WHO: The 5-1 USF Bulls, who are off to as good of a start as we could have hoped for under Orlando Antigua, will be hitting the road to take on the 4-1 Alabama Crimson Tide. The Tide's resume is a bit more imposing than the Bulls'-- they've beaten a solid Arizona State squad, and played 20th-ranked Iowa State close for much of the game. Still, USF did top Bama at home last season in an exciting 66-64 game.
WHEN & WHERE: Coleman Stadium in Tuscaloosa at 9 p.m. ET tonight. The game will be televised on the SEC Network, and can be streamed on WatchESPN.
LINE: Alabama is currently listed as a 12-point favorite.
KENPOM: The Tide rank 61st, while USF is 153rd. Alabama is 55th on offense and 92nd on defense; USF is 174th on offense and 146th on defense.
NOTABLE PLAYERS (PROJECTED STARTERS IN BOLD):
|Justin Coleman||G||FR||5'10", 160||6.2||1.0||2.6|
|Levi Randolph||G||SR||6'5", 208||20.6||6.2||2.4|
|Rodney Cooper||G||SR||6'6", 218||10.8||3.8||1.4|
|Shannon Hale||F||JR||6'8", 228||10.2||4.2||1.4|
|Jimmie Taylor||F||JR||6'10", 240||5.4||4.8||0.8|
|Ricky Tarrant||G||JR||6'2", 190||13.4||2.6||1.0|
|Michael Kessens||F||JR||6'9", 223||4.8||3.0||1.0|
|Anthony Collins||G||JR||6'1", 175||10.3||3.3||7.3|
|Corey Allen Jr.||G||SR||6'1", 152||15.8||4.3||3.5|
|Nehemias Morillo||G||JR||6'6", 220||11.5||6.5||1.5|
|Bo Zeigler||F||FR||6'6", 198||6.5||5.2||0.0|
|Chris Perry||F||SO||6'8", 266||13.8||6.0||0.0|
|Ruben Guerrero||C||FR||6'10", 210||3.5||4.5||0.5|
|Dre' Clayton||F||FR||6'6", 245||2.6||3.2||0.6|
KEYS TO THE GAME: Alabama is dangerous. They're athletic, shoot well, and play about nine guys deep. They've also got an absolute stud in senior guard Levi Randolph, who most recently went off for 28 points against Arizona State. They like to run the court (75th in adjusted pace, per KenPom), and have a handful of tall, rangy guards and forwards that are equally comfortable in the paint and beyond the three-point line. The Tide are going to shoot threes early and often (they put up 52 total in their last two games), and they're quite good at it, with Randolph and fellow senior swingman Rodney Cooper both shooting at a 40 percent clip.
While Bama is long and athletic, they're not particularly big in the frontcourt. Forward Shannon Hale is more of a slasher than a low-post player-- think a beefier Bo Zeigler-- and big man Jimmie Taylor has put up two total points in the last two games. The Bulls aren't particularly strong underneath the basket either, but they'll probably have to figure out a way to pound the ball inside if they want to keep up with the Tide. In the Tide's lone loss--to an Iowa State team with no starter over 6'8"-- they allowed the Cyclones to shoot a ridiculous 69 percent on two-pointers. USF isn't likely to outrun Alabama, so their best shot is probably to play inside out and try to let Chris Perry operate down low, freeing up the guards on the outside. The emergence of another viable post player would help a lot here: Jaleel Cousins has seen his playing time decrease in recent games, but he's the kind of player that Bama could have a hard time stopping if he can rebound well and avoid foul trouble. He hasn't done that lately, so perhaps Ruben Guerrero could better fill the role.
It's tough to see the Bulls coming out with a win here without a remarkable shooting performance. It'll be hard, but not impossible: They'll likely need a big game from Perry, as Randolph and the Tide's array of swingmen is a challenging matchup for USF's smaller guards. Still, just hanging with Alabama would be an encouraging sign of progress for Antigua's young team, so we shouldn't overreact if this one gets out of hand early. Focus on the effort they're giving and the continued development of the young players; anything beyond that is gravy.