WHO: The 5-2 USF Bulls-- who have fought admirably against two bubble teams in losses and managed to win every other game-- take on the 5-3 Detroit Titans, who many Bulls fans will remember from their 65-60 early-season upset in the Sun Dome last year.
WHEN & WHERE: Calihan Hall in Detroit at 3 p.m. this afternoon, conveniently scheduled before the first big wave of football games. You can watch the game on ESPN3.
LINE: Detroit is currently listed as a 6.5 point favorite.
KENPOM: The Titans are ranked 123rd; the Bulls are 151st. Detroit is 114th on offense and 143rd on defense, while USF is 172nd on offense and 141st on defense.
NOTABLE PLAYERS (PROJECTED STARTERS IN BOLD):
|Matthew Grant||G||So.||6'0", 177||4.5||3.9||3.1|
|Anton Wilson||G||Jr.||6'5", 206||12.4||4.0||1.6|
|Brandan Kearney||G||Sr.||6'6", 188||8.5||2.5||1.6|
|Juwan Howard Jr.||F||Sr.||6'5", 232||19.0||4.9||2.0|
|Patrick Ackerman||C||Jr.||6'10", 218||2.6||2.0||0.1|
|Paris Bass||G/F||Fr.||6'7", 187||12.5||6.0||1.6|
|Jarod Williams||G||So.||6'1", 209||6.1||3.0||1.5|
|Anthony Collins||G||Jr.||6'1", 175||9.1||3.3||6.9|
|Corey Allen Jr.||G||Sr.||6'1", 152||15.9||4.1||3.3|
|Nehemias Morillo||G||Jr.||6'6", 220||11.7||6.6||1.4|
|Chris Perry||F||So.||6'8", 266||13.4||6.3||0.1|
|Jaleel Cousins||C||Jr.||6'10", 260||4.3||2.3||0.0|
|Bo Zeigler||F||Fr.||6'6", 198||6.1||5.0||0.1|
|Ruben Guerrero||C||Fr.||6'10", 210||4.3||3.7||0.3|
KEYS TO THE GAME: Think of Detroit as Alabama Lite. They're both long, athletic teams that take a lot of threes and rely heavily on their guard rotation for scoring. The Titans, however, are a little slower, a little worse at shooting, and at a much larger disadvantage down low. They've still got plenty of firepower: Juwan Howard Jr. (yes, son of that Juwan Howard. You are old!) is a unique player at the four spot for Detroit-- he's at a severe height disadvantage against most forwards, but he's a big, physical player who can both handle the ball and shoot the lights out. The Titans' offense works through him-- he's averaging upwards of 20 points per game over his last three outings and is a sure bet to take double-digit shots pretty much every night.
Apart from Howard, almost all of Detroit's scoring comes from the backcourt. Anton Wilson is a deadly three-point shooter (51 percent from deep on the season!), and freshman swingman Paris Bass is a superstar in the making. He's been coming off the bench to give the Titans some height in their starting lineup, but he's one of their most dangerous scorers, and easily their best rebounder.
In our Alabama preview, we mentioned that the Bulls needed to both shoot well and exploit the Tide down low to come out with a win. They shot quite well-- 50 percent from the field-- but did themselves in with 21 turnovers and an inability to get anything out of the five spot. This is crucial against Detroit, especially if Chris Perry can't get going again (he finished with 13 points against Bama, but was five for 13 and had six turnovers). Jaleel Cousins and Ruben Guerrero have shown flashes of being offensive threats down low, but they haven't been good rebounders, and have been awfully slow on defense. The Bulls don't necessarily need a big game from Cousins or Guerrero to beat the Titans, but they can't count on Nehemias Morillo or Corey Allen lighting up from deep every game, and Detroit is extremely vulnerable in the frontcourt-- in a recent loss to Bowling Green they were outrebounded 41-27, and their tallest player, 6'10" center Patrick Ackerman, has struggled with foul trouble.
This is a winnable game for USF, and a chance to signal progress beyond close losses to good teams. But it won't come easy, and the Bulls will likely have to take care of the ball and establish an advantage down low. They haven't been able to do both of those things in the same game yet this season, but this is a young team that has surprised us several times already over this young season. This would be the most pleasant surprise yet.