It's easy to overlook the South Florida Bulls: along with DePaul, the Bulls have seriously underwhelmed in conference play over the last few years, posting just one winning season (a 20-win effort last season behind the efforts of Dominique Jones, who has since gone pro). This season, the Tampa school is 6-9 and has lost it's first two Big East showdowns to Seton Hall and Connecticut.
USF has three major contributors this season, Augustus Gilchrist, Jawanza Poland, and Jarrid Famous. Gilchrist and Poland have been the top-scorers for the Bulls, with 11.8 and 10.2 points per contest respectively. Famous has recorded 9.2 points per game.
Ron Anderson Jr. leads the team in rebounding with 7.8 per game, while Anthony Crater leads in assists.
The Bulls average 12.5 assists per game and 16.8 turnovers, while their opponents have only turned the ball over 11.3 times per game. Their defense is ranked 52nd by Ken Pomeroy, putting them around the middle of the pack in the Big East in that category. Offensively, Pomeroy's system rates them 228th -- dead last in the conference.
This should be a game that the Villanova defense will be able to handle. If the 'Cats can be effective on offense against the Bulls, it will bode well for the rest of the Big East schedule. USF's defense is rated higher than Georgetown, and similarly to UConn.
It would benefit the 'Cats to work to get Corey Stokes the ball earlier in the game. He has been one of 'Nova's most valuable offensive options this season, but despite his effectiveness, he has attempted fewer field goals than Maalik Wayns or Corey Fisher.
In the paint, the 'Cats will have a test against the USF bigs. Gilchrist and Famous both have a strong presence that Mouph Yarou and Antonio Pena will have to deal with. At 10.5 points per game last season, Pena has been slightly less involved offensively this season, despite seeing his minutes increase. It may be a struggle to get back to that point on Thursday, but if the 'Nova bigs can keep USF off the offensive glass, the 'Cats should be able to take control of this game.
While this is a likely win for the 'Cats, it is a dangerous proposition to look past any conference opponent. This game is a good opportunity to face a Big East team and a good, athletic defense, ahead of games against Cincinnati and Louisville (both top-20 defenses).
The game will tip-off from the SunDome at USF at 7:00PM. The game will be available on ESPNU.