Nothing gets me more excited than the beginning of basketball season. I love football, but USF basketball will forever be my favorite program on Fowler Ave. Last year I thought anything over a .500 record would be considered a success for Coach Heath, but I thought that 20 wins weren't out of the question. This season, I still expect somewhere around a .500 record, but maybe the ceiling is at 17-19 wins, which would still be a postseason bid and good times all around.
The first step of the journey to .500 is the team that everyone loves to hate, the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. This isn't the old Southern Miss team that we would regularly wax in C-USA. Former Iowa State coach Larry Eustachy has all five starters returning from a 20-win season and a berth in the NIT last season. This isn't our normal season opener, and it should be a good barometer of where the Bulls stand.
This should be a great matchup between these two. Flowers, a 6'8" senior from Dallas, was a force down low for the Golden Eagles last year. Flowers led the team in points and rebounds, going for 15.0 and 8.3 a game, respectively. Flowers also blocked 1.8 shots per game, which led the team as well. He controls his body very well for someone his size, and has a decent array of post moves. Flowers can also shoot the three, and averaged 33% last season from deep. This will be a tremendous test for Jarrid, and we will see if he is ready to take the next step.
Bolden is a guard in name only. The 6'10" junior from Jackson, MS started coming around towards the end of the season and finished with 8.7 points and 5.9 rebounds a game. Normally Bolden's size and willingness to stay outside would be an advantage, but we have a player exactly like him in Augustus Gilchrist. Gilchrist should abuse Bolden on the offensive end, and will hopefully draw a couple of quick fouls on him.
Johnson is a slasher who can get in the lane quickly and finish in the trees. Johnson averaged 10.1 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 2.6 assists a game last season after transferring from USC. Johnson's quickness on the defensive end also helps him, and he averaged just under a steal a game. Angelo does turn the ball over, and his subpar 1.4 assist-to-turnover ratio should have Anthony Crater ready to go.
I think this might be a game that the Bulls drop now, but towards February they would win. I think the Bulls lose a close one 68-65.