The DePaul Blue Demons are 9-0 after their victory over Texas Tech on Wednesday night, which is their best start since winning 16 straight in 1986-87.
It’s their longest winning streak at any point in a season since 1993-94, and if you're wondering the last time that they've had a realistic post-Thanksgiving shot at going dancing in March, you'd have to go all the way back to 2003.
That 2003-04 season saw Dave Leitao in his second year (of his first tenure) leading the Blue Demons to a 22-10 (12-4, Conference USA) record. The likes of Drake Diener, Delonte Holland, Quemont Greer, Sammy Mejia, and Andre Brown led that team to a seventh-seed in the Phoenix region of the 2004 NCAA Tournament.
That team would take down number ten Dayton in the opening round, before falling to number two Connecticut in the Round of 32.
The Blue Demons posted their third consecutive winning record under Dave Leitao the next season -- before Leitao departed Lincoln Park for a cushy gig at the basketball helm of the University of Virginia -- but would miss the big dance that season and embark on a tumultuous drought that is entering its 16th (and possibly, final?) season.
I was 13 years old, and in the waning weeks of my junior high life, the last time I saw the Blue Demons play meaningful postseason basketball.
But hey, here we are!
It's 2019, and I'm now in the waning months of my freaking twenties, and DePaul is 9-0!
And they're not just 9-0 with wins over programs like Alabama A&M... they're 9-0 with wins over NCAA Tourney participants Iowa (number 38 - Kenpom), Fairleigh Dickinson, and the national runner-up, Texas Tech (number 29 - Kenpom). They've also beaten Central Michigan and Minnesota, who both won 20-plus games last year.
Kudos for Leitao for having the stones to schedule these games, and kudos to the Blue Demons for rising to the challenge and proving that they're for real.
“We’re trying to exorcise the demons of the past,” Leitao said.
Charlie Moore looks like a real point guard who has a feel for the game with a high motor to match it, and Paul Reed is turning into an NBA Draft prospect before our eyes. I watched Reed as a freshman from press row many times while covering the Blue Demons for The Loop Sports during the 2017-18 season, and he has come a long way to realizing his potential.
Chicago kid, Charlie Moore -- a junior transfer from the Kansas Jayhawks -- is averaging 16 points, seven assists and three rebounds per contest for the Blue Demons.
The former Morgan Park Mustang has finally found a home, coincidentally back in his in his hometown after failed stops at Cal and Kansas, and is providing the Blue Demons with some leadership and winning experience that he picked up when he led the Mustangs to back-to-back 3A IHSA Championships in his freshman and sophomore years at Morgan Park.
After being named the 2019 Big East's Most Improved Player, forward Paul Reed is averaging a double-double (15.6 PTS, 10.0 REB), 3.4 blocks per contest, and shooting a paltry 59 percent from the floor while anchoring the DePaul frontcourt and garnering NBA Draft mentions.
Not to be forgotten -- another transfer for Dave Leitao and company -- former La Lumiere High School (IN) and Illinois Fighting Illini guard, Jalen Coleman-Lands has played a huge role in the Blue Demons success thus far.
JLC started his DePaul career strong last year, scoring in double-figures in five of nine starts, but missed the final 27 games of the season with a broken hand suffered in the second half of their matchup with the UIC Flames.
This season, JLC started slowly with three bad performances before turning it up in the big 98-73 victory over Iowa, a game in which he drilled four triples and finished with 17 points. Since (and including) that game, JLC has notched double-digit scoring efforts in five of his last six games.
The Blue Demons will face another test this weekend (Buffalo), but the rest of the non-conference schedule (UIC, Cleveland State, and Northwestern) should have DePaul in a good position to open Big East play undefeated at 13-0.
At that rate, and with those quality non-conference wins, even a 9-9 finish in the Big East this year would give DePaul a 22-9 record, and a shot at their first NCAA bid since I was jamming to Yeah!, by Usher feat. Lil' John and Ludacris.
DePaul is currently ranked No. 50 in the Pomeroy College Basketball rankings, and if they avoid a stumble against Buffalo this weekend, they will likely crack the AP Top-25 after already receiving 18 votes in the last release before the Texas Tech overtime thriller.
"We’re starting to see the bloom,” Coach Leitao said. “It’s a brand-new start, a brand-new era.”
It's an exciting time to be a Blue Demons fan, so hop aboard the bandwagon before it leaves the station folks!
Featured Photo: Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo