OPINION: USF men’s basketball is on the right track with Gregory as coach

USF men's basketball is already showing signs of improvement in Brian Gregory's second season as coach. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/GOUSFBULLS

USF men’s basketball went 10-22 last season and finished dead last in the AAC. The Bulls lost in the first round of the conference tournament and it was, overall, a disappointing season.

But coach Brian Gregory started building his program last season. The fruits of his labor are already showing early this season.

USF men’s basketball (3-1) is already off to a better start than last year after making it to the championship round of the Jamaica Classic.

The Bulls came within three points of winning the championship Sunday in their 76-73 overtime loss to Georgetown (4-1).

Though the Bulls’ record is only slightly better than last season’s 2-2 start, USF is averaging 15 more points per game than it was at this point last season — 75 in 2018 compared to 60 in 2017.

Part of that could be due to the fact that the Bulls are sharing the ball a lot more. In addition to improving the team’s scoring, this year’s Bulls have also racked up more assists than last year’s team after four games — 61 to 49.

The scoring isn’t the only notable change in USF’s gameplay since last season, though. In their first four games last season, the Bulls had 129 rebounds, but this year, they’re at 158 as a team, which is about seven more rebounds per game.

These numbers might seem like small, insignificant changes to a team. Maybe the Bulls have just gotten lucky so far this season. But maybe Gregory is just a good coach, a good recruiter and good at turning programs around.

In his first season at Georgia Tech in 2011, Gregory’s team scored 1,866 points, had 340 assists and 1,087 total rebounds.

In his second season, Gregory helped the Yellow Jackets score 1,993 points, 394 assists and 1,155 total rebounds.

These numbers may not seem like much. Over the course of the season, Gregory’s team only scored about four more points per game than in his first year.

But consider this: In Gregory’s fifth and final season at Georgia Tech, he took his team to the National Invitation Tournament, the second-most prestigious postseason tournament in college basketball. That season, the Yellow Jackets scored 2,637 points, had 487 assists and 1,396 rebounds.

It’s too early to tell how the Bulls will fare this season, but Gregory already has USF heading down a more promising path.