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November 15, 2012BroncoBlitz.com exchanged a series of questions and answers with T.J. Doyle of SBNation leading up to Sunday's game between Western Michigan and South Florida. Doyle blogs on Tampa Bay SBNation, Washington D.C. SBNation, and his own personal blog called "Gheorghe The Blog." You can follow T.J. Doyle and all of his work on Twitter @gheorghetheblog.
BroncoBlitz: What is the feeling in Tampa about this USF team? What are the expectations coming into the 2012-2013 season?
T.J. Doyle: After a 22-14 record last year (12-6 in the stout Big East), and two wins in the NCAA tournament after a 20-year hiatus from March Madness, I'd say the expectations for this Bulls team are the highest in decades.
Coach Stan Heath has an even deeper and more athletic team than last season's squad, so at the bare minimum the USF faithful have to be thinking back-to-back NCAA tourney appearances, and perhaps even the Sweet 16 berth they just narrowly missed last year.
BB: Besides Victor Rudd, who is the most dangerous player on this Bulls squad and why?
TJD: 6-foot-1 sophomore point guard Anthony Collins. Hands down. As explosive as Rudd is (and he is a devastating dunker), the Bulls will only go as far as Collins leads them. As last season progressed, Collins (9.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 5.2 apg, 1.7 spg, .508 FG%) took full reins of the club, and played his best in the tightest spots, dropping 22 on Pitt and scoring in double digits in all three NCAA tourney games.
BB:Was losing to UCF by 18 points at home a big surprise? Why do you think USF was so overly mismatched?
TJD: Given that the game against UCF was the first to tip at the newly renovated, on-campus Sun Dome, I'd have to think not only were the fans surprised by the drubbing, but Heath and his players must have been as well.
For a team that prides itself on defense, the Bulls cannot be happy allowing 74 points to the Knights, and the domination on the glass (45-26) and in the paint (40-28) show exactly why the Bulls lost handily. This might be one of those instances where Coach Heath is OK with a loss, because you would have to think it was a major wake-up call to his team (perhaps reading their own press clippings a bit too much entering the season).
BB: What is the playing style of South Florida on offense and on defense?
TJD: Watching South Florida play last season was the equivalent of watching a clutch-and-grab boxing match (does anyone still watch boxing?). It was as appealing as a visit to the dentist for a root canal.
Heath's club specialized in lock-down defense last year, holding 12 of their last 13 opponents under 58 points, in fact. You can still expect grind-it-out D from the Bulls, but the coach has already said he will open it up more on offense this year, due to the blossoming of Collins and the addition of a few more versatile and athletic weapons to the roster (for instance, star recruit Javontae Hawkins is a name to watch as the season progresses).
BB: Prediction time: Who do you have winning this game and why? What's the final score?
TJD: I see USF rebounding from the loss to UCF and narrowly edging this extremely young Broncos team on two late three-pointers from Bulls' three-point bench specialist Shaun Noriega. The defense of a year ago shows up for Heath's club, flustering the Western Michigan point guards thrust into the void created by the departure of Mikey Douglas. Oh yeah, I'm willing to bet Rudd has an absurd dunk (or two) in this game, because, well, that's what Rudd does.
Score Prediction: USF 53, WMU 51
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