WHO: The 5-3 USF Bulls, who have dropped two straight games, will try to get back on track tonight against the 4-2 Georgia Southern Eagles. The Eagles' record is a bit misleading-- they've only won a pair of games against Division I opponents thus far-- but they're more than capable of playing with teams of USF's caliber, most recently taking UCF to the buzzer in a 61-59 loss.
WHEN & WHERE: 7 p.m. ET tonight at the Sun Dome. If you can't make it to the game, you can watch it on ESPN3 or the WatchESPN app.
LINE: USF is currently listed as an eight-point favorite.
|Jelani Hewitt||G||Sr.||6'2", 185||21.5||3.5||4.5|
|Mike Hughes||G||Fr.||6'3", 190||8.7||6.0||2.8|
|Curtis Diamond||G||Sr.||6'3", 170||7.7||3.2||1.2|
|Angel Matias||F||Sr.||6'4", 225||8.5||7.5||3.2|
|Trent Wiedeman||F||Sr.||6'8", 255||14.5||7.0||1.0|
|Jake Allsmiller||G||Fr.||6'5", 185||3.8||2.7||0.8|
|Kyle Doyle||F||So.||6'6", 210||3.8||2.5||0.8|
|Anthony Collins||G||Jr.||6'1", 175||8.8||3.0||6.5|
|Corey Allen Jr.||G||Sr.||6'1", 152||17.1||4.4||3.1|
|Nehemias Morillo||G||Jr.||6'6", 220||11.6||6.5||1.3|
|Chris Perry||F||So.||6'8", 266||12.6||6.4||0.3|
|Jaleel Cousins||C||Jr.||6'10", 260||4.0||2.1||0.0|
|Troy Holston Jr.||G||Fr.||6'4", 187||5.4||1.6||0.6|
|Bo Zeigler||F||Fr.||6'6", 198||5.4||4.9||0.1
KEYS TO THE GAME: It's not easy to get a read on Georgia Southern. They've only played four games against D-I teams, and took care of business against FIU (200 in KenPom) and South Carolina State (332) while falling by single digits against UCF and a good Illinois team. With so few games from which to draw conclusions, there's definitely reason to believe that GSU is better than their #230 projection in KenPom.
USF's season has been much more black and white. They're 5-1 against teams outside of the KenPom top 100, and 0-2 against top 100 teams. They've been able to hang with better teams thanks to bouts of electrifying shooting from Corey Allen* and Nehemias Morillo (and, it cannot be overstated, reliably excellent point guard play from Anthony Collins), but the Bulls' post struggles and lack of depth have hamstrung them thus far, and-- barring improvement from Jaleel Cousins or Ruben Guerrero-- are likely to be problems that persist all season.
*Sidenote: "Bouts of electrifying shooting" is probably an unfair phrase to describe how good Corey Allen has been this season. Free to play off the ball thanks to Collins' return and given a green light from Orlando Antigua, Allen has posted unreal stats thus far. He's averaging over 17 points per game, shooting at a ridiculous 56.8 percent clip--including 46.4 percent from deep!!-- all while picking up the slack for USF's struggling frontcourt by pulling in 4.4 rebounds per game. Corey will likely cool off a bit soon, but we should really, really appreciate the work he's doing this season and not let him get buried as a footnote between the Heath and Antigua Eras, because he deserves better.
The good news for the Bulls is that they match up about as well as possible against GSU. The Eagles are really, really small-- they don't have a single player over 6'8" on the roster, and 6'4" senior Angel Matias is essentially playing the four spot. This is a wonderful opportunity for USF to get their best roster on the court right away, and play a small lineup with either Bo Zeigler or Troy Holston on the floor as opposed to the much-more-raw Cousins or Guerrero. If Holston's back to full strength, he's the most intriguing option--the four-guard lineup allows the Bulls to put three shooters on the floor at the same time, while allowing Chris Perry to go iso against a less athletic big in the post.
GSU's got players, though, and like the Bulls, they rely on their guards to do a lot more than handle the ball and shoot. Senior Jelani Hewitt is the ringleader, and while he's a bit of a volume shooter (upwards of 20 points per game on under 40 percent shooting), he can do it all for the Eagles, putting up 3.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per contest. The battle between Hewitt and Corey Allen is going to be fascinating to watch, and will likely go a long way in determining who wins this one. Southern's also got a Chris Perry doppelgänger in senior Trent Wiedeman, a double-double threat who thrives on the offensive boards.
After playing two uber-athletic teams with a propensity to catch fire from deep in Alabama and Detroit, the Bulls will likely be relieved that GSU has struggled mightily shooting the ball this season. The Eagles have connected on just 31.5 percent of their three-pointers, and do most of their damage by letting Hewitt and their impressive array of guards invade the paint. This is probably the biggest difference between the two teams thus far-- the Bulls haven't been great from long distance, but they've got a handful more threats from deep than the Eagles. But relying on jump shots is a risky proposition. If the Bulls come out firing tonight, they've got a decent shot to put GSU away by the second half. If they're struggling, this could turn into a slugfest, with USF's size advantage pitted against Southern's two experienced stars. I don't love those odds, so let's hope that the Bulls shoot well tonight.