Wildcats face off against Bulls

Daniel Madden

Opponent Overall

The University of South Florida men’s basketball team is playing the way they played all last season, ending the ’07- ’08 season with a record of 12-10 and a 3-15 Big East record. The team, which currently has a 6-11 (1-4) record, will have to rely heavily on very talented sophomore Dominique Jones, who is coming off a 35-point game against West Virginia, to bring them into contention in the highly competitive Big East. Though the Bulls are one of only two teams in the conference to have a losing record, they have played some of the top teams, including Syracuse, Louisville and Pittsburgh. Unfortunately their schedule, like that of all Big East teams, does not get any easier. They look ahead to a week of home court advantage when they host DePaul on Tuesday and then Villanova on Saturday.

Opponent Strengths

The Bulls’ main strength is their guard play. Shooting guard Jones leads the team in scoring, averaging over 18 points a game. Senior Jesus Verdejo helps out in the backcourt with over 14 points. USF also has a proven coach with Stan Heath, who improved during his years with Arkansas, receiving two NCAA bids. He hopes his USF team can show the same improvement this year come Big East tournament time, where they will be making their first appearance.

Opponent Weaknesses

The Bulls’ greatest weakness is their frontcourt. A main reason for their recent struggles has been their inability to score down low and also to control the glass. USF often starts two forwards, but guards generally sub in for them and play most of the game. In its loss to West Virginia, starting forwards freshman Eladio Espinosa and senior Mobalaji Ajayi both failed to score and only accounted for a total of seven rebounds. USF also struggles at the free throw line, shooting just under 60 percent. The Bulls’ 3-point shooting is weak as well. Against West Virginia they went 3-16 from behind the three-point line, and their season average is just above .300. All must improve to have any chance to knock off Villanova especially if they continue to shoot the way they did against St. John’s.

Who to Watch

Without question, USF’s sophomore guard Dominique Jones is both their most dangerous player and their most explosive scorer. However, Jones’ game extends far beyond his scoring abilities. Despite being the team’s shooting guard, Jones leads the Bulls in both rebounds and assists. He also excels defensively as he leads the Bulls in assists. Jones can dominate a game in a variety of ways and if USF is to pull off the upset and notch the biggest victory of the season he will be the main reason.

What to Watch For

Strong guard play characterizes both USF and Villanova, but the difference should come in the frontcourt. Villanova forwards Antonio Peña and Dante Cunningham dominate down low both defensively and offensively. USF will have trouble matching up with Villanova’s athleticism on the glass. Dominique Jones will no doubt score, but South Florida’s reliance on him will make a difference. He has played for an entire game before and may have to against Villanova.

Villanova 75, USF 60