Season tips off Saturday

By this time next week, the USF men’s basketball team will be three games into its season. While all three are listed as home games, they will be held in three different venues.

The Bulls’ traveling home schedule begins Saturday night as they tip off their regular season against Vermont in the Bob Martinez Sports Center at the University of Tampa.

In the visiting Catamounts, the Bulls face a stern test. Last year’s Vermont team went 23-9, but missed the NCAA tournament. Despite a small enrollment, the Catamounts have qualified for the NCAA tournament four times, twice more than USF. As a No. 13 seed in 2005, Vermont famously upset Syracuse.

In last week’s exhibition game against Tampa, the Bulls displayed a new offensive philosophy. With Anthony Crater as the starting point guard last season, the team played a slow offense, passing the ball around the perimeter for most of the shot clock.

With sophomore LeVonte Dority and transfer Blake Nash running the point against the Spartans, the Bulls looked faster. The starting point guard position is the only one up for grabs at the moment, with Shaun Noriega set to start at shooting guard and Victor Rudd Jr., Augustus Gilchrist and Ron Anderson Jr., ready to start at small forward, power forward and center, respectively. True freshman Anthony Collins is also in the running for minutes at point.

“I’ve been flip-flopping who’s the starting guy (at point guard),” coach Stan Heath said. “Sometimes, it may not be the prettiest thing when (LeVonte) is doing things, but he gets the job done, and he goes at a very intense pace.”

All wasn’t positive in the Bulls’ 75-43 win over Tampa, though, with two flaws evident. Heath said Tampa made too many 3-point shots for his liking, with the Spartans going 5-for-12 in the first half, and the Bulls struggled from the free-throw line, shooting under 50 percent at 15-for-32.

“We gave up a few too many 3s and, obviously, that free-throw shooting is not up to par right now,” he said.

Both aspects were strengths for the Bulls last year, as they held opponents to 34 percent shooting from beyond the arc and made 71 percent of their free throws. Dority (2-for-2) and Toarlyn Fitzpatrick (4-for-6) were the only players to make more than half their free throws against Tampa.

Tipoff of the Bulls’ season opener is scheduled for 7 p.m.