Tipping Off The Big East Countdown: #10 South FloridaPosted by Dan Lyons on October 22nd, 2012
After starting the year at #14 in Big East preseason coaches poll, the USF Bulls went an astounding 12-6 in conference last year and earned a berth in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, the school’s first in 20 years. The Bulls went on to defeat Cal in one of the First Four games and Temple in the Round of 64 before losing to the upstart Ohio Bobcats in the next round, but overall, last season was a year of almost unprecedented success for Bulls basketball. The school loses a few key players this year, but they’re getting much more respect this preseason with a #8 spot in the 2012-13 preseason coaches poll.
2011-12 Record: 22-14, 12-6
2011-12 Postseason: NCAA Tournament (Third Round)
The Bulls should be able to compile a number of wins before entering Big East play as their non-conference schedule is not the most daunting. USF opens with rival and future Big East foe UCF at home on November 10, before returning the favor with a road game in Orlando right before conference play opens in a rare non-conference home-and-home series. USF also takes on Georgia and George Mason at home and Oklahoma State on the road. In conference play, USF has home-and-home series with Villanova, Louisville, Marquette, and Connecticut.
USF brings in a lot of new yet experienced faces to plug in some holes this season. Senior forward Kore White should see immediate playing time in the frontcourt. The 6’8″, 241 lb. White transfers in from Florida Atlantic where he averaged 7.7 points and 4.5 rebounds in just over 23 minutes per game last season. Guard Martino Brock is also eligible to play after sitting out a year following his transfer from South Alabama, where he scored 14.2 points per game two seasons ago. Sophomore Musa Abdul-Aleem comes in from Georgia Perimeter College as a junior college transfer. Both Brock and Abdul-Aleem are big (6’5″) and physical guards, which should allow them to fit in well in the rugged Big East conference. Both are expected to see a lot of playing time due to their defensive contributions.
The Bulls also look for a few freshmen to make an impact. 7’3″ behemoth Jordan Omogbehin comes off of his redshirt year, and should be able to change the game defensively. 6’7″ forward Zach LeDay is a prototypical small forward who the Bulls will look at to score from all over the court. Guard Javontae Hawkins should see some minutes as well, and will be looking to add some range to the USF’s attack off the bench.
The biggest losses for the Bulls come in the frontcourt, where they lose both starters Augustus Gilchrist and Ron Anderson Jr. to graduation. Gilchrist was a bit of a disappointment his senior year, with his scoring dropping from 13.4 points per game in both his sophomore and junior seasons to just 9.5 this past year, due in large part to poor 39.2% shooting from the field. However, Gilchrist was still the team’s main offensive threat in every game, and helped open things up for the emergence of guard Anthony Collins. Anderson was never a superstar, but he was effective at finishing around the hoop and did a good job on the boards. Starting guard Hugh Robertson has also graduated. Robertson was not a huge scorer (6.5 PPG), but he was a very strong rebounder from the guard spot, at 4.3 per game, and was a valuable defender. South Florida also loses junior guard Blake Nash (3.4 PPG), who has since transferred to Texas Tech.
Whom to Watch
After taking control of the starting point guard spot and averaging a respectable 9 PPG last season, Anthony Collins really turned it on in the postseason. In his five games in the Big East and NCAA Tournaments, Collins put up an impressive 14.4 points per game. He was an efficient scorer all year, shooting 50.8% from the floor, and he does a great job of getting to the basket. Both senior shooting guards Jawanza Poland and Shaun Noriega return as well. Poland, like Collins, is more of a threat to drive to the hoop, while Noriega will come off the bench as a shooter for the Bulls. Senior forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick may be the most versatile player on the Bulls’ roster this season. Last year Fitzpatrick led the team in rebounds with 6.4 per game, and was USF’s best three-point shooter, hitting 41.2% of his shots from behind the arc.
Last season, turnovers were a huge issue for USF. Only three players (Collins, Nash, Robertson) finished with assist-to-turnover ratios of over 1.0, and Collins was one of the main perpetrators, averaging 3.4 turnovers per game. The 2011-12 Bulls were also an incredibly balanced team, with seven players averaging between 6.5 and 9.5 points per game, and only Collins averaging over 30 minutes per game (32.7). This year, the team will probably lean more heavily on Collins and Fitzpatrick to carry the load, and rightfully so, as those two represent the best offensive threats that the Bulls have. If they can handle increased offensive attention, and newcomers like White and LeDay can help replace the production down low that the Bulls lose with the graduation of Gilchrist and Anderson, USF may be in decent shape. If the huge Omogbehin contributes at all, South Florida may become a Big East sleeper once again.