It has been extremely difficult for Stan Heath, now in his 25th year as a head coach, to figure out exactly what kind of team he is going to bring into Big East play because he hasn't really had his team together due to injuries.
The Big East, of course, is hard enough, but if you don't have a team that is used to working together, players that know where they are and where they will be, you are at a disadvantage.
"Those are three starters that have missed significant parts of this early season, but the team over the past week has gained practice time which we have not had due to the lack of bodies and no time between games."
At this point practicing with each other -- especially with a freshman point guard in Collins -- is as important as playing games together.
"Practicing has really helped us get a better understanding on how to play with each other, learn out system and I believe execute better and be effective offensively, which we need to do."
If Collins can run the point as Heath expects and if he can keep Gilchrist healthy, this is a team that has a chance to take a large step forward this season.
--One of the keys in the Big East is defense and USF looks as though it is capable of defending the 3-point line, holding six of seven teams at one point to less than 34.5 percent shooting from 3.
--F Augustus Gilchrist is rapidly approaching the 1,000-point mark, needing just 34 after his return from injury against Kansas.
--In just his second game as a Bull, sophomore transfer Victor Rudd scored 30 points on 11 of 12 field goal shooting against Marist. The last Bull to reach 30 points in a game was Augustus Gilchrist on Feb. 26 this year with 32 against DePaul.
PLAYER TO WATCH: PG Anthony Collins -- No coach likes to turn his team over to a freshman at the point, but South Florida had a big need there and it became apparent after the first couple of games and Stan Heath turned to Anthony Collins out of Texas. At Westbury Christian in Houston, Texas, Collins won a couple of private and parochial school state titles.
"It was important for us to improve our guard play heading into the 2011-12 season. We're excited to have Anthony Collins join the basketball program," Heath said after Collins committed to South Florida. "He has terrific ball skills and passing skills. Anthony is a pure point guard who can run a basketball team and he has the tenacity to defend at the other end of the court. He should make our guard play go to another level and should make our basketball team a lot better."
KEY CONFERENCE GAME: Jan. 1 vs. Rutgers -- South Florida gets to see just where it is early in the Big East season as it opens with two home games, the second one against a team that figures to be on the same level in Rutgers. If South Florida can hold its own with a second-tier team on its home court, it could well be a sign of progress and improvement. The Bulls are not yet ready to take on the top teams in the Big East.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Our offense flows a lot better, crisper. I know sometimes you're wondering 'What the heck are they running?' (Collins) gets in the game, and it's, 'Oh, I see. It looks good. It's a pretty good offense.' He makes a difference in how you run things. He is ... a true point guard that can run your team. Everybody gets more involved with a guy like Collins on the floor." -- Bulls Coach Stan Heath on why he made the change to the freshman Anthony Collins at point guard once he became healthy.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2010-11 CONFERENCE RECORD: 3-15, 15th place.
LINEUP BREAKDOWN: The strength of the Bulls team is up front. F Augustus Gilchrist has bordered upon stardom but has been unable to stay healthy. If he can put together an entire season he could give the Bulls scoring and rebounding. The health of the team has kept anything from coming together to date. F Ron Anderson Jr. will be a force inside but he has strep throat and G Jawanza Poland is a long-distance shooter who was second in scoring on the team last year but he yet to play. F Toarlyn Fitzpatrick is a versatile player who already has rung up a couple of double-doubles. Freshman Anthony Collins has taken over at the point and looks like he might be the special kind of player who can lift those around him.
--Senior F Augustus Gilchrist, the Bulls' top inside threat, missed time with a minor left shoulder injury but has been working his way back into playing shape. Toarlyn Fitzpatrick played well with Gilchrist out and may now be nearing the kind of player he was envisioned to be.
--Coach Stan Heath picked up his first two commitments for the 2013 recruiting class, securing verbal pledges from C John Egbunu and PG Drew Davis, teammates with the AAU club, Team Georgia Elite. Egbunu is an intriguing 7-foot, 240-pound prospect. He's only been playing basketball in the U.S. a year, but he also was being recruited by Clemson, Nebraska, Georgia Tech and Memphis.
--Backup PG Lavonte Dority, who opened the season as the starting point guard but lost his job, is transferring from South Florida.
--GF Jawanza Poland served a two-game suspension but is expected to be back shortly. Poland has yet to play due to injury and the suspension. He was last year's second leading scorer.
--Freshman PG Anthony Collins had to sit out the first five games of the season due to injury before winning the starting job upon his return.
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