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Previewing South Florida: Bulls bring new faces and old questions to Raleigh

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

USF @ StatSheet
USF roster
USF schedule
USF 2014 stats / 2015 stats

USF Offense 13-14
Four Factors Percent National Rank
eFG% 46.2 311
TO% 19.2 243
OR% 31.6 169
FT Rate
43.8 81

When we last saw South Florida, NC State was was winning a tight NIT game in Tampa. Neither program was in a great place, obviously. State's situation improved considerably after a coaching change, and USF is hoping for the same after finally dismissing Stan Heath in the spring.

USF finished with 12 wins in each of Heath's final two seasons, despite the program's run to the NCAAs in 2012. Twelve-win campaigns were much closer to the norm during Heath's seven years at USF, but that's not a total endictment of his coaching abilities. Nobody's been able to win with consistency there. Seth Greenberg (in his pre-VT days) couldn't elevate USF beyond the NIT; Robert McCullum, who followed Greenberg and preceded Heath, fared no better. That '12 NCAA appearance remains the Bulls' lone trip to the big dance this century.

The task has been handed to former John Calipari assistant Orlando Antigua, who will quickly develop into a hot name in coaching circles 3-4 years from now if he can deliver. But if not, hey, who could fault him? Tough spot.

In keeping with the early theme of NC State's opponents, the Bulls endured a lot of roster turnover this offseason, leaving just a few players with D-I experience on the roster. Leading scorer Victor Rudd graduated. A trio of young players transferred out for power-conference destinations (two of them in the ACC).

Rudd's loss is not a huge deal--he was the sort of player who attempted 412 threes in his career despite shooting 28.4% from outside. (Don't be that guy, kids.) Collectively replacing his scoring and doing so more efficiently isn't a huge obstacle, and anyway USF's offense stunk with Rudd in the fold anyway.

The loss that probably made Antigua wince a bit was John Egbunu, a promising freshman post player who left for Florida. Egbunu shot a team-high 59% inside the arc, was the team's best shot-blocker, and nearly its best all-around rebounder as well. That's the sort of player who can speed up a turnaround.

Instead, Antigua and the Bulls have no choice but to lean on some veterans who stuck around: Anthony Collins, Corey Allen, and Chris Perry--two guards and a forward--have been the heart of USF's offense through three games, and that figures to continue.

Perry leads the team with averages of 19 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, and while his start has been impressive, it's come against Jackson State, UAB, and Flagler. Flagler is not D-I. It is one half of the Kenan-Flagler business school in Chapel Hill--you know, the half with the basketball team. Or so I assume. Haven't bothered to check. A lot of business schools have basketball teams, right?

Anyway, there are a couple of big questions for USF's offense this season: can the Bulls cut down on turnovers? Can they get anything from three-point range? Last year the Bulls ranked dead last in three-point shooting and near the bottom in attempts, which is to say that they ain't had jack diddly working for them from outside. (They were a more extreme NC State, basically.)

If they can bounce back to some degree in those areas, maybe they can pick up a few extra wins in 2015. There's a whole lot of roster reshaping that will still need doing, though.

Starters

Anthony Collins (6-1, 175) -- Collins missed a significant portion of last season because of injury but should be the guy manning the point barring additional setbacks. His assist rates have been outstanding--in 2012 he ranked seventh nationally in that category--but they've always come with a lot of turnovers, and his scoring range is limited. In 3+ seasons, he's shooting 34.8% from three-point range but only has 66 career attempts, so it's clearly not a shot he hunts for.

Corey Allen (6-1, 152) -- If he's going to keep bombing away, USF really really needs him to be better. He hit 31% of his 71 three-point tries last season, making him for better or worse one of the few players on the roster willing to try more than the occasional three.

Nehemias Morillo (6-5, 180) -- Good heavens, man, get yourself together! Eleven turnovers in your first three games is no way to start a career. Morillo might prove to be a good outside shooting option this season, but that's anybody's guess at this stage.

Chris Perry (6-8, 242) -- Perry is going to be a crucial piece all year, especially since USF is already playing thin (308th in bench minutes) and should only play thinner as the schedule toughens. So he's got to cut down on fouls and keep himself in games. When he is on the floor, he's an effective scorer in the paint, a good shot blocker, and a good rebounder at both ends.

Jaleel Cousins (6-11, 265) -- Early-season samples create some amazing stats. Cousins, for example, has a 600 free throw rate because he has 12 FTAs and two FGAs this year. He is also averaging 11 fouls committed and 11 drawn per 40 minutes. This man is always around the fouls, wherever they may be.

Bench

Troy Holston (6-4, 200), Bo Zeigler (6-6, 202), Dre Clayton (6-6, 245), Dinero Mercurius (6-3, 188). DINERO MERCURIUS. No anagram could improve on this name. This is the best name anyone has ever had.

Nothing but freshmen in this group so, uh, they'll do some stuff and a lot of it will be bad but some of it will be okay and probably a little of it will be good. Holston is taking shots like a primary contributor off the bench, and he is shooting well from three. Fourteen of his 16 FGAs have been threes.

USF Defense 13-14
Four Factors Percent National Rank
eFG% 49.8 171
TO% 17.5 229
OR% 31.7 191
FT Rate
34.0 151

With only a few forwards in the rotation, USF is going to be challenged by the Wolfpack's advantages in size and athleticism. The Bulls need their foul-prone tall guys to avoid fouls and also factor significantly in their defensive effort. That's a lot to ask.

The Pomeroy Predictor likes NC State by 10.