Not much to analyze here. USF scored all of their 58 points in the paint or at the foul line, because it was so easy to get out in transition or work it inside for a good shot. (And because they couldn’t hit an outside shot to save their life). DePaul played the first half like they had checked out of their hotel before coming to the Garden, and only made the game mildly interesting in the second half.

Dominique Jones had 20 points, taking over second place on USF’s all-time single-season scorer with 660 points. He also broke the single-season USF record for free throws made, and now sits at 192. Charlie Bradley scored a ridiculous 901 points in 1982-83, which may never be broken, and he held the free throw record, too.

The one thing that bothers me heading into tomorrow is that they didn’t completely put the Blue Demons away to give their rotation players some rest. It only would have taken one good push at the start of the second half to put the lead up above 20 points and allow Heath to put Ryan Kardok or Mike Burwell or Shaun Noriega in the game for awhile. Instead, Chris Howard played 39 minutes and Jones played 37.

This week’s Biggest Game in Two Decades is tomorrow at noon, against Georgetown. It’s on ESPN, so either record it at home, or do what you need to do to watch it.

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USF-DePaul Haiku

March 9, 2010

Who Needs Three-Pointers?
Bulls Win Their Twentieth Game
Must win tomorrow.

You said it. I know you did. I did too. After USF laid an egg at home against St. John’s, everyone thought the dream was dead. There was no way the Bulls could squeak into the NCAA tournament. It was over. But now USF has won their last three, and they’re headed to New York with a 9-9 conference record, 19-11 overall. It’s the exact scenario I wondered about a month ago. A win against DePaul on Tuesday gives them their first 20-win season since 1990. Then another win might get their ticket punched. All I know is that this is a hell of a lot more fun than treating any conference win like it was time to cut down the nets.

There were two big stories today. One was USF’s hustle and intensity. They were after every loose ball hard, and got most of them. They even did some good work when the Huskies tried a zone. And they were by far the more aggressive team. Getting to the rim was a priority today, and it led to easy baskets and a big free-throw advantage. They shot 53% from the field and only took six threes.

The second was UConn being so flat from the end of the first half to the start of the second that Jim Calhoun pulled all five Huskies on the court at the 16:04 mark, including seniors Jerome Dyson, Gavin Edwards, and Stanley Robinson. None of them returned to the game. USF took full advantage of their – let’s just say it – laziness to get open baskets and shut them down defensively. That 17-1 run spanned from the end of the first half to the beginning of the second. It broke open the game, and it was enough of a cushion for the Bulls to hang on when it got close.

(Not as ballsy of a move as it seems, by the way. I mean what did Calhoun have to lose at that point? They were gonna get beat by 25 points if he didn’t do something. What he did was instill, in my opinion, a work ethic that’s as good as any team in our league and almost any league in the country. Translation: They suck but they try hard. Yeah, I got a little tired of all his stupid pat-on-the-head quotes.)

One thing to work on – you can tell the Bulls aren’t used to having big leads because they aren’t totally sure what to do when teams start pressing and fouling to try and get back in it. It happened a little bit against Cincinnati and obviously it happened today. The nice thing was that everyone contributed a little bit down the stretch to hold on. Chris Howard made some big free throws, Famous had a clutch putback, and Gilchrist had a huge block in the final 30 seconds to pretty much seal the game.

USF-UConn Haiku

March 6, 2010

Bulls win a HUGE Game
Control Their own Destiny
Two More Freakin Wins

Back in the Seth Greenberg era, USF would always hang around the bubble until the end of the regular season, and then they’d go out on the road in the last game or two and crap the bed against Southern Miss or UAFB or some other horrible team. (Why UAFB? That’s another story for another time.) They’d get stomped by 25 points and make sure there was absolutely no chance of postseason play. And now history is repeating itself. The Bulls went up to Chicago tonight to play an 8-20 DePaul team, with an interim coach, in front of about 1500 lethargic fans, and sure enough they got…

Wait, what’s that?

They won?

Oh. Well then.

The difference between this team and those give-up teams was that tonight, USF made adjustments on offense and kept playing hard on defense. Back in those days, the whole team would go limp when things started fading, and they’d give up like 90 points. Tonight, the Bulls had the poise and the patience to figure out what they needed to do to win the game against a stubborn opponent.

This is going to sound crazy but I don’t think the Bulls played as badly as it seems. I know they only shot 38.5%, but they missed a bunch of good shots, especially in the paint and especially in the first half. It was like they were shooting at one of those sleazy carnival rims that’s shaped like an oval and the ball just barely fits through it. Even the made shots rattled in. If USF finished at the basket at their normal rate, they would have won going away. The microphones under the baskets picked up the Bulls’ frustration several times as shots they normally make teetered on the edges of the rims and then fell off. (Mike Mercer was the most annoyed.) They also fought the ball all night, fumbling passes and struggling to corral rebounds. Even the go-ahead 3-pointer from Dominique Jones came off a loose ball that landed in DoJo’s hands.

And what about DoJo? He was ice cold tonight, shooting only 4-for-17. In the second half I lost my cool and tweeted “Y’ALL COME WATCH DOMINIQUE JONES MISS OUTSIDE SHOTS” as he missed another contested three, but he also had plenty of open looks and made practically none of them. That’s one of the things i liked about him tonight, though. He didn’t have his shot at all, but he found other ways to get involved. DoJo picked up seven rebounds and stayed aggressive with the ball, ultimately scoring half of his 20 points at the foul line. Then, when the game ended up in his hands, he wasn’t afraid to take the shot, and he finally made one.

DePaul ran their offense through underrated Mac Koshwal, and the Bulls struggled to cover him. Only occasionally were they able to slow him down, usually with a double-team. He had 24 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks. Fortunately, other than Will Walker, who added 16, the Blue Demons just don’t have enough players to compete with almost anyone else in the Big East. I feel bad for them a bit, because it’s like watching the USF of 2-3 years ago. They certainly play hard, and when the Bulls started to get on a run in the middle of the second half, they kept it together and ultimately tied the game.

It was ugly and a lot harder than it had to be, but they won the game and that’s the important thing. The regular season ends with a big game on Saturday afternoon against Connecticut, who USF has never beaten. I can hear Jim Calhoun warming up his pithy condescending quotes already. Bring it on, you cranky old bastard. Maybe we can fly this Ken Krayeske guy in and create another postgame freakout.

P.S. Nice cheap shot by ESPNU, putting this graphic up over a long shot of DePaul’s interim coach Tracy Webster. I’m not kidding, it was the highlight of the game for me. And it was a source of inspiration…

USF-DePaul Haiku

March 2, 2010

The Dream is Alive!
Bulls win While Playing C Game
NOW GET TO THE DOME!

USF Outruns Providence 99-93

February 28, 2010

I saw the final score and thought to myself, “Well, Providence plays so fast. Both teams must have had the ball a bunch of times, that’s why the score was so high. USF isn’t that bad at defense.” So I figured out the teams’ offensive efficiency for the game. You take the number of possessions by a team in the game and divide the number of points they scored by it. (Often the stat is multiplied by 100 and expressed as a ratio – I didn’t bother doing that.) I calculated it for the Bulls’ last 10 games just to see if this game was some kind of anomaly.

USF OPPONENTS - LAST 10 GAMES
Providence - 105 points, 114 possessions - .921
Seton Hall - 74 points, 103 possessions - .718
Pittsburgh - 61 points, 91 possessions - .670
Georgetown - 64 points, 93 possessions - .688
Notre Dame - 65 points, 95 possessions - .684
Marquette  - 63 points, 88 possessions - .716
Cincinnati - 57 points, 89 possessions - .640
St. John's - 74 points, 89 possessions - .831
Villanova  - 74 points, 98 possessions - .755
Providence - 93 points, 100 possessions - .930

USF OFFENSE - LAST 10 GAMES
Providence - 109 points, 123 possessions - .887
Seton Hall - 76 points, 99 possessions - .768
Pittsburgh - 70 points, 95 possessions - .739
Georgetown - 72 points, 95 possessions - .758
Notre Dame - 62 points, 92 possessions - .674
Marquette  - 52 points, 104 possessions - .500
Cincinnati - 65 points, 84 possessions - .774
St. John's - 58 points, 84 possessions - .691
Villanova  - 49 points, 93 possessions - .527
Providence - 99 points, 106 possessions - .934

So you can’t blame pace. Both teams just stunk defensively. USF was a bit better, obviously because they didn’t give up as many points, but because Providence made several contested shots in the half-court offense, even contested threes.

On the other hand, the Friars were unbelievably bad at transition defense. To tweak a phrase from Ed Olczyk, it was tremendously untremendous. Part of this was tactics – they love to crash the offensive glass, which helps them rebound all those threes they take. And it worked, because they got 18 offensive rebounds. But it left them with a lot of guys trapped down low when they didn’t come up with the ball, and USF exploited that all night by outletting and pushing up the court again quickly. Then other times, and especially on the game-winning basket by DoJo, guys were standing around after a made shot, and the Bulls flew out on the wings to collect long inbounds passes. They got numbers in a hurry and capitalized. I don’t know how many fast break points USF got, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was something like 30. They got out in transition a lot and Providence couldn’t stop them at all.

I really liked Stan Heath’s strategy tonight. He knew the Friars were going to make some threes, crash the boards, and get some easy baskets. It’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to match a team like that and putting up 25 of your own from beyond the arc, which obviously would have been a horrible idea with how bad the Bulls shoot the ball from outside. But they didn’t. They got the ball out on the break, got to the rim, and especially got to the foul line. People love to rip on USF when they don’t make free throws, so here’s a stat for them. The Bulls were 32-for-38 from the line tonight, the most they’ve made in a game since 1991 and tied for the fifth-most in school history.

Gus Gilchrist looked as good as he has since he came back from his injury. He was strong in the post and on the boards, and he made enough shots that defenders couldn’t leave him alone and collapse in the half-court. It also helped that Providence didn’t have anyone who could guard him. Bilal Dixon was in foul trouble the whole game and only played 15 minutes, and I don’t know who this Ray Hall guy is, but he looks like the recently departed Phil Harris of the CorneliaMarie. He might be the least athletic big man I’ve seen in the Big East. The guy didn’t have a chance.

It was an immensely entertaining game and the Bulls pulled it out in the end, delivering another brutal loss to Providence. USF should salt away an NIT bid with one more win – it would make their worst possible record 18-14, and that should be enough to get in as a Big East team with at least a little bit of an identity. That one more win should be on Tuesday against DePaul (that would also shave a loss off their worst possible record), but stranger things have happened.

P.S. I couldn’t decide who Keno Davis looks like. Eventually I narrowed it down to either Fred Savage or Patton Oswalt.