DePaul has moved into Big East play and the results haven't been pretty. While losses to Pittsburgh and Georgetown were expected, how the Blue Demons lost both games is frustrating. Allowing big runs at the end of halves, not getting production from the backcourt and a general lack of defensive tenacity have hurt DePaul.
One of the problems is about heart - the defense - another is about focus - end of halves - and the final one is about talent - guard play. Since Michael Bizoukas went down with an injury against Texas State the Blue Demons haven't been the same. Will Walker has tried to fill in at the point position, but his numbers in the 3 games since (10-43 from the field, 31 total points) suggest that he's limited in his efficiency in that role.
After the loss to Georgetown head coach Jerry Wainwright admitted that he'd be looking for another solution, but is there really a decent one available?
Walker could play point guard for the Blue Demons, in fact he has during Big East play, but it has been with mixed results. Against Georgetown he appeared to rush some plays and he finished with 4 turnovers. For 2.5 years (since after his freshman season) Walker learned how to play the off-guard position in Wainwright's offense and now he's being asked to switch positions as a senior? I'm sure that Walker is very willing and able to do it, but I think you lose too much in offense by taking him off the ball.
For instance, against Georgetown none of Walker's shots appeared to come in the rhythm of the offense. Everything he shot was forced off of one-on-one drives and late in the shot clock heaves. If there was someone to drive and kick to Walker that would be extremely helpful.
Now, part of the reason Wainwright is playing Walker at the point position is out of necessity. With Bizoukas gone there just aren't very many options. Before he got injured Bizoukas was turning into a pretty tenacious defensive player. His steal percentage was the highest on the team and he was getting some strong backcourt pressure. Almost as important, Bizoukas was making shots. But he's out of the picture for now.
Someone else that should be able to fill the void is Jeremiah Kelly. His steal percentage is still a rather strong 3.3%, so he can get into people's pocket and take it away. Kelly's assist rate is also second to Bizoukas' on the team for the season, so he's able to distribute. Yes, there are some concerns because as far as shooting goes, Kelly is having quite the sophomore slump, but the bigger concern is his defense in a halfcourt situation.
Wainwright doesn't appear to have confidence in Kelly's ability to guard bigger point guards in the Big East. At 6'1" 170 pounds (if he's lucky) Kelly isn't the biggest guy around. Point guards like Connecticut's Jerome Dyson are going to be able to shoot over him. Yet, physical specimens like Dyson aren't going to come through the door anytime soon. Besides Walker, there's no experienced player on DePaul that has a defensive profile to stop the athletic guards that play in the Big East.
My other thought is this: Make Mike Stovall into a lead guard. Stovall is starting right now, but he's playing in the off-guard position. Is it possible for him and Walker to merely switch positions in the offense? The concern about Stovall though isn't his passing (it's solid), or his defense (he's 6'5" 200 pounds with a good steal percentage), it's his decision making. Stovall has turned the ball over in more than a quarter of his offensive possessions. For a Wainwright coached team that's terrible. Still, if Stovall could find a way to get his turnovers under control he could be the guy DePaul needs at point guard.
Could Stovall be the answer? The rest of the Big East season will have to tell the story. This much is clear, the Blue Demons need to try something different in the back court.