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Men’s basketball struggles to push through rocky season

Senior transfer guard Tyler Harris has been one of the few consistent pieces on the Bulls’ roster this season, averaging 17 points per game. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

USF men’s basketball has endured its fair share of disappointments in a season full of ups and downs, ranging from one possession losses in overtime to blowing double-digit leads.

The season opened with a 66-61 loss to Southeast Missouri State, a game in which the Bulls were favored to win by 11 points by Action Network. Next came a loss versus then No. 15 Auburn, where South Florida led by nine at the half.

Three consecutive losses followed, two of which came down to the last possession versus Stetson and Austin Peay. This put the Bulls at 0-5, their worst start to a season since 2016. 

Over the next month, South Florida put together a string of victories that offered false hope the team overcame its early season slump. However, this streak did not last for long as the Bulls proceeded to drop the next four games.

Such constant ups and downs have plagued USF this season as they currently sit at 10-13, including a disappointing 3-7 record in the conference. The Bulls are 8th in the AAC, and appear to be limping into the conference tournament once again with just over a month to go in the regular season.  

This has been the story of men’s basketball this season. After an optimistic December where the Bulls won five of six games, they dropped the next four games.

Following two shortened seasons due to COVID-19, USF came into this season with an arsenal of new transfers, including fifth-year guard Tyler Harris and junior forward Keyshawn Bryant. 

Harris, an AAC veteran, has been a bright spot for South Florida. He transferred to USF after stints at Memphis and Iowa State, making 29 starts in 4 collegiate seasons. He leads the Bulls in virtually every offensive category, including points per game (17), field goals made (124) and three-pointers (70).

Bryant, however, has yet to find himself consistently in the starting lineup. The former South Carolina standout has only made seven starts so far, scoring only 10 points on three occasions. Bryant became known as one of the best dunkers in the NCAA during his time spent as a Gamecock, averaging 14.4 points per game in his breakout junior season. 

The Bulls have also given up leads in several matchups, such as blowing a 15 point lead against Wichita State on Jan. 8. Another near loss came in a close 71-63 victory over East Carolina, where the Bulls had a 23 point lead early in the second half. 

Such late game meltdowns can be attributed to turnovers and a lack of offensive productivity. The Bulls average the fourth most turnovers in the conference, with 13.9 per game. USF’s historic shooting struggles have continued this season as well. 

Coach Brian Gregory has posted a 73-100 record since being hired in 2017, and has seen little success since he led the team to a CBI Championship in 2019 – the Bulls’ last winning season. South Florida has struggled offensively since Gregory was hired, often ranking in the bottom half of the conference in scoring. 

South Florida has also seen an influx of departing transfers, with the most recent example being last season’s breakout star guard Caleb Murphy. He announced his intentions to transfer to Memphis last April. Alexis Yetna, who played for the Bulls for three seasons and won AAC Freshman of the Year in 2019, also transferred after the 2021 season. 

In a frustrating season, there have been few bright spots for South Florida men’s basketball. The Bulls have continuously endured heartbreaking losses and late-game meltdowns, facilitated by an inconsistent offense and turnover issues. If the Bulls have their sights set on the tournament and beyond, then a lot of work needs to be done.