The South Florida Bulls are the last team to begin conference play, but they won't get a chance to ease into the Big East schedule as the seventh-ranked Syracuse Orange pay them a visit this afternoon at the Sun Dome. Let's take a look at the best team the Bulls have faced so far this season.
I had to narrow down the Syracuse players to seven, but they really go nine deep. Another pair of freshmen, Trevor Cooney and Jerami Grant, both average more than 12 minutes per game.
This is your typical Syracuse team -- tall, deep, long-limbed, athletic, and tenacious on the defensive end. They rank first nationally in defensive efficiency according to KenPom, forcing low shooting percentages, and they get a lot of offensive rebounds. Of course we all remember the 26-0 run they put on the Bulls in last season's meeting at the Carrier Dome, where all those things were on full display. Still, USF made a game of it and only lost 56-48, convincing a lot of people who hadn't seen them play that they were worthy of an NCAA Tournament invitation.
Like last year, the Bulls can make a big impression with the way they perform this afternoon. But while no one questions USF's toughness or desire (except for maybe Bill McGillis), they don't really have the strength down low to fight back against the Orange this time around. In order to hang around in this game, the Bulls will need to shoot well from three-point range, execute late in the shot clock, and not make careless passes against the zone.
Injury update: Shaun Noriega is likely still out for the Bulls as he recovers from a foot injury. Kore White and Javontae Hawkins (to the extent he would get minutes against the Orange) are both still question marks.