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Men’s basketball midseason report card

USF freshman guard Caleb Murphy has emerged as the team’s star this season leading the program in points and assists. ORACLE PHOTO/FRANCISCO ROSA

USF men’s basketball has faced a lot of ups and downs in its season so far between game performance and issues beyond their control. 

The Bulls are currently 6-11 (1-4, AAC) with just a .353 winning percentage overall and lagging behind in conference play currently in ninth place, only ahead of winless Wichita State and Tulsa.

COVID-19 has also impacted the Bulls’ season, forcing either a postponement or cancellation for three games on their schedule. Most recently, the team’s Saturday matchup against Temple was postponed due to health and safety protocols within USF’s program.

As the Bulls hope to turn it around in the second half of their schedule, here’s how they have fared through the first half of the season.

Midseason game of the year

USF beats UCF 75-51 (Jan. 15)

By far the Bulls best performance of the season, USF seemingly couldn’t miss against the Knights in this year’s first meeting of the War on I-4. It was also the program’s first win in the rivalry since 2020.

What looked like a tough matchup against UCF turned into an explosive USF performance led by a red-hot offense.

The Bulls were sparked by strong play from senior guard Javon Greene who lit UCF up for 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting and 5-of-10 from three-point range. 

He was joined in double-digit scoring by guards Caleb Murphy and Jamir Chaplin.

Keeping a team like UCF at bay not only sparks the confidence of the team but proves they have the potential to take down some talented teams if they manage to find consistency.

Midseason heartbreak of the year

USF falls to Auburn University 52-58 (Nov. 19)

The Bulls were able to face No. 21 Auburn at Amalie Arena early on in their nonconference schedule and gave the Tigers a run for their money.

USF opened some eyes as they took a 33-26 lead going into halftime.

Ultimately, Auburn would go on to outscore the Bulls 33-19 in the second half and managed to hold them off to seal the win.

Murphy led the team with 19 points and six rebounds, and had Greene trailing behind him with 15 points and three rebounds. 

It was the best the Bulls played against a ranked opponent this season and saw it slip away from them in the final minutes.

Midseason surprise 

Javon Greene

In a season where the Bulls are going through a nearly complete roster turnover, Greene has made a name for himself in his first season with the program.

The transfer from George Mason is currently second on the team in scoring with 10.5 points per game. He is also far and away the team’s best shooter making 35% of his three-pointers on a high volume.

Greene has also had really great moments for the Bulls this season. In addition to his impressive performance against UCF, he also hit a game-winner against North Carolina A&T in the team’s third game of the season.

Midseason MVP

Caleb Murphy

It is no surprise Murphy has rightfully claimed this spot, he’s clearly been the Bulls’ most important player through their first 17 games. 

Having started every game so far this season, he leads the team in scoring, averaging 11.9 per game. Murphy also leads the team in assists with 3.5 per game.

Murphy has also shown a steady improvement to his offensive arsenal, taking and making more jump shots this season in addition to his ability to take the ball to the basket. 

The next step in his evolution is to add a reliable three-point shot, if he does he could become one of the most complete offensive players in the AAC.

Looking forward

If they still face challenges due to the pandemic, it is unclear as to when the season will resume for the Bulls.

Although USF has already played both of its matchups against No. 10 Houston, it still has a handful of challenging and important games ahead of them in Cincinnati, SMU, Tulane and the road leg of the War on I-4.

The Bulls will have to find a level of consistency that they have struggled with in the first half of the season if they want to have any form of success come postseason play.

Grade: C-