NCAA Basketball

College Basketball Preview: Louisville vs. South Florida

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Louisville Cardinals @ South Florida Bulls
Sun Dome – Tampa, FL
Sunday, Jan. 9, 2011
Time: 12:00 pm EST
Series History: UofL leads 24-3

The University of Louisville Cardinals will leave the state of Kentucky for the first time in the 2010-2011 season to play their 15th game of the year in Tampa against Stan Heath and the University of South Florida Bulls.

Yep, Stan Heath is somehow still a coach in a power conference in Division I basketball. Heath was a promising young talent just under 8 short years ago. In his first year as a Head Coach, Heath had just guided the Kent State Golden Flashes to 30 wins and the Elite Eight in the 2002 NCAA Tourney. He was hired just days after Kent State fell to Indiana by the University of Arkansas to replace Nolan Richardson. It took Heath four years to get the Razorbacks to the tournament, and he lost in the first round in both 2006 (Bucknell) and 2007 (USC). He was fired following the 2007 season and shortly thereafter signed a five-year deal to coach the USF Bulls. He is 47-64 so far in his time in Tampa.

However, the brass in charge down in Tampa have seen marked improvement by the program in Heath’s three years there and Heath was rewarded with a contract extension on June 30, 2010. The University of South Florida and Director of Athletics Doug Woolard signed Heath to an extension that keeps him with USF through 2015. Last year, in his third season in Tampa, Heath led the Bulls to USF’s third 20-win season ever with a 20-13 record, and returned to the postseason for the first time since 2002 as the Bulls hosted NC State in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament. The Bulls also earned their first win in the BIG EAST Championship and registered the school’s best regular season BIG EAST record with nine wins, more than doubling the previous season’s four.

Regardless, USF has never been good and they aren’t this year either. They have played their opponents tough all season long, but faded at the end of games. In their last contest, Thursday night hosting Villanova, the Bulls were down just 54-51 and gave up back-to-back-to-back SWASHTOWN!s to find themselves trailing 64-51 with eight minutes to play. They went on to lose 83-71, their first double digit loss of the season. The Bulls fell by just five points, 66-61 at (4) Connecticut on New Year’s Eve.

South Florida will be trying to snap a 10-game losing streak against Louisville that dates back to 2001 when both schools were still in Conference USA. The Bulls haven’t even been competitive against the Cardinals, as eight of the 10 losses have been by at least 14 points. Overall, South Florida is just 3-24 all-time against Louisville. History is not on the Bulls side.

The one man who will try to turn things around for South Florida is junior forward Augustus Gilchrist, a Maryland transfer. One of the best big men in the country had 16 points and 10 rebounds against Villanova, both team highs, for his first double-double of the season and second of his career. He is averaging 15.3 points and 6.5 rebounds over the last four games after missing three consecutive games last month because of what Stan Heath deemed “philosophical differences”. He is the only Bull to average in double figures so far this season, tallying 12.1 ppg and is second on the team with 6.2 boards per contest.

Stan Heath has struggled to find the right chemistry thus far with this team, nine players have already made two or more starts on the season. Ron Anderson Jr. is a player who, like Louisville’s Gorgi Dieng has made the most of the time he gets. Anderson Jr. leads the team in boards with 7.6 a game, despite averaging just 25 minutes. The 6′ 8″ forward is active without the ball and takes good shots with it, connecting on 52.8 percent of his attempts.

The Bulls are not a guard heavy team, as USF’s front four – Gilchrist, Jarrid Famous, Anderson Jr. and Toarlyn Fizpatrick combine for almost 50 percent of the team’s scoring. They also reel in 58.3 percent of the team’s rebounds. At guard however, the Bulls do have a capable point in the junior Ohio State transfer from the basketball rich breeding grounds of Flint, Michigan: Anthony Crater. Crater leads the team in assists, dishing out 4.2 dimes a game, but is not a scorer as he contributes a paltry 4.4 points a contest.

If there is one area of the game USF might have an advantage it is on the boards. Louisville has struggled at times hitting the glass hard and the Bulls have tied or outrebounded 13 of its 15 opponents this season (losing only to Seton Hall 34-32 and FAU 35-29). It ain’t gonna matter, Louisville continues their domination of the USF program.

Louisville 87, South Florida 72