USF's got problems. All the pieces they have can do some things individually, but they don't fit too well together with a lot of duplication in skill sets. The best example is their two best backcourt players, Anthony Collins and Corey Allen Jr., can't play at the same time without creating some serious defensive issues. Both players are skilled, talented, hard working... and, um, vertically challenged.
It gives opponents a chance to get some good looks, and they're taking advantage. The Bulls are 224th in America in eFG defense (which gives extra credit for made 3's) at 50.1%. They're conceding 55% eFG the last three games, and teams have figured out that good ball movement around the perimeter will get open looks against USF.
It becomes a bigger problem since USF just can't consistently makes 3's themselves again. They finished dead last in America last year, and their 29.1% this season from deep is good for 299th. You might as well wear a sign that says "ZONE US!"
They also turn it over too much themselves, coughing it up on 20.8% of possessions (254th in NCAA, highest in AAC). For a team that can go small and seems to have a lot of backcourt depth, the turnovers are puzzling. AC & Corey combine to give it up 5.35 times per contest alone, which is too high even with the increased pace of the team.
There's also other issues. Jaleel Cousins seems to be regressing instead of improving, and it looks like he's in his own head. Ruben Guerrero certainly makes the Bulls more efficient on offense, but at this point in his development he can't guard a well-placed chair on the block. And if that chair is the roll guy on a PNR, put it down for two points. We can kid about Guerrero's defense because he's just 18 years old and you can see he's going to get a lot better. A summer in America learning how to defend and rebound more effectively, as well as developing a 15-footer, is going to make him a much better player. But for now he's just got to play through it and learn.
It's not all bad for USF, as for the most part they continue to play hard and in an entertaining style. Nehemias Morillo has a nice catch-and-shoot game, and he's long and plays smart. Bo Zeigler is a great energy guy that attacks backboards and alters shots. And Chris Perry has improved a great deal on both ends of the floor, making it easy to forget he's just a sophomore when he's going 19-25 from the floor in his last three games. He's also second in the AAC in rebounding at 7.6 a game.
There seems to be a lot of complementary pieces that could benefit from the type of player USF really needs: someone that could get to the rim off the bounce consistently. A big guard or small forward that could dribble it to the rim and finish. It would open up so much of the floor for everyone else, and maybe make a few of those missed 3's a bit easier to make.
But for now everyone is going to pack it in tight and zone USF until they show they can shoot their way over it. Hopefully that begins tonight.
Who: East Carolina (7-7, #302 RPI) vs. USF (6-8, #228 RPI)
What: A basketball game that will help determine seeding at the bottom of the American Conference tournament in March
Where: The still-no-naming-rights-sold Sun Dome, which is either the greatest advertising bargain you'll ever see lingering right under noses, or the worst deal ever.
When: 7 p.m.
Why: Because USF has been (mostly) fun to watch this year, even if frustrating
Spread: Bulls -4
You'll get factor'd and like it!
Pirates sophomore Caleb White would seem to be the player USF needs to watch out for tonight. He's getting 13.5 a game, and shooting over 42% from three-point range. But as a team ECU only shoots 32.5% from deep, which is better than USF, but still nothing great.
As a team, ECU stinks defensively. They're 287th in America in FG% allowed (46.3%), and 257th in eFG% allowed (51.2%). They're also near the bottom of the country in blocked shots, so some post ups and drives should be there for the Bulls.
This isn't a Top 25 team USF is facing (that's later this season): This is a winnable game at home with the talent and personnel USF has, despite their current limitations. Let's see if the Bulls can get 2015 off on the right foot.