After jumping to a 4-2 start thanks to a relatively easy opening schedule, the USF mens basketball team will face one of its toughest tests of the early season in the form of the first major-conference opponent on its schedule.
As a part of the Big East-SEC Challenge, the Bulls will host the Georgia Bulldogs of the Southeastern Conference.
Though USF is facing one of the stronger opponents on its non-conference schedule, the team will have the engine of its offense back in sophomore guard Anthony Collins.
We are going to find out a lot more about our basketball team. Well be much healthier. Anthony Collins will play in this game, coach Stan Heath said. Hes not progressing as quickly as we would like him to be, but his presence is important for us.
USF also has the advantage of senior guard Jawanza Poland, who scored 19 off the bench in USFs late road win over Stetson on Monday night.
I wish I could figure out why or what the reason is, but for whatever reason when he comes off the bench its a comfort zone for him, Heath said. I dont know if he realizes it or likes it that way, but he certainly gives us a huge lift, and hes a hard guy to account for by opposing teams.
The game against the Bulldogs will be the first of two major tests for USF in the follwoing, as the team will also travel to play Oklahoma State of the Big 12 Conference next Wednesday.
I think these games mean a lot as a whole, not just for us but for our league, Heath said. When they start rating your league, these head-to-head matchups determine a lot. At the end of the year, when determining how many bids each team gets, these head-to-head matchups factor in, so its important for us because it helps out our conference along with ourselves.
With challenges at home and on the road on the horizon, Heath said the Bulls are looking for a more consistent starting five, as the team has had six different starting lineups in the last six games. Only junior forward Victor Rudd and senior forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick have started every game.
Id like to get a solid starting lineup and be consistent that way, he said. Its not totally locked in for us yet, but Id like to be in that position if I could.
For a consistent starting line up, Heath and the Bulls look to determine the value of new faces on the team to determine who deserves more minutes. In Mondays victory, junior transfer Kore White played 26 minutes, while freshmen JaVontae Hawkins and Zach Leday combined for nine.
Over a short span to start the season, Kores experience has been a benefit for him, Heath said. Knowing how to guard bigger guys and knowing where to be without fouling are his strengths. Zach and Javonte continue to learn. I could see their minutes definitely improving.
The Bulls play Georgia on Friday night at 7 in the Sun Dome.
Louisville leaves Big East
Another member of the Big East Conference has left. Less than a week after Rutgers announced its intention to join the Big Ten Conference, Louisville announced it would be moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference beginning in 2014.
Abdul-Aleem getting healthy
Another new face for the Bulls is getting closer to his debut with the mens basketball team.
Sophomore guard Musa Abdul-Aleem, who is recovering from a foot injury suffered before the season, has been cleared to practice.
The doctors have cleared him. Hes going to start working out with the team, Heath said. To what degree, well find out in the next couple of days. Hes doubtful against Georgia, but he could play in the Oklahoma State game.
He has some improvements to make health-wise, and he also needs to learn our offensive and defensive schemes.