Recent events -- read: the bat that invaded the Bradley Center -- have forced reallocation of our Photoshop resources. Accordingly, we had to outsource the graphics for our 8-bit South Florida preview to a team of first graders. Our apologies to everyone.
(1) VITAL SCHEMATICS: A year after shocking the nation with a run to the NCAA Tournament (and the program's first two wins in the Dance), USF has fallen on hard times. This year, the Bulls sit 10-9, losers of six of their last seven games, and 1-6 in the Big East. The only victory of note on South Florida's ledger is a home win over Georgetown last weekend. Besides that, there's a whole bunch of teams going nowhere fast: Georgia, UCF, George Mason, Bradley. Eek.
(2) PRIMARY WEAPON: Even in the midst of their impressive romp through the Big East portion of the schedule in 2011-'12, the Bulls' offense was nothing to write home about. This year has been much the same: USF ranks 129th in KenPom's adjusted offensive efficiency, and their four factor numbers are largely atrocious: 47.2 eFG% (216th nationally), 28.2% offensive rebound percentage (287th nationally), and 32.0% free throw attempts to field goal attempts (261st nationally). The only thing South Florida does well on offense is not turn the ball over, which is nice, I suppose.
(3) DEFENSIVE MATRIX: The big change from last season for USF, though, is on defense: last year, the Bulls relied heavily on a stifling half-court defense that ranked 13th nationally in KenPom, yielding a paltry 0.89 points per possession. This year, South Florida finds itself comfortably in the middle of the pack defensively, giving up 0.98 points per possession and letting opponents rebound their own misses at will. USF's 36.0% offensive rebound rate on defense is right near the bottom of the barrel nationally (306th), so while the Bulls still excel at guarding the three-point line and not sending opponents to the free throw stripe, all those second and third chances have taken their toll.
(4) EXPLOITABLE WEAKNESS(ES): Here's the thing: I'm not exactly sure why South Florida is this bad. I get that they miss Gus Gilchrist (and, to some extent, Ron Anderson), but was dude that critical to their success? Anthony Collins is still on the floor (and playing very well), Victor Rudd and Jawanza Poland are back, Toarlyn Fitzpatrick is still in the mix ... but something's missing in the paint. Witness USF's last game, when they somehow got manhandled by an anonymous 6'10" stiff from Notre Dame, who punished the Bulls for 17 and 7. There's hay to be made down low.