The Pirates took care of business against DePaul on Tuesday night, and save for an 8-minute scoring drought in the second half, they did it handily. In their path now are the Bulls of South Florida.
Here's the run-down on the Bulls:
2011-12 record: 9-8 (2-2 Big East)
All-time series record: 8-1
Last meeting: 12/28/10 (64-55 SHU W)
USF is one of those teams that is doing a little better than expected this season in the Big East. They have beaten Rutgers at home and Villanova on the road, while losing a tough game to UConn at home and losing to Notre Dame in South Bend this past week in their game prior to tonight's matchup with the Pirates.
In that game, Notre Dame made shots while USF basically did not. That's been the story of the USF season this year- they are dead last by a pretty wide margin in the Big East in scoring offense, averaging just over 61 PTS as a team. They are also 14th in three-point shooting, so they don't help themselves much from beyond the arc, although they are in the top half of the conference in free throw shooting. There is little flow on that side of the ball to boot, as USF ranks 15th in assists in the Big East. The Bulls are, however, a good defensive team, ranking 2nd in the conference in scoring defense, behind just Cincinnati in that category.
Rebounding-wise, they don't get many per game, but they also don't give up many per game. That, combined with the offense/defense splits tells you the tale of the tape- the Bulls want to slow the game down, work the shot clock to minimize the number of possessions in the game, and thus maximize their chance to win considering the offensive talent they have is rather meager by Big East standards.
This pace can only work when the team enforcing it doesn't turn the ball over, and the Bulls don't do that very often (their AST/TO ratio is under 1.0 because they also don't garner many assists). They are led in this regard by the steady hand of a freshman point guard, Anthony Collins. Collins is a pure point guard who's a very good passer and who also knows what he can and can't do on the court. He rarely shoots the ball and averages just 6.4 PTS. After LaVonte Dority, the incumbent starter, transferred, Collins took over the job and has done very well. He's the key to USF being smooth at all on offense.
Joining Collins in the backcourt are a few seasoned players- Blake Nash backs up Collins and compliments him well, looking to score more than dish. Uber-athlete Jawanza Poland is a good defender and a highlight waiting to happen on offense (he's also the Bulls' leading scorer despite only playing half the season to this point due to injury). Victor Rudd, Jr. is a tall guard who's been very aggressive looking to score the ball this season after transferring from Arizona State. Shaun Noriega is the designated spot-up shooter for the Bulls, and Hugh Robertson provides some depth for the rotation and length in the backcourt.
In the frontcourt is where the Bulls have their work cut out for them depth-wise. Augustus Gilchrist is STILL down in Tampa, averaging 11 PTS and almost 6 REB, but his shooting percentage has gone in the tank this year. Surrounding him are two improved players in Toarlyn Fitzpatrick and Ron Anderson, Jr. Fitzpatrick tends to stray to the perimeter on offense, but he's the team's leading three-point shooter by percentage and also leads the Bulls in REB at nearly 7 per. Anderson is a terrific offensive rebounder and he can finish at a high rate near the hoop. He has his demons from the free throw line, though- just 50% on 72 attempts this year, 19 more than the next-closest Bull (Gilchrist).
The Bulls have been strong historically at home, and two meetings ago, they knocked off the Pirates down at the Sun Dome in OT, their only W over Seton Hall in their history. This one will be at the Tampa Bay Times Forum as the Sun Dome continues to be renovated, but as UConn found out, overlooking the Bulls in Tampa could be dangerous.
Seton Hall will win if:
- They force turnovers and score off of them. I did mention that the Bulls don't turn it over a lot, and that's in large part due to Collins this season. If the Pirates are able to bottle him up and force the frosh into turnovers (i.e. ambushing him when he tries to penetrate the Pirate switching matchup zone), the Bulls offense won't get off the ground. Converting off those turnovers, if that happens, will be the stat to watch- if Seton Hall does it well, they'll win this one.
- They get out and run. DePaul wanted to play at warp-speed to take advantage of their current athleticism. USF has great overall toughness, and they want to slow it down to be able to use that in the halfcourt. The prior key for Seton Hall sort of encompasses this one (although if does include the Pirates converting off of slower possessions, too), but I bet that you will see some Jordan Theodore transition opportunities and some Ninja leakouts by Fuquan Edwin. The Pirates will do well to conduct a stateside "running of the Bulls" if they want to get the W.
USF could win if:
- They get hot from the arc. USF's not been very adept at the three ball, but they do have a few guys who can nail those shots. Those threes will be much-needed anyway because the Pirates shoot (and make) a lot more of them than the Bulls do. Noriega and Fitzpatrick will be the keys in this regard.
- They control tempo. Going from DePaul's hyper-fast pace to USF's slower pace may sound easy, but it's harder than it looks, especially when you happen to be ranked and the Bulls are likely to give you their best shot. Can Anthony Collins be a worthy tempo-control opponent for the much more experienced Jordan Theodore? It won't be easy, but it will be key for USF to pull the possible upset.
PS- I am trying to find a way to watch this game, since I am away from home visiting family. If I am not able to watch, I will not post my normal 5 Thoughts segment until I am able to watch. Just a little heads-up for you loyal readers of the Juice! Go Pirates!