I can hear the rumble outside the Sun Dome now … the USF men’s basketball team’s bandwagon is getting ready to pull out.The last couple of years, fans have hopped on and de-boarded the Bulls bandwagon quicker than Brian Swift can take it baseline to baseline. One day the Bulls are an NCAA Tournament team, the next they’re a bunch of underachievers. Opinions on the team were as inconsistent as the Bulls’ free- throw shooting was last season.
Go ahead, ask around. Conduct an informal poll of 10 of your friends and I’d be willing to wager my courtside seat that five think the Bulls will make the Tournament, while the others think they’ll be watching March Madness on TV.
Two years of unfulfilled expectations will do that.
But Bulls fans, I’m telling you now, this is a different USF team.I can hear the snickering right now … and judging by the Bulls’ performance last season, especially down the stretch, I can’t say I’m surprised. But coach Seth Greenberg has been saying it all preseason: last year is just that – last year. And he’s right. These Bulls are different.
The preseason hype before last year was maddening. It seemed like fans were coming out of the woodwork and the Bulls were the vogue pick by several magazines to surprise everyone and return to the Tournament for the first time in almost a decade. The buzz was electric, the anticipation was high and the seats on the bandwagon were filling up.
But then came the season.
Fittingly enough, the Bulls started the year at the Top of the World Classic in Alaska, but the paint on the bandwagon was scratched when USF came home 1-2. Damage was done to the bumper when the Bulls lost a heartbreaking overtime game at Wisconsin. The exhaust pipe seemed to fail when B.B. Waldon was suspended for four games. Then the clutch gave out when injuries cost Chonsey Asbury and Artha Reeves court time. The transmission dropped when the Bulls lost to conference doormat Tulane. And the bandwagon just ran out of gas down the stretch as the Bulls finished by losing four of their last five games.
But Greenberg got out his wrench and screwdriver and retooled his team. He brought in Kelvin Brown to add toughness under the boards. He brought in Swift to push Reggie Kohn. He went out and got Greg Brittian to help Altron Jackson and Waldon with the scoring load. And Greenberg perhaps took a page out of Jim Leavitt’s playbook and turned USF into a run-and-shoot nightmare for unconditioned teams trying to keep up with the Bulls’ steady rotation of 10 players.
So with the bandwagon’s engine revving at 4-0, the Bulls will get one more tune-up before facing California this weekend when they meet Prairie View A&M tonight in the Sun Dome at 7:30. It should be a layup for USF, but winning the games you’re supposed to is just as important as the tough ones. It’s way too early to talk Tournament, but it’s never too late to hop on the bandwagon.
- Brandon Wright covers men’s basketball and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org