South Florida is a team in search of itself.
Coach Stan Heath has been mixing and matching in part because he's been getting great contributions from new players and in part due to injury, but the result is that he is learning different things about different players.
Mike Burwell is a guard who was barely playing until Anthony Crater, the starting point guard, suffered an ankle injury. Thrust into the fray against Liberty, Burwell hit his first shot and scored 15 points on 5 of 7 shooting from behind the arc.
That led Liberty coach Dale Layer to say:
"I don't know where he's been, I don't know what shooting drill he's been working on, but all that was very, very helpful and effective for the Bulls. My question to (USF coach) Stan (Heath) would be, why hasn't he been starting and playing every minute?"
Heath gives Burwell a lot of credit, telling the Tampa Tribune:
"Give Mike Burwell a lot of credit. Guy hadn't played more than maybe about five minutes in a game and I thought he really stepped up," Heath said. "He earned his keep tonight."
"Coach kept telling me, just be prepared, keep working hard, you never know what's going to happen, your card might get called," Burwell said. "So I came out here and just wanted to play hard."
Anderson, a transfer from Kansas State who sat out last year, pulled down 17 rebounds in his first start against Liberty after having averaged 10 points a game off the bench. He then went back to the bench and scored 16 in 21 minutes against Texas Tech.
--Go figure. Augustus Gilchrist came into the Liberty game off a perfect 8-for-8 shooting night against Georgia Southern, scoring 23 points and pulling down seven rebounds. Next time out, against Liberty, Gilchrist was 0-for-3 shooting with three points and 3 rebounds.
--When Ron Anderson Jr. pulled down 15 first-half rebounds against Liberty it tied the South Florida school record for a half.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Coach Stan Heath likes to see his team play hardnosed defense and he's been getting that through the early season. The Bulls, with inside strength from Augustus Gilchrist and Ron Anderson Jr., are out-rebounding their opponents by more than six rebounds a game. They are holding their opponents to less than 60 points a game, having their best day against Liberty, who scored only 43 points and shot just 29.2 percent from the floor. The defense will improve when PG Anthony Crater, a defensive specialist, comes back from an ankle injury.
STRENGTHS: The Bulls are beginning to take on the look of a Big East team, playing strong defense and rebounding. What's more, they now have depth for the first time since coach Stan Heath took over. In the St. Francisco game, the reserves actually outscored the starts with 38 points to 36. Ron Anderson Jr. and Shaun Noriega came off the bench in that game to score 16 and 15 respectively.
WEAKNESSES: The main thing Heath has to do now is come up with some consistency. He is still juggling the lineup and the playing time and is trying to get the talented Augustus Gilchrist to be a dominant inside player on a regular basis. The Bulls also have to handle the ball better, having more turnovers than assists already, long before playing the first Big East game of the year when the defensive heat will really be turned out.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Ron Anderson has really got out of the gate real strong for us and demonstrated his ability to really contribute at a high level." -- USF coach Stan Heath, to the Tampa Tribune, on Kansas State transfer Ron Anderson before he contributed 17 rebounds against Liberty.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
RECRUITING RETURNS: Coach Stan Heath is thinking big at South Florida.
Heath went out and recruited a couple of giant inside players in the early signing period in Andre Jackson and Tolulope "Jordan" Omogbehin.
Both recruits bring tremendous size to the Bulls as Jackson is a 6-10, 285-pound center from Lee College in Texas, and Omogbehin is a 7-3, 291-pound center from Atlantic Shores Christian in Virginia.
Jackson, a true post who can also step out and shoot the 15-footer, averaged 9.2 points and 6.0 rebounds in his first season with Lee College in Baytown, Texas. Listed at 300 pounds a year ago, Jackson has dropped down to 285 pounds and has good touch around the basket.
Omogbehin, originally from Lagos, Nigeria, plays had stops at National Christian Academy and Montrose Christian. At NCA, he averaged 15 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocked shots per game last season.
DECEMBER OUTLOOK: South Florida roars into winter with eight December games, including getting off and running with a pair of Big East games between Christmas and New Year's.
The Bulls open the month with a really difficult challenge, taking on strong VCU team from the Colonial Conference on Dec. 1 in Tampa. VCU gave Tennessee a scare on Nov. 25 and is one of the pre-season favorites from the Colonial.
In mid-December there are a couple of non-conference tests that should prove to be difficult, playing Auburn at home on Dec. 15 and facing an improving James Madison team, again from the Colonial, on Dec. 18 at home.
That should have the Bulls game-tough for the conference opener at Seton Hall on Dec. 28 and then again on the road at UConn on New Year's Eve.
--Ron Anderson Jr. is a forward who sat out last year after transferring from Kansas State. He had come off the bench this season until starting in the Liberty game. He scored seven points and pulled down 17 rebounds -- 15 in the second half -- in making the most of his first start.
--USF has only one freshman on its roster, LaVonte Dorrity, a guard who was being used sparingly until the Liberty game when he played 17 minutes and scored seven points with a couple of assists.
--G Anthony Crater, a defensive specialist who transferred from Ohio State, had been logging the most minutes on the team until he missed the Liberty game with an ankle injury. His return is uncertain.