WHO: Your 7-8 USF Bulls, who responded well to an absolute trouncing at the hands of SMU and beat East Carolina over the weekend, will host the defending national champion UConn Huskies. The Huskies are just 7-5 with a loss to Temple in their only AAC game, but they did just go on the road and beat Florida in their last contest. The Bulls are gonna have their hands full.
WHEN & WHERE: The Sun Dome at 7 p.m. ET tonight. It's 80s Night tonight at the Dome, and USF has plenty of things for you to do to get in the mood. Try this Spotify playlist (which is actually pretty solid, for those of you who need something to listen to at work), or try to put a wacky 80s haircut on one of your favorite USF players (fun, but incredibly challenging). Best of all, "The Mouth of the South" Jimmy Hart will be doing player introductions for the Bulls. Seriously, USF put a lot of effort into this game and there is no reason not to show up. It's a home game against a marquee opponents, and you even get a free Rocky hat if you're one of the first 2,000 fans!
If you're out of town like myself, you can catch the game on ESPN2 or the WatchESPN app and express your FOMO with me in the comments.
LINE: UConn is currently listed as an eight-point favorite.
|Team||RPI||KenPom - Overall||KenPom - Offense||KenPom - Defense|
|Ryan Boatright||G||Sr.||6'0", 175||17.3||5.3||4.2|
|Rodney Purvis||G||So.||6'4", 205||9.7||1.8||1.0|
|Daniel Hamilton||F||Fr.||6'7", 190||10.9||6.3||3.4|
|Kentan Facey||F||So.||6'9', 206||6.8||6.8||0.3|
|Amida Brimah||C||So.||7'0", 230||11.4||5.0||0.1|
|Omar Calhoun||G||Jr.||6'5", 205||6.4||2.6||0.4|
|Terrence Samuel||G||So.||6'4", 202||4.0||2.6||1.5|
|Anthony Collins||G||Jr.||6'1", 175||8.6||2.5||6.0|
|Corey Allen Jr.||G||Sr.||6'1", 152||15.9||3.4||3.0|
|Nehemias Morillo||G||Jr.||6'6", 220||9.4||5.8||1.3|
|Chris Perry||F||So.||6'8', 266||12.6||7.5||0.4|
|Ruben Guerrero||C||Fr.||6'10", 210||5.5||3.3||0.3|
|Bo Zeigler||F||Fr.||6'6", 198||5.9||4.5||0.5|
|Troy Holston Jr.||G||Fr.||6'4", 187||4.3||1.4||0.7
KEYS TO THE GAME:'
Let's get this out of the way: record aside, UConn is a much more talented team than USF. The Huskies have a decent chunk of their national championship-winning squad back, and the Bulls are fielding a roster that, for the most part, is still getting its feet wet in Division I basketball (seriously. In the chart listed above, four of the seven players are in their first year of D-I play, and six of seven have a year's experience or less. Remember that when you get frustrated with this team!).
That said... this isn't a terrible matchup for the Bulls. The Huskies are excellent on defense but struggle to score and play at a pretty glacial pace (233rd in KenPom adjusted tempo), and that can land them in low-scoring slugfests with teams that they should probably beat. Case in point: a 45-44 loss to Yale and a 57-53 overtime loss to Temple, both at home. That said, they've also played top ten teams in Duke and Texas pretty close (they had Texas beat, but lost on a wacky buzzer-beater three-pointer) and just topped Florida on the road.
So what's the best way to attack the Huskies? Trying to beat them in the halfcourt-- barring a three-point explosion from Corey Allen or Nehemias Morillo, which the Bulls could really use-- isn't going to work. The Bulls have to find ways to stifle the Huskies on defense and create transition buckets. Easy enough, right? Well, the Bulls haven't quite stifled anyone on defense lately, so it's going to be a tough task even against a struggling UConn attack.
I'd argue that the key for the Bulls won't be stopping the Huskies' excellent guards-- I'm sure you remember Ryan Boatright, who's an absolute stud, and true freshman Daniel Hamilton is an excellent wing player who could be a nightmare matchup-- but finding a way to draw even down low. This is going to be a big test for Ruben Guerrero against a long, athletic UConn frontcourt. Guerrero has been a real asset on offense lately, but he's still struggling on D, and he needs to find a way to neutralize Amida Brimah and the rest of the UConn bigs. Brimah isn't a superstar, but he's a huge, physical player with the ability to dominate smaller teams (a 13-13, 40-point performance against Coppin State stands out). Whether it's Guerrero, Chris Perry, or even Bo Zeigler, whose energy off the bench has been invaluable lately, someone for USF needs to have a big game on the defensive glass and stop the Huskies from getting easy second-chance points. If UConn is dominating down low, this one could get ugly.
But this is a decent matchup against a marquee opponent at home in front of one of the better crowds the Bulls will draw all season. If there was a time for a breakout performance, this is it.
TOP FIVE OF THE DAY: Songs on USF's 80s playlist:
1. Prince - When Doves Cry
2. Dexy's Midnight Runners - Come On Eileen
3. a-ha - Take On Me
4. Pixies - Where is My Mind?
5. Faith No More - Epic
COME AT ME.