On Thursday night in Tampa, Fla., it will be a game of firsts for the Villanova Wildcats and South Florida Bulls. For Villanova, this will be their first true road game, while South Florida plays their first Big East home game of the season. The Cats have won 7 straight since the loss to Tennessee and will look to make it 2 in a row in conference play after the opening victory against Rutgers this past weekend.
On the other hand, USF dropped their first 2 Big East games, both on the road against Seton Hall and an overtime heartbreaker to Connecticut on New Year's Eve.
Preview of the game after The Jump.
Time: 7 PM ET
Location: Sun Dome in Tampa, Fla.
TV: ESPNU with Rich Hollenberg and Adrian Branch calling the action
Radio: ESPN 950
About the Bulls
After a 20 win season last year which had the Bulls in the NIT, things are not looking as bright this year for South Florida. The program certainly lost a ton of talent, as Dominique Jones bolted for the NBA, while consistent threats Mike Mercer and Chris Howard graduated.
The team is being led this year by junior Augusus Gilchrist and sophomore Jawanza Poland. Gilchrist, standing at 6'10" and weighing 245 lbs., puts up 11.8 points per game and notches 5.9 rebounds per game. Poland averages just over 10 ppg, and Ron Anderson Jr. is contributing solid numbers with 8.5 ppg while also pulling in rebounds at a clip of 7.8 per game.
The Wildcats have never lost to USF in their short history; Nova dismantled the Bulls last year 74-49 at the Pavilion, but two years ago at the Sun Dome, the Cats squeaked out a victory with a late rally. To date, the 2 squads have not played anyone in common, but South Florida's best game was probably their most recent, when they were up 10 on UConn midway through the second half, although they failed to come out with a win.
What to Expect
South Florida is certainly not one of the juggernauts in the Big East, but they have some weapons. You can bet that Jay Wright showed the Cats the game South Florida just played against Connecticut as an example of what the Bulls are capable of.
While USF doesn't draw very many fans to the Sun Dome, it will be interesting to see how this group of Wildcats deals with their first true road game of the 2010-2011 campaign. Obviously, most of the guys on the team are veterans, but getting that initial road game out of the way can sometimes be tricky.
As mentioned earlier, the heavily-favored Villanova squad from two years ago barely escaped with a win in Tampa in of their early Big East games. A tight, sloppy game tomorrow night would not surprise me at all, but in all honesty, getting the 'W' against a team like this is imperative. With a daunting schedule in the middle of January, a slipup cannot be afforded here by the much more talented Wildcats.