By Kyle Kandetzki – Assistant Sports Editor This is “The Scouting Report”, a (mostly) online feature from The Hofstra Chronicle where we go in-depth on the Pride’s upcoming opponent. Stats and insight will be provided to help Hofstra fans know what to expect with each coming matchup.
The Hofstra Pride men’s basketball team hit the road this week following a quick two-game home stand where they won both games against local opponents Stony Brook and Wagner. Coach Mihalich said himself that the next stretch of games will be tough, with two road games immediately following the Wagner victory. The Pride start it all off in a ESPN3 televised match against the University of South Florida Bulls.
THE BASIC INFORMATION: USF is located in Tampa, Florida with a huge student base of over 47,000 in total. The game will be played in the 10,000+ seat, multi-million dollar USF Sun Dome. USF currently plays in the recently rebranded American Athletic Conference (AAC).
HISTORY: USF has made three appearances in the NCAA Tournament, in three different conferences. In 1990 the Bulls won the Sun Belt Conference, but would be eliminated in the first round. USF would have the same result in 1992, but this time coming out of the MAAC. Most recently, USF won two NCAA Tournament games after reaching the tourney from an at-large bid, coming out of the Big East.
LAST YEAR: In the inaugural year of the AAC, the Bulls struggled mightily, coming in last with a 3-15 AAC record, and a 12-20 overall mark. The conference wasn’t an easy one to play in, with four teams going to the tournament, including eventual national champion UConn. The poor performance led to the firing of coach Stan Heath.
THIS YEAR: The Bulls are 3-1 so far, with their only loss coming to the only Hofstra lost to in NC State. USF made it a closer game, only losing by three points (Hofstra lost by 12). USF’s other opponents have been pretty weak, including Jackson State, (who the Pride play after this game), Flagler, and UAB (but it took them an overtime period).
USF will have a to go up against a tough AAC schedule later on in the year against UConn, Cincinnati, Louisville, SMU, and more.
THE COACH: To replace their fired coach Heath, USF hired Orlando “Hurricane” Antigua. Antigua was hired after being an assistant coach along side John Calipari at Memphis and Kentucky. Antigua played at Pitt in the early 90’s, and was also a Harlem Globetrotter at one point.
LOSSES: USF’s situation is looking really rough, with nine players leaving from last season, a result of a poor season driving several players to transfer. But their biggest losses come from the typical situation of graduation: forward Victor Rudd. Rudd led the Bulls in scoring by a mile with 16.1 points per game, and led in rebounds with 6.8. Rudd was the only player to average double-digit points in 2013-14. Their second best scorer had 9 PPG…oh, and he’s gone due to graduation too (guard Martino Brock).
Then there are the transfers. 5th best scorer and second best rebounder John Egbunu: now a Florida Gator. A 7’3” center that didn’t get much of a chance to prove himself (but that height is intimidating enough) in Jordan Omogbehin: transferred to Morgan State. Two players didn’t get much statistical praise, but were apparently good enough to move to touted programs: forward Zack DeLay went to Virginia Tech, guard Josh Heath went to Georgia Tech.
RETURNING PLAYERS: USF hasn’t lost its entire attack, leading the returning class is senior Corey Allen Jr., who averaged 9 PPG and lead the team in assists (among players who played in most of the team’s games) with 2.8. Allen has started the season strongly (12 PPG), but the leader thus far has been sophomore center Chris Perry. Perry has nearly 17 PPG, 7.5 RPG, and averaged over 50% shooting.
A supplementary offensive option is Anthony Collins, who only played eight games last year due to knee issues. In his limited time, he averaged 6 assists. In his previous season, he had one of the highest assist totals in USF history. Collins has backed himself up thus far, with over 6 APG, and 10 points per game to boot.
TRANSFERS: USF will have three eligible transfers this year, all of which are coming from junior colleges. By far the most successful addition is guard Nehemias Morillo, who is coming from nearby Monroe College in the Bronx. Morillo has been able to replicate his junior college numbers thus far at USF, averaging 10.5 PPG and 7 RPG.
The other notable transfer has actually made his way to the starting lineup in center Jaleel Cousins. Though he has grabbed this role already, Cousins is only averaging about 17 minutes per game, and is adding less than 6 points.
FRESHMAN: USF will need freshmen to show promising play right out of the gate, with seven of them taking up this 13-player roster. The Bulls’ biggest prize in the recruiting market is guard Troy Holston Jr., who received a 70 on a 100-point scale by ESPN. Holston has been the only freshman to make an immediate, noticeable impact, gaining a starting spot right off the bat, and scoring 6.5 PPG with it.
Redshirt freshman Bo Ziegler is the only other new player that has gotten over 15 minutes per game, showing that USF is still looking to ease their new talent into the program, despite a lack of experienced depth.
UPDATE: The Tampa Bay Times is reporting that Holston is doubtful to play against Hofstra due to a severe ankle sprain.
THE MATCHUP: On paper, this USF teams seems pretty weak, with not a ton of trustworthy options to turn to for scoring. But on the other hand, USF hasn’t been tested much yet, plus, though they had a poor record last year, they had a poor record in a good conference. How this team matches up with Hofstra might go either way.
But in my opinion, Hofstra has shown their promise this past weekend, and the Pride can definitely handle this AAC test. The Bulls have two returning scorers who are proven to be efficient, but the remainder of the roster has only put up big numbers against the three under matched teams they’ve played so far.
Juan’ya Green just played the game of his life against Wagner, barely missing any shots he put up. Expect Green to continue his dominance, regardless of if this Pride team can match up against USF.
In terms of big men, Andre Walker will meet an equal match tonight, with two Bulls centers measuring up at 6’11”. Walker and Gustys will need to size up USF under the hoop, which could be an issue after the Pride were dominated in that category against Stony Brook, and didn’t completely solve the issue against Wagner.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: I think it is worth noting the discrepancies between both teams’ matchup against NC State. USF only lost by 3 to the middle-of-the-road ACC team, while Hofstra lost by 12. It is hard to judge a team like USF on paper due to their conference and set of new players, but this result might mean that they will give Hofstra a run for their money.
It was evident in the second half of Hofstra’s last game that they slowed the game down, and played a bit lazy at times. It is understandable that the team will want all the rest they can get in such an active stretch of games, but a weak end to their last game might equal a slow start against USF. This team is by no means lazy, but you never want to get too comfortable.
And to go along with several games in a few days, injuries can become a plague for those receiving large amounts of playtime. Rokas Gustys was pulled early from Hofstra’s last game, though he had a spectacular start to the game, due to a leg injury that Coach Mihalich was looking to rest as much as possible. With a hole already at center from Kone, just hearing that Rokas has a nagging injury is something that Hofstra doesn’t want to hear. Kudos to coach for giving him that rest, but not all games are going to be as easy as the one versus Wagner.
Also, as mentioned earlier, one of USF’s key freshmen is doubtful to play tonight in Holston Jr., something that will definitely help the Pride.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS Pride Green (19.8 PPG, 6.5 APG) Nichols (6.5 PPG) Bernardi (10.8 PPG, 2-6 on Sunday) Tanksley (14.5 PPG, 6 RPG) Gustys (6.8 RPG, only played 7 minutes on Sunday)
Bulls Allen Jr. (12 PPG, 4.8 RPG) Ziegler (Replacement for Holston, 5.3 PPG) Collins (10.3 PPG, 6.3 APG) Perry (16.8 PPG, 7.5 RPG) Cousins (5.8 PPG, 17 MPG)
NEXT UP: @ Jackson State (11/28)