By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – While scouting DePaul during its first-round NCAA Tournament game on Friday, Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer left his courtside seat and fled to his office.
“I had to get up and leave during the third quarter because watching them offensively, I was making myself sick,” Schaefer said. “They’re so special and have tremendous chemistry.”
The 19th-ranked Blue Demons, a No. 7 seed, breezed past Northern Iowa 88-67 to set up today’s second-round showdown with the second-seeded Bulldogs at 1:30 on ESPN2 with a trip to the Sweet 16 in Oklahoma City on the line.
It’s a familiar scenario for DePaul. In two of the last three seasons, the Blue Demons have upset higher seeds on their home floors to advance to the Sweet 16.
In 2014, DePaul defeated No. 2 seed Duke 74-65, then knocked off No. 3 seed Louisville 73-72 last year. The Blue Demons also advanced to the Sweet 16 with a 75-73 win at Penn State in 2011.
“Every season has a life of its own and every tournament has a life of its own,” said DePaul coach Doug Bruno, who was the Big East Coach of the Year. “Just because we have done it in years past does not make it guaranteed.”
DePaul is 27-7 on the year and in its 15th consecutive NCAA Tournament. The Blue Demons won a share of their fourth straight Big East regular-season championship and feature the conference player of the year in Brooke Shulte. The senior guard leads the team averaging 16.2 points per game.
DePaul ranks fifth in the nation in assists and is sixth in 3-pointers, rebounding and assist-to-turnover ratio. The Blue Demons are also 10th in the nation averaging 81 points per game.
“I think they are comfortable in this environment, and that is not good for us,” Schaefer said. “I think they’re comfortable being the underdog, being the seven seed against the two. But if we we’re playing in Chicago – they would not be the underdog. I just think that they are a really good basketball team and have a very tremendous basketball coach.”
The two teams have met four times previously with DePaul 4-0 in the series. The Blue Demons claimed a 96-87 victory during the last meeting in Chicago on Dec. 3, 1994.
DePaul also won the only postseason meeting against the Bulldogs 73-57 as part of the 1988 WNIT in Amarillo, Texas.