South Florida Bulls
Big East Conference (20-12, 9-9)
Big Wins: 1/31 Pittsburgh (70-61), 2/3 at Georgetown (72-64), 3/6 Connecticut (75-68)
Bad Losses: 11/20 vs South Carolina (66-69), 12/13 Central Michigan (56-59), 2/20 St. John’s (58-74)
Coach: Stan Heath
Why They Can Surprise:
South Florida does not do one particular thing extremely well and there are lots of reasons that Coach Stan Heath has turned this group picked by most to finish at the bottom of the Big East into a very, very dangerous team. It all starts in the backcourt with Dominique Jones. Jones is the superstar scorer on this team and averages 21.3 points. He is the team’s most prolific outside shooter, which is not really saying much, but he does plenty of damage by attacking the basket. The 6-4 junior is even a superb rebounder and leads the Bulls in assists and steals.
Yet, it will not be Jones who brings the ball up the floor. Chris Howard has turned into the steady floor leader and has done a great job sharing the ball and keeping the turnovers down. But the 6-3 Howard is also a fine scorer. In many cases when USF was undermanned due to the absence of Augustus Gilchrist, Anthony Crater would run the point quite a bit. That allowed Howard to work off the ball and he proved that he can be a very effective scorer.
Why They Can Disappoint:
It was in the frontcourt where Coach Stan Heath was worried. Gilchrist was the only returning player with much experience and he needed to go from an inconsistent freshman to a sophomore leader. And that was the case until he was sidelined with a leg injury in early December. Gilchrist did not make his return until Mid-February and that left the door open for a lot of young players to grow up. Gilchrist is a great scorer who can stretch out the defense with his amazingly consistent three-point shooting. Junior college transfer Jarrid Famous has done an admirable job up front. He is not much of a shot blocking threat, but Famous has come along very nicely in the scoring department and is always a tenacious rebounder. Freshman Toarlyn Fitzpatrick was forced into the starting lineup while Gilchrist was out. While he is not much of a scorer at this point in his career, he is a solid rebounder and another big body. The frontcourt has played surprisingly well, but they are a very young group and that could be a problem when the Bulls need all the help they can get.
Who To Watch:
Mike Mercer is often overlooked on this team. He will not score like Jones or Howard, he cannot shoot like Gilchrist or score in the paint like Famous, but the 6-5 senior is turning into a leader on the floor. His outside shot is simply not falling very much this year, but Mercer is still out there grabbing rebounds and playing great defense and any time he can score 19 points like he did in wins against San Diego and Providence is just a bonus.
Chris Howard, Senior, Guard, 10.4 ppg, 3.9 apg
Mike Mercer, Senior, Guard, 9.4 ppg, 1.5 apg, 4.6 rpg
Dominique Jones, Junior, Guard, 21.3 ppg, 3.7 apg, 6.2 rpg,
Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, Freshman, Forward, 4.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.0 bpg
Jarrid Famous, Junior, Center, 10.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg
Anthony Crater, Sophomore, Guard, 3.3 ppg, 1.7 apg
Augustus Gilchrist, Sophomore, Forward, 13.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 68.7 (182nd in nation, 13th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 66.7 (141, 8)
Field-Goal Percentage: 44.7 (110, 10)
Field-Goal Defense: 43.2 (175, 12)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 4.3 (316, 15)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: na
Free-Throw Percentage: 68.9 (169, 9)
Rebound Margin: 1.2 (150, 12)
Assists Per Game: 12.1 (231, 15)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.8 (86, 9)
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