Following a frustrating 45-point loss to Louisville on Saturday in the Sun Dome, senior Jimmy Baxter remarked how difficult it was preparing all week to face a team only to get a sound thumping by the opposition.
The second-worst loss in school history for the USF men’s basketball team — and the worst loss ever at home — probably left most of the Bulls wondering how a game could have gone so wrong.
But Baxter didn’t seem like he was ready to throw in the towel and said that if anybody thought the Bulls’ season was over after the loss, they could think again.
Baxter was right. The Bulls’ season is not over. But Baxter’s season, and career, apparently is.
Baxter, USF’s second-leading scorer from last season, surprisingly left the team Monday citing “personal reasons.”
Shocking? For most people, the answer probably would be yes.
Wasn’t this supposed to be Baxter’s breakout season? Didn’t he just give USF fans a hint of what he was capable of last year? Wasn’t he supposed to be one of the team’s leaders?
You can’t fault Baxter for leaving. The truth is, only he and USF coach Robert McCullum are the ones who know the real reason Baxter is no longer with the team, and neither could be reached for comment.
But the situation undoubtedly hurts the program — and it came after a game when it seemed things just couldn’t possibly get any worse.
With Baxter now gone from the USF men’s basketball team, the question isn’t whether the team will move on after his departure. McCullum and his team have answered that challenge numerous times over since he’s been here. Let’s face it, Baxter is the fourth player to either leave or be dismissed since McCullum took over the program.
Instead, the question is when the Bulls do move on, which way will they travel?
Don’t get things wrong. Baxter wasn’t USF basketball. Sure, he had skills, like any player on any team in Division-1A. And though his numbers this season were down a bit from last season, if anyone asked his former teammates or one of the coaches, they would probably say he contributed in other ways to help the team.
But Baxter leaving is huge for this team — for all the wrong reasons. The main reason is because even if his numbers had continued to fall during the rest of the season, he gave the Bulls an able body in the lineup that could give quality minutes each game.
And that, boys and girls, is something the Bulls are lacking right now.
USF has just seven active scholarship players remaining on the team, with James Holmes out with an ankle injury. Those few players and the walk-ons leave USF with very low numbers.
Another injury, a player getting into foul trouble during a game or somebody else leaving the team, and we’re talking serious problems. And that’s not a predicament the Bulls need to be in while gearing up for Conference USA play.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino said his team wasn’t the ideal opponent for a team lacking depth like USF. Which team in C-USA falls into that category?No one expected McCullum to take this inherited team to any postseason tournament, except for perhaps the conference tournament. And if they did, they were reaching a bit.
But no one expected the program’s situation to reach this point either.
Following the Louisville game, everyone probably thought that things just couldn’t get any worse. With at least 15 more games left in the season, one can only hope things don’t.
Contact Oracle Sports Editor Adam Adkins at email@example.com