In the thick of a tight divisional race, the USF men’s basketball team has more to worry about than offense and defense.
The Bulls’ ever-shrinking roster is down to eight scholarship players after sophomore Terrence Leather left the team to tend to personal issues Sunday. Leather won’t travel with the team to Tulane today, and his status for the rest of the season is unknown.
The Bulls (13-9, 6-5 in Conference USA) have already lost starting shooting guard Marlyn Bryant and freshmen Sheldon Franklin and Sam Barber to season-ending injuries.
“Everyone will contribute, and we’ll be fine,” Bulls’ coach Seth Greenberg said.
Even with those off-court distractions, Greenberg said the team hasn’t had a hard time focusing on basketball. USF will need all of its focus as the race for the National Division title kicks into overdrive this week.
At 6-5, the Bulls presently hold the No. 2 spot in the division behind Memphis (16-5, 7-3). The Bulls face the Tigers at home Saturday.
Sitting just a half game behind USF in the division is tonight’s opponent, Tulane (12-11, 5-5).
The meeting will be the first of two games in two weeks vs. the Green Wave. Tulane will make the trip to Tampa on March 5.
The Green Wave has catapulted itself back into the thick of the divisional race with a 5-1 record in its last six games. The lone defeat was a one-point setback against Memphis Thursday.
Tulane has road wins at UAB and Houston in that span, and the Green Wave is fresh off a 84-78 victory at home vs. TCU Saturday. In that game, Tulane forward Brandon Brown had a season-high 28 points.
“We need to run the floor on Brown, take away his angles and keep him off the glass,” Greenberg said. “Since we play zone, that will be done by committee.”
On top of dictating Brown’s game, Greenberg highlighted a few other keys for the Bulls earning road victory No. 2.
“We need to defend, contain (guards Waitari) Marsh and (Brandon) Spann and make free throws down the stretch,” Greenberg said.
The Bulls’ shooting at the free-throw line was a strength Saturday against Houston, with senior Will McDonald demonstrating the stroke, going 6-for-6.
“It was probably confidence,” Greenberg said. “He made the first few, so he started to see a bigger basket. Psychologically, when you miss a couple of shots, you start to shoot not to miss rather than to make them.”
Greenberg insists USF’s standing isn’t paramount in the team’s mind, even though USF’s seed will be determined in the season’s final weeks.
“I don’t talk about those things,” Greenberg said. “We talk about what it takes to be successful, and the standings will take care of themselves.”