USA TODAY Sports
We all know the problems of this year's basketball team, so you'll excuse us for not repeating them over and over again... unless something really bad happens like it did yesterday.
Here's the thing about blogging a losing basketball team (which, not surprisingly as USF fans, we have experience with). Usually you start losing games for the same reason, or reasons, over and over again. It gets boring to write after awhile. It gets boring to read after awhile. It really gets boring when your basketball expert knew before the season even started that this was going to be a huge problem, and then it manifests itself game after game.
So we start skipping a few losses, not because we're lazy, but because we know the situation and realize it isn't fair to throw the players or the coach under the bus. (Besides, this problem should start going away next year.) But when a guy who averages seven minutes a game and who had never scored more than nine points in a Notre Dame uniform comes out of nowhere to drop a 17 and 7 on you, and shoots 8-for-10 from the field, and he's not even the first random dude to have a career day against you in the same season... then we have to say it again.
That stat line belonged to little-used Notre Dame reserve Tom Knight. Not surprisingly, USF couldn't keep him or Jack Cooley off the glass. Cooley actually slacked off some and still ended up with 14 rebounds, matching the total of every USF player (the Bulls also had three "team" rebounds, for a total of 17). The Irish missed 23 shots and got the offensive rebound on 13 of them. Wrap your head around that -- Notre Dame got an offensive rebound on 56.5% of their missed shots! USF's rebounding was about the most pitiful stat of the day that didn't involve the Northern Illinois game. This team doesn't have a hole in the middle, it has a canyon.
The funny thing is that the Bulls were actually in the game for a long time even with that miserable rebounding. But to overcome that problem, USF has to shoot well for a very long time. Even an entire half, like the 61% they shot in the first half against the Irish, just isn't enough. When they cooled off in the second half, Notre Dame erased a 9-point deficit and grew their own lead into the double digits. Meanwhile, the Irish did what they do on offense. They moved the ball around nicely, got open shots, and made them. And if they didn't make them, they got the rebound and then made the next shot.
You hate to see this problem negating the other good things USF is doing. Like Anthony Collins, whose teardrops and long-range shots are starting to come back. And the two freshmen, Zach LeDay and JaVontae Hawkins. They've both struggled at times, especially LeDay. In fact, up until a few weeks ago LeDay looked like a guy who should have redshirted. (Not that he had a choice, mind you.) But they've forced their way into prominent roles with the way they've been playing. Hawkins had another game in double figures, and LeDay went for a season-high 17 points. They both have a lot of promise for next year, and since this season is pretty much doomed, the goal should be to get them as much time together with Anthony Collins as they can manage. That way the three of them can start forming a nucleus that all of next year's incoming freshmen, and the holdovers like Martino Brock and Musa Abdul-Aleem, can be added to.