While most of y'all will be rooting for MASS CHAOS in college football Saturday night, Anthony Grant's squad will be going into a battle with the South Florida Bulls. USF (5-2) has had a pretty uneventful year thus far, with wins against a bunch of pushovers at home and on the road against George Mason and Bowling Green. Nothing to really write home about. They also were absolutely destroyed by Oklahoma State, and lost to a physical Detroit team. This isn't exactly a great team, but it's not one that Alabama should take lightly either, especially on the road. I would probably put them on about the same level as Texas Tech. USF is led by Stan Heath, and if you remember his days at Arkansas, he always seemed to give us more trouble than he was really worth, so keep your eye on that.
Alabama is coming off of an easy win over North Florida, with the Tide rolling by 28 points. Alabama played with a lot of energy and focus in that game, which was great to see after the disappointing trip to New York. They also held the Ospreys to 25 points under their average, which is not the first time Alabama has held an opponent under their average by that large of a margin. Grant's tenacious defense is still alive and well, and that will give Alabama the opportunity to win any game on the schedule.
USF's backcourt is made up of three veteran guards who get the majority of playing time for the Bulls. Junior G Cory Allen (14 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 3.6 APG, 2 SPG) is a very active guard who knows how to use his hands. Allen can play at a high level on both sides of the ball, and he is someone Alabama will need to keep in check. Senior G Martino Brock (9.3 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2 APG, 2.1 SPG) is a lengthy guard who also has a knack for taking away the basketball. Allen and Brock have combined for about 4 steals per game, which is pretty impressive. Junior G Anthony Collins (7.4 PPG, 2 RPG, 5 APG, 1.2 SPG) is no slouch on the defensive side either. Collins looks to pass when he drives, so Alabama's defense will have to account for that. Aside from those three, Sophomore G Javontae Hawkins (6 PPG, 2 RPG) and Junior G Musa Abdul-Aleem (4 PPG, 1.4 RPG) will also get some playing time off of the bench.
In the frontcourt, USF has some serious size, but they lack in experience. Arguably the Bulls best player is 6'9 Senior F Victor Rudd (14.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG 1 APG, 1 SPG, 1.1 BPG), who is an all-around player (except that he doesn't like to pass) and a true athlete. Rudd also shoots 91.7% from the free throw line, which is good enough to place him in the top 30 in the country (Trevor Releford scoffs at this of course, shooting a ridiculous 95.7%). The Bulls have a pair of young, but big guys in the low post. 6'8 Freshman F Chris Perry (8.7 PPG, 5 RPG, 1.4 BPG) and 6'10 C John Egbunu (7.6 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.1 BPG) both do a decent amount of scoring and rebounding, but their ability to block shots is what will give Alabama a test in this one. Aside from those three however, USF has only one other player in the rotation. 6'7 Sophomore F Zach LeDay (2.1 PPG, 2.4 RPG) only logs about 11 MPG, so USF doesn't run very deep in the frontcourt.
What To Watch For
1. Levi Randolph. I feel like every game I have profiled a different name in this segment, which is a good thing. Alabama has shown that they have multiple ways in which they can beat you, and Randolph was that guy against UNF. Levi had a phenomenal game against the Ospreys, as he went for 20 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal. He was all over the place defensively, and really asserted himself on both ends of the court. Levi finished 7/11 from the field and 3/6 from the 3 point line. If he can start to stretch the floor consistently, watch out folks.
2. Intensity. Anthony Grant's teams have always played with a lot of intensity on the defensive side of the court, but in recent seasons, as you all know, the Tide has played really softly on offense. They have looked hesitant and unsure. But that has not been the case this season. The Crimson Tide have shown great confidence in their ability to score, and even though there have still be minutes-long scoring droughts, at least the team is creating opportunities now. I have really enjoyed watching Alabama play so far this year, and that new found confidence on offense has been the main reason why.
3 Keys to Victory
1. Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers. Alabama's biggest weakness so far this year has been their tendency to turn the ball over. Well, creating turnovers is one of USF's only strengths. The Bulls rank 71st in steals and 43rd in blocks this season. Alabama ranks 181st in turnovers, which of course isn't all steals and blocks, we have had our share of careless plays, but that's definitely the biggest concern in this game. On the road, you don't want to give the underdog team extra opportunities. Take care of the basketball (at least to a certain extent) and Alabama will come away with a decent road win.
2. Low Post Play. As I mentioned earlier in the article, USF has some big kids down in the post. They are tall and are well equipped at blocking shots. However, Perry and Egbunu, who will get most of the minutes in the post, are both freshmen. It will be up to Nick Jacobs, and to a lesser extent Carl Engstrom, to take advantage of that mental edge that experience brings. If our experienced post players can impose their will down low, they could really get in the young guys' heads. Don't underestimate the advantage that experience brings, especially in the low post.
3. SOMEBODY REBOUND. As much as I have complained about the rebounding this year, Alabama has actually done a good job on the boards. Leaps and bounds better than a year ago. Alabama is tied for 71st in rebounds per game this season, so I wanted to congratulate the players on that.This key kind of "piggy-backs" off of #2, but Jacobs and company need to corral as many rebounds as possible. Again, physical play will knock those young big guys off of their games a little bit, let's take it to them.
USF is probably a middle of the road team in
what's left of the Big East the AAC, so Alabama should come away with a victory tonight. This is not a team to take lightly, however, as going on the road against a decent team is never an easy battle. Hopefully, Alabama will take care of business here, and only Charleston Southern will seperate Alabama from now and the tough three game stretch of Wichita State, Xavier, and at UCLA. Tip off is at 8:00 pm CST and the game will be televised on the U.