South Florida’s men’s basketball team opens its season against Nova Southeastern tonight at 7.
No, that is not a misprint, nor another exhibition whitewash like the Bulls’ 97-59 route of the Connecticut Stars. This is truly the Bulls’ home opener.
The Knights do not appear like they belong on the schedule of a Division I team that went to the National Invitational Tournament last season, posting a 19-13 record.
Nova enters the 2001-02 season as a Division II team for the first time, facing USF and Florida Atlantic for its only two D-I matchups. The Knights make the jump this season from the division of National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, where they posted a 4-23 record last season.
“Whoever we play is an opponent,” USF coach Seth Greenberg said. “They are trying to win, and we are trying to win. They are not coming here to cash their check and go home.”
The Knights may not be coming to Tampa just to cash a check, but they will be leaving with a payment for allowing the Bulls to open with two consecutive home games.
USF secured its game with Nova over the summer, giving them another guaranteed home game on its schedule.
“It was just a byproduct of when we play Michigan State for a $50,000 guarantee,” Greenberg said. “We took $20,000 of it and gave it to Alcorn State (Dec. 2), and we needed another home game to start another home-and-home because it would put us at a balance the following year in terms of the number of home games.”
In order for a team to get a bigger opponent at home it has to travel to a team with more money in order to disperse money for a stronger team to come to their school.
“I create guarantee games by playing a guarantee game, and recycling that money back into our budget,” Greenberg said.
USF could not find anyone else to come for $20,000 so they shelled out very little to the Knights to come to Tampa.
Greenberg made the agreement with Nova coach Tony McAndrews at the Disney Classic, where Nova lost to Rollins College and needed to fill another game.
“He needed a game, and we were trying to get a game for $20,000 that we had for a guarantee game,” Greenberg said. “We couldn’t get anyone to come for $20,000
“We got them for very little. It was a budget thing quite honestly.”
The Bulls will use the light start to give more experience to a lineup that has only two returning starters in point guard Reggie Kohn and center Will McDonald, both seniors.
“We’ve got a lot of new faces, and we are going to play a lot of new people,” Greenberg said. “We need to get our feet wet.”
Even with its second regular season game against a D-II team, USF did not water down its schedule this year in order to bring along a young team.
“It’s not like we are dodging anyone,” Greenberg said. “It’s humorous to me when I hear people talk about our schedule: Florida (Dec. 8), Michigan State (Dec. 21), Nebraska (Dec. 5) and Providence(Nov. 26).
“That’s a brutal schedule. A brutal schedule when you graduate 4,000 points. Our schedule is terrific. We’re probably overscheduled.”
The Bulls will have a good chance of continuing to work on rebounding, finding a third option and getting substitution rotations as they play their first D-II team since a 71-54 win against Tampa in the 1988-89 season.
“I guess eventually you have to play a game, so that’s what we are doing,” Greenberg said. “We have made decent progress in the last four or five weeks, trying to find our identity, trying to define our roles, trying to get a feel for some sub patterns and educating our freshman on how hard you need to play.”
Bryan Fazio covers USF basketball and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org