2014-15 USF MBB Preview

Posted: November 3, 2014 in Basketball

Home sweet Dome.

It’s a new year and a new look for the USF basketball team. As the Bulls enter this upcoming season, they will have a lot of new faces on the bench, from the coaching staff to the set of players that will be suiting up. Let’s dig deep into the program and see what first year Coach Orlando Antigua brings to the court and how his 2014-15 roster shapes up in the AAC. It is going to be a very interesting season.

So to start, we have to look back at the 2013-14 season. It wasn’t pretty, at all. USF went just 12-20 last year with a 3-15 mark in the AAC, leading to the firing of former head coach Stan Heath.

The Bulls were just 7-10 in the Sun Dome, failing to take advantage of their home court. USF averaged just 65 PPG while allowing 70.8 PPG. USF shot just 26% from 3-point range, making them one of the worst teams in the nation shooting from beyond the arc (I think they were 2nd to last in 3 point shooting). The USF defense allowed 37% from 3-point range, making it hard to get out on the edge to defend the long range shots. The Bulls also averaged 12.8 turnovers a game and forced 11.7 a game. The team overall struggled to get anything going on offense without starting point guard Anthony Collins who was out after just 8 games due to complications to an off-season knee surgery. Overall, the offense stalled and the defense couldn’t stop anyone, leading to an ugly year that got the coach fired and sent several players leaving.

So, here we are in 2014 and the team looks very, very different compared to last year. The Bulls will have a completely new roster after the coaching change. 9 players are gone after last year. 2 graduated and 7 of them transferred out or left the program entirely. Victor Rudd who averaged 16.1 PPG graduated along with Martino Brock who averaged 9.5 PPG and was arguably the best on-ball defender the Bulls had are both gone after graduation. Others like John Egbunu, who was a promising rising center for the Bulls averaging 7.4 PPG, decided to leave leaving the roster depleted and being remade in the off-season through recruiting.

All of these players leaving will make it tough for the first year coach Orlando Antigua. The 9th overall head coach in program history, Antigua comes over from the Kentucky program, bringing a lot of experience with him and a new philosophy on the court. Antigua will want to run a much more up-tempo offense with his new roster and with the slate on the schedule, the Bulls might be able to have some success this year despite the major overhaul of the roster. It’s his first year and there will be learning pains, but he is confident in the direction he is taking the Bulls in his first year.

The Bulls have a very favorable schedule with teams like NC State, Alabama, FSU, and Bowling Green in their non-conference slate (not facing a real tough slate of teams, which is good for the young Bulls). While nothing is promised, the slate is not a lot of top 25 teams, opening the door for the young Bulls to make moves. In the AAC, the Bulls will still have to contend with Uconn, SMU, Memphis,and Cincinnati, but overall, the strength of schedule for the Bulls ranks 186th in the Pomeroy ratings, showing the Bulls have a chance to make noise with a fairly easy schedule (on paper). The real test will come in the AAC where they are slated to finish 8th in the standings. Will this team finish that low in the standings or will this rebuilt roster rise up and make noise in the first year under Coach Antigua? Let’s start by meeting the roster. Here we go.

#4 Corey Allen Jr. – 6’1″ 152 lbs. – Senior – Guard – St. Louis, MO (Ritenour HS) (Mt. San Antonio College)

Allen started 28 games last year, appearing in all 32 of them. He averaged 9 PPG (leading returning scorer) while shooting 93 for 236, totaling 289 total points. He was 22 for 71 from 3-point range (31%) and averaged 3.3 RPG (106 total), adding 88 assists (67 turnovers), 6 blocks, and 43 steals. Allen, a JUCO recruit, started the year coming off of the bench as a spark but as Anthony Collins went down for the year with his knee issue, Allen became a regular starter, working both the shooting guard and point guard position. Entering the year, Allen is the leading returning scorer for the Bulls and a lot of pressure is on his shoulders to become a scoring force for the Bulls. He is a fast, quick guard, but isn’t too big. I expect Allen to be a starter on day one and to be very effective in a more up-tempo offense under Coach Antigua. Look for him to be one of the leading scorers this year and to be one of the leaders for the team. Him teaming up with Anthony Collins the backcourt could be a lot of fun.

#13 Jake Bodway – 6’2″ 191 lbs. – Redshirt freshman – Guard – Minneapolis, MN (Bloomington Jefferson HS)

Bodway joined the team last year as a walk-on, but did not see any playing time. Let’s be real honest, his chances of playing this year are very thin and he might only see the court in games where the decision is already settled or there is foul trouble all over the place for the team.

#0 Dre Clayton – 6’6″ 245 lbs. – Redshirt freshman – Forward – Orlando, FL (Marynard Evans HS)

Clayton took a redshirt last year as he recovered and conditioned after he tore his Achilles in his senior season in high school. In his junior year, he averaged 11 PPG and 7.6 rebounds per game, rated a 3-star recruit by the recruiting sites. Clayton is a very intriguing player entering the year. He’s finally healthy and slimmed down and ready to run. He is has the size and length but is still a raw talent. He will get plenty of playing time this year but he isn’t likely a starter on opening day (in my opinion). I would think he would get minutes increased throughout the year and will continue to get better on the wing and in the paint. If he is able to rebound and adding a scoring edge inside and at the mid-range level, the minutes are his to take.

#11 Anthony Collins – 6’1″ 175 lbs. – Junior – Guard – Houston, TX (Westbury Christian HS)

The heart and soul of the team returns after a tough 2013 season. Collins had had off-season surgery last year to remove an inflamed bursa sac from his knee. The surgery went well, but the knee didn’t recover how it was suppose to so and Collins was never a factor in 2013. He played in 8 games, averaging 6.9 PPG, 1.6 RPG, and added 47 assists (28 turnovers), 2 blocks, and had 12 steals in very limited playing time. Collins is the catalyst for the USF offense. In 2012, when he was healthy, he added 194 assists, the 4th most in a single season in program history. He is a play-making point guard that plays low to the court, gets into the defense, and sets up everyone around him with his great passing.

Collins was one of the biggest reasons the Bulls made the NCAA tournament 3 years ago but he was hurt last year and was never the same. He got the medical redshirt waiver from the NCAA and is a junior to enter the year.  He is healthy for once and conditioned to run this new offense that Coach Antigua wants to run. With Colins back at the point guard spot, things will be very different for the Bulls moving forward. He is the biggest weapon the Bulls have and if his new and improved mid-range jumper lives up to the hype, Collins could have a historic year for the Bulls. Look for him to lead the team and be behind everything that happens on offense.

#15 Jaleel Cousins – 6’10” 260 lbs. – Junior – Center – Spanish Fort, Alabama (Navarro College)

The brother of NBA starter DeMarcus Cousins, Jaleel is a JUCO recruit that adds big time size and rebounding inside the paint for the Bulls. Last year for Navarro College, Cousins averaging 3.7 PPG and 2.9 RPG while shooting 47% from the field. Cousins is a big body that has a lot of potential in the paint for the Bulls. He isn’t a polished shooter and will need a lot of work on offense, but his size and ability to rebound are going to be huge for the Bulls? Will he be a starter? That is hard question to answer at this point considering the Bulls wanting to run more up-tempo. If he is in shape to run the pace the Bulls want, he could start, but I think he comes in off the bench to give the Bulls a big body in the paint throughout games. He could be a starter for some games depending on who the Bulls are matched up against in each game.

#33 Ruben Guerrero – 6’10” 210 lbs. – Freshman – Center/Forward – Malaga, Spain (Sunrise Christian Academy)

Guerrero, a 3-star recruit, averaged 9.3 PPG and 8.5 RPG during his senior season and brings a ton of potential to the court. He is a tall, lanky player that could play center. He added more weight in the off-season and should be ready to take over in the center but still could play at the forward part. He has the range to take outside shots, but with the added weight I would think the center spot is more likely this year for him.  The real question for him is where he plays on the court. Is he a starting center with Chris Perry and others like Dre Clayton and others playing at small forward? Or will he play on the wing and others like Jaleel Cousins play in the middle to give the Bulls more size on the court? It will be very interesting to see how the Bulls use his unique size and skill set on the court this year. Look for him to split time with Cousins at center this year, mixing and matching depending on who they are facing in each game.

#25 Troy Holston – 6’4″ 187 lbs. – Freshman – Guard – Tampa, FL (Oldsmar Christian HS)

Rated a 3-star recruit by Scout.com and the 28th best SG in the nation, Holston is probably one of the players I’m most eager to watch. The big and talented guard averaged 23 PPG last year and had the attention of programs like K-State, Memphis, Marquette among that offered him but he decided to stay home and that is huge for the Bulls. Holston is a scoring machine that can finish strong at the rim but also has a very good long range game, making him an offensive weapon. The question for Holston stands like this, he is a starter? If the starting rotation has Collins at PG and Corey Allen Jr. at the SG spot, then its off the bench for Holston. Holston is a huge prospect for the Bulls and will be immediate offense and spark for the offense no matter what role he takes to start the year. Look for him to play a lot this year and to help add more perimeter shooting for the offense.

#30 Dinero Mercurius – 6’4″ 165 lbs. – Freshman – Guard – Bronix, NY (Faith Baptist Christian HS)

Mercurius played his last two years in Brandon, FL. In his senior season, he averaged 17 PPG and 6 APG a game (rated as a 2-star recruit). Mercurius is a lanky guard that has the ability to shoot and extend to the basket. He can set up his teammmates but has the skills to shoot from long range and finish at the basket. Considering how bad the Bulls were from long range, Mercurius has a chance to get on the court and see plenty of minutes this year if he is able to consistently hit shots from range. I think he comes off the bench to start the year and should be a nice addition in the backcourt for the offense.

#5 Nehemias Morillo – 6’6″ 220 lbs. – Junior – Guard – Santiago, Dominican Republic (Monroe College)

Morillo has a similar skill set like Mercurius. He is a lanky guard that has range, averaged 12.2 PPG and 4 APG last year at the JUCO level, but has more experience in the college ranks. He plays the 2nd guard position but might be able to slide over to the 3 spot on offense, allowing for Allen to play in the backcourt, but giving the Bulls a guard at the spot who has some size. Again, it all comes down to what kind of offense the Bulls will run this year. If they go smaller and want to keep Chris Perry in center, then I could see a player like Morillo getting the start. No matter what, he will see plenty of playing time this year.

#1 Chris Perry – 6’8″ 242 lbs. – Sophomore – Forward/Center – Bartow, FL (Bartow HS)

Perry started 10 games last year, playing in all 32. He averaged 8.9 PPG (112 for 222, 50%), averaging 5.3 RPG (170 total), 14 assists, 24 blocks, and 9 steals while being named AAC all freshman team last year (was also rookie of the week 5 times during the year). Perry didn’t leave at the end of last year but instead rededicated himself to the new up-temp style of offense and lost weight while getting into even better shape for the upcoming season. The big question for Perry is what position does he play this year? The Bulls have few proven big men with college experience outside of Jaleel Cousins. Do the Bulls put Perry at center and go with a smaller starting lineup or leave him at the 4 spot and put in Cousins or Guerrero at center and go with a bigger lineup? I think Coach Antigua will adjust throughout the year depending on the opponent but no matter who we face, look for Perry to get a lot of playing time and possibly to start each game in his sophomore season. Perry is one of the big key parts of this team in 2014. Look for him to become a leader and force inside the paint.

#3 Roddy Peters – 6’3″ 195 lbs. – Sophomore – Guard – District Heights, MD (Suitland HS) (Maryland)

Peters transferred to USF after one year at Maryland. He has to sit out this year due to NCAA transfer rules and will have 2 years remaining after this year. Peters made 10 starts last year for the Terrapins (playing in 32 games) while averaging 4.1 PPG, 1.3 RPG and 2.1 APG. Peters was a highly touted guard coming out of high school and showed some signs last year for Maryland but did struggle at times on offense to find a consistent shot. A year on the bench learning and hitting the practice courts will be a great opportunity for Peters moving forward. Peters has the speed and skill to be a point guard for the Bulls but just needs to time to learn and get better.

#35 Bo Zeigler – 6’6″ 198 lbs. – Redshirt freshman – Guard/Forward – Detroit, MI (Community HS)

Zeigler, like Clayton, redshirt last year. He is a player that has the size needed to either play at guard or at the small forward position. He is very athletic and a player that many wanted to see last year but it just never came together for the Bulls. This year, he is a unknown that could become a regular for the Bulls, either as a starter or coming off of the bench. The problem with Zeigler and guessing what he will be is just not seeing him in action before. It will be very interesting to see what Zeigler can do this year no matter what role the coaching staff has him playing in.

Season outlook: The pre-season poll has the Bulls finishing 8th in the 11 team league and there are several factors that are going into it. The first, the roster overhaul. Over 60% of the scoring from last year is gone and the 2014-15 roster is a group of players that are unknowns. Outside of Perry, Allen, and Collins (played just 8 games last year) no one else saw minutes last year leaving a lot of unknowns and questions entering the year. The other part is Coach Antigua in general. He’s got the pedigree coming from Kentucky, is known for his recruiting and seems to be the man for the job, but this is first go at coaching as the main man. Can he handle in game situations? Can he coach the intricate xs and os for an entire game against different foes? No one knows. There are so many unknowns surrounding this time I honestly can’t predict what will happen? Will they finish dead last? It’s possible, just look at the roster and tell me where the offense will come from outside of Allen, Collins, and Perry. It isn’t easy to do. The polls are in the same boat, there is no way to know how this team will come together in 2014. Will he had a rough year, possibly. As Joey Knight pointed out, Billy Donovan had 2 rough years at Florida and many wanted him gone but look at how that program has turned out. All I am saying is that fans should keep expectations in check for this year and be prepared for a lot of growing pains.

I think this team will win around 12 to 15 games this year and I say that with a blind fold on and shooting into the night sky. I have no idea how this team will do in 2014. Could they make it to an NIT appearance with a healthy Collins lobbing dunks to Perry, of course they could! But we could also see a team that is out of sync and learning on the fly, making mistakes and causing headaches on the way to multiple losses. Buckle in and get ready for a very interesting year. It will have all sorts of ups and downs and for the fans, we have to be ready for it all.

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