Tonight, the USF Bulls (9-22) head to the Mecca of college basketball to face the Villanova Wildcats (21-10) in the 1st Round of the Big East Tournament. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. and will be televised nationally on ESPNU.
Villanova came out of the gates fast, starting the season 16-1 before getting to the meat of the Big East schedule. Since then, Villanova has dropped nine of its next 14, including its last four games. Voodoo Five talked with Chris Lane from The Nova Blog about this, and at what point did everything turn for the worse.
"Providence comes to mind. We just got shellacked by them. We couldn't hit a shot for the life of us and Providence didn't shoot the ball well either. They still won by 15. That seems like it scared the crap out of us. Since then it's been like we're walking on eggshells trying NOT to make a mistake instead of just playing.
The team's confidence is clearly shaken. It's almost time for a 'screw it all' attitude and just go out there and play loose."
Part of the lack of confidence has been the rash of injuries Coach Wright and the team has had to endure. We talked about Corey Stokes' hamstring injury earlier today, but Stokes has had to battle with a turf toe injury over the last month. To top it off, senior guard Corey Fisher has been battling tendinitis in his right knee, and his ability to drive into the lane has been hampered, and he is forced to become a jump shooter which he is not very good at. Maalik Wayns has had to step up and handle most of the ball handling duties, and for the most part has done well. He attacks the basket relentlessly, and finishes extremely well for a player his size in the post. Wayns was the only player to score consistently against Pitt in the season finale, scoring 27 of the team's 50 points on Sunday.
For Villanova down in the post, they rely on senior Antonio Pena and sophomore Mouphtaou Yarou. The 6'10" Yarou is a project down, but he has the strength and athleticism defensively to keep smaller teams out of the post. Offensively he still has some issues, but his post moves are improving everyday. Pena isn't a banger like Yarou is, but he does block out well for rebounds, and will get in the middle if he has to. Pena has a sweet baseline jumper from about 15 feet out that is pretty deadly, and picks up his fair share of putbacks off the offensive glass.
So what should we expect from the Bulls tonight? Let's hear what The Nova Blog and Voodoo Five have to say. From TNB:
"Does anyone know what to expect at this point? I honestly have no clue. The one thing I do know is that the Cats should be worried about tomorrow night's game and that game only. They have no right to even look at a potential second round game. This team just needs to play well against South Florida. Once the outcome is determined, the focus can switch to something else, but right now, Villanova needs to think about playing stellar basketball for 2 hours. We haven't seen this in over a month. No more excuses."
And finally from V5,
So what do I think will happen tonight? I think we pull it out. Villanova is looking towards the NCAAs next weekend, and if they have to bow out of this tournament early to get everyone healthy, so be it. Plus, I need at least one more Ducreux meme to get me through the offseason.
Check back to Voodoo Five for more USF coverage, and we will have more updates as they come throughout the day from MSG.