I waited about as long as I could to watch this game. Mrs. Voodoo and I went out for a late breakfast so I didn't see it live. (11:00am games in the Central time zone kill me. I will really complain about this during football season. You've been warned.) I was keeping tabs on the game with the Kermit Phone*, saw it went badly, Tweeted a couple sarcastic thoughts, and went on my way. After that, I came up with excuses not to watch. We don't have curbside recycling so we had to go drop all that off. I watched some cross-country skiing. We did our grocery shopping. Went out to see a movie. Came home, watched more curling, went to sleep.
Finally I couldn't wait any longer. As expected, it was absolutely terrible. With everything laid out in front of them, they blew it big-time in an important situation. Like the U.S. men's curling team has done repeatedly during the Olympics, the Bulls Shustered.
One play neatly summed up the whole game. Right after the under-16 timeout in the second half, the Bulls were starting to get some momentum built up. USF inbounded the ball, St. John's trapped DoJo behind the half-court line, and Stan Heath had to burn a timeout. The Bulls were not alert, not into the game, and getting beat by a team that quite simply wanted it more, even though they didn't have nearly as much to play for as USF did.
No one could stop the Red Storm from getting inside shots. Even Anthony Crater was getting beat off the dribble. D.J. Kennedy and Malik Boothe got to the rim all day long. I counted 17 layups for St. John's yesterday. Seventeen! And only one of those was a second-chance basket. It would have been nice if the Bulls had done that on their end of the floor, but just like the Marquette game, it didn't happen. There's a saying in hockey when teams play a physical style against you - "take a hit to make a play." St. John's took a cue from the Bulls' last few opponents, changed it up a little bit, and played more zone than they normally do. Instead of getting in there and banging and taking some fouls, USF stood around the three-point line and swung the ball around, unwilling to work for easier shots and eventually get to the line. They would not take a hit to make a play.
You want a damning stat? Here's one - from the 19:03 mark of the first half to the 7:30 mark of the second half, over 80% of the game, the Bulls shot exactly one free throw.
It wasn't just the the guards, though. The bigs were extremely passive, not posting up when they had the chance, not making decisive moves, taking shots they shouldn't take, not getting to rebounds. I don't think Gus is going to be 100% for the rest of the season so his bad game wasn't a big surprise. But overall the bigs were so bad that Heath had to go with the four-guard setup in the second half.
I'm going to share a dirty little secret with you. You may look at Jarrid Famous's numbers and think he's doing all right, but I really think he has some work to do. He's a pretty good defensive rebounder, but on offense he's getting the majority of his numbers through hustle and cleaning up messes. If Gus is going to be a more unconventional big man, facing up and playing away from the basket, I'd like to see some improvement in Famous's post game. When he gets the ball in the offensive set, bad things tend to happen.
In my opinion this is the most damaging loss USF has had in seven years. It's been that long because you can't have damaging losses when you're a bad team. But it's the worst since the Bulls played at TCU in the last game of the 2003 regular season. I saw that one in person, and I watched that USF team play uninspired, disinterested ball and get walloped by an inferior Horned Frogs team. It was a lot like yesterday's game. But that game was infinitely worse because you could feel the program going downhill. There were no impact players on the roster and none coming in. A few weeks later, Seth Greenberg ran off to Virginia Tech, Robert McCullum took over, the revolving door started spinning, and everything really went to hell.
Yesterday's game was bad, but don't let your increased expectations make it worse than it was. Unlike that 2003 team, this year's team is still building. Their rotation still needs another player or two (a Big East-quality sharpshooter would be really helpful), and even DoJo has some learning to do. Barring a miracle against Villanova or a similar upset or two in the conference tournament, the NCAAs are out of reach. But the likely NIT bid coming USF's way is still a success. Keep your head up, everyone.
* - My iPhone has a green case that is the shade of Kermit the Frog. Mrs. Voodoo called it the Kermit Phone and it stuck. Anytime it comes up in this blog it will be referred to as the Kermit Phone.