South Florida Preview by Jeff Wolf

USF is 1-6 in Big East play, despite the play of their superstar in the frontcourt. Marquette barely beat USF last year, relying on a Jerel McNeal layup at the buzzer to propel them to victory. MUHoops looks at this year's version of the Bulls.

University of South Florida Bulls

Tampa, Florida

(10-10, 1-6 Big East)

Head Coach Stan Heath (1st season)

Projected Starters:

C – Kentrel Gransberry (Sr.; 6-9, 270)

F – Orane Chin (Fr.; 6-7 195)

G – Dominique Jones (Fr.; 6-4, 205)

G – Chris Howard (So.; 6-3, 200)

G – Jesus Verdejo (Jr.; 6-4, 205)

Key Reserves:

G – Solomon Bozeman (So.; 6-0, 165)

G/F – Aaron Holmes (Fr.; 6-5, 185)

The USF Bulls are reeling right now. They are the victims of six straight double-digit losses after winning their conference opener against Rutgers, the latest loss an 80-60 drubbing at the hands of Louisville on Wednesday.

First-year coach Stan Heath twice took Arkansas to NCAA tourney in six seasons there, but he has his work cut out for him in Tampa. He has a superstar in Kentrel Gransberry, but his supporting cast is very young and inexperienced bunch.

The Bulls are a poor free-throw shooting team – their team percentage of 62.9 is last in Big East, and two of their starters shoot under 55.0 percent. And they have been outrebounded and outscored in conference play despite the presence of the one of the best low-post scorers in the nation. The Bulls do have a favorable assist-to-turnover ratio, but it's not because they take care of the ball especially well – they just get a lot of assists.

Gransberry is considered by scouts as a solid mid-to-late second-round pick in the NBA. The LSU transfer, who played his JUCO ball at San Jacinto (Texas), has 11 double-doubles already this season and 24 in his career. He is the lone consistent scoring threat on his team, and everyone on the building knows it. Gransberry is averaging 17.1 points-per-game on the season (good for eighth in the Big East) and 21.0 ppg in seven conference games. He gets touches inside on every possession and tries to carry his team every game, yet he doesn't force things too often when he catches the ball in a bad position and has the presence of mind to make good passes out to the wing. And when he does attack the basket, with a bevy of polished post moves, he usually converts. His 54.0 field goal percentage ranks him tenth in the conference in that category.

"He's an outstanding player and one of the quickest post-ups in the country" said Marquette head coach Tom Crean. "He's been hard to get to, and if he gets the ball something good usually happens for them."

If there were one word to best describe the play of Gransberry, it would be ‘relentless.' He is a strong offensive rebounder that has the strength and concentration to keep putting the ball back up until he converts. His rebounding average of 10.8 boards per game ranks seventh in the nation and first in the Big East. His 75 offensive rebounds are also first in the conference.

Free-throw shooting is the only major hole in his game. Gransberry shoots only 52.2 percent (71-136) from the line, and it seems safe to say that teams can resort to the ‘hack-a-Kent' treatment should they find themselves in a close game with the Bulls late. Of course, even when you foul him, it's still hard to stop Gransberry from scoring.

If USF had at just one more player to contribute in the paint, they would be a force to be reckoned with in the Big East. However, that is not the case. Nobody else on the roster averages more than 4.6 rebounds per game. Therefore, despite the dominance of Gransberry, the team only averages about two rebounds per game more than its opponents, and they have a three rebound deficit in conference games.

The rest of USF's rotation consists primarily of perimeter players, many of them three-point shooters, who try to complement Gransberry's play from outside.

Freshman Dominique Jones is the Bulls' primary shooting threat, converting 41.7 percent of his three-point shots, and his 15.3 ppg average is good for 12th best in the Big East. When Jones is hot, he is dangerous. He had two 30-point games in non-conference play, and went 5-5 from deep in the win over Rutgers. However, Jones is also very streaky (all 15 of his points against Louisville came in the second half, for example) and takes a lot of shots regardless. Jones also has 35 steals on the season and his 62 assists ranks second on the team.

Point guard Chris Howard is one of the best pure point-guards in the conference, as his 5.4 assist-per-game average ranks him third among Big East players. His 107 assists on the season account for about a third of the team total, and his 1.75:1 assist-to-turnover ratio is notable for a sophomore. Howard also averages 10.8 ppg, but he does not take that many outside shots. Like most of the Bulls players, Howard is not a great free-throw shooter, converting under 70 percent from the line.

Jesus Verdejo, a junior who began his college career at Arizona, averages 10.0 ppg and shoots 37.3 percent from beyond the arc. His 78.6 free-throw percentage is best among USF's starters.The Bulls do not get much scoring from their bench. Aaron Holmes, a freshman who sat last season and a portion of this season after transferring from Florida State, is the leading contributor at 5.8 ppg. Guard Solomon Bozeman is the team's best free-throw shooter at 88.5 percent (23-26). Forward Adamu Saaka has started five games for the Bulls and will also see time.


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