The Battle for 15th in the Big East will happen on Thursday night on ESPNU when DePaul takes on South Florida. Ken DeCelles of USF blog Voodoo Five was kind enough to answer some questions about what should be a winnable, but still very difficult, Big East road game for the Blue Demons.
5 Questions with Ken at Voodoo Five
CCB: Well, let's start here, unlike DePaul, USF actually has a Big East win - against Providence, a team that just beat Louisville. What went right for the Bulls in that game that can be applied in other conference contests?
VF: Well it helped that their second leading scorer Vincent Council had a season low two points, but Providence's lack of post depth hurt them dearly. Our bigs combined for 43 points, with Jarrid Famous leading the way with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Augustus Gilchrist and Toarlyn Fitzpatrick chipped in with 10 points each, and Ron Anderson Jr. also had 8 points and 6 rebounds. Our free throw shooting is also miles ahead of what I've ever seen here at USF, and going 19-23 from the charity stripe was a huge plus in getting that first conference win of the season.
CCB: USF turns the ball over a lot, Oliver Purnell likes to press. Who is going to handle the ball for the Bulls against the press?
VF: A lot of our turnovers happen due to poor entry passes or late recognition from our posts on double teams and we've handled the press ok since Big East play started. But to answer your question, the ball handling duties are a combination of Anthony Crater and Chicago native LaVonte Dority. Crater handles the bulk of the ball handling duties, and isn't much of a scoring threat. He will make the occasional three, but most of the time he will pass it off to someone else.
Dority has jumped over JUCO PG Shedrick Haynes in the rotation which is really surprising for a true freshman to get any minutes with Coach Heath, and he has done a decent job in the 6-10 minutes he's getting a night in the Big East. He's still a little tentative on the offensive end, but he does a good job defensively and I think he has a bright future with the team.
CCB: Why is Famous' playing time down this season? He doesn't seem to be doing anything differently. I remember him being a pretty solid player.
VF: It's nothing else except a lack of minutes for all of our posts. Last year, Jarrid had to play a majority of the minutes in the post along with Fitzpatrick while Gilchrist and Alex Rivas were hobbled with injuries. This year he has to share his minutes with Fitzpatrick, a healthy Gilchrist, and Kansas St. transfer Anderson Jr., who is our best post defender. It's a complete 180 from last season, when the strength of our team was with our guards.
CCB: What's the feeling about the USF program and the Big East? Do you feel this team can be competitive on a yearly basis? Are you excited that there's another team (TCU) coming in from a school that primarily focuses on football?
VF: I think Coach Heath needs a little bit more time. We've talked about it between the writers of V5, and we think Stan was trying to build this season around Dominique Jones and to make an extended run in the tournament. When Jones left early, it basically ruined this season, but we've seen progress made under Coach Heath that we haven't seen in decades. I don't think we will ever get to the level of Syracuse or Pitt where anything less than a Sweet 16 bid is considered a failure, but consistently getting in the NIT and grabbing an NCAA bid every few years is something we should be able to obtain soon enough.
With competing on a yearly basis, I think Coach Heath has had the same problems that DePaul has when it comes to facilities and how it hampers recruiting. I'm sure they'll show the computer tour of it Thursday, but the basketball team will finally have it's own basketball facility next fall when the construction of the 50,000 square foot Muma Basketball Center will be completed. Both basketball teams and the volleyball team has had to share the same practice court, and if there were two teams trying to book it at the same time, someone would have to go to the Student Rec Center for practice.
Also, the Sun Dome will be getting a renovation over the offseason. The first level will finally be enclosed, we will have some suites installed, and even though there will be 1000 less seats, the place will look 1000 times better. These two things will be huge for bringing in the players necessary to win consistently in the conference. Now if we can only boost up attendance...
As for football, I'm thrilled that TCU is coming in with us in 2012. We've heard the calls for the Big East to lose their AQ status with the Big East, and now that a program like TCU coming in, it should quiet the critics for the time being. Now I don't know who else they are going to bring in, but its nice to see Commissioner Marinatto being proactive for once.
CCB: How confident do you feel coming into Thursday's game? And on a side note, how awesome is it that it's on ESPNU?
It's always nice to see your team get a national game. Hopefully the students come out for the late start and have a good time. To be honest, if we played the way we did against West Virginia, I could see DePaul winning this one going away. It was the worst effort that I saw of the season, and I really don't know if all the losing is starting to take effect with their psyche.
Just based on talent, I think USF wins, but who knows what will happen Thursday.
A big thanks to Ken. Check out Voodoo Five for all your USF athletics needs. Hopefully we'll get the competitive game we all expect on ESPNU tonight.