The South Florida Bulls are in South Bend, Indiana, for a Big East matchup with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish tonight at 7:00pm at the Joyce Athletic Center. Look for the game on Bright House Sports Network in Tampa Bay, or on the Big East Network (check your local listings).
USF (9-7, 2-1 Big East) has won its last two games, both in conference play. Their most recent win came much easier than anyone expected, a 74-57 triumph over the reeling Villanova Wildcats. With point guard Anthony Collins sidelined for much of the game after banging his head on the court, Jawanza Poland stepped to the forefront. He tied his career high with 20 points, part of the Bulls' 48 bench points in the game. Blake Nash also came up big filling in for Collins at point, scoring 12 points, dishing out six assists, and only committing one turnover against Villanova's pressuring defense.
As of this morning, it's not yet clear whether Collins will play tonight. He traveled with the team to South Bend, but has been undergoing tests since Friday and is questionable for the game.
Notre Dame (10-6, 2-1 Big East) is coming off their best win of the season, a 67-65 double-overtime win at Louisville on Saturday. Eric Atkins scored six points in the second overtime as the Irish won in the state of Kentucky for the first time since 1980 despite shooting 32% from the field. Jack Cooley led Notre Dame with 18 points, continuing his smooth transition into the role Tim Abromaitis was expected to play before suffering a season-ending knee injury in November.
Don't expect a high-scoring game tonight. KenPom.com rates USF as one of the ten slowest teams in the country based on adjusted tempo. Notre Dame checks in at #252, aided by coach Mike Brey's occasional use of his infamous "burn" offense, which deliberately bleeds the shot clock before looking for a basket. Adding to the potential for a slow pace are the big minutes that key Irish players logged in Louisville on Saturday. Four players saw more than 40 minutes of action, with Atkins playing the entire 50 minutes. Notre Dame is not a deep team following the Abromaitis injury, and they could take the opportunity to "rest" their players against a Bulls team that may be happy to oblige them.