For the third time this season, the DePaul Blue Demon men’s basketball team will battle a team from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
This week’s MEAC opponent comes in the form of the Florida A&M Rattlers, a squad the MEAC coaches picked to finish seventh in the conference in the preseason poll. The showdown between these Blue Demons and these Rattlers is at 7:30 at Wintrust Arena tonight. It’s been tough going for the Rattlers early in the season, they are 2-6 and on a six-game losing streak. But these struggles aren’t anything new for this program. The last time the Rattlers finished with a record above .500 for a season was in 2006-2007. That was 12 seasons and four head coaches ago. This season, the Rattlers check in at No. 343 out of 353 Division I schools in the Ken Pomeroy rankings.
What Florida A&M does have going for them is 6-foot-1-inch guard Justin Ravenel. He was a preseason All-MEAC Third Team selection and has backed up the accolade by averaging a team-high 14.4 points per game this season. However, he is coming off a game against South Alabama where he went 0-for-9 from the field with zero points in 37 minutes.
Despite being the leading scorer on the team, he’s fifth on the team in usage percentage as the Rattlers hit teams with a lot of different looks offensively and attack with multiple players. Eight players average at least 4.9 points per game and 10 average 10 or more minutes per game. The diversity hasn’t led to success offensively though, as the Rattlers have averaged 62.8 points per game (335th in the country) and shoot the ball at a 42.5 percent clip from the field (262nd in the country). The Rattlers lost their three leading scorers from last season and replacing that production has been a challenge for them thus far.
Meanwhile in Blue Demon land DePaul has been stingy at home this season, producing a 4-0 record while holding opponents to 66 points per game. If they beat the Rattlers at Wintrust tonight, they would improve to 5-0 at home to start a season for the first time since the 2006-2007 season.
While the two programs have never played before, there is still at least one player on the Blue Demons with familiarity with this opponent. Last season with North Carolina A&T, Blue Demon big man Femi Olujobi scored 14 points on 6-for-8 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds in a Feb. 24 contest against Florida A&M. He, Paul Reed, and Jaylen Butz among others have helped the Blue Demons average a Big East-leading +10 rebounding margin this season, and the Blue Demons hope this will remain an advantage for them when they play a Florida A&M squad with just average size.
As the calendar flips to December, the Blue Demons sit at 4-1 and now stare down a Florida A&M squad that they should beat.
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