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BIG EAST: 2006-07

College Preview Big East Message Board

By Eric Silver

August 30th, 2006

 

Big East Basketball Preview: South Florida

 

The Bulls' top two scorers from last year, Solomon Jones and James Holmes, completed their eligibility.  Coach Robert McCullum will miss Holmes' 16.6 ppg at shooting guard and Jones's 13.2 ppg and 9.8 rpg at center. Jones was undeniably one of the most surprising success stories in the conference last season.  No one could have predicted he’d be the #33 pick in the 2006 NBA draft.
 

In addition to the loss of the two starters, reserve guard Collin Dennis decided to transfer as did frosh, Frane Markusovic.  Dennis will be missed as he averaged 19.9 minutes per game.  Markusovic won't be as he played a total of five minutes all season.   So, who remains?
 

Melvin Buckley is back at the 3.  He averaged 13.2 ppg and 5.5 rpg.  He shot 38% overall and 37% from behind the arc.  After transferring from Purdue, he has turned into a solid player - at least offensively. He should be the number one option on offense.
 

McHugh Mattis, a juco transfer a year ago, played well last season.  He averaged 9.6 ppg and 7.2 rpg, and he shot 60% from the field.  He'll start at the 4 for the Bulls.  Without Jones alongside him, he will become the main interior scoring threat, so his point production should climb to at least 12 ppg.
 

Chris Capko, who was originally a walk-on, started at point all year and averaged 31.7 mpg.  He's not exactly an offensive threat as his 2.9 ppg illustrate, but he did average 4.4 apg.  He's a terrible shooter - 33% overall - and he went the entire season without hitting a trey in 13 attempts. When he's in the lineup, part of the opponents' game plan has to be to sag off him and let him shoot.

 

The player USF counted on to start at point a year ago, Chris Howard, tore his ACL and was out for the season. He recently tore an ACL again and is now out for the upcoming season as well.
 

Melvyn Richardson returns as a sub on the wing.  He didn't do much offensively either - 1.9 ppg in 14.4 mpg, but he may get more time this year.  No one else returns who did much of anything last year.  Zaronn Cann was expected to contribute as a frosh last season, but injuries disrupted those plans, and he played in only four games before red-shirting.


Three transfers become eligible, two of them at mid-season.  Jesus Verdejo, a 6'4" guard, has followed a rather a strange path to Tampa. He originally committed to Temple but didn't qualify, so he attended prep school where he averaged 22 ppg.  He then went to Arizona but saw little playing time as a frosh (2.3 mpg) and transferred at mid-season to USF. He's the odds-on favorite to replace Holmes as starting off guard once he becomes eligible.  He's more of a scorer than a pure shooter.  Because he hasn't played much the past two and a half years, it's hard to know what to expect from him, but if he's paired with Capko in the backcourt, he's going to have to become a scoring threat.

 

Kentrell Gransberry was a highly-regarded juco player two years ago. He went to LSU but left the program at mid-year.  The 6’9” center also becomes eligible in January.  In junior college, he earned a reputation as a solid rebounder; in fact, he led all jucos in rebounding as a sophomore. He will almost certainly be the starting center second semester.
 

Until then, 6'9" Aris Williams, a transfer from Valparaiso, should hold down the center spot.  However, Williams averaged only 1.5 ppg and 1.7 rpg for the Crusaders, so it's hard to expect a major contribution from him this year.
 

In terms of the Bull’s recruiting effort for the Class of 2006, the best word to describe it is bizarre.  USF received a commitment from Rob Thomas, a highly-regarded prep school power forward, but he decomitted and is now going to St. John's, which is definitely the Red Storm's gain and the Bulls' loss.  Coach McCullum also received an oral commitment from 7'0" center Franklin Jones, but he, too, decommitted and ended up at UTEP.
 

Meanwhile, wing forward Amu Saaka (6'6") originally committed to Furman but then changed his mind and decided on USF.  Similarly, point guard Solomon Bozeman originally committed to Mississippi but then decommited and also chose the Bulls. 

The last incoming recruit is Dante Curry, a 6'4" guard from Florida, who is probably the best of the three new arrivals.  Rivals listed him #133, and Hoopmasters had him at #181 in the class. Scout ranked him at 3 stars but he's not included among Scout's Top 35 at his position.
 

So, what do all these transfers in and out and commits and decommits mean? First, there will be two different USF teams - the first-semester team and the second-semester team. Both Verdejo and Gransberry will have to play major roles once they become eligible. One has to wonder how those players whose minutes will be dramatically reduced will respond to the changes.  The only certainties for the upcoming season are that Buckley will play huge minutes at the 3 and Mattis will do the same at the 4.
 

The Bulls could pull a couple of upsets because Buckley and Mattis aren't bad.  However, there is no proven three-point threat outside of Buckley and not much size throughout the roster.  There is also not much depth up front, where only Mattis has demonstrated he can play at an upper-level D-1 program.
 

The Bulls have to replace more than 34 ppg, but it's difficult to see where those points will come from.  It's going to be another long season in Tampa, though anything can happen on any given night as Georgetown discovered last March.   The Bulls should double or triple last year's conference win total (one).  Any victories beyond that should earn McCullum serious consideration for Big East Coach of the Year.

 

- Predicted Finish: 16 of 16

 

? Connecticut

? Georgetown

? Louisville

? Marquette ? Pittsburgh ? St John's ? Syracuse ? Villanova

#9 DePaul

#10 Providence #11 Rutgers #12 Notre Dame #13 Cincinnati #14 Seton Hall #15 WVU #16 S. Florida

 

 

 

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