OPINION: USF men’s basketball midseason report card

Senior guard David Collins is the Bulls’ leading scorer through 12 games this season. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

It was announced Wednesday afternoon that the USF men’s basketball team (7-5, 3-3 AAC) is pausing activities until further notice, leaving the rest of the season up in the air.

It has been confirmed that the next two games scheduled for Jan. 24 and Jan. 27 have been postponed. Beyond that, however, things remain unclear.

The Bulls are currently tied for fifth place in the AAC, holding a .500 record in conference play.

The preseason coaches poll tabbed the Bulls to finish fifth in the conference, and thus far that prediction seems to be holding up.

All things considered, here is a midseason report card and a look forward to the second half of the schedule.

Midseason game of the year

USF beats Wofford 58-56 (Dec. 2)

After falling behind by eight points with 14:57 left to play, the Bulls desperately needed a spark to get them back in the game.

That spark came in the form of sophomore guard Jamir Chaplin who poured in eight points and pulled in eight rebounds in the second half alone.

After the game was knotted with 1:43 to go, the Bulls and Terriers went scoreless until there were 19 seconds left on the clock. The ball found the hot hand and Chaplin hit the eventual game-winning basket to lift USF over Wofford 58-56.

If the dramatic victory and late-game heroics weren’t enough, it was also coach Brian Gregory’s 300th career win.

The victory lifted the Bulls back to .500 and won them their third game of the season.

Midseason heartbreak of the year

USF falls to Wichita State 82-77 (Dec. 22)

The Bulls had reason to come into this game with confidence as they were winners of their last four in a row and boasted a 5-2 record.

USF held a seven-point halftime lead, but the second half proved to be difficult. With 33 seconds remaining, the Bulls were down six points and the game felt all but over.

However, a miraculous effort from David Collins and Justin Brown led USF to a comeback as the Bulls tied the game at 70 to force overtime.

Unfortunately for the Bulls, the Shockers took an early five-point lead and maintained it for much of the overtime period, ultimately winning 82-77. 

USF’s late-game magic was not enough and their four-game winning streak was snapped.

Midseason surprise of the year

Jamir Chaplin

Sophomore Jamir Chaplin did not see much action in his freshman year with the Bulls, scoring under one point per game in 19 appearances.

This year, however, things have changed. The 6-foot-5-inch wing is seeing significant time and even logged a start in an early December matchup against Florida Gulf Coast.

Chaplin’s stats don’t pop off the screen, but he has had some big games and timely buckets for the Bulls this season.

The aforementioned big second half versus Wofford is a prime example of the impact and energy that Chaplin has brought off the bench.

He also scored 14 points and shot an efficient 5-of-7 from the field in the Bulls’ opening game of the season against Florida College.

Chaplin averages 5.6 points and 3.3 rebounds per game, all while playing 16.8 minutes per contest.

He also registered a career high in points with 16 against Tulsa in early January.

Midseason MVP

David Collins

For the two seasons prior to 2021, David Collins had the advantage of sharing a backcourt with Laquincy Rideau.

Rideau, who wrapped up his USF career last season, was the team’s leader, leaving a void that needed to be filled. 

The keys to the backcourt were handed over to Collins and he maintained his play from last season. The 6-foot-4-inch guard is averaging 12.3 points per game, 4.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.6 steals. He is also shooting 44.8% from the field and 43.5% from the behind the three-point arc.

The free throws continue to be an issue for Collins, but his defense and high-efficiency shooting from elsewhere make up for his shortcomings at the line.

If the Bulls are going to have any hope at making a run at the AAC title it is going to be largely on the back of Collins.

Looking forward

The Bulls’ next matchup was originally scheduled to be a rematch against Wichita State, but that game has been postponed. The following game against Temple has also been delayed.

Assuming things return to normal after the two-game hiatus, the next time USF will take the floor is Jan. 30 at home versus Cincinnati.

Winning the AAC crown is a daunting task for the Bulls in their current state, especially considering the latest pause. A team like No. 11 Houston sitting atop the conference will also do USF no favors.

The Bulls must catch fire at some point if they want to make a run.

Grade: B-