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Bama Basketball Breakdown: South Florida

Alabama returns home after the big trip to Kansas City last week

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off of the first win away from home since beating Tennessee in the 2013 SEC Tournament, Alabama (4-1) returns to Coleman Coliseum to take on the South Florida Bulls (5-1). The Tide will be looking to avenge last season's disappointing 66-64 loss in Tampa, while simultaneously adding another decent win to the resume. The Bulls haven't played many quality opponents yet, and they have had their struggles in those games, but the lone loss was on the road against a solid NC State team. USF hasn't been lighting up the scoreboard by any stretch, but they are ranked 28th in the country in FG%, showing that they know how to take good shots. Another thing the Bulls have excelled at is their ability to protect the rim. They are 17th in the country, averaging 6.5 BPG. Orlando Antigua is in his first year as the Bulls head coach after a long, successful stint as one of John Calipari's top assistants at both Memphis and Kentucky.

Starting FIve

  • PG Anthony Collins (10.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 7.3 APG, 2.3 SPG)
  • SG Corey Allen (15.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.0 SPG)
  • 3G Nehemias Morillo (11.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.5 APG)
  • SF Bo Zeigler (6.5 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.3 BPG)
  • PF Chris Perry (13.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 1.3 BPG)

The Bulls have an athletic, albeit shorter, bunch that plays for most of the game. Collins and Allen are only 6'1, Morillo is 6'5, Zeigler is 6'6, and Perry is 6'8. However, they can shoot the ball effectively despite the lack of size (Collins: 56.1%, Allen: 55.7%, Morillo 50.0%, Zeigler: 51.4%, Perry: 50.8%). All five guys make at least half of their shots; that is great coaching and awesome patience on offense. Curiously, only Collins and Allen really dish the ball out. One would think that a team so effective and efficient shooting the ball would be a team full of passers, but that really isn't the case. The five starters commit, on average, 10.0 TOPG.  Allen and Perry are the main two offensive options, Allen from long range (50.0% 3P%) and Perry from inside. Perry killed Alabama with a double-double performance last season. All five guys can make impact plays defensively, so the Tide need to be careful with the basketball.

The Bench

  • G Troy Holston (6.5 PPG, 1.8 RPG)
  • G Dinero Mercurius (2.5 PPG, 1.7 RPG)
  • F Dre' Clayton (2.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG)
  • C Jaleel Cousins (4.5 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.8 BPG)
  • C Ruben Guerrero (3.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 2.5 BPG)

The crazy thing about South Florida is that they have a ton of size on their bench. Holston (6'4)  and Mercurius (6'3) aren't giants, but they have better size than some of the starters. Clayton is 6'6 as well. Then, there are the two near 7-footers in Cousins and Guerrero (6'11 a piece). Cousins is actually Demarcus Cousins' brother, which makes sense when you remember Antigua's relationship with Kentucky. Both players are extremely strong rim-protectors, and thus, they get a lot of playing time. This enables South Florida to show a lot of different looks on both sides of the court. Holston was emerging as a solid player in his freshman campaign, but an injury in the NC State game may have him still sidelined for this one. Clayton and Mercurius add depth, as both average about 12 MPG to provide relief off the bench. If Holston can't go (and he is currently doubtful for now), these two will be called on more than they are used to.

What To Watch For

  • Levi Randolph. Randolph is blossoming into a star for Alabama. It took him a while, but some guys are just late-bloomers. Regardless, this guy has been awesome for Alabama. Randolph took over the game and put the team on his back against Arizona State, leading the Tide to victory in the late stages. 20.6 PPG on 53.4% shooting, 6.2 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.4 SPG, and only 0.6 TOPG. Randolph is 35/35 for the season from the free throw line, a stat that would make even the great Trevor Releford do a double take. More than all of that though, he instills confidence in this team. Please, Levi, keep this up.
  • Randolph Aims for Record. Speaking of Levi and his ridiculous free throw performance this season, Randolph is two made free throws away from tying Alvin Lee for most consecutive free throws made in Alabama history at 39. He has hit 37 in a row dating back to last season.
  • Revenge? Although Alabama definitely has a chance to get some revenge on the USF program, the team itself might be a different story. The Bulls return only three letter-winners from last season (second fewest in NCAA D1), and as mentioned before, Antigua is in his first year there. This really is a totally different team.

Three Keys to Victory

  1. Free Throws. Surprise! Another game, another obvious "free throws are important!" key. However, we would be remiss not to discuss how important free throws have been to Alabama's success this year. The Crimson Tide come into this game 1st in the country in FT% at 81.5%. On average, Alabama gets 20.2 PPG from free throws alone. USF, meanwhile, is currently 211th in the country, sitting at 66.9% from the line. It's simple, if Alabama continues to knock down free throws at their current rate, and USF continues to struggle, it will be tough for the Bulls to go on the road and knock off the Tide.
  2. Forcing Uncomfortable Shots. Considering the lack of time spent together and the lack of experience as a team, it's pretty remarkable that USF has been so good at taking quality, high-percentage shots. The Bulls are a bad three point shooting team, ranking 240th in the country at 30.9%. However, they are a very good two point shooting team, ranking 31st in the country at 55.3% from inside the arc. If Alabama can force the Bulls to the outside by denying them dribble penetration and closing up passing lanes, it will force USF to take low-percentage shots that they aren't comfortable with.
  3. Jump Shots. USF has made a name for themselves protecting the rim. As mentioned before, they are 17th in the country at 6.5 BPG. That is very good. However, nearly all of their blocks come from their frontcourt players. Thus, it would behoove the Tide to avoid trying to take the ball to the basket with a lot of frequency. Alabama has some shooters this year, let them take advantage of the Bulls lack of height in the backcourt and air it out some. The Bulls' tendency to have their frontcourt players slide out for blocks will also allow Alabama's post players plenty of opportunities for rebounds.

After the big win over Arizona State, it is important for Alabama to come back home after Thanksgiving break and play well. USF is no slouch of a team, and they are more than capable of pulling off the upset, as they did last season. With a huge contest at Xavier coming up after this one, Alabama can't afford a home stumble.

The game will get started at 8:00 PM CST and will be televised on the SEC Network.