Monday, October 26, 2009

Preview 2009-10 -- South Florida Bulls

Too Busy for the Details?
Coach Stan Heath heads into his 3rd season at the helm in Tampa with a decent nucleus of returning players -- the centerpiece of which is junior 3rd Team All-Big East Dominique Jones -- and a mixed bag of JUCOs and true freshman to fill out the roster. Jones is a good player to build a team around, but if the prolific scorer is called on to carry this team, the 2009-10 season will be remembered by the South Florida faithful as a disappointment. The Bulls will improve on their 2009 4-14 Big East record/#14th place finish, the only question is how much. Prognosis -- A 4th quartile finish.

3 Years At a Glance

The 2010 edition of the Bulls will be the most experienced squad South Florida has fielded since they joined the Big East in 2006. Coach Heath will return starters at the #1, #2, #4 and #5. There are no rehabbing red shirts for the first time in 2 - 3 seasons. And the Bulls have some Big East-level talent returning in the form of Dominique Jones who made the All Rookie team in 2008 and was an All-Big East Honorable Mention last season.

According to Pomeroy...
Overall ORtg100.684106.5108101.5168
Overall DRtg98.111297.49996.991
Big East ORtg93.61493.61692.514
Big East DRtg106.310106.314106.414
Four Factors -- Overall
All Off. eFG%44.831848.820749.3200
All Off. TOv%19.612120.010824.9317
All Off. OReb%34.510535.28335.2101
All Off. FTA/FGA34.920643.02747.77
All Def. eFG%47.28348.711347.572
All Def. TOv%17.631818.330219.7245
All Def. OReb%34.926333.117733.4161
All Def. FTA/FGA37.720833.911731.773
Four Factors -- Big East
BE Off. eFG%43.51646.61447.310
BE Off. TOv%18.6819.6923.816
BE Off. OReb%34.5833.8732.69
BE Off. FTA/FGA31.01039.2444.31
BE Def. eFG%48.8650.11049.611
BE Def. TOv%16.71416.21416.614
BE Def. OReb%34.51134.61234.811
BE Def. FTA/FGA34.91038.4931.97
All Gms Cons21.723221.320426.7327
All Gms Luck-.066306-.108335-.073305

That blip in the overall offensive rating in 2007-08 was Kentrell Gransberry, the Bulls' 6-11 center transfer (from LSU) who led the team for 2 seasons before moving on. Coupled with (then freshman) Dominique Jones, the pair provided Coach Heath with a very good inside-out attack. Conference play last season saw South Florida continually plagued by an inability to convert possessions into points -- see their Big East offensive rating of 93.6 -- largely due to shooting. Note Four Factors offensive stats that show the Bulls ranked in the middle of the conference in turnovers, offensive rebounds and getting to the free throw line...and at the bottom for field goal conversion (eFG%). Dominique Jones is a tremendous offensive threat, but he is the only weapon in the Bulls' 2009 arsenal. And everyone in the conference knows it. The guy would be even more effective if USF had a consistent low post threat (think Gransberry here), or someone (else) on the wing who could stick it consistently (maybe Mike Mercer?).

For the Record...
Big East4140.2223150.1673130.188
Post Season?BET/Rnd 1NoNo

The Bulls' Nucleus
Coach Stan Heath will bring back a decent collection of players for 2010, the best squad he has had since arriving in Tampa. It only took him 3 seasons, but he finally has a big or two to go with his wing gunner. And a point guard who can get them the ball.

On Offense

Note that of the returning members of the squad, only #2 guard Dominque Jones had an ORtg >100. Jones was pretty much the offensive show. He drew "Go-to Guy" level shots and possessions as the Bulls stuttered when Jones was cold. Coach Heath has worked to bring a few more scoring options onto the Bull's roster this season.

On Defense
Dominique Jones93.310.928.715.61.12.3
Chris Howard84.910.026.423.50.52.0
Augustus Gilchrist48.512.95.416.24.20.7
Alex Rivas Sanchez43.021.01.327.53.02.1
Justin Leemow39.07.715.

The Bulls will need defensive rebounding if they are to compete effectively in the Big East. Gilchrist, more a #4 than a #5, was a below average defensive rebounder last season. He will no doubt get better with experience alone, but the Bulls will need more immediate help with their opponent's misses. Sanchez and Howard have to cut down on their turnovers if they expect to see the court much this season, as possible upgrades will be available off the bench.

Significant Additions
Looking at his 3rd season in Tampa, Coach Heath's recruiting has not quite shifted away from "tryout mode" to something more selective. After bringing in 6 players for the 2008-09 season (3 of whom will be with the team going into this season), he will bring in another 6 new players, including a single JUCO (6-11, 240lb #5, Jarrid Famous), a single transfer (6-1, 170 lb #1 Anthony Crater moving over from Ohio State) who will be eligible at the end of the fall semester to back up senior Chris Howard, and 4 true freshmen, 2 of whom, 6-6 #2/#3 Mike Burwell from East Brunswick, NJ by way of Kent Prep and 6-5, 225lb, #3 Jordan Dumars, son of NBA player Joe Dumars, who, if he doesn't draw much PT, will certainly get local ink. The last two, locals #2 guard 6-4 Shaun Noriega and 6-8 #4 Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, fill out the class.

Famous will provide the low post presence missing since Kentrell Gransberry took his game to the NBA's D-League at the end of the 2008 season. Burwell, a 5th year senior was the leading scorer at Kent Prep, taking a good many shots from beyond the arc. If Burwell and Famous are as effective in the Big East as they were at their previous stops, junior scorer Dominique Jones should really be able to operate. Absent an inside threat in 2009 (and having reviewed 2008 USF game films of Jones' very prolific freshman campaign), opposing defenses tended to concentrate on shutting Jones down, and did so fairly effectively. Georgia transfer Mike Mercer, eligible to play in 2009, but dismissed from the team in January 2009, was reinstated in late August by Coach Heath. Mercer played 125 minutes scoring 34 points in his very short, 4 games career with the Bulls.

Explode If...
1. Famous, Sanchez & Gilchrist can provide effective low post presence. The Bulls need a credible threat in the paint -- Howard should be able to deliver the ball, but can one of the 3 finish?
2. One, preferably more than one of Mercer (best bet?), Leemow, Shaun Noriaga or Mike Burwell finds his shooting eye. More threats, inside and outside will make Jones more effective. It's called synergy.

Implode If...
Chemistry/discipline problems or catastrophic injuries aside, it is difficult to see this program falling. After all, it's not very far from #14 to #16. The Bulls won a record (for their time in the Big East) 4 conference games last season. This squad should have more Big East-level talent and be deeper than 2009 (or 2008 for that matter). 1. Opponents key on Jones and no one else can convert field goals. Not very likely given Mercer and Gilchrist, both of whom are not bashful about putting up shots.

Crucial Run/Bellweather Games
The Bulls face an early season test as they open the season hosting Virginia of the ACC in Tamps. Part of an effort to upgrade their schedule, the Bulls will also face Kent State in late November. After Virginia they will participate in the 2009 Charleston Classic, facing Southern Conference power Davidson in the first round. The second round game will pit them opposite the winner/loser of the South Carolina/La Salle game. The La Salle team is expected to challenge for a top spot in the A10 conference and a possible post season bid this season, while South Carolina earned an NIT bid for their work last season. A couple of wins in this early schedule will definitely boost the Bull's RPI/SOS (not to mention their confidence) going into conference play.

After opening in Louisville on 12/30, the Bulls return to Tampa to host Notre Dame (on Tuesday 1/6/2010), this tilt should provide a clue about their season. The Irish do not travel well, suffered an unexpected early season road loss to St. John's in 2009, and lost to the Bulls in Tampa back in 2006-07. Can it happen again? The Bulls' two game homestand in late January (Seton Hall on 1/28, followed by Pitt on 1/31) may be a good barometer. Win either or both, or at the very least make them competitive, and the South Florida fan-base will have reason for optimism. With home games against Rutgers (1/16), Cincinnati (2/16), St. John's (2/20) and Providence (2/27), the opportunities for 5 or more wins are in place for the Bulls. Combine with road games against a few programs expected to be in down cycles (Providence -- 1/23; Marquette -- 2/13; DePaul -- 3/2), and improvement on their 2009 finish is possible. The three game sequence in mid-February (@Marquette -- 2/13; home with Cincinnati -- 2/16 & St. John's -- 2/20) should yield at least one win, with 3-0 or 2-1 being very strong indicators that the Bulls are ready to run.

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