably, had a season-low 12:28 of ice time in the loss and had 15 shifts, which was second-fewest only to Ryan Hartman (13) on the team.

Panik had a prime chance to break a 2-2 tie in the third period but was denied by Vasilevskiy, who made a remarkable left-pad save. Instead, Panik extended his goal drought to 12 games and didn't get a shift in overtime.

He's certainly better and will get his scoring chances when playing on the top line with Toews and Brandon Saad, but the missed opportunities are magnified in tight losses. It doesn't look like a move down in the lineup is coming given the success of Alex DeBrincat, who gives the Blackhawks an offensive weapon on the third line, but perhaps it should be considered.

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

On the second (turkey) leg of a back-to-back, the Bulls didn't bring much energy in a 110-80 loss to the Utah Jazz. 

Instead of diving into the nitty-gritty of the uninspiring effort, though, we decided to just serve you up a Thanksgiving meal of highlights. Here are the top blocks from Wednesday's game: 

5. Derrick Favors is no Rudy Gobert -- that we know -- but imitation is the highest form of flattery. 

4. Are Bobby Portis chase down blocks the new LeBron James chase down blocks? Let's not get carried away... yet. We'll chalk it up to just a real nice hustle play by Bobby. 

3 and 2. Speaking of hustle plays... Jonas Jerebko isn't exactly known as a dominant defender. He sure made it hard for the Bulls on what should of been an easy fast-break bucket in the third quarter, though. First, he silenced Kris Dunn's reverse. Then, he met Lauri Markkanen at the rim and sent the rookie packing. The Baby Bulls 2.0 can blame it on fatigue, but they just handed Jerebko a highlight tape for years to come.   

1. In fairness, Jerian Grant had to get up a shot as the quarter was coming to a close. It is as vicious as it looks, though.