USF features a strong frontline – a taste of things to come for the Mountaineers in the Big East. Center Solomon Jones (Sr., 6-10, 230 lbs.) is the power player inside, averaging 13.3 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. He's also a shot blocker of the first order, having served up 48 Wilsonburgers so far this year, good for fourth in the country. Flanking Jones is a pair of strongly built forwards, Melvin Buckley and McHugh Mattis. Buckley (Jr., 6-6, 220 lbs.) averages 12.5 points and 5.7 boards per game, and is one of the two true three-point threats on the team, having made 29 treys this year. Mattis (Jr., 6-6, 190 lbs.) is shooting 60% from the field and averaging ten points per contest after moving into the starting lineup earlier this year.
The situation on the perimeter is a bit shakier. James Holmes is the Bulls' leading scorer at 19.6 points per game, but his 57 turnovers offset many of those points. Holmes (Sr., 6-2, 195 lbs.) must do a better job of protecting the ball if USF is to make any noise in the league. Running mate Chris Capko (Jr., 6-1, 185 lbs.) does a littler better job with the rock as he leads the team in assists with 81, but he has a team-high 67 turnovers which again counteracts the good effects of his passing ability.
Capko's status is in doubt after suffering a head injury in USF's last outing, and if he can't go, Roodly Prophete (Fr., 5-9, 150 lbs.) could get the call. Prophete has appeared in just eight games this year, but with sophomore guard Collin Dennis still hobbled by a bad ankle and likely out for the game, Prophete may be the only option for the Bulls in the backcourt.
USF is similarly thin up front, where Melvyn Richardson (Jr., 6-7, 235 lbs.) is the only sub with any appreciable time. Richardson, who started five games this year, has been somewhat unproductive in his 18 minutes per game, averaging just 2.9 points and 3.2 rebounds per contest.
West Virginia has righted its ship after a late November three-game losing streak, but has allowed itself little room for error if it hopes to make a repeat trip to the NCAAs. While the Bulls have struggled early, they still have the ability to knock off the Mountaineers if WVU does not play well.
|Mon Nov 21|
WVU 8-3, 0-0
USF 6-7, 0-0
WVU - 136
USF - 248
Of more interest, and concern, for WVU is its rotation. By this point, Beilein surely hoped that Rob Summers would be providing more minutes than he has, or that freshman Joe Alexander would have shown the maturity to give some help off the bench. Instead, WVU is limited to a seven-man rotation, with Summers contributing just a couple of minutes per game off the bench. Will Beilein continue to employ that lineup and risk wearing his team down through the long Big East season? He may have no choice, but this game could be one of the final chances he gets to identify that eight player before things get decidedly tougher.
USF is a turnover-prone team, averaging more than 21 giveaways per contest. Look for WVU to extend its 1-3-1 zone to pressure the Bulls' guards, especially if Capko is unable to play.
USF: Chris Capko (Head) Doubtful, Collin Dennis (Ankle) Out, Zaronn Cann (Knee) Out
South Florida began basketball play in 1971-72 and didn't join a conference until five years later, when it joined the Sun Belt. Since then, it has been a member of the Metro and Conference USA before joining the Big East at the start of this season.
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The long wait for Patrick Beilein could end tonight, as he needs just one more three-point basket to tie the career school record of 200. That mark is currently owned by Chris Leonard, who wore the gold and blue from 1989 through 1992. tonight would also be a nice time for Beilein to shake the shooting woes that have plagued him for much of his senior season to date. He is just 24-76 from behind the arc – not a bad percentage, but not up to his standards.
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USF, forward Zaronn Cann, who was heavily recruited by WVU, has continued to be plagued by the effects of a knee injury he suffered in high school. Cann has played in just four games for the Bulls, and averaged only seven minutes per outing in those contests.
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So far this season, 70 points is the magic number for the Mountaineer defense. West Virginia is 8-0 when holding foes under that total, but has lost all three games in which opponents topped the 70-point mark.
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Melvin Buckley and James Holmes are the only two Bulls to have made a three-pointer this year. The rest of the Bull roster is a combined 0-11 from beyond the arc.