FGCU Eagles vs. USF Bulls: Preview and GameThread

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We're not quite sure why this is the first game of the Las Vegas Classic considering USF's opponents out in the desert are already set in stone, but FGCU heads to the Sun Dome tonight for the first game of the tournament. It's live on ESPNU at 7pm, and we'll be there so follow along on Twitter (@USFCollin, @SBNVoodooFive) and in this thread.

So far this season this hasn't been the #DunkCity you remember so fondly from last year's Sweet 16. The Eagles are 5-4, with some of those wins coming over such vaunted hoops institutions as Eckerd and the always-creepy Ave Maria University. They return that bald kid you loved to watch throw all those lobs last year in Brett Comer (13.8 points and 5.4 assists per game), as well as Chase Fieler (the kid catching a ton of those lobs ,14.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and Bernard Thompson (reigning A-Sun Defensive Player of The Year, 13.6 ppg).

One guy to watch out for is Filip Cvjeticanin (triple checked for grammatical accuracy), who's the designated three-point bomber from Ft. Myers. He's 6'9 and 20-40 this year from deep, and USF has struggled containing hot long-range shooters this year. "My biggest concern is getting John and Chris used to playing against big guys that can play away from the basket," Stan Heath told us yesterday. "The last 4-5 days of practice, we've been matching them up with Zach (LeDay) and Dre Clayton and letting them shoot threes so as trying to get them used to that."

The Eagles have struggled to get on track under new head coach Joe Dooley and have gotten blown out by Nebraska, NC State, Iona and FIU. They should still have some fans at the Dome tonight (you'd be amazed at how well USF's former branch campus draws at home), and Dooley brings that Bill Self Kansas system from his time as an assistant in Lawrence, which is a polar opposite to what former FGCU coach Andy Enfield brought in creating Dunk City.

For the Bulls you would think 10 days off would be helpful, especially for a still-banged-up Anthony Collins, but that's not going as well as we hoped. "I don't know if he's gotten as far along as I'd like him to be," Heath said. "I know he's not 100%. I hope he's a little bit better but when you talk to him he's not saying 'hey I feel a lot better.' It's similar to what it's been." Getting AC back at full speed is going to be crucial for the Bulls going forward, and we have to hope this lingering knee situation gets under control fast. Why is this taking so long? What was described as a simple procedure to remove an inflamed bursa sac was only supposed to keep him out a week of the preseason in October: It's mid-December and he's still not healthy. Not good, folks.

The Bulls begin the first of what will be four games this week across three time zones tonight, so getting off to a good start would be helpful. Look for a big game tonight from Vic Rudd, as the up-and-down nature of the game will favor his athleticism. Good point made on Twitter here:

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