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USF vs. UConn in AAC First Round

Thursday night is probably your last chance to catch the Bulls in action this season. They have fallen back to the bottom of the conference and now have the unenviable task of playing the defending national champion UConn Huskies on their home floor.

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For better or worse, USF is matched up with UConn, which seems to spell a swift defeat. A year ago, the Huskies made it to the AAC tournament final before losing to Louisville and then went on to win the NCAA title as a 7th seed. A 7th seed. Needless to say, they excel at tournament play. Winning the conference tournament is also the only way they will make the NCAA tournament this year, and beating USF is their first step toward that goal.

The USF section of the bracket looks like this:

There is a chance that USF will win and go on to play 3rd-seeded Cincinnati in the quarterfinals. This would prolong the season for another game and, combined with last week's UCF blowout, would be quite an unbelievable finish to such a hopeless spring.

Although they have put together some great offensive efforts, UConn's real strength this year is their defense. They only give up about 61 points per game, and hold their opponents to 40% from the floor. USF's game plan will probably involve fast transitions and shooting threes. If the Bulls slow down and run plays from the top of the key, they will find it very hard to penetrate the Husky defense.

Anthony Collins is the elder statesman of the group and has been shooting more since the loss of Corey Allen Jr., but his production still comes mostly by way of assists and steals. For offense in this game, look for Troy Holston Jr. to continue his hot streak. In the last five games, he averages 19 points and 52% from beyond the arc. Nehemias Morillo has brought his average up to 10 points per game and is also good for 4 or 5 rebounds each night. Defensively, big men Ruben Guerrero and Bo Zeigler combine for 77 blocks this season and they each average 4.5 rebounds per game.

The Huskies beat USF on paper: their best player, senior guard Ryan Boatright, is a good match for Anthony Collins, whose defense will hopefully keep Boatright under 20 points. The versatile freshman Daniel Hamilton will probably outmatch either Troy Holston Jr. or Nehemias Morillo. UConn center Amida Brimah has an inch of height and a year of experience on USF center Ruben Guerrero, and forward Phillip Nolan has four inches, 35 pounds, and two years of experience on USF forward Bo Zeigler.

This is a game where USF will need to have fun and go with their instincts. They have nothing to lose, while UConn is faced with the possibility of missing out on the post-season and thereby bringing shame to all of New England for years to come. If the Bulls think they have a steal, they have to go for it. If they think they have an alley-oop, they have to go for it. Overthinking this game will lose it for them.

USF is not about to win the AAC Tournament, so this weekend will be the end of their season, whether it be Thursday or Friday. Playing UConn is basically one more chance for the young Bulls to get some experience before going back to the drawing board in the offseason. So watch it, enjoy it, and think about how much better these players will be next year.