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Bulls set to return Wednesday against Houston

Senior guard David Collins is averaging 12.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.6 steals per game this season. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

After a slew of postponements due to COVID-19-related issues, the USF men’s basketball team (7-5, 3-3) is finally set to return to the floor as it welcomes No. 8 Houston (16-2, 10-2) to Tampa on Wednesday.

The Bulls have not played a game since their 69-63 win over East Carolina on Jan. 9 and have not been able to practice much since then.

“The day before we were supposed to play Houston we shut down, so it’s been 28 days in shutdown mode, with approximately three to four skill sessions with three or four players on the court,” coach Brian Gregory said Tuesday. “Today will be our second full practice with 10 guys.”

Due to potential fitness issues that may arise after such an extended break from play, Gregory said the team’s bench players must be prepared to see more action.

“We’re going to have to play a lot of guys, guys that maybe haven’t logged as many minutes have got to be ready to go,” he said. “I’m just not sure, so many unknowns, how long can a guy really go? Can David Collins who’s averaging 31 minutes a game, first game back, play 31 minutes? I would think probably not. 

“Guys have to look at it as an opportunity, we’re going to be rusty, we’re going to be maybe not in sync as much as you’d like to see on Feb. 10.”

Due to that rust, Gregory also said the pregame preparation may have to be cut down.

“Simplify some stuff, keep your offensive package a little tighter, your defensive preparation a little tighter,” he said. “Maybe with just one or two adjustments ready to roll with in the game … just give our guys an opportunity to go out there and really compete hard.”

Despite the game plan changes and the daunting task of playing the No. 8 team in the country after such a long hiatus, Gregory explained that he and his team are just happy to be back on the court.

“I’ve felt it [excitement and appreciation] gradually increase as we were able to get two guys on the court, then three guys on the court, and then all of a sudden we got five and it was like we threw a party,” Gregory said. “You could actually run something offensively or defensively.

“I think this whole last 12 months has made you appreciate the opportunities and the blessings that you have on a daily basis.”

The Bulls and Cougars tip off Wednesday at 7 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPNU and broadcast on 95.3/620 WDAE/iHeartRadio Bulls Unlimited.